For many American sports figures, duty called before the Major Leagues. Others traded in their jerseys for uniforms, when their country needed them most; rendering these men American icons in more ways than one.
Before joining the St. Louis Cardinals, for example, Mitch Harris was a star pitcher at the U.S. Naval Academy.
So, in accordance with his school's post-graduation active-duty requirement, Harris served nearly five years as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy before taking the MLB mound.
During that time, he deployed to the Persian Gulf, Russia and South America on a variety of assignments, including anti-drug operations.
Ty Cobb, the legendary MLB outfielder who still holds several records to this day, voluntarily served in the Chemical Warfare Service unit of the United States Army, during World War I.
Given the rank of captain, Cobb served 67 days overseas in France, training Allied Forces soldiers in ways to prepare for chemical attacks.
Running back Rocky Bleier was drafted into the Army after his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He earned both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.
Then, after recovering from the gunshot and grenade-induced injuries he sustained overseas, he returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers and went on to win four super bowl rings.
SOMEBODY GIVE THAT GUY A KLONDIKE BAR.
The U.S. Air Force, Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio has his shoulder patch sewn on by Brig. Gen. William J. Flood, June 9, 1944.
Perhaps best known for his 56-game hitting streak, DiMaggio reported for duty with the 7th AAF in the Central Pacific shortly after setting that record.
He rose to the rank of sergeant, before being released on medical discharge in 1945. He never saw combat.
World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis, whose reign lasted an impressive 140 consecutive months, voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942.
He was placed in the Special Services Division, where he and fellow boxer Sugar Ray Robinson embarked on a world tour to raise soldier morale.
Lewis also served as the star of a military media campaign, encouraging African American men to serve their country in the then-segregated U.S. Armed Forces. When asked about his decision to do so, Lewis said, "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them."
He received the rare Legion of Merit in 1945, immediately releasing him from active duty.
Good quarterback, Vietnaammmm!
Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 for his performance as quarterback at the Navy Academy.
And despite getting drafted to the Dallas Cowboys, he still had to serve post-graduation military time in accordance with his alma mater's service creed.
Thus, Staubach served in the Navy Supply Corps from 1964 to 1968, before entering the NFL and leading the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories.
Like Staubach, David Robinson began his sports career as a star at the Naval Academy, where he was awarded both the Wooden and Naismith Awards for his performance during his senior year.
So, also like Staubach, Robinson had to perform his two years of active-duty service before joining a professional sports team, despite being selected as the first overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft.
So, he did, as a civil engineering officer at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.
Then, he went on to a fruitful career as the center for the San Antonio Spurs, where he was lovingly nicknamed "The Admiral" because of his prior service in the U.S. Navy.
NFL safety Pat Tillman played for the Arizona Cardinals from 1998 to 2001.
During that time, he reportedly turned down a five-year $9 million contract with the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to his team.
Then, in the aftermath of 9/11, Tillman joined the Army Rangers out of loyalty to his country.
The NFL star-turned-soldier served several tours in combat, before he was killed by friendly fire in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Hall of Fame centerfielder Willie Mays was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952, during the Korean War.
Like other professional athletes at the time, the "Say Hey Kid" primarily served his country by participating in media campaigns and public exhibitions to raise troop morale.
Mays returned to Major League Baseball with a bang in 1954, leading the National League with a .345 batting average and consequently being named its MVP for the year.
Texas Titans fullback Ahmard Hall was not heavily recruited out of high school, so he put off college for a few years and joined the Marine Corps instead.
As a sergeant, Hall saw action in both Afghanistan and Kosovo, before ultimately attending the University of Texas and walking on to the prestigious football team there.
In this photo, the armed services veteran is seen saluting the American flag before a game against the Washington Redskins at LP Field in 2010.
Like Ahmard Hall, MLB pitcher Tom Seaver joined the Marine Corps Reserves straight out of high school.
He then served six months of active duty, before attending USC and embarking on an epic 20-season MLB career, in which he pitched 231 complete games.
The term "killin' it" could be used to aptly describe basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley.
The man excels at seemingly everything he does.
Bradley attended Princeton University, where he was both a basketball star and a Rhodes Scholar. Then, after studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Oxford, he went into the Air Force Reserves, where he served six months of active duty as an officer, before being drafted by the New York Knicks.
Star Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller volunteered for combat, two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In doing so, he became the first professional athlete to enlist in World War II.
Having reportedly found the Navy's physical education instruction too tame, Feller requested active combat in gunnery, and was assigned to the USS Alabama.
This photo shows the young Gun Captain on March 6, 1943, heading up his own 40 mm gun crew aboard the battleship.
Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan skipped his 1967 season with the New York Mets to serve in the Army Reserve.
With seven no-hitters to his name, "The Ryan Express" still holds the MLB record to this day.
Red Sox great Ted Williams actually served his country twice.
He first entered the Navy in 1943 -- just one year after winning the American League Triple Crown -- and continued to serve three years as a naval aviator during World War II.
Then eight years later, he was recalled to active duty, flying 39 combat missions for the Navy during the Korean War.
So, it appears that a lifetime batting average of .344 and 521 career home runs aren't the only impressive stats Williams has to his name.
You probably know that legendary catcher Yogi Berra -- pictured center here -- won 13 world series championships, and that the New York Yankees retired his number.
But did you know that he served as a gunner's mate, during the D-Day invasion?
It's true. Berra served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1945, sailing into France on that fateful day aboard the USS Bayfield.
Before breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, Jackie Robinson made history as part of the 761st "Black Panthers" Tank Battalion in World War II.
He was honorably discharged in 1944, before his battalion became the first black tank unit to see combat overseas.
Roberto Clemente -- the first Latin American and Caribbean player ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame -- served six months of active duty in the Marine Corps Reserve, before his 1959 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He then went on to win two World Series Championships and play in fifteen MLB All-Star Games, before he was tragically killed in a plane crash on his way to help earthquake victims in Nicaraqua.
Tom Landry, who coached the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1980, leading them to two Super Bowl victories, served as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945.
As a B-17 copilot, Landry completed 30 combat missions, and even survived a crash landing in Belgium, after his bomber ran out of fuel.
He then went on to play football for the New York Giants, before becoming a legendary head coach.
In 1947, Larry Doby shattered the American League's color barrier when he signed with the Cleveland Indians.
But before he served his country in that way, the Hall of Fame outfielder served his country in the Armed Forces.
In fact, Doby spent two years in the U.S. Navy, during which he saw combat in the Pacific Theater of WWII.
NFL running back Mike Anderson joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school, and it was there that his football skills were spotted by an assistant coach at a nearby junior college.
So, after serving four years as a marine, Anderson went on to play football at the University of Utah. He was then drafted by the Denver Broncos, where he earned the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000.
Reese, Rizzuto and Casey
Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, and Hugh Casey all served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
During that time, the three MLB stars saw actual combat in the Pacific Theater.
Reese and Casey were shortstop and pitcher respectively for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time they enlisted in 1943. Rizzuto was shortstop for the New York Yankees.
Here, the three players study a bluejacket's manual at the Navy base in Norfolk, VA, August 10, 1943.
NBA guard Bill Sharman is best known for his time at the Boston Celtics in the 1950s, when he formed what many believe to be the greatest backcourt duo of all time with teammate Bob Cousy.
But before that, Sharman played defense for his country, serving in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946.
In addition to winning six World Series and the 1961 Cy Young Award, New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford also served in the U.S. Army for two years, during the Korean War.