Harlan Hass honored as Brewers’ ‘Hero of the Game’

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Harlan Hass, a 93-year-old World War II veteran from McGregor, was recognized as the “Hero of the Game” at the June 16 Milwaukee Brewers game against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Submitted photos)

Along with being honored, Harlan received free tickets to the game, a parking pass and a T-shirt.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

It was Saturday, June 16, a sunny afternoon game at Miller Park—home of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers. Cheers and applause filled the stadium, as fans trained their eyes on the big screen scoreboard. However, it wasn’t a player on the field, but an individual in the stands, who attracted so much attention.

Harlan Hass, a 93-year-old World War II veteran from McGregor, was being recognized as the Brewers’ “Hero of the Game,” an honor bestowed on a military service member during each of the team’s home games.

“There were 40,000 people there that day who stood and clapped. They were looking right at me on the big screen,” Harlan recalled. “At first, I didn’t do anything. Then I waved and said ‘thank you.’”

But it was others who wanted to thank Harlan. Following the recognition, between 70 and 80 people stopped by where he was seated, on the first base side, to show their appreciation for his service. Several bought him a beer, and one lady—much to Harlan’s delight—kissed his cheeks several times.

“It went right to my heart,” he said of the experience. “I was glad to be there.”

It was the moment of a lifetime, but many months in the making. Harlan’s family got the process started, submitting his name for consideration after he expressed interest in attending a game. Over the winter, Harlan learned he would be honored. With free tickets and a parking pass coming his way, he just had to select a game.

He opted for a match-up with the Philadelphia Phillies—an intentional decision.

“Out of high school, I played on the town team,” said Harlan, who was a third baseman. “Twice the Phillies scouted me and talked to me about joining the major leagues.”

At that time, though, Harlan was still eligible for the draft, a possibility he believed deterred the Phillies from signing him. And, sure enough, he was drafted in 1945, near the end of World War II.

An accomplished athlete, Harlan chose to join the Marine Corps, first serving in Guam, where he helped “transport Japanese prisoners to chow.” From there, Harlan traveled to China, where his duties included guarding railroad bridges. “The communists liked to blow them up,” he remarked. 

But that job grew “tiresome,” and he later applied—and was accepted—to become a baker.

“I got home and had this ring of fat around my middle. Maybe that’s why no major league team would have me,” he joked.

Harlan said attending last month’s game gave him an opportunity to “sit there and dream a bit” about what it would have been like as a professional baseball player. It was even better that he experienced it all with family: son and daughter-in-law Rick and Roberta Hass; granddaughter Rita Breuer and her husband Matt and daughter Kamryn; and grandson Kyle Hass (who’s in the Coast Guard) and his wife Lauren.

“I was glad to cheer for the Brewers,” said Harlan, who’s been a fan of the team since its earliest days in Milwaukee. “The only bad thing was they lost.”

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