Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday School: History Lesson 11

Pete Sivess was a pitcher with our Phillies from 1936-1938. Appearing 62 games over his 3 year big league career, 16 of which were starts, Sivess's 5.38 career ERA was never sparkling. Many players would hold their baseball careers in regard as the high point of their lives, but that did not hold true for Sivess. Although, Sivess would not be one to downplay his professional baseball days, they were simply less important that his accomplishments later in life.

Sivess had ups and downs, and ended up in the Reds organization, before his playing days were over. Arm trouble was shortening Sivess's playing days, and with World War II going, baseball became less important to him. He enlisted in the Navy.

After the war was over, Sivess remained in the Navy, and he was sent to Europe, where he became the Assistant to the US Naval Member of the Allied Control Commission for Romania. World War II had stripped Romania of any government, and Sivess and his colleagues were assigned to run the country for two years, while a governing body was re-established. When his assignment in Romania was complete, Sivess joined the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency. History was surely made as Pete Sivess played in the major leagues of baseball and the major leagues of government service.

Pete Sivess would become the head of a secret operation in the Chesapeake Bay region called Ashford Farm. The facility would provide diplomatic asylum to defectors and political refugees. Sivess and his staff would debrief such people and instruct them in the fundamentals of American culture and ways of life, and help them to obtain employment and places to live. In some cases, the individuals would be relocated with new identities.

Most of the visitors to Ashford Farm were foreign born, but occasionally they'd have an American guest. Ashford's most famed resident likely was pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and is the basis of the famed "U-2 Incident". United States officials made attempts to cover the real spy story with fake statements about a weather plane crash. The cover didn't work, and upon Powers' return to the United States, following a prisoner exchange with the Soviets, the secret was out about Ashford Farm, and soon the covert operation was shut down. Sivess was then reassigned to a job in Washington DC, until his retirement.

The ex-Phillies pitcher once reflected on his combined 30 years of government service with a sure sense of satisfaction, saying, "It was an interesting career. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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