Settling the Score Between the Army and Navy, Hawaii 1944


Baseball is and has been played on every surface imaginable, gravel, dirt, tarmac, turf (both natural and artificial) and even concrete. The locations can be almost anywhere: in the middle of a palatial stadium, encircled with 45,000 spectators or in a Midwestern cornfield with a lone bleacher stand enough for 10 viewers.

The opening game of the 1943 baseball season at Furlong Field. This diamond would see dozens of baseballs brightest and best don their spikes and military-team flannels to entertain the troops stationed in Hawaii during WWII.

The opening game of the 1943 baseball season at Furlong Field. This diamond would see dozens of baseballs brightest and best don their spikes and military-team flannels to entertain the troops stationed in Hawaii during WWII.

Picture yourself seated in a wooden bleacher with the fragrance of fresh cut grass blending with aviation engine exhaust from the nearby flight-line of a major U.S. Army Air Force Base, nestled among the swaying palm trees. In the not-so-far-off distance, the sound of ship’s bells and whistles could be heard emanating from the ships in Pearl Harbor. Under the warm tropical sun, you begin to look at your blank scorecard, in awe of what is before you. The lineups are about to be announced, but without prompting, you already recognize the faces.

There were many professional ball players stationed within the military in Hawaii during the World War II years. By 1944, The Navy’s Central Pacific Area Service League and Fourteenth District League had over 30 major leaguers. Playing in the six-team Central League were the Kaneohe Klippers (Johnny “Big Cat” Mize from the NY Giants) and the Aiea Hospital Team (featuring Harold Pee Wee Reese from the Brooklyn Dodgers). By mid-spring, the Seventh Army Air Force team’s roster was bolstered with the arrival of the New York Yankees star outfielder, the Yankee Clipper, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

At the beginning of that Autumn, what was known by the locals as “The Real World Series” was scheduled for play between the Army and Navy teams (each roster, essentially made up of all stars from these leagues). With all of the stars of the game filling out both rosters, the draw would be substantial fields throughout Oahu and the surrounding islands. In the first four games alone, a total of 64,000 all-service member audience filled the bleachers and lined the fields to watch the Navy team take a four game lead over the Army squad.

9/22 – Navy 5-0 (Furlong Field, Hickam)
9/23 – Navy 8-2 (Furlong Field, Hickam)
9/25 – Navy 4-3 (Redlander Field, Schofield Barracks)
9/26 – Navy 10-5 (Kaneohe Bay NAS)
9/28 – Navy 12-2 (Furlong Field, Hickam)
9/30 – Navy 6-4 (Furlong Field, Hickam)
10/1 – Army 5-3 (Furlong Field, Hickam)
10/4 – Navy 11-0 (Maui)
10/5 – Army 6-5 (Maui)
10/6 – Tie (14 innings) 6-6 (Hilo)
10/15 – Navy 6-5 (Kukuiolono Park, Kaui)

Navy took the series 8-2-1  (read more about this series)

I have been in the baseball militaria collecting game for a few years. I watch for pieces to surface that would be great additions or that are connected to some of the more well-known events and players. These more significant pieces seldom present themselves and when they do, I try my best to acquire them. Though my ultimate desire would be to land a uniform from one of the players who participated in these games, they might be cost-prohibitive (provided the piece has provenance connecting it to one of the famous players).

Score card from Game 4 of the 1944 Army vs Navy Championship Series played at Hickam Army Army Air Force Base at Furlong Field.

Score card from Game 7 of the 1944 Army vs Navy Championship Series played at Hickam Army Air Force Base at Furlong Field.

Last week, I was able to locate a piece that is directly tied to this championship series. When I first truly began searching for items, one of these scorecards surfaced and I had so little time to respond – to research provenance and what was an appropriate price to pay. I wanted the scorecard but I didn’t want to get caught in a bidding war, trying to out-duel another buyer who was more inclined to win the auction rather that to be intelligent with his money. My lack of bidding meant that I would be waiting more than three years to see another example come onto the market. In this instance, there would be two.

With my winning bid, I paid and awaited the arrival of the scorecard. The auction photos showed it to have been folded and the original owner did not use it to keep score (I wish that he had). My example was dated for the October 1, 1944 game (#7) in which the Army squad etched their first victory of the dominant Navy team.

Lt Tom Winsett finally tasted the sweetness of revenge as his khakimen outscored Lt Bill Dickey’s champions, 5 to 3, at Furlong Field, Oahu, October 1. The soldiers made five runs on the six hits allowed by Virgil Trucks. Homers by Lang in the second, Dillinger in the sixth with DeCarlo on base and Fain in the ninth, with Judnich resting on first, accounted for all Army runs. Trucks doubled home Reese in the second. Singles by DiMaggio, Brancato and Shokes, sandwiched between DiMaggio’s stolen base and Reese’s walk, tallied a brace of runs for the Tars in the third. Bill Schmidt, former Sacramento pitcher, who spelled DeRose in the third frame, was credited with the victory.

The defeat was the first one of the year for Trucks. The Detroiter had won ten tilts for the Great Lakes Blue Jackets before copping two series games. In losing, Trucks struck out nine, walked four. Big Bill allowed only two hits and no runs, walked nobody and struck out four in four innings. Reese, brilliant on the bases and in the field, led the batters with three for four.

 – Source: Baseball in Wartime

The scorecard is nothing fancy (by comparison to others in my collection). The cover is simple and quite bold with the unmistakable text. The interior bi-fold holds generic box score cards for each team. What truly makes this piece of ephemera is the composition of the team rosters. Listed among the names are nearly 40 major league players; five of whom are enshrined in Cooperstown:

  • Joe Gordon
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Pee Wee Reese
  • Bill Dickey
  • Phil Rizzuto

Also listed among the names are players from what was then considered to be the third major league, the Pacific Coast League (PCL). Having these rosters in hand is great and helps to tell a more inclusive story.

Posted on February 12, 2016, in Ephemera and Other Items, Hall of Fame Players, My Collection and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on The Veteran's Collection and commented:

    Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training in just two days (February 17)! It is never too early to start thinking about the pop of the leather, the crack of the bat or the smell of the fresh cut grass. Baseball season is almost here!

    Like

  2. Roger Cleven

    My dad was in the Navy during WWII (16th Seabees). While stationed in Hawaii, he was at the game at Furlong Field in Oahu on February 12, 1945. He got 15 of the players to sign a baseball which I now have. Are there many surviving baseballs from that era (and the war)? What would something like this be worth? I also want to make sure the ball ends up in good hands after I am gone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roger,

      I apologize for the lengthy time it took me to respond. for some reason, I didn’t receive a notification of your comment.

      Regarding the signed ball from the game at Furlong field, the value would be driven by several aspects:

      1. The players who signed the ball
      2. Condition of the ball and the signatures
      3. Is the ball a U.S. special services or official (major/minor) league ball
      4. A ticket stub or photo of your father at the game to establish provenance

      I saw a ball that had a few dozen signatures from the game with several major league player’s John Hancocks on it. It was a Spalding official ball that had some discoloration, had been shellacked and all of the signatures were very legible. The ball came from the veteran who got the ball signed (he also was an umpire from there) which lead to the value being well over a thousand dollars (there were a few other balls in the group). It was listed a few times before it sold – waiting for the right buyer to come along.

      Rarity or scarcity will not necessarily add to the value of a ball of this sort. It takes a special collector (someone who collects militaria as well) who will see the inherit value of a ball that may not contain a famous player.

      I’d love to see some photos of the ball in question!

      Like

  3. Would anyone know if there was a team called “NC Messing Club” playing in Hawaii during this time? I have a team photo with my dad who was at Pearl Harbor and known to play baseball but can’t place the team or photo.

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    • I found a reference to a 1942 team; Navy Cantonment Messing Club. They were managed by Bernard Stoltz and Douglas Ballard. I found mention of a pitcher, Charlie Bray, to the club in May of 1942 as well as pitchers Carlson, Graham and Jepson. Catching them was Don Touhy as well as Milton and Lilke. The Infielders were Cline, De Santos, Duvall, Augie and Hoke. Outfielders were Gobright, Lane, Gange, Johnson, Primo and Rusnak (the latter three were reserve fielders). By May 25, they were 8-4 having lost to the Honolulu League’s Braves, Red Hill (twice) and Navy (Pearl Harbor Submarine Base).

      In July of 1942, mentions of pitcher Tomkins who got roughed up by the Primo A.C. club.

      The N.C. Messing Club team plated in the 14-team Oahu League: Section A – Primo Athletic Club, Navy Cantonment Messing Club, Ft. DeRussy, Ordinance, Oahu Prison, Fort Shafter and Engineers. Section B – Red Hill, Thomas Square, Naval Hospital, Navy Contractors, Fort Armstrong, Honolulu Police Department, Navy Cantonment Brown Bombers.

      I am sure there is more to this and further research perhaps would uncover more pertinent details.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I purchased a baseball from an antique store a year ago in tiny Potterville, Michigan (btw this is the home town of Joe Davis, the TV broadcaster for the LA Dodgers). This is a Spalding ball and it has 30 autographs on it, the names all fall within the description of the 1944 Hawaii Games. There are 4 HOF who signed, they are Red Ruffing, John Mize, Joe Gordon, and Pee Wee Reese. Very nice keepsake, especially with the WWII story attached to it.

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      • Dave,

        IT sounds like a great piece! What a nice find. We would love to see photos of the baseball.

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      • This is a follow-up to my note about the baseball I bought at an antique shop. I would gladly show pics of the ball but I do not know how to attach photos to this page.

        Like

      • Thank you for your reply! That’s what I was looking for. I have a team picture of the team which includes my dad. He was taught how to pitch by Bob Feller and was at Pearl Harbor submarine base. Is there a way I can upload the picture here? I would be we could identify many of the other players.

        Like

      • Unfortunately, the comments don’t allow for attachments. Feel free to join us on our Facebook group where you can share your photo.

        https://www.facebook.com/groups/223348098295708

        Like

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