Barney McCosky: From Naval Aviation Cadet to Slugging Champion
On Wednesday, August 8, 1945, the Detroit Tigers started the day atop the American League standings with a one-game advantage over the Washington Senators. They were set to host a doubleheader against the Red Sox at Briggs Stadium. At 12:47 p.m. (local time)) that afternoon, a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-29 bomber, nicknamed Bockscar, took off from the airfield at Tinian in the Marianas, headed northbound. Detroit took the opening game, 5-2, but dropped the nightcap, 7-4, ending the day with their one-game American League lead intact. After the game, at 10:02 p.m. on the other side of the globe, the USAAF B-29 released its payload over the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Having completed a four-game sweep of the visiting New York Yankees, Tiger players spent August 14 resting as they awaited the arrival of the second-place Senators, who now trailed Detroit by three games. News of Japan’s capitulation reached the U.S. that same day, which was cause for national jubilation as the war was over.
Hours after the Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, September 1, at 9:08 p.m., General Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers and signed in his capacity as Supreme Commander aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), bringing an official close to the war. The Tigers held a slim 1.5 game lead in the American League with 31 games remaining on the schedule.
On the Island of Saipan, just north of Tinian, where Bockscar was based, two former Detroit players were serving in the armed forces and paying close attention to the Tigers’ progress. Captain George “Birdie” Tebbetts first saw action with the Tigers in 1936 but took over the starting backstop position in 1939. Tebbetts was a key member of the 1940 pennant-winning club before joining the Army Air Forces following the 1942 season. Chief Petty Officer Barney McCosky was also a member of the 1940 World Series-losing Tigers and was serving with the Seabees as a physical fitness instructor, organizing softball and baseball leagues and playing in games. Now that the war was over, the hope for both players was to somehow make it back to the States in time if the Tigers advanced to the 1945 World Series.
For both former Tigers, 1942 seemed like ages ago and the sting of losing the 1940 World Series to Cincinnati still lingered. From 1939 to 1942, Barney McCosky carried a .316 average, and he finished in the top ten of the American League batting crown standings from 1940-1942. In the Tigers’ pennant-winning season, McCosky’s .340 average placed him behind Joe DiMaggio (.352), Luke Appling (.348), Ted Williams (.344), Rip Radcliff (.342) and Hank Greenberg (.340). When he was sworn into the Naval Aviation Cadet program on December 10, 1942, he was one of the future stars of Detroit.
With the United States fully engaged in the fight against the Axis powers, baseball was losing a significant number of players to the armed forces. Many of baseball’s athletes opted to pursue aviation in the armed forces, including Ted Williams, Johnny Sain, Johnny Pesky, Billy Southworth Jr., Bert Shepard and Buddy Lewis. McCosky applied for and was accepted into the V-5 Naval Aviation Training program and was sworn in on December 10, 1942, but faced a lengthy wait until he was called into the program. As winter ebbed and spring loomed on the horizon, McCosky turned down the Tigers’ invitation to training camp and continued to wait for the Navy’s call.
On opening day of the 1943 season, as Detroit hosted Cleveland, Barney McCosky was sworn into active service and reported to Wooster College to begin the U.S. Navy Flight Preparatory School (often referred to as “ground school”) phase of Navy Pre-Flight training. After nearly two weeks at Wooster, McCosky was added to the “Scots” baseball roster and anticipated starting against Kent State on April 26, but he was prevented from playing due to a quarantine. As McCosky progressed with his training, he played for the Scots throughout May and into June. By mid-June, he completed the first stage of ground school training and went home for weekend leave, which included a visit to Briggs Stadium and a workout with his old team. Feeling that his age was a limiting factor, McCosky sought an exit from the V-5 program. “I was 25 at the time,” he later said, “and when I got in that school there were kids 19 and 20, just out of college. I couldn’t keep up with those guys. I said, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ The Great Lakes Naval Training Station, north of Chicago, was home to the Navy’s Bluejackets, led by former Tiger manager Lieutenant Gordon “Mickey” Cochrane. He had led Detroit during McCosky’s first three seasons in the organization’s minor leagues.
“So, I called Great Lakes. I said, ‘Mickey, get me out of this end of it. Get me over there; I’ll be a sailor.’ About a week later I was in Great Lakes.” McCosky made his debut with the Bluejackets on June 21 as they hosted the Cleveland Indians, playing in front of more than 10,000 Navy recruits. For Great Lakes, the 2-1 victory was their 18th in 21 games and their fourth win over a major league club that season. Barney was one-for-three at the plate.
|Earl Bolyard||CF||Dallas (TL)|
|Dan Casey||Villanova U.|
|J. Russell Cook|
|George “Skeets” Dickey||C||White Sox|
|Robert R. M. Emmet|
|Carl Fiore||3B||Wilkes-Barre (EL)|
|Dennis Gleason||C||Lancaster (ISLG)|
|Joseph “Joe” Grace||RF||Browns|
|George “Pete” Hader||P||New Orleans (SOUA)|
|Chester Hajduk||2B||White Sox|
|Robert A. “Bob” Harris||P||Athletics|
|Tony Hinkle||1B Coach|
|Tom Madden||3B||Newport News (VIRL)|
|Glenn “Red” McQuillen||LF||Browns|
|Leo “Red” Nonnenkamp||RF||Kansas City (AA)|
|Eddie Pellagrini||SS||Louisville (AA)|
|Henry Perry||P||Dallas (TL)|
|Warren “Sheriff” Robinson||C||Rochester (IL)|
|Fred Shaffer||3B Coach|
After McCosky joined the club, Great Lakes had a 34-7-1 record. In those 42 games, McCosky had 154 at-bats, mustering 42 hits and scoring 39 runs. He also drove in 31 and finished the season with a .273 batting average as the Bluejackets concluded with a 52-10-1 record. With the end of the season, McCosky and nine of the Great Lakes squad, including Joe Grace, Red McQuillen, Leo Nonnenkamp, George Dickey, Eddie Pellagrini, Vern Olsen, Johnny Schmitz, Bob Harris, and Johnny Mize, received orders to report to the Navy Athletic Specialist Training School at Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland.
For McCosky, the Gene Tunney Physical Training Instructor Program was rigorous and changed his perspectives regarding Tiger spring camp workouts, “I have to laugh when I think how we used to beef down at Lakeland (Florida) when [Tiger manager] Del Baker would make us do some setting-up exercise four or five times,” he lamented. “There would be shouts of ‘enough…enough…”
Following his January, 1944 graduation from the Tunney training program, Athletic Specialist First Class McCosky was transferred to the west coast to await transport to the Hawaiian Islands. Many of his former Great Lakes teammates formed a contingent of players heading to the islands, including Dickey, Ferrick, Grace, Harris, Lucadello, Mize, Olsen and Pellagrini. Upon arrival on Oahu, McCosky and most of the former Bluejackets were assigned to the 14th Naval District to serve as physical fitness instructors. McCosky and Lucadello were transferred to the Aiea Naval Barracks and both were added to the unit’s baseball team, the Maroons.
|Abner “Andy” Ashford||1B|
|W. H. Epperson|
|William “Bill” Garbe||1B||Hollywood (PCL)|
|Bill “Dutch” Holland||P||Pittsfield (CAML)|
|Gordon Howerton||IF/OF||Muskegon (MICH)|
|Edgar “Special Delivery” Jones||2B/Mgr.|
|Max Patkin||P||Green Bay (WISL)|
|Eddie Pellagrini||SS||Louisville (AA)|
|Pat Ralsh||P||Willmington (ISGL)|
|Sal Recca||C/3B||Norfolk (PIED)|
|Wildred “Rhiney” Rhinelander||Mgr.||U.S. Navy|
|Tom Saviori||OF||Mobile (SEAL)|
|Charles B. Simmons|
|Bob Usher||CF||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|Larry Lee Varnell||Eastern league|
|Leo Visintainer||P||Redding Cubs (NorCal Amateur League)|
For McCosky, 1944 was a fantastic baseball year that saw him playing in some of the most incredible games of the war years as the diamond’s best congregated on the islands that season. When McCosky and Lucadello joined the Aiea club, the Honolulu League was nearly at the midpoint of its season. The Maroons were trailing the East Division-leading Pearl Harbor Marines by a game in second place in the ten-team circuit. At the conclusion of regular season play, Aiea finished with a won-lost record of 7-2, placing the club one game out of first place and as a qualifier for the Hawaii League’s playoffs.
Named the Cronin Series, the playoffs featured the top five teams of both divisions. The series took place throughout the month of April. Aiea’s 17-game winning streak after dropping their opening game of the Cronin Series was a dominant showcasing of the team’s talent as they captured the Honolulu League crown going away. Of the 23 players named to the Honolulu League All-Star team, eight were from the Aiea Barracks Maroons, including McCosky.
McCosky’s bat factored heavily in Aiea’s success as he was in the running for the league’s triple crown until the Pearl Harbor Marines’ Sam Mele pulled ahead and captured the batting title with a .358 average. Barney’s .333 was good enough for third in the standings behind the 7th Army Air Force’s Eddie Jabb’s .341, but the former Tiger captured the home run and RBI titles.
During the 1944 Honolulu League, Central Pacific Area (CPA) League and Hawaii League seasons, the two primary Oahu newspapers carried details of the noteworthy baseball talent present on the island. Future Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Johnny Mize headlined a group of former major leaguers who had arrived on the island since the end of the 1943 baseball season and were subsequently assigned to area naval bases. “It was good big-league ball because they were all out there,” McCosky told William J. Marshall in 1988. Eager to showcase the baseball players and to capitalize on their talent for the war effort, administrators planned an exhibition tilt for the end of April, pitting the Major League All-Stars against the local stars. To prepare the All-Stars for the event, the Pearl Harbor Sub Base Dolphins hosted the big leaguers for an April 19 contest on their home diamond, Weaver Field.
Pee Wee Reese was suffering from an injury that kept him out of the game. It necessitated some creativity with the lineup. With three pitchers on the roster, Lucadello was moved from second base to Reese’s vacated shortstop position and Barney McCosky was shifted to second base. Pitcher Vern Olsen was sent to right field. Despite the unusual positionings, the big leaguers were poised to give the Sub Base nine fits.
The major leaguers took care of the Dolphins handily behind the bat of Johnny Mize, who led with a home run, double, and two singles in the 9-3 victory. The Sub Base did manage three hits, with former Philadelphia Athletic shortstop Al Brancato accounting for an eighth inning roundtripper.
Chickamauga Park at the Schofield Barracks played host to another all-star competition that saw the Navy face off against the Army before 18,000 GIs. The Navy hit parade was led by second baseman Johnny Lucadello and former Indian pitcher Tom Ferrick, playing in right field, as both went three-for-five at the plate. In the top of the first, with Navy runners at every station, third baseman Al Brancato wiped the bases clean as he drove in three runs with a timely base hit, putting the Navy on top. The former Athletic shortstop was two-for-three on offense.
Ten days after the game at Weaver Field, the Major League All-Star squad, which this time included Pee Wee Reese, Al Brancato and Eddie Pellagrini as starting position players, faced the Honolulu League All-Stars for a game that benefited War Bond sales. The April 29 War Bond Game was played at Honolulu Stadium.
Reese had recovered from his injury and thus participated in the War Bond Game, a 12-inning battle. The event raised $650,000 solely from gate admissions with another $350,000 from a corresponding autographed memorabilia auction. The return of Reese for this game meant that McCosky occupied his natural spot in center.
Again, the major leaguers were the victors over an aggregation of Honolulu League all-stars augmented with several service team players, including Cornel “Kearny” Kohlmyer (SS), Joe Gedzius (2B) and Eddie Funk (P) of the 7th Army Air Force, Sam Mele (1B), Ed Puchleitner (CF) and Andy Steinbach of the Marines and Bob Usher (LF), Bill Holland (P), Frank Roberts (C) and Joe Wells (P) of Aiea Naval Barracks. The Honolulu All-Stars held their own against the former big leaguers through 11 innings with the score knotted at two runs apiece.
Reese had defensive trouble in the sixth as he could not handle a hard shot deep in the hole at short off the bat of rightfielder Tom Saviori, which ultimately deadlocked the game at two. Reese had six plate appearances and reached base with three singles but did not factor in any of the scoring. “The smoothness of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Pee Wee Reese at short was something to see, “the Honolulu Advertiser’s Red McQueen wrote, “and it was just Pee Wee’s luck to get hit on his sore heel by a bad throw-in from center by Barney McCosky.”
Army brass intent on laying claim to the preponderance of Hawaii baseball crowns that season pulled together their best players from the west coast and deposited them all on the 7th Army Air Force squad at Hickam Army Airfield in early June, with the Central Pacific Area League’s season already underway. A competitive force in the early goings of the year, the 7th AAF was transformed into a military version of the New York Yankees. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the 7th featured future Hall of Famers from the Bronx Bombers, including Charles “Red” Ruffing, Joe “Flash” Gordon and the “Yankee Clipper” himself, Joe DiMaggio, as the Fliers were the team to beat in the league.
Running neck-and-neck with the Army’s “Yankees,” the Aiea Naval Hospital Hilltoppers, now bolstered with Pee Wee Reese and Hugh Casey, put McCosky’s Maroons at a competitive disadvantage for the remainder of the season. The Maroons competed with the Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay “Klippers” and the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins” for the best position behind the two leaders.
The 7th AAF defeated the Aiea Naval Hospital in a best of three championship series while McCosky’s Maroons finished in fourth place and the Dolphins third. McCosky endured a slump and a mid-August ankle injury that impacted his offensive performance as he finished with a respectable .287 average with 33 runs scored, 29 RBIs and 12 home runs. The Fliers’ Walt Judnich overtook McCosky in the CPA League’s home run race at the end of the season with 14, leaving the two as the only batters with double-digit roundtrippers. McCosky’s 81 total bases were the best in the league. The former Tiger was named to the CPA League’s All-Star team.
As the juggernaut 7th AAF team also captured the Hawaii League crown in September, the Navy was assembling a powerhouse baseball team of its own to face the Army in the Servicemen’s World Series. The Navy pulled its stars from all the Hawaiian bases to form a collection of all-stars that was superior to any assemblage of players since the 1942 major league midsummer classic. To further bolster their roster, Phil Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio were flown in from Australia for the seven-game series.
In a pre-series tune-up game against the Sub Base Dolphins, McCosky’s bat factored heavily in the Navy stars’ 10-2 victory as he went four-for-five with three doubles and five RBIs. The seven-game Servicemen’s World Series ran from September 22 through October 4 with the Navy All-Stars capturing the first six. The show went on the road to the other islands for four more games on Maui, Hawaii and Kauai with the Navy taking two more and tying one. McCosky saw action in five games, posting a .273 average in 19 at-bats.
In early 1945, McCosky was named to the two-team contingent of Navy ballplayers sent to tour the western Pacific to boost the morale of troops stationed on remote islands. Departing aboard two Marine Corps C-46 transports in mid-February, the Navy baseball tour took the men to Johnston Island, Majuro Roi, Kwajalein, Ulithi, Peleliu, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, playing as many as two dozen games.
|Albert (Al) Brancato||SS||Athletics|
|George “Skeets” Dickey||C||White Sox|
|Del Ennis||LF||Trenton (ISLG)|
|Benny Huffman||LF||San Antonio (TL)|
|Frank Marino||P||Tulsa (TL)|
|Glenn “Red” McQuillen||CF||Browns|
|Johnny Vander Meer||P||Reds|
Once the tour ended, McCosky, along with Benny Huffman, Gene Woodling, Al Glossop, Jim Trexler and boxer Fred Apostoli, were assigned to serve on Saipan. McCosky served in his athletic specialist role as an athletics director until the war ended.
Hank Greenberg was discharged from the Army Air Forces in June and returned to the Tigers in time to play his first game on July 1. McCosky’s Serviceman’s World Series teammate and Pacific tour opponent, Virgil Trucks, arrived in St. Louis to start for the Tigers on September 30 against the Browns in the last game of the season. McCosky’s homeward-bound trek was far different.
“When it [the war] did end, I had enough points to come back. That’s the year that Detroit was playing the Cubs in the Series. In fact, Greenberg came back for that and, I think, somebody else. And our commander, Goodenough, he says ‘You’ve got enough points, Barney, and the best thing I can do is, I can fly you out of here (Saipan) and get you to Honolulu. But when you get there, you might have a tough time because of all the brass and everything else that can get ahead of you going back to the States.’ And I was trying to get back and I had plenty of time, about a month to get back and get into that World Series.”
McCosky continued, “I got to Honolulu, sat in the barracks, and finally my name came up to go back; no plane. They put me on an old LST, an old clunker. And we started back to Frisco. And we got out about ten miles and it broke down. They sent for a tug. They hooked a tug on that sucker and we went all the way back to Frisco with that. We listened to the game[s] on the boat. Missed it completely, right out of it.”
McCosky was in baseball shape and ready to play but it was not meant to be. “We could have been there. We could have been playing because we played enough ball that we were in good shape; it would be nothing to walk in there because we were facing big league pitching all the time on the island. It was one of those things that happened.”
|Apr – Jun 1943||Navy Flight Preparatory School – Wooster College “Scots”||Aviation Cadet||OF|
|June -Sep 1943||Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets||S1/c||CF|
|March – Sep 1944||Aiea Naval Receiving Barracks Maroons||Sp(A)1/c||RF/MGR|
|April 19, 1944||Major League All Stars vs Navy||Sp(A)1/c||CF|
|April 29, 1944||Major League Stars – War Bond Game||Sp(A)1/c||CF|
|April 30, 1944||14th Naval District All-Stars||Sp(A)1/c||CF|
|Sep – Oct 1944||Navy All-Stars (Servicemen’s World Series – Hawaii)||CSp(A)||CF|
|March 1945||Third Fleet||CSp(A)||CF|
Four days after the Tigers beat the Cubs in the seventh game of the World Series, Barney McCosky was discharged from the Navy on October 14, 1945. He resumed his baseball career with the Tigers the following spring but was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics for future Hall of Famer George Kell on May 26. McCosky played for the A’s until he was sold in May, 1951, to Cincinnati, where he remained for a few weeks until being claimed off waivers by Cleveland. He played for the Indians until he was released on July 10, 1953, bringing an end to his playing career. While McCosky’s career statistics are not legendary, he was a solid player with very good career numbers during his 11 seasons in the majors. His career .312 batting average ranks him 95th on the all-time list and his .286 on-base percentage ties him with Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan.
One can only speculate on McCosky’s career had he not given three prime baseball seasons in service to his nation.
Note: We are grateful to Jeffrey Lazarus and Harrington E. Crissey, Jr. for their contributions for this article.
Sources for Barney McCosky: From Naval Aviation Cadet to Slugging Champion
 George “Birdie” Tebbetts: From Waco to Tinian,” Chevrons and Diamonds (bit.ly/Tebbetts), accessed April 21, 2023.
 “Tigers Lose McCosky,” The Sault Daily Star (Sault St. Marine, Ontario, Canada), December 16, 1942: p.9.
 “The Day’s Sports in Short Order,” Detroit Free Press, April 14, 1943: p.23.
 “McCosky to Face Kent Nine Today,” The Akron Beacon Journal, April 26, 1943: p.17.
 “Kent State Bows to Wooster, 3-1,” The Akron Beacon Journal, April 27, 1943: p.25.
 “Today’s Sports in Short Order,” Detroit Free Press, June 12, 1943: p.14.
 “Advice from One Who Knows,” Detroit Free Press, June 13, 1943: p.22.
 Bedingfield, Gary, “Barney McCosky,” Baseball in Wartime (https://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/mccosky_barney.htm), accessed April 21, 2023.
 “Great Lakes Downs Cleveland, 2-1,” Palladium-Item (Richmond, IN), June 21, 1943: p.20.
 “Mize and 9 Others Leave Great Lakes for Eastern Base,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 28, 1943: p.19.
 “Major Leaguers Assigned to the 14th Naval District,” The Honolulu Advertiser, February 19, 1944.
 Marshall, William J., “Interview with William B. McCosky/A. B. “Happy” Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project,” March 16, 1988.
 “Big League Stars Defeat Navy, 9 To 3,” The Honolulu Advertiser, April 20, 1944: p.8.
 Vandergrift, K.S. Capt., “Major League Stars Blank Army Team 9-0,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 1, 1944: p.8.
 McQueen, Red, “Hoomalimali,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 2, 1944: p.10.
 Fowler, Chief Charles, “7th AAF Wins on Judnich’s Homer,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 16, 1944: p.8.
 Crissey Harrington E., Athletes Away: A Selective Look at Professional Baseball Players in the Navy during World War II. Archway Press 1984.
 Marshall, William J., “Interview with William B. McCosky” A. B. “Happy” Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project, March 16, 1988.
1942 U.S. Service All-Stars Treasured Ink
On February 2, 2023, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the prognosticating ground hog known to the people of Young Township, Jefferson County, as Phil, was said to have predicted six more weeks of winter. However, just two weeks later, spring arrived as was scheduled by Major League Baseball as pitchers and catchers reported to their respective teams’ training locations in Arizona and Florida. Despite wintry weather pounding many parts of the country in the weeks that followed, the long wait that began following the last out of Game 6 of the 2022 World Series on November 5 is finally over. The 2023 baseball season is about to commence.
While the game takes a three-month break, there truly is no offseason for it. For curators of the game’s history, the season ebbs and flows from one end of the calendar to the other as prospective candidates for the collection become available at any moment. While major league clubs were seeking their prized free agent acquisitions, we too were busy landing significant artifacts for the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection.
In the last few years, our collection of team-signed baseballs has grown at a snail’s pace, though the emphasis has been focused on quality rather than quantity. However, over a three-week span from February into March, we managed to land three significant team balls. Rather than spill the beans on all three pieces in one article, our current focus will be on the anchor of the group.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and while there seems to be a fair amount of truth in that expression, grouping together related artifacts can better serve in telling a complete story. In our January 2022 article, Historic Game Program Discovery: July 7, 1942 Service All-Stars, we introduced readers to the fund-raising game played between the American League All-Stars and the Service All-Stars at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. By bringing together a few of our press photos and a game scorecard, the game was elevated to an event rather than just a box score. While the group of photos and the game program are historic artifacts, the group of 1942 Service All-Star artifacts was further enhanced with a Reach Official American League, William Harridge baseball signed by the team.
Before 1942 began, serious doubts swirled throughout the game as to whether baseball would be played that season as players began volunteering for service in the armed forces. Cleveland Indians phenom pitcher Bob Feller enlisted into the Navy on December 9 as the first major leaguer to answer his nation’s call. Twenty days later, Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Sam Chapman followed suit, trading his flannels for Navy dress blues. Many ballplayers were already in uniform due to the enacted peacetime Selective Service Act, including Ernie Andres, Frank Baumholtz, Mickey Harris, and Fred Hutchinson. At the age of 41, George Earnshaw, former Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, was commissioned a Lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy in early December 1941.
With service baseball taking flight in the spring of 1942, teams at many domestic bases were competing in games to boost morale and to raise funds for Army and Navy Relief organizations and for recreation equipment funds for troops. As plans were drawn to field a team of military all-stars from across the country, Great Lakes Naval Training Station manager Lieutenant Gordon “Mickey” Cochrane began assembling his preferred list of players from the Army and Navy who would face the winners of the major league all-star game.
By late June as the majority of the service all-stars reported to Cochrane, coaches LT(jg) Earnshaw and WWI Army veteran Hank Gowdy began putting the club through workouts to build team cohesiveness. In preparation for the July 7 game, Cochrane took the team on the road for a handful of exhibition games.
|Ernie Andres||3B||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Louisville (AA)|
|Morrie Arnovich||LF||Fort Lewis||Giants|
|Frank Baumholtz||CF||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Riverside (CALL)|
|Sam Chapman||OF||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Athletics|
|Mickey Cochrane||Mgr.||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Tigers|
|George Earnshaw||Coach||Jacksonville Naval Air Station||Cardinals|
|Bob Feller||P||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Indians|
|Hank Gowdy||Coach||Reds Coach|
|Joe Grace||RF||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Browns|
|Johnny Grodzicki||P||Armed Forces Replacement Training Center – Fort Knox||Cardinals|
|Chet Hajduk||2B||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||White Sox|
|Mickey Harris||P||83rd Coast Artillery/Fort Kobbe||Red Sox|
|Sam Harshaney||C||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Toledo (AA)|
|Fred Hutchinson||P||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Tigers|
|Johnny Lucadello||SS||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Browns|
|Benny McCoy||2B||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Athletics|
|Emmett “Heinie” Mueller||2B||Jefferson Barracks||Phillies|
|Pat Mullin||CF||New Cumberland Army Reception Center||Tigers|
|Don Padgett||LF||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Cardinals|
|Frankie Pytlak||C||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Red Sox|
|Johnny Rigney||P||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||White Sox|
|Kenneth J. “Ken” Silvestri||C||Fort Custer||Yankees|
|Vincent Smith||C||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Pirates|
|Johnny Sturm||1B||Jefferson Barracks||Yankees|
|Cecil Travis||SS||Camp Wheeler||Senators|
Manager Cochrane built the Service All-Stars around a core of 10 Great Lakes Naval Training Station players. Adding four players from the Norfolk Naval Training Station Bluejackets, Mickey had fifteen total naval players (including coach Earnshaw from Jacksonville Naval Air Station). The Army’s representation on the team included a pair from Jefferson Barracks (Missouri), and individuals from Fort Knox (Kentucky), Camp Wheeler (Georgia), New Cumberland (Pennsylvania), Fort Custer (Michigan), and Fort Lewis (Washington). Mickey Harris traveled the greatest distance, arriving from the Panama Canal Zone. Coach Hank Gowdy would receive his commission into the Army on February 6, 1943, and serve at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In the realm of collecting autographs, authenticity is the key. With the fraudulent memorabilia that permeates the collector hobby, exercising caution and performing due diligence are paramount for curating in this arena. Many collectors forgo the research steps and defer to third-party authentication (TPA) prior to making a purchase. While this may seem to be the safest approach, TPAs certainly are not infallible. With a combination of research, attention to detail and wisdom, some autographed memorabilia can be safely acquired.
The most commonly forged autographs are typically those of Hall of Fame players as well as those whose signatures are difficult to find. While there are team-signed balls that bear forgeries, they are more of a challenge to be fabricated as it takes a substantial investment in time for fraudsters to research rosters and practice the signatures of players who were seldom asked for autographs. Also, locating vintage baseballs requires a significant investment that can be quickly relegated to the scrap heap with a poorly executed fake autograph.
The first step in the analysis was to determine the age of the ball. The Official American League manufacturer’s stamp with the facsimile signature of the league president, William Harridge, dates the ball’s era to 1940-1942 which is in alignment with the game’s July 7, 1942 date.
Authenticating signatures is a bit more involved process. Two obvious questions that one may seek answers to are:
- How does one make the determination of which team signers were members of?
- What indicators are present to determine the age of the signatures? How can we tell if the autographs were placed in context with the ball’s age?
Before one can attempt to answer the first question, determining whose signatures are present on the ball is a must. Autographs from the 1940s are much more legible than those of contemporary ballplayers but without the ability to read cursive writing, it is virtually impossible to decipher what was placed onto the ball. Creating a list of signatures on each panel would help in identifying if a multi-player, signed ball is from a single team or is simply a collection of autographs. With our ball, the team identity became apparent quickly due to our familiarity with the roster.
Aside from the typical oxidation of the horsehide, rendering the original white finish to an even amber color, the absence of impact marks, skids or scuffs shows that the ball was not used in game play. Most of the signatures are dark and legible with a few that show degradation. Only one of the autographs is so faded that it makes it a challenge to read. In analyzing the ink, it is apparent that at least five different pens were employed. Further examination of the signatures reveals each signer’s pressure points and ink-load, revealing steady and confident motions of the pen rather than a person being careful in mimicking someone else’s penmanship.
After comparing all the signatures on the ball with known and verified examples, we confirmed that the ball was not only from the July 7, 1942, Service All-Stars team, but that 20 of the 21 signatures were indeed members of the team. Of the players listed on the team’s 25-man roster, the ball appears to lack autographs of Frank Baumholtz, Hank Gowdy, Johnny Grodzicki, Emmett “Heinie” Mueller, and Don Padgett as the one unidentifiable signature is incongruent with known marks from the five men.
Outpacing the attendance at the Major League All-Star game held at the Polo Grounds the day before by a nearly 2:1 margin, the July 7 game involving the Service All-Stars indicated the interest in seeing them was considerable. It saw 62,094 paid admissions plus an additional 2,000 uniformed service personnel admitted free-of-charge. Conversely, the Major League All-Star Game’s attendance was nearly half, with just 34,178 in attendance at New York’s Polo Grounds. After the 1942 service baseball season drew some opposition from families of service personnel serving in harm’s way, this game appeared to indicate a turning point as armed forces baseball exhibitions served as tremendous vehicles for charitable financial support for the men and women serving in uniform.
Despite the service team roster featuring eight players with major league all-star appearances in their careers, the star-studded American Leaguers routed them in a 5-0 shutout. The assemblage of military baseball players so early in the war was truly historic despite their loss on such an enormous stage. Curating a baseball related to the game is truly a high-water mark for the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection.
 “Official American League Baseball Dating Guide Index,” KeyMan Collectibles (http://keymancollectibles.com/officialamericanleaguebaseball.htm), accessed March 18, 2023.
 “1940-1942 William Harridge Reach OAL Baseball,” KeyMan Collectibles (http://keymancollectibles.com/balls/1940Harridgeoalreachbaseball1942.htm), accessed March 18, 2023.
 Grosshandler, Stan, “A Forgotten All-Star Game,” SABR Research Journal Archive (http://research.sabr.org/journals/forgotten-all-star-game), Accessed March 19, 2023.
Camp Chaffee Flannel: Arkansas Tanker Training Base a WWII Haven of Army Baseball
Researching wartime baseball can be a succession of twists, turns, roadblocks and dead ends as one travels down each road. One clue can remove a barrier or expose an alternate avenue to explore and lead to a highly rewarding breakthrough. In some instances, the objective that sets one onto the path of exploration becomes secondary or tertiary to the buried treasures that are discovered.
Quite typically, we acquire military baseball artifacts that require research to determine various historical aspects. Analyzing attributes that can then be compared with known artifacts, including those within our collection, affords us the ability to arrive at educated approximations or precise determinations. Military baseball uniforms can pose considerable challenges in pinpointing basic aspects such as the year they were manufactured. A task that is exceedingly more difficult is attributing an unnamed piece lacking provenance to a specific player.
In early March, 2022, we took a gamble on acquiring a flannel jersey lettered with “CAMP CHAFFEE” and listed at auction. Based upon several aspects discernible in the photographs of the listing, it was clear that the jersey dated from 1943-44. In addition to the athletic felt lettering on the chest, a large pair of numerals, “13,” was stitched across the back of the jersey in corresponding material. With high confidence that the jersey was used by an Army team from the World War II training base, we completed the purchase, deciding to trust in our research capabilities to connect the jersey to a team and players.
Named to honor the man who is considered the U.S. Army’s “Father of The Armored Force,” Major General Adna Romanza Chaffee Jr., Camp Chaffee was constructed in 1941 in western Arkansas. By March, 1942, Camp Chaffee was fully operational as a training base for the 6th, 14th, and 16th Armored Divisions. As the war progressed, Camp Chaffee expanded in both size and training operations, bringing engineer, artillery, and infantry units to the installation. Perhaps the most notable baseball athlete, the Boston Braves pitching prospect and future inductee into the Hall of Fame, Warren Spahn, trained at Camp Chaffee and played baseball while stationed there in 1943 and 1944.
As athletics played a significant role in the physical readiness and conditioning of troops, unit cohesion and morale also greatly benefited from competition among the commands by way of their sports teams. In the spring and summer, military installations could host their own graduated baseball leagues with classifications similar to what was seen in the minor leagues. Some units had the benefit of large pools of talent in assembling teams with experience that could rival clubs in the American Association and the International and Pacific Coast Leagues. Each of the various units stationed at Camp Chaffee fielded teams, including the 59th Field Artillery, 16th Armored Division, 47th and 62nd Armored Regiments and the 1850th Service Unit that featured Zeb “Red” Eaton, Ed “Truck” Kearse and Warren Spahn. In addition to local league play, the service teams competed against regional semi-pro, minor league and even college squads. In an August 5, 1943, game that pitted the 1859th against a team representing the KFPW radio station, Warren Spahn pitched a 15-0 no-hitter, striking out 17 opposing batters. Two defensive errors in the game allowed KFPW baserunners, thus preventing the Braves hurler from perfection.
Once the Camp Chaffee artifact arrived and was removed from its shipping container, it was immediately obvious that the jersey was heavily soiled and likely had been laundered by a commercial dry cleaner. Upon thorough inspection, the condition of the jersey was far better than was discernible in the auction listing photographs. All the garment’s seams showed no signs of separation, and the threads were tight. All the stitching securing the lettering, numerals and soutache was in the same condition with no signs of decay. Aside from a missing fifth button from the bottom of the placket, the musty odor and dirt-laden wool fibers were the only issues, and both were correctible.
With the jersey cleaned and prepared for display, research surrounding Camp Chaffee continued and we were able to identify a handful of players across multiple rosters from unit teams at the base. Former Sacramento Solon outfielder Averett Thompson and pitcher Elwood “Dinty” Moore of Salem (class “B” Western International League) played for the 47th Armored Regiment team while Jim Sheehan, a catching prospect in the New York Giants organization, served as a player-manager for the 59th Field Artillery. It was highly unlikely that any of these teams or players donned a Camp Chaffee-specific uniform in favor of a unit-corresponding flannel. Several newspaper articles and game summaries that we were able to uncover detailed games at or against Camp Chaffee unit teams for the 1943 season. No sources were found that referenced any Camp Chaffee base team.
The 1944 season at Chaffee saw competition from the 16th Armored Division (featuring former Pirates outfielder, Maurice Van Robays), 18th Armored Infantry Battalion, 736th Tank Battalion (Dinty Moore), and the 276th Engineers with Warren Spahn. This season also so the emergence of the Camp Chaffee base nine, led by their team captain, former Johnstown Johnnies first baseman Judson F. “Jay” Kirke, Jr.
1944 Camp Chaffee Baseball Team
|Pfc.||Judson F. “Jay” Kirke||1B/Capt.||Johnstown (PASA)|
Jay Kirke, a second-generation professional baseball player, was born on August 27, 1912, in Fleischmanns, New York as his father, Judson Fabian Kirke, was in his second major league season with the Boston Braves. A ten-year minor leaguer, Kirke entered the Army on January 4, 1944, at Fort McClellan, Alabama. By April, Kirke was tearing the hide off the ball with the Fort McPherson, Georgia ball team before transferring to Camp Chaffee.
As the 1944 season was getting underway, the Army activated and reconstituted the 174th Infantry Regiment, a historically New York National Guard unit, and assigned them to Camp Chaffee for training in anticipation of overseas deployment. Former Los Angeles Angels catcher Private First Class Harry M. Land started the year with the 174th at Camp White, located 16 miles north of Medford, Oregon and played for the regiment’s “Buffaloes.” By June, the 174th was at Camp Chaffee and began to dominate the competition. Captain Harry Lindsey, special services officer for the 174th dispatched a letter to the citizens of Buffalo, New York, the former home of the regiment when it was part of the state’s National Guard, requesting assistance in procuring new uniforms. Answering Lindsey’s request, John C. Stiglmeier, general manager of the Buffalo Bisons of the class “AA” International League, responded, “We can’t do too much for the soldiers and sailors these days and in particular for the Buffalo regiment.” Stiglmeier’s response, according to the Buffalo Evening News, “was immediate as well as enthusiastic,” as 15 uniforms were dispatched to the 174th at Camp Chaffee.
|John J. Botek|
|Frank Del Papa|
|Ed “Jake” Jacobs||P||House of David|
|Harry M. Land||C||Los Angeles (PCL)|
|Henry W. Mankowski|
|Wilburn C. Timmons||SS/P||Pampa (WTNM)|
|Raymond H. Trendle|
|Maurice Van Robays||OF/P||Pirates|
As the Camp Chaffee nine struggled to keep up, the 174th Buffaloes juggernaut motored on. By mid-summer, former Pirates outfielder Maurice Van Robays was added to the Buff’s roster and was, in addition to playing right field, trying his hand on the mound. By the end of the year, Van Robays, who took on the role of team manager, amassed a pitching record of nine wins and four losses, helping the Buffaloes to a 61-39 record.
In the months following the end of the 1944 baseball season, many of the units at Camp Chaffee were deployed to the European Theater and players including Kirke, Spahn, Kearse and Van Robays headed overseas.
In the final year of the war, baseball continued at Camp Chaffee and the base team fielded an entirely new roster of players. For the new season, the Chaffees competed as a service team in a semi-professional league as well as in their service league. In addition to military opponents, the team squared off against regional semi-pro industrial league teams and minor league clubs, including the Little Rock Travelers. The 1945 Chaffee team included multiple former professional players, including pitcher Witt “Lefty” Guise, who saw action in two September 1940 games for the Cincinnati Reds and was on the team’s roster for their World Series championship that season. Jim McLeod, an infielder with 15 years of pre-war professional experience, spent 1930 and 1932-33 in the major leagues with the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Camp Chaffee nine dominated the competition throughout the 1945 season. After winning the Arkansas State semi-pro championship in Pine Bluff on July 30, Chaffee was invited to the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.
|Sgt.||Kennon Black||P||Lake Charles (EVAN)|
|T/4||Charles Coleman||3B||Dover (ESHL)|
|Sgt.||Witt “Lefty” Guise||P||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|Sgt.||Soule James McLeod||SS||Baltimore (IL)|
|S/Sgt.||Russell Lowell Needham||P||Albany (EL)|
Many eyes in the baseball world were present and focused upon the National Baseball Congress’ Semi-Professional Tournament in Wichita, Kansas starting on August 10, 1945. In addition to a select few civilian industrial teams from Kansas, the 32-team field of competition consisted entirely of Army and Army Air Force teams from around the country. All the clubs participating were dominant in their regions and Camp Chaffee, after securing the Arkansas state semi-pro championship on July 29, received an automatic entry into the national tournament.
For the three-day event, more than 25,000 tickets were sold. Thirteen major league scouts were also in attendance, including Carl Hubbell (New York Giants); Jack Ryan (St. Louis Cardinals); Joe Cambria (Washington Senators); Carl Hagel and Joe Becker (New York Yankees); Tom Greenwade and Bert Wells (Brooklyn Dodgers); Bill Hinchman (Pittsburgh Pirates), and Bobby Mattick; to look over the talent-rich teams.
|Biggs Field||El Paso||TX|
|Camp Chaffee||Fort Smith||AR|
|Camp Kilmer||Piscataway Township||NJ|
|Columbia Army Air Field||Comets||Columbia||SC|
|Enid Army Flying School||Enidairs||Enid||OK|
|Gowen Field Army Air Field||Boise||ID|
|Great Falls Army Air Field||Great Falls||MT|
|Herington Army Air Field||Herington||KS|
|Lincoln Army Air Field||Wings||Lincoln||NB|
|Lockbourne Army Air Field||Lockbourne||OH|
|Orlando Army Air Field||Orlando||FL|
|Sherman Field||Ft. Leavenworth||KS|
|Sioux Falls Army Air Field||Marauders||Sioux Falls||SD|
|Suffolk County Army Air Field||Westhampton||NY|
|Waco Army Air Field||Flyers||Waco||TX|
|West/Pacific Coast ATC||Wings||CA|
For their tournament opener, the men of Camp Chaffee faced the “Marauders” of Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota. Moundsman “Lefty” Guise started on the hill for Chaffee, pitching five innings of scoreless ball. The Marauders drew first blood in the bottom of the sixth, plating two runs. Their lead was short lived as the Chaffee men countered with a Courtney single and Martinez reaching on an error. Guise helped to ameliorate his sixth inning stumble by sacrificing the two baserunners into scoring position and setting his team up for a rally. Beavers sent a two-out double off the right field wall, plating Courtney and Martinez, but was gunned down attempting to stretch it to a triple.
The wheels began to fall off the cart for Guise as Sioux Falls loaded the bases in the next inning. Guise worked out of the one-out jam, getting Marauders batters Morton and Monty Basgall out. In the eighth inning, Guise was in trouble again, giving up an infield hit and a pair of walks and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Russell Needham, who stranded the Marauders by striking out second baseman Basgall. Sioux Falls pitcher Herb Norquist went the distance, surrendering two runs on four hits but the real story of the game was his 16 strikeouts as Chaffee finished the top of the ninth without scoring. With the game tied, left fielder Edward Gittens reached on an error to get things started. After being sacrificed to second, shortstop Robert Henny stroked a convincing single off Needham, allowing Gittens to score the winning run. With one loss in the double-elimination tournament, Camp Chaffee needed to keep winning to continue.
The timing for Mississippi’s Key Field’s arrival at Wichita could not have been any worse as the team’s roster was hampered by illnesses and injuries as they faced off against Camp Chaffee. Sergeant Kennon Black, starting on the mound for Chaffee, took advantage of the diminished Key Fielders as he handcuffed his opponents at the plate. allowing just two hits. Meanwhile, seven of nine Camp Chaffee batters got hits off the Key Field pitcher, Smith. Camp Chaffee tallied four runs on eight hits. Shortstop McLeod was the game’s sole multi-hit batter in the 4-0 shutout on August 13.
Following in Black’s footsteps, Russell Needham pitched a 2-hitter of his own as Chaffee eliminated El Paso, Texas’ Biggs Field with a 4-0 blanking. Catcher William Glenn led the offense with two hits in three at-bats. Coleman, Pittman and McLeod each drove in runs as first baseman Martinez, who was one-for-three, tallied three of Chaffee’s four scores.
The tables were turned as former Cincinnati Reds pitcher “Lefty” Guise was met by the unfriendly bats of Ohio’s Lockbourne Field on Sunday, August 19. Guise was ineffective as he surrendered six runs on nine hits in his five and two-thirds innings for Chaffee. “Lefty” was lifted in favor of Russell Needham, but the damage was done. Lockbourne’s Wanke went the distance against Chaffee, holding them to two runs on as many hits in the 7-2 shellacking.
Eliminated from the tournament, Camp Chaffee’s season was effectively over except for a handful of exhibition games against local service and industrial league ballclubs. In a September 24 game against Fort Benning, Guise pitched a no-hitter for his 16th win of the season, having lost only two games.
Ahead of Japan’s unconditional surrender on September 2, the armed forces, already discharging servicemen from the war service following Germany’s capitulation in May, ramped up the process. Camp Chaffee’s Guise was set to be separated days after tossing his no-hitter.
With the rapid downsizing of the armed forces, much of the wartime equipment, weapons and uniforms were no longer needed and were divested as surplus materials from the War Department’s inventory. It is unknown if our Camp Chaffee jersey was acquired through this program or if it was taken home by one of the team members.
With nearly a year elapsing since the Camp Chaffee jersey was acquired, we have been unsuccessful in locating a single photo of the team or any players wearing this jersey. Similarly, our research has failed to uncover scorecards or rosters to reveal the players’ number assignments, let alone who specifically wore number 13. Despite the detailed history surrounding Camp Chaffee’s wartime baseball teams, we were forced to weigh our findings against the opportunity to acquire a full wartime service team baseball uniform that included the jersey, trousers and stockings that were named to a ballplayer who was a combat veteran: Lawrence Milton “Lefty” Powell. After several days of careful consideration, we decided to take a previously unthinkable action and trade the Camp Chaffee flannel in exchange for the 18th Field Artillery uniform. This exchange marked the first and hopefully the last time that we let go of such a highly valued artifact.
- Chevrons and Diamonds Collection’s Archive of Military Baseball Uniforms
- Chevrons and Diamonds Collection’s Archive of Army Uniforms and Jerseys
 Patterson, Michael Robert, “Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr. – Major General, United States Army, (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/achafjr.htm)” Arlington National Cemetery, Accessed December 28, 2022.
 Bedingfield, Gary, “Warren Spahn (https://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/spahn_warren.htm)” Baseball in Wartime, Accessed December 28, 2022.
 “Razorback Nine Plays Soldier Team at Fort Smith,” Northwest Arkansas Times, May 8, 1943: p6.
 “No-Hit Pitcher Whiffs 17 Batters,” The Shreveport Journal, August 6, 1943: p14.
 “Van Robays Set to Go Overseas,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 2, 1944: p8.
 “Tank Unit Has Crack Battery,” The Lawton Constitution (Lawton, Oklahoma), May 1, 1944: p3.
 “Swigart Bests Spahn 6-1 in Champ Battle,” The Gruber Guidon (Camp Gruber, Oklahoma), August 11, 1944: p3.
 “Atlas Electrics Play Soldiers at T.L. Park Today,” Tulsa Daily World, June 25, 1944: p25.
 “Three-Day Pass Goes to GI Member Who Can Smash C.O.’s Window,” The Birmingham News, April 19, 1944: p17.
 “Rainbow Downs Chaffee Nine,” The Gruber Guidon, August 11, 1944: p1.
 “Van Robays Now a Pitcher,” The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pennsylvania), December 2, 1944: p3.
 Doyle, Charles J., “Van Robays Set to go Overseas,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, December 1, 1944: p27.
 “Camp Chafee Wins,” Wichita Evening Eagle, July 30, 1945: p6.
 “Many Fast Army Clubs Are Ready for U.S. Tourney,” The Wichita Eagle, August 4, 1945: p10.
 “Camp Chaffee Wins,” Wichita Eagle, July 30, 1945: P6.
 “25,000 Will See Games in 3 Days,” Wichita Evening Eagle, August 8, 1945: p6.
 “Marauders of S. Dakota Win Thriller 3 to 2,” Wichita Evening Eagle, August 12, 1945: p14.
 “Key Fielders Go Out Without Run in National Meet,” The Wichita Eagle, August 14, 1945: p7.
 “Camp Biggs is Out,” The Wichita Eagle, August 16, 1945: p10.
 “Camp Chaffee is Out of Tourney,” The Wichita Eagle, August 20, 1945: p2.
 “Guise, Former Baron, Hurls No-Hitter; Expects Discharge,” The Birmingham News (Birmingham, AL) September 25, 1945: p17.