Reno Pearl Harbor Vet Adds Another Memory: First Pitch At Aces Ballpark

Howard Hayes, 93, Pearl Harbor Vet
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It was the kind of day guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any American boy.

A sunny spring day, the grass green, the sky blue and the Aces were in town, playing Las Vegas.

And here was 93 year old Howard Hayes, enjoying it all.

Seventy three years ago, found Howard, then a cook second class aboard the Coast Guard cutter Roger B. Taney, moored in Honolulu Harbor as the attack on Pearl Harbor next door began. His battle station was manning a range finder on the bridge.

"We saw the planes come up over us and circled right over the power plant," he remembers. "When they did that we opened fire on them. And when we opened fire on them, they went back to the ocean. Four of the five went down."

Fast forward those 73 years and Howard, now the only surviving crew member of the Taney is enjoying the day at the ball park. He's joined by a number of old comrades, other Coast Guard combat vets, all attending an annual reunion.

Howard, who played shortstop in the service, was selected to represent them and his old ship mates by throwing out the first pitch.

He sat close in front of the home team dugout, a ball in his hand, waiting for his cue.

At 93, Howard looks to be in pretty good shape, perhaps game ready and word is he may be planning something special.

"I asked him if he was going to pitch underhand or overhand and he said 'I might even throw a spitball," says daughter Shirley Wetmore.

"A spitball. That's what he's talking about," agrees son Howard Jr.

"A spitball," laughs Howard, who grins and says little else.

Introduced to the crowd he strides to a spot most of the way to the mound, rares and fires. It's a one hopper, but it does reach the catcher.

"I dropped it is what I done," Howard says with some humor. "I lost it."

We'll call it a change up.

Hope you enjoyed the game Howard.

Thanks for your service,