World War II Veteran Joe Bell Featured on San Jose Giants Baseball Card

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Thursday, Mar 6, 2014  |  Updated 12:19 PM PDT
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World War II Veteran Featured on SJ Giants Baseball Card

An image of Joe Bell when he was in the U.S. Army in the 1940s featured on a commemorative San Jose Giants baseball card.

 A 45-second video shot by a print reporter has not only given a 95-year-old World War II veteran his 15 minutes and more of fame, it's also landed him on a baseball card.

On Wednesday, the San Jose Giants announced that Joe Bell -- a WWII U.S. Army air jumper -- has been named as the featured face on the first trading card in the minor league team's Salute to the Military Trading Card Set, presented by Operation: Care and Comfort. The cards are new this year, and are part of an effort to recognize current or former veterans nominated by fans.

The frail, elderly man from San Jose became an Internet star this week after his neighnbor, a reporter for the Mercury News, shot a short iPhone video of a spontaneous tribute to his past military service.

On Sunday, Bell stepped outside in full military dress to shake the hands of  runners participating in a charity run to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation. Without planning, the runners detoured onto the sidewalk to shake his hand, thanking him for his service.

Though the reporter, Julia Prodis Sulek, took the video at first to give to Bell and his family, she ended up posting it on the Mercury News website, and the video by Thursday had nearly 1.5 million views. Bell's story and Sulek's video footage was shared by NBC Bay Area, the Today Show, Nightly News, Good Morning America, People Magazine, ESPN and countless other media outlets.

“Joe Bell represents the true essence and spirit of what it means to be an American hero,” said Juliana Paoli, the San Jose Giants chief marketing officer.

It just so happens that the San Jose Giants had a table set up at the 408K Race to the Row, and had employees running in it, Paoli said, and decided after the video went viral that Bell was the "perfect person to make the first card in the set."

Paoli and others went to Bell's home on Wednesday to get his permission and photograph of when he said he was a corporal in the 91st Airborne Division, when he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946.

The card will be part of the festivities on April 13 as the team salutes the military at Municipal Stadium. The San Jose Giants are a professional baseball team in the Class A Advanced California League.  The team has been affiliated with the San Francisco Giants since 1988

Military trading card winners will be selected in mid-March and be unveiled during the season preview  at San Jose Giants FanFest on  March 31. Nominations will be accepted until March 12 and all submissions must be accompanied by a photo of the nominee, in military uniform, sent to info@sjgiants.com.

 

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