Category Archives: Scorecards

Wartime Baseball on Paper: Servicemen’s World Series Programs and Scorecards

For more than a century, the change of the calendar from September to October has truly signaled the actual arrival of autumn for baseball fans across North America, despite the autumnal equinox occurring more than a week earlier. The World Series looms large over the hearts and minds of fans from coast to coast. The marathon 162-game season race has been run, and as they approach the finish line, the leaders are clearly visible.

“By far, the best moment of my big league career was when I caught the last out at the World Series.”

– Cal Ripken, Jr.

October has historically been the month of the year when heroes of the game have been made. Legends are born during the championship games with stellar on-field performances. Dreams of hitting the game-winning or series-clinching home run or striking out the last batter for the final out exist in the minds of thousands of youths throughout their childhood and remain an unspoken desire for those who transition to a professional baseball career. In recent major league baseball seasons, November has become the month of post-season diamond feats as the expanded playoffs extended play beyond October.

“You never forget the feeling of not getting to the World Series. Yes, it sticks with you.”

– Ryne Sandberg

The World Series has always held the attention of baseball fans whether they have a cheering stake in the game or not. Seeing the two best teams facing each other and wondering who among the most unlikely players will rise to the enormity of the occasion and etch their names in the lore of the Fall Classic with a clutch hit or overcoming a pressure-packed situation by striking out the league’s best slugger with the bases loaded hold even the most casual of baseball fans’ attention. For fans, remembering these moments and engaging in discussion about which of them is the greatest always leads to debate. However, for some, it is not enough to savor them just in memory.

“The best possible thing in baseball is winning the World Series. The second-best thing is losing the World Series.”

– Tommy Lasorda

A trip to the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York is an eye-opening experience for any visitor. For those enamored with the game’s artifacts, a visit can awaken desires to collect game treasures and catapult them into the lifelong and expensive pursuit of building a collection.

Collecting World Series artifacts is cost-prohibitive for average baseball fans. Some of the most expensive objects stem from the participants in the games in the form of uniforms, equipment, and championship awards such as trophies, pendants and rings which can carry price tags of five, six or even seven digits. There are more reasonable items from these games that are within reach of collectors with less available discretionary financial resources.

Baseball programs represent a lower-cost investment alternative to the typical vintage sports collectible. “In many cases, programs cost far less than a trading card of a popular player from the same year,” wrote Sal Barry, “and can give you more enjoyment.[1]

Harry Chadwick is noted as the man who conceived a system of scorekeeping in the 1860s that paved the way for tracking player performance statistics.[2] His system of notation[3] has stood the test of time and provides sportswriters, team managers and fans with the ability to measure player and team performance. It was not until entrepreneur Harry M. Stevens attended a Columbus (Ohio) Senators baseball game in 1887 that one of the best baseball collectibles was born. Though scorecards were already in use throughout baseball at the time, Stevens recognized a financial opportunity for baseball team owners to sell advertising space on the cards. Stevens’ idea was to purchase the rights from the team to sell the scorecards for the games. For the sum of $500, Stevens struck a deal and set out to sell the advertising space and to get the cards printed. After selling his first block of advertising, Stevens had a 140-percent return on his investment before printing or selling a single scorecard. Stevens began expanding his service to other ballparks around the country.[4] He is responsible for what became one of the most figuratively and literally colorful pieces of baseball history and one of the most affordable and available collectibles.

Though not a typical mainstream collectible, baseball scorecards along with game programs have their own niche among collectors. Contemporary scorecards are printed in a more generic fashion as rosters are far too fluid throughout the season. Printing costs and the waste associated with changing rosters are not fiscally sound. The more generic-oriented cards are more challenging to pinpoint to a specific game if left unscored. However, vintage pieces such as from the 1940s tend to be more easily pinpointed to a specific week of the season, depending on the team that produced the scorecard. World Series pieces, however, are far more desirable due to the nature of the games’ importance, historic nature, and roster specificity.[5]

In addition to condition, there are many factors that can impact or drive the collector value of a World Series scorecard including the age, the specific game, outcome, teams involved, and player heroics as well as if the piece is scored. Many World Series scorecards are easily fetching 4-digit values on the collector market, inching several of these items out of reach for everyday collectors. Depending upon the historical magnitude of the game, collector demand increases, driving the values skyward. For example, “a scorecard of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series on October 8, 1956, is worth more than most other programs,” Jeff Figler wrote in 2018. “The same would hold true with the program of Jackie Robinson’s debut on April 15, 1947.[6]

Another niche area of scorecard collecting exists in the realm of military or service team baseball. With the flow of the game’s top-tier, youthful talent into the armed forces and onto service baseball teams, scorecards from these games are quite collectible. Unlike major league games where thousands of cards were produced, the smaller venues and one-off games saw far smaller numbers printed, which leads to greater scarcity.

Wartime baseball in Hawaii was an incredible morale boost for troops stationed on the islands or convalescing from combat wounds sustained in the Pacific Theater. Servicemen fill the stands and cover the roofs of adjacent builds at Furlong Field to watch the mighty 7th AAF (dark uniforms) in action (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Wartime service game scorecards have created a considerable increase in interest in the last few years that is likely attributable to their affordability combined with the presence of Hall of Fame players including Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Stan Musial, and Billy Herman, who all served and played on service teams during the war. By 1944, the largest assemblage of the game’s stars was serving in the Hawaiian Islands and playing for teams such as the Aiea Naval Hospital “Hilltoppers,” Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins,” Aiea Naval Receiving Barracks “Maroons,” Naval Air Station (NAS) Kaneohe Bay “Klippers,” and the 7th Army Air Force “Flyers.” The major leagues were populated with players beyond their prime, others who were brought up the big leagues before gaining the necessary experience and those who were deemed unfit for military service, resulting in a diminished quality of play on the field; but the island of Oahu was the epicenter for baseball star power.

For those attending wartime games on the islands, preprinted scorecards were available. While these pieces tend to be extremely scarce, collector interest is relatively weak due to the lack of knowledge of the leagues, games, teams, and the players on the rosters. However, there were important games that drew substantial crowds due to the caliber of the players on the rosters and the historic nature of the contests themselves.

For decades, Oahu was a hotbed for baseball with several leagues that included civilian and military clubs operating before the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1942, some former professional players who were serving began to trickle onto the island and onto their respective units’ baseball teams. The following year saw a greater increase leading to one club, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins, dominating other service teams and civilian clubs in the various leagues. By 1944, the Army responded in kind and emptied their West Coast bases of talent to build a super club to take the fight to the Navy with the 7th Army Air Force team based at Hickam Field. With major league talent including Mike McCormick, Walt Judnich, Dario Lodigiani, John “Long Tom” Winsett, Joe Gordon, Red Ruffing and Joe DiMaggio, the club was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to the major league stars, the 7th’s minor leaguers truly propelled the Flyers to the top of the standings. Former San Francisco Seals first baseman Ferris Fain led the field, claiming a league batting crown. Former Seal hurler Al Lien was a dominant force on the mound, with future Yankee backstop Charlie Silvera handling the pitchers from behind the plate.

Unlike the Army, who amassed its talent on the 7th AAF squad, the Navy had their share of stars spread throughout multiple bases. Walt Masterson, Jimmy Gleeson, Al Brancato, Joe Grace, Bob Harris, Rankin Johnson, and Mo Mozzali led the Pearl Harbor Sub Base. Johnny Lucadello, Barney McCosky, and Eddie Pellagrini were at Aiea Receiving Barracks. Tom Ferrick, Johnny Mize, Hugh Casey, and Wes Schulmerich were stationed at NAS Kaneohe; and Vern Olsen, George Dickey, and Pee Wee Reese were at the Aiea Naval Hospital.

By the end of regular season play, the 7th captured the championship hardware, with the already-planned inter-service All-Stars championship looming for September and October. It was billed as the Servicemen’s World Series, a seven-game contest that pitted baseball stars from the Army against those of the Navy and was played solely at military facilities for the benefit of service personnel. Planning for the series began late in the summer and speculation began to swirl about prospective players being dispatched to the islands for the series. Three major league stars serving elsewhere in the Navy – Dom DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto, both in Melbourne, Australia and Bob Feller, who was serving aboard the battleship USS Alabama – were the favorite contenders for the Series discussed in the local papers. However, by mid-September, only Rizzuto and DiMaggio were en route to Oahu. The operational necessities of the USS Alabama kept Feller out of contention for the Navy team.[7]

The best-of-seven series was set to commence on September 22 at the Navy’s home, Furlong Field, at Pearl Harbor (for Games 1, 5 and 7) and would extend into October with games hosted at Hickam Field (Games 2 and 6), Redlander Field at the Schofield Barracks (Game 3), and Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay (Game 4) to ensure that service personnel throughout the island had opportunities to experience the excitement in person. Prior to the opening game, all the fields underwent some form of expanded seating construction to increase capacity for the expected crowds.

Meeting of the managers ahead of the start of the Servicemen’s World Series at Furlong Field. Navy’s skipper Bill Dickey poses with John “Long Tom” Winsett near the backstop. This photo was signed by Dickey (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Riding the wave of the 7th AAF’s regular season success in defeating the Oahu Navy clubs, Army leadership built their All-Star roster around 17 players drawn from the Flyers. The remainder of the club consisted of players pulled from other area Army commands including the Schofield Barracks. The Navy, however, pulled out all the stops in loading their lineup. With the arrival of Rizzuto and DiMaggio from Australia, the already stacked Navy All-Stars featured a lengthy list of nearly 40 former major and minor leaguers and semi-pros, outnumbering the Army by 11 players.

Recognizing the need to unify their personnel, the Navy played two warmup games, including an intra-squad tilt, leading up to the opening game of the Series. With three future Hall of Fame enshrinees filling positions on the Navy’s opening day starting lineup, the Navy was hoping to turn the tables on the Army’s dominance. Recognizing the comparatively lopsided Navy advantage, local sportswriters favored the Navy to take the series. “Today is the day of the opening of the Service World Series out at Furlong Field,” Red McQueen wrote in The Honolulu Advertiser. “If for no other reason than to stick out the ol’ neck so that some Army boys can chop it off, we’re going out on the proverbial limb with a call on the outcome of the classic,” McQueen continued. “The Navy in six or less games is our guess. Pitching is 80 to 90 percent of the battle and the Tars have it.”[8]

Further contributing to the Navy’s edge was the absence of one of the Army’s and the game’s greatest stars. Staff Sergeant Joe DiMaggio spent the better part of the 1944 season dealing with ulcers, which limited his availability for the 7th AAF. With the continuation of his health issues, the Yankee Clipper was wholly unavailable for the Servicemen’s World Series.[9]

Game 1 of the Servicemen’s World Series is in the books as the Navy defeated Army, 5-0 (Courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.).

Navy All-Stars:

Rate/Rank#PlayerPositionFormer
12Jim AdairPSemi-Pro
SM3/c26Arnie “Red” AndersonPChattanooga (SOUA)
TM2/c10Norman Gene “Pee Wee” AtkinsonCSemi-Pro
9John “Johnny” BerryRFU of Oregon/Semi-Pro
EM2/c4Tom BishopSSSemi-Pro
SK2/c17Albert (Al) Brancato3BAthletics
16Jim CarlinLFPhillies
Sp(A)1/c27Hugh CaseyPDodgers
LT28Bill DickeyMgr.Yankees
Sp(A) 1/c15George “Skeets” DickeyCWhite Sox
CSp(A)11Dom DiMaggioCFRed Sox
31Gordon EvansLFCharleston (MATL)
Hank FeimsterPDanville-Schoolfield (BIST)
Sp(A) 1/c18Marvin FeldermanCCubs
Sp(A) 1/c31Tom FerrickPIndians
Sp(A) 1/c28Joseph “Joe” GraceRFBrowns
Sp(A) 2/c29Jack HallettPPirates
Sp1/c24Robert A. “Bob” HarrisPAthletics
PhM3/c20John “Hubie” Jeandron2BPort Arthur (EVAN)
YN1/c23A. Rankin JohnsonPAthletics
6Dave LieboldBat Boy
CSp (A)5Johnny Lucadello2BBrowns
CsP(A)26Walt MastersonPSenators
Sp(A) 1/c3Barney McCoskyCFTigers
Sp(A) 2/c32Johnny Mize1BGiants
TM1/c13Maurice “Mo” MozzaliCFSemi-Pro
Sp(A) 1/c30Vern OlsenPCubs
21Sal Recca3BNorfolk (PIED)
CSp (A)34Harold “Pee Wee” ReeseSSDodgers
CSp (A)2Phil RizzutoSSYankees
26Lynwood “Schoolboy” RowePTigers
LT30Wes SchulmerichAsst. Mgr.Twin Falls (PION)
14Ken “Ziggy” SearsCYankees
CEM19Oscar SessionsP
29Eddie Shokes1BSyracuse (AA)
1Vincent SmithCPirates
22Virgil TrucksPTigers
S1/c27Johnny Vander MeerPReds

Army All-Stars:

Rank#PlayerFormer
Rank#PlayerFormer
Corp.13Renaldo “Rugger” ArdizoiaKansas City (AA)
Corp.10James AshworthHelena (CSTL)
Lt.16John “Johnny” BeazleyCardinals
Lt. Col30Joseph D. “Joe” ClarkeSemi-Pro
  Bill DeCarloMinneapolis (AA)
Corp.27Carl DeRoseAmsterdam (CAML)
Cpl.1Bob DillingerToledo (AA)
S/Sgt.4Joe DiMaggioYankees
11Hank EdwardsIndians
19Eddie ErauttHollywood (PCL)
S/Sgt.7Ferris FainSan Francisco (PCL)
Sgt.18Edward FunkFederalsburg (ESHL)
15Sid GautreauxMemphis (SOUA)
Vincent GenegrassoSemi-Pro
Pvt.28Hal HairstonHomestead Grays
Sgt.3Walter “Wally” JudnichBrowns
Corp.22Cornel George “Kearny” KohlmeyerTyler (ETXL)
12Don LangKansas City (AA)
Pfc.9Will LeonardOakland (PCL)
Pfc.25Al LienSan Francisco (PCL)
Sgt.2Dario LodigianiWhite Sox
Corp.5Myron “Mike” McCormickReds
23Dick MolbergSemi-Pro
21Don SchmidtSemi-Pro
Corp.24William “Bill” SchmidtSacramento (PCL)
SSGT29John Shumbres
Corp.8Charlie SilveraWellsville (PONY)
1st Lt.20Tom WinsettDodgers
Note: Due to health issues, Joe DiMaggio was not available for any of the Servicemen’s World Series games.
Admiral Chester Nimitz throws out the first ball of the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series at Furlong Field, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 1
Shortly after 8:00 a.m., servicemen began arriving at the Furlong Field gates more than six hours before the 2:30 p.m. game time[10] in eager anticipation for the start of the Series. With all games set to be played on area military installations, the games were Inaccessible to the civilian population; however, Honolulu radio station KGMB was on site to broadcast the game and the entire Series, with rebroadcasts set for distribution to the Armed Forces Radio Service throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations.[11]

Army bats were silenced from the first pitch through the top of the ninth, stymied by Navy hurler Virgil “Fire” Trucks. Though Trucks pitched a four-hit shutout, the Army managed to reach base seven times. In addition to solid Navy fielding stranding five of the opposition’s runners, Trucks fanned six, winning the opening game, 5-0. The Tars touched Don Schmidt for 10 singles while Trucks helped his own cause with a pair of hits, one of them pushing a run across the plate.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 2
Shifting venues to the more friendly surroundings of Flood Field at Hickam Army Air Field, the Army sought to even the Series, sending former San Francisco Seal Al Lien to the mound. The Navy countered with Johnny “Double-No-Hit” Vander Meer for the second game. The two clubs matched run for run in the first and fifth innings, leaving the score knotted at two heading into the eighth. Vander Meer held the Army scoreless after the Navy plated the go ahead run in the top of the eighth inning, leaving the Navy with a 3-2 advantage. In the top of the ninth, Dom DiMaggio walked with one out followed by a Reese single and was plated on a rocketed comeback through the box off the bat of Vinnie Smith that Lien deflected. As Gordon fielded the ball, DiMaggio sped around and scored while Smith reached first safely. With two on and one out, Lien was lifted for reliever Eddie Funk, but the Navy bats were still hot.

Manager Bill Dickey sent Ken Sears to bat in Vander Meer’s spot. After Sears flied out, Rizzuto walked. Joe Grace came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and promptly dispatched a souvenir to the fans beyond the right field fence for a grand slam. Funk coaxed McCosky to foul out to the catcher to end the inning, but the damage was done. Navy manager Lieutenant Bill Dickey sent Hugh Casey in to lock down the 8-2 victory and put the Navy up two games to none.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 3
After taking Sunday, September 24, off, the teams traveled to the Schofield Barracks to face off at Redlander Field. Don Schmidt hoped to silence the Navy’s guns as he took the mound for the Army in the third game, opposed by Tom Ferrick. After setting down Rizzuto, who struck out looking, any confidence Schmidt may have felt soon vanished with Joe Grace’s one-out double. McCosky singled to right field and Grace scored from second. McCosky scored another run on Mize’s single to center before Schmidt got the final two outs of the frame.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Army cut the lead in half on a Judnich home run. Heading to the top of the fourth, the Army saw an unfamiliar sight on the scoreboard, a 3-2 lead. The Army had pulled ahead after two outs in the bottom of the third. Dillinger singled to left field and swiped second base. Mike McCormick singled and drove Dillinger across the plate to tie the game. Edwards reached first on a Lucadello error. McCormick scored on Judnich’s single, leaving the Navy down by a run. The Army’s lead was short-lived due to a series of Army miscues.

Lucadello grounded to third but reached first as first baseman Fain dropped Lodigiani’s throw. Catcher Sid Gautreaux let one of Schmidt’s pitches get by him, allowing Lucadello to advance to second. After DiMaggio whiffed for the first out and Reese walked, Vinnie Smith singled to left field to drive Lucadello home, tying the game, 3-3.

The score remained knotted until the top of the twelfth. With Schmidt still in for the Army, Ken Sears broke the tie with a 360-foot bomb to right field with one out. In the bottom of the frame, Navy reliever Casey, back on the hill for his third inning, looked to be in trouble after Fain singled off second baseman Lucadello’s glove. Casey hunkered down to get Gordon out swinging for the first out. Lodigiani hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Fain out at second. Pinch hitter Don Lang grounded to short, giving the Navy a 4-3 victory and a three-game lead.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 4
The Navy juggernaut was seemingly unstoppable as the Series shifted 20 miles northeast of Pearl Harbor to Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station for the fourth game. The Navy was set on putting the series to bed, though discussions were already underway to play the full seven games for the benefit of the serviceman spectators. The Navy went back to the pitching well to bring Game 1 starter Virgil Trucks to the mound in hopes of a repeat performance. Winsett pinned the Army’s hopes upon Johnny Beazley to keep the Navy off the base paths.

Kaneohe Bay’s ball field was engulfed by more than 10,000 sailors as Trucks took the mound and set down the first three in order, fanning one. In the bottom of the opening frame, Beazley did not have the same luck. Rizzuto hit the Army pitcher for a leadoff single, but Grace seemed to swing the momentum in Beazley’s favor by grounding into a double play. McCosky walked on four straight and reached second on wild pitch. With two down and a runner in scoring position, Beazley pitched to slugger Johnny Mize, who took him deep to straight away center field for a two-run shot.

Leading 4-0 after four innings, Navy loaded the bases with no outs. Beazley was lifted for Eddie Erautt, who walked DiMaggio and Reese to force in two runs. Smith singled and drove in another pair before Trucks struck out and Rizzuto grounded into a double play to end the carnage. Navy was ahead, 8-0, and well on its way to securing the series-clinching game. Trucks had a comfortable lead and was dominating Army hitters, allowing just four hits and on his way to another shutout victory.

Dom DiMaggio connects. Furlong Field, 1944 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Not ready to lay down their arms, Army bats came to life in the top of the sixth. Leading off, Judnich singled to right field. The league batting champion, Fain, strode to the plate and drove Trucks’ offering 340 feet on a line shot over the right field wall. Joe Gordon followed Fain’s lead and powered a line drive over the left field wall and suddenly, the Army was back in the game. Trucks walked Lodigiani and uncorked a wild pitch to Army backstop Gautreaux allowing Dario to move to second. The big catcher was called out on strikes for the first out. Hitting for the pitcher Erautt, Don Lang whiffed for the second out and Trucks appeared to be working out his kinks. Bob Dillinger had other ideas and stroked a single to center field, scoring Lodigiani as the pressure on Trucks began to increase once again. McCormick worked the Navy pitcher for a free pass to load the bases with two outs, ending Trucks outing.

With “Schoolboy” Rowe taking over on the mound, Edwards singled and drove in Dillinger from second base. Rowe walked Judnich, filling the sacks with Army runners. With two outs and five runs already scored, Fain grounded to first for the final out, but the Army had narrowed the gap, trailing 8-5.

The Army manager sent former Homestead Grays hurler Hal Hairston to the mound to hold the Navy bats at bay and he promptly fanned Joe Grace to start the bottom of the sixth. McCosky grounded to short. Gordon mishandled the ball, rushed his throw to Fain at first and threw wide of the bag, allowing the runner to reach second. Mize singled next and drove in McCosky before Hairston worked out of the jam, but Navy now led 9-5.

Rowe set down the Army in order in the top of the seventh, but Hairston was unable to do the same in the bottom half. Reese led off with a single and Smith bunted him to second, then Rowe popped out to first. Rizzuto singled to score Reese, extending the Navy’s lead. In the last two frames, Judnich accounted for the Army’s last hit of the game as the Navy locked up their fourth straight win by a score of 10-5, and the Series crown.

With more than 56,000 service personnel attending the first four games, it was clear to leadership that the Servicemen’s World Series was a resounding success and a considerable morale boost to the troops stationed on Oahu. The decision was made to play the remaining three games on the schedule. Returning to the site of the opening game, Vander Meer was called upon to start for the Navy on Furlong Field’s mound for Game 5.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 5
Dickey began to change things with his lineup, insuring other players on the roster saw action in the Series. Rizzuto, who had been manning the hot corner throughout the first four games, was moved to second base, replacing Lucadello, and Al Brancato took over at third, making his initial appearance in the Series.

As Vander Meer continued his dominance over Army batters, the change in the lineup only seemed to improve Navy hitting. Lucadello’s 0-16 bat, now on the bench, was replaced by Brancato, who joined in the Tars’ hit parade. Navy batters touched Lien, Molberg, Hairston and Ardizoia for 12 runs on 10 hits while Vander Meer held Army bats to two runs on five hits. The Army’s defensive woes also continued into the fifth game as they tacked on three to the eleven errors committed over the first four games. The Furlong crowd of 16,000 saw yet another Navy win and the Army fans were left wondering if their boys were entirely outmatched with the 12-2 drubbing.

Pee Wee Reese during pre-game batting practice at Furlong Field, 1944 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).
(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 6
The Series made its return to Hickam’s Flood Field for Game 6 as Winsett sent Don Schmidt back to the mound for his second series start. Former Pittsburgh Pirate hurler Jack Hallett made his rubber-toeing debut for the Navy.

Rizzuto got things going for the Navy in the top of the first as Schmidt could not find the strike zone with his initial four pitches. Gautreaux neutralized the leadoff baserunner when he gunned down “Scooter” as he attempted to steal second. Schmidt walked the next batter but coaxed DiMaggio to whiff and Mize ended the inning with a fly out to center. In the bottom of the inning, the Army took the lead when Dillinger reached on a Pee Wee Reese error. After McCormick’s failed bunt attempt, Dillinger accomplished what Rizzuto could not, swiping second. Hallett walked Edwards and Judnich to load the bases before Fain plated Dillinger on a fielder’s choice. Hallett struck out Gordon to end the inning with the Army out to an early lead.

In the third inning, the Navy finally got to Schmidt for two runs after Rizzuto singled with two outs and then stole second. Joe Grace kept things going, working Schmidt for a free pass. DiMaggio cleared the bases with a drive to right center but was out at third attempting to stretch his double to a triple.

Trailing Navy 2-1 and with two outs in the bottom of the third, Ferris Fain singled off Pee Wee Reese’s glove. Catcher Sears let one of Hallett’s pitches get by, allowing Fain to take second base. Gordon came to the plate with Fain in scoring position and two down, working the count full against Hallett before smashing the next pitch into the left field stands to put Army back on top, 3-2.

From the left are George “Skeets” Dickey, Johnny Vander Meer, Pee Wee Reese, Joe Rose, Johnny Mize, Bill Dickey. Joe “JoJo” Rose, a naval officer turned civilian athletic director and announcer, was a star ballplayer in the 1930s for the Submarine Squadron Four championship team and had a brief trial with his hometown San Francisco Seals in 1932 (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

In the top of the fourth, left fielder Schoolboy Rowe lined a one-out double and was plated when Sears made amends for his third inning miscue by doubling to the right field corner. Brancato flied out to left field before Reese walked ahead of the pitcher’s spot in the order. Manager Bill Dickey called his own number to pinch hit for Hallett. With Reese and Sears on first and second, and perhaps intimidated by the legendary Yankee catcher at bat, Schmidt was called for a balk, moving the base runners up 90 feet. With both runners in scoring position, Schmidt coaxed Dickey into fouling to the third base side as Dillinger made the out to retire the side, leaving the score locked up at three runs each.

Masterson took over for Hallett, pitching one-hit ball through the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, Dickey sent Jim Carlin to pinch hit for Masterson and he promptly singled to lead off the inning. After Rizzuto flied out to Gordon, Gautreaux misplayed a Schmidt pitch, allowing Carlin to move to second. Joe Grace singled and Carlin raced around third and broke for home. The relay from Lodigiani to home went to the backstop as Carlin scored and Grace advanced to second. Schmidt limited the damage to one run by working out of the jam.

Trailing 4-3, the Army answered. Tom Ferrick replaced Masterson on the hill and Don Schmidt greeted the relief pitcher with a single. Bob Dillinger bunted, pushing Schmidt to second. McCormick joined the fray and crushed a triple to deep left center, plating Schmidt to tie the game, 4-4.

In the eighth, Rowe singled and was sacrificed to second by new catcher Vinnie Smith. After a Brancato pop fly to short for the second out, Reese grounded to short and Rowe was caught trying to advance to third. Instead of getting the sure out at first, Gordon tossed to Dillinger, but Rowe scampered back to second, beating the throw. Still with two outs, Ferrick lined a single to left center, allowing Rowe to score and Reese to move to third on the throw home. With runners at the corners, Rizzuto executed a perfect bunt base hit that scored Reese, putting the Navy ahead, 6-4.

This Tai Sing Loo photos captures some of the Navy players. From the left: unidentified, Al Brancato, Vern Olsen, Leo Visintainer, Bob Harris, Rankin Johnson (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

Army hitters managed a hit in each of the last two frames, but Ferrick and the Navy’s defense shut the Army down to extend their Series win streak to six.

Through the previous six games, the Navy held a 45-16 scoring advantage. Navy hurlers were stingy, allowing just 1.78 runs per game, proving Red McQueen’s pitching assessment and prediction to be correct. Meanwhile, their offense was relentless, averaging five runs per game. For the Army fans filing into the stands for Game 7, the outlook was bleak.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 7
For the seventh and final game, the Series moved to Furlong Field on Sunday, October 1, for a third visit to the Navy’s premier ballpark on the Island. Trucks made his third start of the series and was opposed by Carl De Rose. In the top of the first, Trucks set down the Army in order. DeRose retired Rizzuto and Grace, walked DiMaggio, then coaxed Rowe to hit a slow roller in front of the plate and be thrown out by catcher DeCarlo.

In the second frame, Don Lang homered off Trucks to right center with two outs. In the bottom half, Brancato led off with a single. With Brancato breaking for second, Reese lined a single into right field that allowed the leadoff man to reach third. Shokes popped out to second base for the first out. Bill Dickey hit a sharp grounder to Dillinger, who promptly threw home to get Brancato at the plate. Dickey lifted himself for Vinnie Smith and Virgil Trucks came to the plate with runners at first and second and two down. The Navy pitcher doubled down the right field line, scoring Reese. Rizzuto followed with a foul out.

After Army was retired in order in the third, Dom DiMaggio hit a one-out single up the middle. The “Little Professor” swiped second before Rowe whiffed for the second out. Brancato sent a line drive to right field that drove in DiMaggio. DeRose walked Reese, pushing Brancato into scoring position. Shokes singled sharply up the middle, allowing Brancato to score and putting the Navy on top, 3-1. Army players and fans could not help but think, “here we go again,” as the Navy was once again pulling away.

Seen here with the 7th AAF in 1944, former San Francisco Seals 1B Ferris Fain developed into a major league all-star caliber player while serving and playing in the Army Air Forces in WWII. As a major leaguer Fain was a five-time all-star during his 1947-1955 career and captured consecutive American League batting crowns in 1950 and ’51 with the Athletics (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)

Trucks was unhittable in the fourth and fifth innings and DeRose only allowed one Navy hit in the fifth. In the top of the sixth, DeCarlo reached on a single to open the frame. With one out, Dillinger crushed a two-run bomb deep over the right field corner fence to even the game, 3-3. Trucks kept the Army hitless in the seventh and eighth innings while Bill Schmidt, who relieved DeRose after the sixth, allowed just two hits in the eighth.

The score was tied heading into the ninth. Gordon was set down on strikes by Trucks for the first out. Judnich worked the Navy pitcher for a walk before Fain strode to the plate. The Army first baseman and future American League batting champ promptly cracked the longest home run of the Series, sending a 390-foot bomb to the right center stands and putting his team ahead, 5-3.

Schmidt kept the Navy’s bats silenced for the bottom of the frame as Army players and fans had their moment to celebrate.

Batting stats for the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1944)

Navy first baseman Johnny Mize, former St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants slugger, led all batters in average for the seven-game series, hitting .450; however, Phil Rizzuto captured the top position in hits with 12. [12] The Navy’s 48-21 scoring advantage would lead one to assume that the sailors crushed Army pitching with a multitude of home runs. However, with a total of 10 four-sackers, it was the Army lumber that sent more balls over the fences, with Ferris Fain and Joe Gordon each hitting a pair followed by Dillinger, Judnich and Lang with one apiece. For the Navy, Grace, Sears, and Mize accounted for all three of the Navy’s long balls.[13]

Champions of the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series, the Navy All-Stars were likely the the best in all of baseball that year (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

The Series was a monumental success as more than 100,500 troops attended the seven games, boosting morale throughout the island. With barely a moment to celebrate the series victory, Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio departed Oahu immediately following the conclusion of Game 7. With plenty of service personnel stationed on other Hawaiian islands, plans were established in August by the military leadership to send two service All-Star squads for morale-boosting exhibition baseball to those islands. By late September, the decision was made to dispatch the Service World Series clubs to Maui, Hawaii and Kauai for Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel to enjoy high caliber baseball on the outer islands.[14]

Kuhului, Maui Baseball Park during wartime (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Three days after the seventh game, the two service All-Star teams packed up and flew to Maui for a two-game series, played at the Kahului Fairgrounds on October 4th and 5th. On October 6, the teams faced off at Hoolulu Park, Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Nine days later, the final game in the four-game exhibition was played at Kukuiolono Park, Kauai on October 15.

Though there are a total of eleven scorecards and programs from the autumn series throughout Hawaii, the Servicemen’s World Series was comprised of Games 1-7 and these are the corresponding ballpark ephemera (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Scorecards
While wartime service game scorecards are largely ignored by collectors, some of the game items do garner interest, with attention being given to the significant players present on the rosters. The Servicemen’s World Series pieces feature a handful of players who would later be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. One name that draws collector interest, Joe DiMaggio, is listed on all seven game programs and scorecards and yet he was on the mainland by September 2, having departed Hawaii indefinitely in late August.[15] Acquiring all seven game pieces is not for the impatient. In more than a dozen years, we have seen only 15-20 total pieces from the entire Oahu series.

There are several factors that contribute to the challenges of locating these game pieces. With each of the games at or near capacity attendance, for every person to have a scorecard would mean that an average of 14,000 pieces were printed per game. In reality, the number for each game was reasonably less than the audience capacity. These estimates, while inexact, are much more scientific than determining the number of surviving copies. In the eight decades that have elapsed since the Series, it is impossible to number the pieces based upon market observation.

Prior to the construction of concrete and steel stadiums beginning in the 1920s, ballparks often held less than 25,000 fans. Only some bought programs. Fewer saved them. Those who did may have passed them down, but others simply were discarded by family members because some of the earliest programs were actually simple scorecards that made no mention of the magnitude of what was taking place. They weren’t exactly considered keepsakes.[16]

How many GIs maintained their scorecards after the game? A few of the pieces in our collection appear to have been sent home by the GIs. Of those that made it home, how many endured through home moves, storage failures or being discarded as “old stuff” by surviving children when estates were liquidated?

As of the writing of this article, Chevrons and Diamonds has acquired six of the seven game scorecards. In viewing our collection online, it appears to readers that we possess all seven pieces as we digitally replicated and altered our scored Game 6 piece in order to display a representation for Game 2. Both of the games played at Hickam Field used the same printing for both games (see Service World Series, 1944 – Hawaiian Islands).

All the Furlong Field games share a common design, with the game date being the only variation. The program and scorecard from Game 4 at NAS Kaneohe Bay is one of the most well-done pieces for a wartime service baseball game. Not only does the piece include the rosters, but the headshot photographs of the star players encompass five of the oversized pages. The final addition comes from the Redlander Field-hosted game and is the only one that includes scoring by the original owner.

Our collection also features two of the four pieces originating from the Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai games. Our hunt continues for the remaining pair as well as another Hickam piece to complete the full set.


[1] Berry, Sal; Lehman, Bert, “Sports programs are becoming an alternative for collectors who crave vintage material (https://sportscollectorsdigest.com/news/sports-programs-collectors),” Sports Collectors Daily, February 8, 2019 (accessed October 25, 2022).

[2] Schiff, Andrew, “Harry Chadwick, (https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/henry-chadwick)” Society of American Baseball Research (accessed October 22, 2022).

[3] “Baseball Basics: How to Keep Score (https://www.mlb.com/official-information/basics/score),” MLB.com, (accessed October 25, 2022)

[4] Cieradkowski, Gary, “218. Harry M. Stevens: The Visionary” (http://infinitecardset.blogspot.com/2016/04/218-harry-m-stevens-visionary.html),” The Infinite Baseball Card Set, April 29, 2015 (accessed October 22, 2022).

[5] Cresi, Frank; McMains, Carol, Baseball Programs and Scorecards (https://www.baseball-almanac.com/treasure/autont006.shtml), Baseball Almanac (accessed October 22, 2022).

[6] Figler, Jeff, “Baseball programs and scorecards (bit.ly/3N6WyRm),” Collectors Journal, April 23, 2018 (accessed October 25, 2022).

[7] “Projected Line-ups for the Service World Series,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 15, 1944: p10.

[8] McQueen, Red, “Hoomalimali,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 22, 1944: p12.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Friday Stars the World Series,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, September 21, 1944: p.13

[11] Fowler, Chas., Ensign, “Yesterday’s Highlights,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 15, 1944: p10.

[12] “Mize Leads Batters in Service World Series,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 2, 1944: p.11.

[13] Bedingfield Gary. “Baseball in Hawaii during World War II,” Baseball in Wartime Publishing 2021.

[14] “Oahu All-Stars to Bring Baseball Headliners,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 30, 1944: p4.

[15] “Late Sports,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 30, 1944: p4.

[16] Mueller, Rich, “Vintage World Series Programs Offer Collector Challenges. (https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/hey-get-your-programs-here/),” Sports Collectors Daily, October 24, 2006 (accessed October 25, 2022).

From Storekeeper to Middle Infielder: the Dolphins’ Al Brancato

Note: This is second of a multi-part story. See Part 1: Al Brancato: A Homegrown Athletic Infielder

As Brancato settled into his Boston surroundings, the Philadelphia Athletics were firmly settled into the American League cellar, dropping nearly 100 games as they finished with a 55-99 won-lost record. Continued labor woes befell the Athletics with a considerable number of their players serving in the armed forces and with the war progressing slowly on all fronts, it was clear that all clubs would be losing still more players in the coming months.

As the oft-borrowed line from Alexander Pope states, “Hope springs eternal”[1] for the coming baseball season once Valentine’s Day arrives and players report to their respective training camps. With travel restrictions in place, the A’s, like all the northern major league clubs, were forced to train in their local region in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. On March 28, two weeks before opening day of the 1943 season, SK2/c Brancato paid a visit to the A’s spring camp. “Brancato, on leave for only a few hours from his duties as a second class storekeeper on a cruiser, rushed to Wilmington to see his old mates,” the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Stan Baumgartner wrote of the former A’s shortstop’s visit, “and Connie Mack immediately put him in the game.” Brancato was inserted into an intra-squad game pitting the Athletics starters against the “Yannigans,” a squad of the club’s backup players.[2]

The rusty shortstop was added to the Yannigans roster and his impact was immediate, despite an 18-month hiatus from the game. From his familiar shortstop position, Brancato was back in the saddle turning a double-play. “Gosh, it felt great to get out, feel a bat between my hands and stop a few hot ones” Brancato told Baumgartner after the game. In his two at bats, Brancato rolled out to second base and hit into a double play. “I hope they never stop baseball,” Brancato said, commenting on the potential cessation of the game during the war, “We all want it. We want to read about it.” With three months before his ship was set to enter active fleet service, Brancato reflected upon the unknown future, “As soon as we can finish up this little business, which I guess I will be in up to my ears in a few months, I want to come back and pick up where I left off.” Understanding the considerable boost to troop morale the game provided troops, Brancato concluded, “I hope the men at home keep the ball flying.”[3]

With the June 30, 1943 commissioning of the USS Boston, Brancato was officially transferred from the Receiving Station, Boston to the ship. The Boston crew took notice of their ex-ballplayer-turned-storekeeper, “The sporting world has given to the USS Boston a real big leaguer in the person of Al Brancato, SK,” the ship’s newspaper, The Bean Pot, reported with considerable optimism. “Playing 3rd and SS with the As (sic) for three seasons, he was on his way to the Hall of Fame when he enlisted in the Navy, 1942.” Noting Al’s vice-free living, the July 17, 1943 Bull Pen article stated, “Al’s total abstinence knocks for a loop the crack-pot notion of some people that all the sailors ‘rush in where angels fear to tread,’” while emphasizing Brancato’s avoidance of tobacco and alcohol.[4]

For the next several months, the new cruiser and her crew were put through numerous exercises and evaluations during sea trials in preparation for wartime fleet duties. Every system and component from the propulsion plant, maneuvering equipment, guns, and detection systems along with her crew’s proficiency in operations were evaluated to determine corrective actions that were needed. Once the ship’s sea trials and post-shakedown maintenance were completed, USS Boston set out for the Pacific by way of the Panama Canal. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1943, the ship reported for duty.[5]

USS Boston muster sheet dated January 19, 1944 showing Brancato’s transfer to the Pearl Harbor Sub Base, authorized on January 14 (source: National Archives/Ancestry.com).

Honolulu, a hotbed of both military and civilian baseball for decades, saw an influx of former major and minor leaguers serving in the armed forces. They were assigned to area military installations and added to their respective baseball teams. The 1943 champions of the Hawaii League, the Hawaiian Defense League and the Army-Navy Series, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins consisted largely of former professionals, featuring former major leaguers Jimmy Gleeson, outfielder, Cincinnati Reds; Rankin Johnson, pitcher, Philadelphia Athletics; and Walt Masterson, pitcher, Washington Senators. Al Brancato was ashore at Waikiki Beach on liberty soon after his ship docked at Pearl Harbor. “I ran into Walt Masterson and Jimmy Gleeson at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. They were attached to the submarine base. It was they who told me about the Navy baseball setup on the island.” No doubt with some assistance from Masterson and the local Navy brass, Brancato’s days aboard the Boston were numbered. “I was able to get transferred from the Boston to the sub base where I worked in the spare parts department of the ship’s store.”[6] On January 14, 1944, SK2/c Brancato was transferred from the USS Boston to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base (Base 128).[7]

As the Honolulu League’s playoffs, the Cronin Championship Series (named to honor Red Sox manager, Joe Cronin who was the opening day featured guest[8]), were winding down by early April, 1944, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins were preparing for their upcoming Central Pacific Area Service League (CPASL) season, holding practices as the roster was assembled under Masterson, who had taken over the reins as manager. With many returning veterans, the former Senators pitcher added former Yankee Ken “Ziggy” Sears and Joe Grace from the Browns. Masterson also added three Philadelphia Athletics: pitcher Bob Harris, Al Brancato, and Bruce Konopka, who had played with Al on the Yannigans team in March, 1943.

1944 Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins” Roster

PlayerPositionFormer
Arnie “Red” AndersonPChattanooga (SOUA)
Norman Gene “Pee Wee” AtkinsonCSemi-Pro
Howard BassPRiverside (CALL)
Tom Bishop3B/SSSemi-Pro
Earl J. Brady2B/3B
Al BrancatoSS/3BAthletics
Jim BrennanP
Neil CliffordCSt. Paul (AA)
Bob DurkinRFSemi-Pro
Gordon Evans2B/LFCharleston (MATL)
Andy F. FelonkOF
Joseph “Joe” GraceOF/1BBrowns
Robert A. “Bob” HarrisPAthletics
Frank Hecklinger1BNew Bern (COPL)
George (Nig) HenryP
John “Hubie” Jeandron2B/3BPort Arthur (EVAN)
A. Rankin JohnsonPAthletics
Bruce Konopka1BAthletics
N. J. “Herb” MadiganPAmateur
Walt MastersonP/MGRSenators
Bob “Lee” McCorkleCValdosta (GAFL)
Fred MerhoffOFSpringfield College (MA)
Andy J. MeyersAmateur
Don MeyersOFSemi-Pro
Maurice “Mo” MozzaliLF/1B/CFSemi-Pro
Romie (“Roman”?) Okarski3BAppleton (WISL)
John PowellOF
Norm S. RoosePAmateur
Ken “Ziggy” SearsC/1BYankees
Oscar SessionsPU.S. Navy
Phil S. SimioneSS/OFU.S. Navy
Frank T. (“Floyd”?) SniderRFDothan (GAFL)
Eddie StutzPSan Francisco (PCL)
Russ WardINF
Clovis “Bob” White2BElizabethton (APPY)
While this roster reflects the personnel for the entire season, the team number at any given time was smaller due to personnel movement and changes. The 1944 Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins played in the Central Pacific Area and Hawaii Leagues concurrently. In the Hawaii League, they were referred to simply as “Navy.” Some of the men listed played on the Sub Base club, effectively a split-squad that competed in the 14th Naval District League in 1944.

Oahu continued to see an influx of Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel who possessed resumes with professional, semipro and collegiate experience. The Navy disseminated their talent among the many installations on the island as well as to other island bases. Army leadership, eager to turn the tables on the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base’s 1943 championship, began to amass their incoming talent predominantly on the Hickam Field-based Seventh Army Air Force team and would continue to stack their roster throughout the early weeks of the season.

Al Brancato in his Navy flannels with a bird’s eye view during the 1944 season (courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.).

Anticipating the 1944 CPA Service and Hawaii League seasons, the two Oahu papers carried details of the noteworthy baseball talent Future Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Johnny Mize headlined a group of major leaguers who had arrived since the end of the 1943 baseball season. Eager to showcase the baseball players and to capitalize on their talent for the war effort, administrators planned an exhibition tilt pitting the Major League All-Stars against the local stars for the end of April. In order 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.

April 19, 1944 Major League All-Stars Line-up:

NamePositionFormer
George “Skeets” DickeyCWhite Sox
Johnny Mize1BGiants
Barney McCosky2BTigers
Johnny LucadelloSSBrowns
Marvin Felderman3BCubs
Tom WinsettLFDodgers
Joseph “Joe” GraceCFBrowns
Vern OlsenRFCubs
Hugh CaseyPDodgers
Tom FerrickPIndians
Bill “Dutch” HollandPPittsfield (CAML)
Pee Wee Reese, suffering from a foot injury, was named to the roster but replaced by Johnny Lucadello

Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins April 19, 1944 Lineup:

NamePositionFormer
Neil CliffordCSt. Paul (AA)
Frank Hecklinger1BNew Bern (COPL)
Clovis “Bob” White2BElizabethton (APPY)
John “Hubie” Jeandron3BPort Arthur (EVAN)
Al BrancatoSSAthletics
Frank T. (“Floyd”?) SniderRFDothan (GAFL)
John PowellCF
Maurice “Mo” MozzaliLFSemi-Pro
Oscar SessionsPU.S. Navy
N. J. “Herb” MadiganPAmateur
The 1943 Dolphins dominated in their leagues. Their loss to the Major League All-Stars on April 19 indicated the uphill battle the team faced as the opposing teams saw an influx of professional talent.
Scorecards from the April 19, 1944 Navy vs All-Stars game (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

The big leaguers got the best of the Dolphins behind the bat of Johnny Mize, who led with a home run, double, and two singles in the 9-3 victory. The Navy managed three hits with Al Brancato accounting for an eighth inning round-tripper.[9]

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.[10] The Navy hit parade was led by second baseman Johnny Lucadello and former Indians 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 Athletics shortstop was two-for-three on offense. Ahead of the May 7 regular season start of the Hawaii Baseball League and May 17 commencement of the CPA Service League and with just three April 1944 exhibition games under his belt, it appeared that Brancato was beginning to establish himself as a formidable offensive force in the Hawaiian tropics.

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.

1944 – April 29 – Major League All Stars – War Bond Game – Honolulu Stadium. Front Row : Johnny Lucadello (SP “A” 1/c), Leo Visintainer BM1/c), Pee Wee Reese (CSP “A”), Eddie Pellagrini (SP “A” 1/c), Al Brancato (SK2/c), Marvin Felderman (SP “A” 1/c) Middle: J. W. Falkenstine (LTjg), Wyman (batboy), Hugh Casey (SP “A” 1/c), Walter Masterson (CSP “A”), Tom Winsett (Lt. Army), Jack Hallett (SP “A” 2/c) Back: Barney McCosky (SP “A” 1/c), Johnny Mize (SP “A” 2/c), James “Art” Lilly (“BSM2”), George “Skeets” Dickey (SP “A” 2/c), Joe Grace (SP “A” 1/c), Bob Harris (SP “A” 1/c), Tom Ferrick (SP “A” 1/c), Wes Schulmerich (LT), Vern Olsen (SP “A” 1/c), Joe Rose (announcer) (Photo courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.)

CPA Service League

  • Aiea Naval Hospital “Hilltoppers”
  • Aiea Naval Receiving Station/Barracks “Maroons”
  • Kaneohe Naval Air Station “Klippers”
  • Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins”
  • Seventh Army Air Force (7th AAF) “Flyers”
  • Wheeler Army Air Field “Wingmen”
  • *Schofield Barracks “Redlanders”
  • *South Sector “Commandos”

*Played only in the second half of the season.

Hawaii League

  • Athletics
  • Braves
  • Hawaiis
  • Navy/ Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins”
  • Seventh Army Air Force (7th AAF) “Flyers”
  • Tigers
  • Wanderers

Based upon their 1943 success and a bolstered 1944 roster, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins were the early-season favorites to repeat as champions in their respective leagues. However, out of the gate, the Sub Base opened with a loss in the CPASL but claimed a 3-0 victory over the Braves in the Hawaii League. On May 25, the Dolphins’ Bob Harris pitched a two-hit, 4-0 shutout over Wheeler Field as Brancato went two-for three with an RBI and a run-scored.[11] By the end of May, the Dolphins were in third place behind Kaneohe (4-0) and Aiea Hospital (3-1) in the CPASL with one win and two losses.[12]

To start June, the Dolphins were 1-3 in the CPA Service League but were out in front in the Hawaii League’s standings at 6-1. Al Brancato was hitting for power and leading the Hawaii League with a .400 slugging percentage as his team was likewise leading in team batting with a .267 average. Brancato’s .400 batting average had him second in the Hawaii League’s standings behind the Braves shortstop Ernest “Sparky” Neves.[13]

This page from the 1944 Williams Sportlight roster lists and schedule for the third round of the Hawaii Baseball League came from Brancato’s personal collection (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

As the Dolphins’ CPA woes continued with mounting losses parking the Subs firmly at the bottom of the standings, the situation was made bleaker as Joe DiMaggio, Ferris Fain, Dario Lodigiani, and a host of other former major leaguers arrived on the island on June 3 and were promptly assigned to the 7th AAF squad. However, on June 5 as DiMaggio and company made their debut at Honolulu Stadium in front of 21,000 attendees against the seemingly hapless Dolphins in a Hawaii League matchup, the Sub Base prevailed 6-2, despite the “Yankee Clipper’s” ninth-inning, 435-foot bomb over the venue’s left field wall. Navy bats accounted for 8-hits with Mozzali, Snider and Brancato each garnering two. Brancato, playing at short, recorded two putouts and four assists in support of Bob Harris’ mound duties. Stroking a single and a double, Brancato also accounted for the game’s only stolen base and tallied a run.[14]

7th Army Air Force Fliers:

PlayerPositionFormer
John AndrePHonolulu League
Renaldo “Rugger” ArdizoiaPKansas City (AA)
James AshworthCHelena (CSTL)
John (Murphy) Bialowarczuk3BPerth-Amboy (Semi-Pro)
Alfonso “Al” CerielloIFSemi-Pro
Joseph ClarkCoach
Carl DeRosePAmsterdam (CAML)
Bob Dillinger3BToledo (AA)
Joe DiMaggioCF/1BYankees
Ferris Fain1BSan Francisco (PCL)
Edward FunkPFederalsburg  (ESHL)
Joseph “Joe” GedziusSSSpokane (WINT)
Vincent GenegrassoTrainer
Joe Gordon2B/SSYankees
Hal HairstonPHomestead Grays
James HillCPensacola, FL
Ed JaabOFMoline
Walter “Wally” JudnichCF/1BBrowns
Cornel George “Kearny” KohlmeyerSS/1BTyler (ETXL)
Don Lang1BKansas City (AA)
Will LeonardCOakland (PCL)
Al LienPSan Francisco (PCL)
Dario Lodigiani2B/3BWhite Sox
Myron “Mike” McCormickOF/3BReds
Gerald “Jerry” Priddy2BSenators
Arthur RawlinsonIFSemi-Pro
Charles “Red” RuffingPYankees
Frank “Pep” SaulPSeton Hall College
Bill SchmidtPSacramento Solons (PCL)
Don SchmidtSeton Hall College
John ShumbresCoach
Charlie SilveraCWellsville (PONY)
Tom WinsettOF/Mgr.Dodgers
The 7th’s opening day roster differed greatly by June with the arrival of the major leaguers from the west coast.

By the middle of June, it was apparent that the Sub Base was deeply submerged beneath an insurmountable deficit in the CPA Service League with Pee Wee Reese’s Aiea Naval Hospital Hilltoppers seated at the top with the 7th AAF a game behind.[15] Meanwhile, the Dolphins held a 2.5 game advantage over the 7th AAF in the Hawaii League with an 11-2 record.

The Hawaiian sun and beaches had an incredibly positive effect on Al Brancato’s bat. By June 20, the Philadelphian’s batting average not only climbed to the top of Hawaii League standings but also was nearly 10 points over .400 as he helped to push his league-leading team’s .271 average higher. With 44 at-bats, Brancato was leading the league in hits and runs scored. Brancato’s 23 total bases were also second only to Joe DiMaggio’s 24.[16]

The CPA League wound down the first half of the season with the Aiea Naval Hospital and the 7th AAF tied for first. Aiea defeated the 7th to claim the first-half crown, which guaranteed the squad a berth in the late summer championships. While the CPA League enjoyed a break, the Hawaii League continued play, heading into the Independence Day holiday. On July 2, a rematch between the Sub Base and 7th AAF took place at Honolulu Stadium in front of the venue’s largest crowd on record. The fans were treated to a pitching duel that saw the Army’s Eddie Funk match Eddie Stutz inning-for-inning through 11 scoreless innings. The Navy’s Stutz allowed a single to Jerry Priddy of the 7th AAF in the top of the first. Stutz allowed one additional baserunner via a walk through eleven innings. The Seventh’s Funk surrendered safeties in the bottom half of the first (2), second (1), eighth (1), and tenth (1) innings. Stutz’s tank running on empty in the bottom of the 12th led to the 7thAAF bats to capitalize, touching him for a walk and four hits to break the scoreless tie and take a 4-0 lead. The Navy bats were shut down by Funk in the bottom of the 12th to ice the 4-0 victory, shaving the Dolphins’ Hawaii League lead to 1.5 games. Brancato was 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base in the loss.[17]

Four different wartime newsletters with articles mentioning Brancato including the USS Boston’s “Bean Pot,” Pearl Harbor Submarine Base’s “Patrol,” and Aiea Naval Hospital’s “Hospital Hi Lites” (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Mid-July saw the 3-3 Dolphins sitting in the middle of the pack in the CPA Service League[18] but they were maintaining their 1-1/2 game lead over the 7th AAF in the Hawaii League standings with a record of 15-4.[19] Two weeks after falling to the 7th AAF, the Navy looked to avenge their 4-0 loss but faced an uphill battle. As if seeing a refreshed Joe DiMaggio was not enough of a challenge, the 7th was further bolstered with the arrival of the Yankee Clipper’s former teammate, Joe Gordon. Twenty-six thousand spectators witnessed the Navy’s shellacking at the hand of the Fliers. While Gordon and DiMaggio batted a combined 2-for-8 from the middle of the order, it was the bottom of the Seventh’s lineup that raked Navy pitching for the lion’s share of offense. First baseman Ferris Fain was 2-3 with   two runs scored, a double and a home run. Will Leonard and pitcher Al Lien were both 2-4. Of the 8 runs scored, Dario Lodigiani matched Fain’s tallies while Mike McCormick, DiMaggio, Priddy and Leonard accounted for the balance with one run each. For the Navy, Brancato was 1-3 with a walk, accounting for a fourth of the Sub Base’s hit total in the 8-1 loss.[20]

In a July 23 Hawaii circuit matchup against the Tigers, Brancato set the league mark with 11 assists in a nine-inning game. Brancato also had one putout and committed one error.[21]

Trailing the 7th AAF by one game in the Hawaii League, the Sub Base nine was still very much in the race as July came to a close.[22] In the CPA league standings, it was a three-way race between the Aiea Hilltoppers, the 7th AAF and the Kaneohe Klippers, with the Dolphins trailing the lead pack by three games. Following an offensive slump with a zero-for-15 hitless streak,[23] Brancato slipped to second in the Hawaii League’s batting race with a .366 average behind Jerry Priddy’s .390. Brancato still held on to the top spots in hits (30), runs scored (21), total bases (37), and walks (22) and was fourth in RBI.[24]

With the three-way race atop the CPA Service League standings between Aiea Naval Hospital (10-4), 7th AAF (10-4) and NAS Kaneohe (10-5), the Pearl Harbor Sub Base was jockeying for position behind the leaders as they defeated the Aiea Navy Barracks on August 4. Brancato, Joe Grace and Mo Mozzali led the Dolphins’ offensive output. Brancato opened the Sub Base’s scoring with a solo home run in the fourth inning. In the eighth, with Mozzali on base, Neil Clifford singled Mo home for the second tally. Trailing 5-2 in the ninth, Mozzali stroked a four-bagger with Merhoff on base to pull the Dolphins within a run. Joe Grace followed with a solo shot to tie the game. Gordon Evans singled and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Neil Clifford singled and plated Evans for the go-ahead score. The Sub Base victory closed their gap in the standings to 2.5 games.[25]

Over in the Hawaii League, the 7th AAF extended their 17-game win streak after defeating the Braves, 5-2 on August 4. The Sub Base squad kept pace but were 2.5 games off the lead.[26]

Halfway through August as the seasons were inching towards the close, the Dolphins were chipping away at their deficits in both leagues’ standings. In the CPA, they were two games out of second place while in the Hawaii loop, they trailed the 7th by one in the win column.[27]  As of August 18, in the CPA league, Brancato’s offensive production had him situated in the ninth position with an average of .268 while his Hawaii League numbers kept him atop the heap at .373, with 33 hits in 98 at-bats. While Joe DiMaggio (16-for-38, .421) and Bob Dillinger (16-for-65, .382) carried better averages, they had significantly fewer appearances at the plate.[28]

Honolulu Advertiser’s artist Art Winburg spotlighted Brancato’s Hawaii League performance in this 1944 cartoon (Honolulu Advertiser/Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

With 110 or more at-bats, Brancato’s .295 average placed him 6th in the CPA batting title race with five days remaining in August. In 34 CPA service league games, he had 36 hits in 132 at bats and 50 total bases. With Pee Wee Reese voted in at shortstop, Brancato’s fantastic glove and bat work made him fan-favorite selection at third base on the Navy All-Star team.[29] The Pearl Harbor nine continued to win in the CPA circuit but as powerful as the Dolphins were down the stretch, it was a two-horse race between the Aiea Naval Hospital Hilltoppers and the 7th AAF. The Subs trailed the 7th by 4.5 games and were 1.5 games behind the Aiea Hospital nine by August 27.

The 7th AAF secured the second-half CPA Service League crown by defeating the Aiea Hilltoppers, 3-2, on August 30. With a record of 21 wins and five losses and two remaining games to be played in the league’s season, the Fliers secured the opportunity to face the Hilltoppers in the three-game CPA Service League championship series.[30]

In a meaningless CPA league game, the Sub Base Dolphins hosted the 7th AAF at Weaver Field and were blanked on the pitching of Don Schmidt. Flier bats accounted for all the offense as the Subs dropped their final game in the loop, 7-0. Finishing in third place behind the 22-5 first-place Seventh Army Air Force (22-5) and Aiea Naval Hospital (19-8), the Sub Base nine concluded the season with a respectable 16-11 record.[31] Brancato’s batting production tailed off in the final week of the season as he finished out of the top ten at .274.[32]

The Sub Base club closed out the Hawaii League regular season with a 9-5 loss at the hands of the 7th Army Air Force. The Fliers claimed their 28th consecutive circuit win while clinching the championship. The Dolphins fell victim to four Flier home runs at the hands of Ferris Fain, Walt Judnich, Joe Gordon and Don Lang, Brancato and Grace were each one-for-three and accounted for two runs apiece. The Navy finished the season in second place with a 27-9 record behind the Seventh’s won-loss record of 31-4. Both teams qualified for the League’s championship playoffs known as the Cartwright Series (named to recognize longtime Hawaii resident and baseball pioneer, Alexander Cartwright[33]), along with the Braves and Hawaiis, respectively the number three and four Hawaii League finishers.

After leading all Hawaii League batters throughout the season, Al Brancato’s reduced offensive production opened the door for others to surpass him in the batting average rankings in the first week of September. At the season’s end, Brancato (.339) was firmly in third place behind the 7th’s Bob Dillinger (.400) and Joe Grace (.372) while topping the league in hits (43), runs (32), and walks (35). He finished tied with Joe Gordon and John Jeandron for the lead in doubles (11).[34] Al Brancato was an easy pick at shortstop for the Hawaii League season-end All-Star honors.

Radio personality Joe Rose interviewing (left to right) Walt Masterson, Rankin Johnson, Al Brancato and Bob Harris (courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.). Walt Masterson being inteviewed – Dick Keller, Joe Rose, Masterson, Rankin Johnson, Brancato, Bob Harris

After winning their first game in the Cartwright Series, defeating the Braves 5-4, the Navy nine dropped their next game to the Hawaiis, 4-1. [35] The Series finale fittingly pitted two top teams, the Fliers and Dolphins, against each other. However the Navy looked to gain an advantage by adding the newly arrived Phil Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio to the lineup. The 7th AAF jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the third before the Navy began to claw their way back into the game. Scoring a run in the fourth and fifth innings, the Navy trailed 6-4 after seven innings. The Fliers went up by three, tallying another run in the top of the eighth which the Navy matched in the bottom half of the frame. Pitching a complete game, the Navy’s Walt Masterson held the Fliers scoreless in the top of the ninth. However, the opposing pitcher, Al Lien, did the same to close out the 7-5 victory and secure the Cartwright flag. Of the 11 Navy hits and five runs, Phil Rizzuto’s four-for-five at the plate and two runs scored added considerable pop to the offense. Ken “Ziggy” Sears accounted for two of the Navy’s tallies with a pair of solo home runs. In the three games, Brancato was two-for-fourteen combined.[36]

Despite Al Brancato’s end of season slump, he feasted on outstanding pitching from a mix of major, minor, and semi-professional-experienced hurlers. He continued to refine his defensive skills and to live up to Connie Mack’s (then recent) claim, stating that Brancato had one of the greatest throwing arms in baseball.[37] In a July Hawaii League tilt against the Wanderers, Brancato’s strength caught sportswriter Carl Machado’s attention. “Al Brancato showed his shotgun arm after muffing Iwa Mamiya’s grounder, retrieving the ball to make the play at first in time.”[38]

The stacked 7th Army Air Force squad dominated in both the CPA Service and Hawaii Leagues with three future Hall of Fame players anchoring the offensive juggernaut. While the faces of the Army’s senior leaders were alight with smiles, the Navy had plans of their own for the next few weeks. Though the monsoon season would arrive in November, the Navy was planning to “reign” on the Army’s parade.

Stay tuned for part 3.


[1] Pope, Alexander, “An Essay on Man,” 1734.

[2] Baumgartner, Stan, “A’s Regulars Trounce Yannigans, 4-2,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 29, 1943: p22.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Sportlight,” The Bean Pot/USS Boston shipboard newspaper, July 17, 1943: p2.

[5] “Boston VI (CA-69),” Naval History and Heritage Commandhttps://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/b/boston-vi.html, Accessed July 22, 2022.

[6] Crissey, Harrington E., Jr., Teenagers, Graybeards and 4-Fs – Vol. 2: The American League, 1982: p100.

[7] U.S. Navy Muster Sheet, USS Boston, January 19, 1944, Ancestry.com.

[8] Bedingfield, Gary, Baseball in Hawaii During WWII, 2021: p60.

[9] “Big League Stars Defeat Navy, 9 To 3,” The Honolulu Advertiser, April 20, 1944: p8.

[10] Vandergrift, K.S. Capt., “Major League Stars Blank Army Team 9-0,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 1 1944: p8.

[11] Fowler (“Chief”), “Sub Base Wins on Harris 2-hitter,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 26, 1944: p12.

[12] Fowler (“Chief”), “Aiea Hospital Plays Wheeler,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 30, 1944: p11.

[13] “Hawaii League Notes,” Al Karasick’s Spotlite on Sports, June 4, 1944; p14.

[14] Kim, Bill, “Joe DiMaggio Thrills Record Baseball Mob,” The Honolulu Advertiser, June 5, 1944: p8-9.

[15] Fowler, Chas., Masterson Pitches Sub Base to Victory,” The Honolulu Advertiser, June 16, 1942: p12-13.

[16] “Brancato Pacing Hawaii League Batters with Average of .409,” The Honolulu Advertiser, June 20, 1944: p10-11.

[17] Kim, Bill, “7th AAF Triumphs in 12 Innings,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 3, 1944: p10-11.

[18] “CPA League standings,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 18, 1944: p8.

[19] “The Williams Sportlight Standings of the League,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 16, 1944: p16.

[20] Machado, Carl, “Fliers Now Leading In Hawaii League,“ Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 17, 1944: p8.

[21] “Hawaii Loop Chatter..,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 1, 1944: p9.

[22] “The Williams Sportlight Standings of the League,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 30, 1944: p18.

[23] “Hawaii Loop Chatter..,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 15, 1944: p15.

[24] “Jerry Priddy Paces Hawaii Loop Batters,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 4, 1944: p6.

[25] Fowler, Chas (“Chief”), “K-Bay Edges Hilltoppers, 3-2 In 10 Innings,” Sub Base Wins 6-5,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 5, 1944: p6.

[26] “The Williams Sportlight Standings of the League,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 6, 1944: p18.

[27] “Baseball Standings,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 14, 1944: p8.

[28] “Leading Batters,” Al Karasick’s Spotlite on Sports, August 19, 1944; p9.

[29] “Diamond Dust,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 28, 144: p8.

[30] Fowler (“Chief”), “7th AAF Captures CPA 2nd Half Title with 3-2 Win Over Aiea,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 30, 1944: p10.

[31] Fowler (“Chief”), “7th AAF and Hilltoppers Score Wins,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 2, 1944: p8.

[32] “Ferris Fain is Bat Champ,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 4, 1944: p8.

[33] Bedingfield, Gary, Baseball in Hawaii During WWII, 2021: p8.

[34] “Bob Dillinger Cops ’44 Batting Crown,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 14, 1944: p8.

[35] “Sub Base Bows to Hawaiis, 4-1,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 14, 1944: p10.

[36] “Judnich Clouts Two Homers as Fliers Cop Cartwright Title,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 18, 1944: p8.

[37] “Shadows,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 7, 1944: p8.

[38] Machado, Carl, “Hawaii Loop Chatter..,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 15, 1944: p15.

From the Ashes: Rizal Stadium and the Manila Dodgers

In the weeks following the September 2, 1945, signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay, the armed forces commenced the drawdown of forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) as combat troops transitioned into an occupation force. Baseball remained an activity as part of the morale-boosting functions for the troops stationed throughout the Western Pacific. Participating in the countless leagues were former professional baseball players serving among the troops in all branches of the armed forces.

Despite a large percentage of former major and minor leaguers having been returned to the United States for discharge, several did not yet qualify for separation and continued serving overseas. Baseball remained a central activity among troops in tropical climates including the Marianas and Guam. As Manila continued to address reconstruction and recovery from the heavy fighting in the city that had taken place throughout February, baseball was once again played at Rizal Stadium starting in April following extensive repair efforts.

“American soldiers have brought baseball back to the ruins of Rizal Stadium. Garrison troops are playing regular games before thousands of fans in what was once Manila’s most elaborate sports establishment,” Associate Press war correspondent Russell Brines wrote. “There are no uniforms, no hot dogs, but the playing is enthusiastic. It crowds the shell-ripped stands regularly with soldiers, sailors and Filipino citizens.”[1]

Brines, a recently liberated prisoner of war, had been taken prisoner in early 1942 and held in Manila’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp until he was freed following General MacArthur’s return to the Philippines and the ensuing victory over Japanese forces occupying the city. The battle that raged in the city from February 3 to March 3 was fierce. Facing 35,000 American troops and 3,000 Filipino guerrillas, the enemy suffered tremendous losses but not without murdering Filipino civilians and allied prisoners.

This snapshot of Rizal Stadium (ca. 1945-46) shows the home plate entrance of the ballpark with a Jeep parked in front (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

The Rizal sports complex, consisting of both football and baseball stadiums, was the scene of heavy fighting. “The current battle in South Manila roared around the vicinity of Harrison Park after First Division cavalrymen seized the ground and grandstands of Rizal Stadium, where the enemy had set up heavy defenses, and the buildings of La Salle College.”[2] The battle within the ballpark resulted in extensive damage to the facility. “Rizal Stadium was a Japanese entrenchment during the bitter fight for Manila and the marks of war are still on it. Mortar holes yawn between the feet of the spectators, sitting on concrete tiers, because benches are stripped away. The sun peaks through the roof of the stands perforated by machine gun bullets.”[3]  Wherever one looked, the damage from the wartime occupation and battle was extensive. “The dugouts are black from flame throwers and chipped by shells. Outfields are foreshortened by crumbled walls and Japanese bunkers.”[4] Once the city was wrested from the enemy occupiers, work led by former Philadelphia Philly pitcher Hugh Mulcahy commenced to prepare the facility for baseball once more.

By the end of April, the facility was repaired enough to host baseball for the first time since 1941. “The former turf diamond is now dirt, carefully rolled by the doughboys.”[5] Regardless of the preparation, the ballpark was still in need of considerable work as baseball play commenced, “the occasional stench of dead entombed deep within the concrete stadium. But baseball lives again in the Philippines.”[6]

Former Jeddo Stars slugging catcher, Sergeant Joe Batcha swings at a pitch for the 145th Infantry Barracudas as they face Eddie Waitkus’ 544th Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment. The caption slug on the reverse reads, “April 1, 1945 – Manila, Philippines: Having captured the ballpark (Rizal Stadium) during battle for Manila, troops of the 37th Division put on first game of organized baseball since re-capture of the city. Catcher Batcha, former Los Angeles diamond star, now with the 145th Infantry of the 37th Division, connects with a fast one. The 544th Engineers opposed the 145th in the game which featured many former ball stars now in service.” (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)
Packed with servicemen, the grandstand at Rizal has had some rudimentary repairs to accommodate seating with slightly improved comfort. This photo was captured later in 1945 or early 1946 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Indeed, baseball was alive again within the battered confines of Rizal with the inaugural tilt between the 145th Infantry Barracudas and the 544th Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment, led by former Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels first baseman Eddie Waitkus.[7]

With more than 6,000 GIs filling the stands, the “Horsehide Inaugural” also included a game between the Eighth Army Base Force and the Signal Corps. Former Cardinals outfielder, Erv Dusak drove in two runs on two hits in the 11-4 victory for the Eighth. Despite Dusak’s plate performance, he was outpaced by former Louisville Colonels first baseman  George Byam’s four-for-five batting performance. In addition, Byam tallied four of his squad’s 11 runs.[8]

On the other side of the globe, former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Private Kirby Higbe, a member of the 342nd Infantry Regiment of the 86th Infantry Division, had just crossed the Isar and reached the Mittel Isar Canal by the end of the April before moving on to Salzburg. By the end of May, the entire division was headed back to the States to resume preparations for service in the Pacific Theater. From late winter through May, the 86th Division, previously preparing for the Pacific, had been in Europe as a back-up division and ended up participating in the Allied push into the German homeland. “We cleaned out the Ruhr Pocket, then cut southeast,” said Higbe. “We went through Berchtesgaden and were in Austria when the war ended. From February 1 right up to the finish, we were fighting without a letup. The day was rare when we were not under fire.”[9]

Once the combat-decorated Dodgers pitcher returned home, he was looking forward to decompressing for a month, “I’m going to rest,” Higbe told the Columbia (South Carolina) Record.[10]  Following his return to the states, PFC Higbe visited with the Dodgers while on furlough[11] before he was reassigned to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma in preparation for assignment in the Pacific.[12]

Higbe was assigned to occupation duties on Luzon in the Philippines with the Base-30 command in Manila and was tasked with building a baseball team to compete against other unit ball clubs for the purpose of boosting troop morale. Pulling together a roster that included former minor leaguers, semiprofessionals and collegiate athletes, Higbe’s Manila Dodgers were a tough squad to beat. By the end of November, the Manila Dodgers secured a championship, defeating a Navy team that featured Dom DiMaggio and Benny McCoy. Writing to his hometown newspaper, Sergeant George Goodall told of the Base 30 ball club’s exploits, “The Manila Dodgers, managed by Kirby Higbe, Brooklyn pitcher, are champions of the Far East, having beaten the Navy in a five-game series.”[13]

PlayerPositionFormer Club
Vernon BickfordPWelch (MTNS)
Wally BordenCFLSU
Hal “Zig” Emery2B(Property of Phillies)
Joe GaragiolaCColumbus (AA)
Joe GinsbergCJamestown (PONY)
Jim HearnPColumbus (SALL)
Kirby HigbeP/Mgr.Dodgers
Joe Janet3BTulsa (TL)
Frank LaMannaP/CFBraves
Max Macon1BBraves
Johnny NewmanRF
Kent “Lefty” PetersonPReds
Minor Scott3BChattanooga (SOUA)
Gerry StaleyPBoise (PION)
John StoweLFKnoxville/Mobile (SOUA)
Early WynnSSSenators
Led by former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Kirby Higbe, the Manila Dodgers claimed multiple titles in the Western Pacific and Far East service leagues in 1945 and 1946.

While Higbe certainly drew attention due to his successful 1941 campaign with Brooklyn, leading the National League with 22 victories and helping to propel his club to the World Series, Goodall wrote of Manila’s young catcher. “Best of all [the Manila Dodgers], a 19-year-old catcher, Joe Garagiola, who will be with the Cardinals in ’46. In my opinion, Garagiola has everything. He is and excellent receiver, has a good arm, is fast and a guy who will hit any pitching.”[14]

Eight players on the Manila roster had pre-war minor league experience. Pitcher Vernon Bickford pitched in the Mountain State League from 1939 to 1942 before entering the Army and would post a 66-57 major league record with the Braves and Orioles in the years following WWII. Joe Ginsburg, a 17-year-old catcher for the PONY League’s Jamestown Falcons, spent the 1944 season learning the ropes with teammate Nellie Fox before being drafted into the Army in September. Like Bickford, Ginsburg developed into a solid major leaguer with the Tigers, Indians, Athletics, Orioles, White Sox, and Red Sox before finishing with the expansion New York Mets in 1962. Jim Hearn and Gerry Staley also parlayed their minor league and wartime baseball experience into success in the big leagues. Hearn posted a 109-89 13-year career record with a 3.81 ERA and two World Series games while Staley had a decade-and-a-half career with the Cardinals, Reds, Yankees, White Sox, Athletics and Tigers and amassed a 134-111 won-loss record with a 3.70 ERA and four World Series appearances. John Stowe, Minor Scott, and Joe Janet were career minor leaguers.

Filling in the roster gaps were a Louisiana State University alumnus, center fielder Wally Borden; a Philadelphia Phillies prospect, second baseman Hal “Zig” Emery and a soldier with no professional or collegiate experience, right fielder Johnny Newman.

The Base-30 squad featured former Boston Braves pitcher and outfielder Frank “Hank” LaManna and pitcher Max Macon along with Reds pitcher Kent Peterson, Cardinals catching prospect Joe Garagiola and future Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn.

As the Manila Dodgers dominated service baseball in the Philippines, the United Services Organization (USO) was coordinating with team owners and officials in the National League, putting the finishing touches on arraignments to dispatch a contingent of 12 players from seven of league’s eight clubs to tour selected Pacific Theater bases for exhibition games. Assembled in Washington, DC, the team, led by Dodgers coach Charley Dressen, boarded a B-29 bomber en route to Honolulu on December 13.[15]

PlayerPositionNational League Club
Tom SeatsP/LFDodgers
Mike Sandlock2BDodgers
Tommy BrownSSDodgers
Al GerheauserRFPirates
Frank McCormick1BReds
Whitey Kurowski3BCardinals
Al LakemanCFReds
Mike UlisneyCBraves
Clyde KingLFDodgers
Red BarrettP/LFCardinals
Bill VoiselleP/2BGiants
Ralph BrancaPDodgers
Charley DressenMgr.Dodgers
The National League Stars on the 1945-46 USO Tour.

Of the twelve selected National Leaguers on the roster, six were Brooklyn Dodgers including coach Charley Dressen. Catcher Mike Sandlock was the only Dodger position player who, with just 80 games in 1945, was a starter before being added to the USO tour. Ralph Branca, a 19-year-old in his second season with the club, was 5-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts. Tom Seats appeared in 31 games of which he started 18 and posted a 10-7 record and a 4.36 ERA in his second and final major league season. Clyde King saw action in 31 games as a 21-year-old relief pitcher as the Dodgers finished third in their 1945 campaign.

Third baseman Whitey Kurowski was the regular Cardinals third baseman with some pop in his bat, hitting .323 with 21 home runs and a .521 slugging percentage. Kurowski’s “Red Bird” teammate, pitcher Red Barrett, was 21-9 and a 2.72 ERA in 1945 and the Cardinal’s number one starter. The Cincinnati Reds also provided the USO squad with two players: starters Al Lakeman, catcher; and eight-time All-Star first baseman Frank McCormick. The New York Giants supplied 1944 All-Star pitcher Bill Voiselle and the Braves backup catcher Mike Ulisney.

The National Leaguers arrived in Honolulu on December 18 and were scheduled for five contests against area All-Stars before departing for the Western Pacific. Just hours after stepping off the aircraft onto Hawaiian soil, the National League stars faced a Navy All-Star squad that included Ken Keltner, Sal Recca, and Stan Musial. With a disappointing, nominal-sized crowd in attendance, the Navy clobbered the major leaguers. Facing the Army’s “Olympics” the following day, the National Leaguers bounced back from their loss to the Navy with a 10-5 win over former Hollywood Stars pitcher, Ed Erautt.

USO National League Games on Oahu

  • Wednesday, December 19: versus Navy at Furlong Field. Navy defeated the NL stars, 5-3. Attendance: 5,000.
  • Thursday, December 20: versus Army Olympics at Schofield Barracks. The National League defeated the Army, 10-5. Attendance: 3,500.
  • Friday, December 21: The National League defeated the Army Olympics at Hickam Field, 9-1.
  • Saturday, December 22: The Army Olympics defeated the National League at Furlong Field, 5-3.
  • Sunday, December 23: Navy defeated the National League at Furlong Field. Attendance: 10,000.

Likely suffering from travel fatigue during their Oahu series, which may have been a contributor to their 2-3 performance, the USO’s NL Stars club departed Hawaii, licking their wounds, bound for the Western Pacific. With stops in the Marshall Islands and Guam, the NL Stars faced local service clubs. On Saturday, December 29 on Kwajalein, the USO men defeated a service team, 4-2, as Voiselle surrendered nine hits while striking out 11. On Guam, the team faced an Army Air Force team at Harmon Field on Sunday, December 30, with Red Barrett on the mound. Barrett was less than sharp in his 7-2 victory, allowing 12 hits and striking out 4. The rigorous travel schedule took the NL Stars to the Philippines for a faceoff against Kirby Higbe’s red-hot Manila club, which had recently claimed the Philippine Olympics championship by defeating the Leyte Base-K team.[16]

Manila’s Rizal sports complex with the baseball stadium in the foreground. The grandstand’s roof is still undergoing repairs as the 1945 baseball season progresses (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

With repairs to the Rizal baseball stadium continuing throughout 1945, the battle damage was becoming less visible. The grandstand roof was undergoing restoration while rudimentary bleacher seating was installed onto the concrete risers. The once pristine outfield grass remained a sandlot-like dirt surface into 1946, when the USO’s National League Stars arrived.

Scheduled for a three-game series at Rizal, officials anticipated crowds between 25,000 and 30,000 for each contest. Whitey Kurowski took over at the NL helm as Dressen was hospitalized in Manila with bronchitis, leaving the team in capable hands.[17]

On New Year’s Day, Bill Voiselle squared off against Kirby Higbe in a classic New York vs Brooklyn-style rivalry tilt. The two hurlers kept the game close into the late innings. With the score knotted at four runs apiece, National Leaguer Frank McCormick crushed a solo shot off Higbe, his second of the game, for the go-ahead-run in front of 25,000 GIs. Despite fanning 11 NL batters, Higbe took the loss, having surrendered five runs on eight hits.[18]

Though the design is rudimentary, the hand illustrated scorecard cover for the January 3, 1946 game, the second in the three-game series, between the visiting USO Stars from the National League and the Manila Dodgers scorecard is very appealing. Scorecard details (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

After a day off, the series resumed on Thursday, January 3, with Jim Hearn taking the mound for Manila. Whitey Kurowski sent Brooklyn pitcher Tom Seats to the hill for the National Leaguers. The score was tied after nine when Kurowski replaced Seats with another Brooklynite hurler, Clyde King. King continued to keep Manila batters from reaching pay dirt as he mirrored Hearn, who continued through the 14th frame. With a runner aboard, Hal “Zig” Emery singled, allowing the game winning run to score in the 2-1 victory for the Army squad.[19] McCormick was once again the big bat of the game, reaching four times with a single, two doubles and a triple, thus falling a four-bagger short of the cycle.[20]

Click Image to read the full letter
This typewritten letter from an unknown GI, named “Norman,” describes the USO National League Stars’ visit to Luzon to face the Manila Dodgers (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Friday evening, January 4, the third game in the series saw Manila’s Early Wynn face Tom Seats. With 30,000 in attendance, the Army’s Dodgers clung to a 3-2 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning, when the National Leaguers touched Wynn for a game-tying run. The Manila Dodgers failed to score in the bottom of the frame as Higbe sent the future Cooperstown enshrinee out for the 10th frame. Despite holding the USO squad to a single tally, Wynn was anything but sharp as he had already been touched for 17 hits in the first nine innings. The NL batters touched Wynn for four runs to pull ahead, 7-3, while closing out the game without allowing another Manila score. Red Barrett and Frank McCormick accounted for two doubles and two singles each in the melee.[21]

After the game with the Manila Dodgers, the National Leaguers boarded their aircraft to begin their return to the United States. Following a stopover in Guam, the team’s aircraft experienced an engine casualty, forcing an emergency return to the airfield after having been airborne for three hours. On January 22, the NL Stars arrived back in the States, having traveled 18,000 miles and having entertained more than 225,000 GIs in the Pacific Theater.[22]

July 6, 1946: Pitcher Kirby Higbe looks at the “collar” cast around the neck of Pee Wee Reese who has a chipped cervical vertebrae (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Additional Reading:

Notes:


[1] American Soldiers Bring Baseball Back to Manila, The Bee, Danville, Virginia, April 18, 1945.

[2] Nips Plans Upset by M’Arthur, by Lee Van Atta, International News Service, Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, February 16, 1945.

[3] American Soldiers Bring Baseball Back to Manila, The Bee, Danville, Virginia, April 18, 1945.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] A Combat and Baseball Story Uncovered: Discovery From a Lone Name on a Photo, Chevrons and Diamonds, December 22, 2020.

[8] 6000 GI’s Watch First Baseball Game on Leyte, Tampa Tribune, May 5, 1945.

[9] A Complete Report From Kirby Higbe, Tommy Holmes, The Brooklyn Eagle, June 29, 1945.

[10] Kirby Higbe: ‘Why Did They Fight?, The Columbia Record, June 30, 1945.

[11] Diamond Dust, New York Daily News, June 28, 1945.

[12] The Morning Call (Patterson, NJ), July 9, 1945.

[13] Sports Forum, Sgt. George Goodall, The Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, November 27, 1945.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ball Players Start For Pacific Today, Daily News (New York), December 13, 1945.

[16] Kirby Higbe Hurls Manila into Finals, The Belleville (Illinois) News Democrat, December 28, 1945.

[17] Dressen’s Squad Won 17 and Lost Only Five Games on Tour, Gus Steiger, The Sporting News, January 31, 1946.

[18] All-Stars Beat Army, The Pittsburgh Press, January 2, 1946.

[19] Touring Ball Players Lose to Manila Team, Springfield (Missouri) Leader and Press, January 4, 1946.

[20] Soldier’s personal correspondence, Unknown, January 5, 1946.

[21] National Stars Win in 10th, 7-3, The Des Moines Register, January 5, 1946.

[22] Dressen’s Squad Won 17 and Lost Only Five Games on Tour, Gus Steiger, The Sporting News, January 31, 1946.

High-Flying WWII Big Island Navy Baseball

During World War II, Oahu was the epicenter for baseball in the Hawaiian Islands. While a handful of former professional baseball players were present on the island in the months following the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, more began to arrive in the spring of 1943. One of them was Chief Athletic Specialist Walter Masterson, who had previously pitched major league ball for the Washington Senators. By 1944, Oahu was a hotbed of talent, with dozens of former major leaguers and players who were previously in the high minors filling rosters of Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Army Air Forces teams throughout the island. While some of the military installations on outlying islands also fielded teams with professional-caliber talent, the level of play was not at the same level as was seen on Oahu. 

Despite the lack of major leaguers, the 10-team AAA League on the big island of Hawaii commenced play on Sunday, April 30, to considerable fanfare from combined crowds or more than 3,000 spectators at Truck and Hoolulu Parks. Aside from the civilian Hawaiis, the balance of the league largely consisted of service clubs from the Army, Marines and Navy. 

Big Island Baseball 
In the last half of April, 1944, the big island’s premier diamond circuit, the AAA Baseball League, announced the participating teams and their managers.  

  • Sea Bees – Lt. K. G. MacLeod 
  • Air Corps Natives – Lt. John Gordon (first half only) 
  • Templeers – Pfc. M. Brustad  
  • Rens – Sgt. John Hand (combined with Powderbugs 4 games into the season) 
  • Powderbugs – Sgt. Major White (combined with Rens 4 games into the season) 
  • Renords – (combined Powderbugs/Rens team)  
  • Scrap Irons – Capt. Carl Merrill 
  • Hawaiis – Sonny Henderson 
  • Banyon Marines – Louis Sillars 
  • Navy Flyers – Chief Bill Fowler 
  • Navy “Little Varsity” – Chief Daugherty 
  • Tank Busters – Georgie Jordan (second half, only) 

Of the ten clubs in the league, only one roster lacked active duty military personnel on its roster. The Hawaiis, like their same-name counterparts in Oahu’s Honolulu League, consisted of local baseball stars and were perennial league contenders. In addition to their high level of talent, the Hawaiis held an edge over the league due to the years of developing cohesiveness, stemming from maintaining roster consistency. While the Hawaiis’ advantage made them an obvious pre-season favorite, another well-stocked team, the Navy Flyers, would contest the prognosticators. Drawing from naval units based at the Naval Air Station (NAS), the Flyers assembled their club with players with prior sandlot, high school, collegiate, semipro, and professional baseball experience. 

Fly Navy 
The Flyers of Naval Air Station Hilo assembled a formidable roster of athletes, including one former minor leaguer, Bob Cummins, a centerfielder who split the 1943 season between the Class “D” Kingsport Cherokees (Appalachian League) and the Roanoke Red Sox of the Class “B” Piedmont League. A few months after the end of the baseball season, Oakland, California native Cummins enlisted on December 27, 1943, and after his boot camp training was stationed on the island of Hawaii. The Flyers’ manager, Chief Athletic Specialist Bill Fowler, took note of Seaman first class Cummins’ baseball credentials and tapped him for duty both in the outfield and on the mound.  

(Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Chief Fowler had an eye for talent as he constructed the Flyers’ roster, drawing from NAS Hilo commands. A former Bethesda, Maryland area high school three-sport star and University of Maryland basketball and baseball player, Leon Vannais was another catch for the Flyers. He played semipro baseball in 1941 in Hackensack, New Jersey, for the O’Shea’s Glenwoods as a first baseman, outfielder, and pitcher. In the days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Vannais joined the Navy, entering the naval aviation cadet program. Ensign Vannais earned his wings in October, 1942, and completed advanced training at Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1943 ahead of his assignment to Hilo. Vannais, an aircraft carrier-qualified torpedo dive bomber pilot, was assigned to the Naval Air Station, though his days on land were likely short due to the fleet’s demand for his expertise. 

Flyers first baseman, Francis Guisto (Hawaii Herald-Tribune).

San Leandro, California native Francis Guisto was working as a shipfitter, building Liberty ships at the Richmond Shipyard, Richmond, California. A graduate of Manteca Union High School’s class of 1940, Guisto was one of 50 attendees at a major league tryout camp held in Marysville, California in late July, 1941. The camp was led by C. F. “Al” Chapman, a scout for the Cincinnati Reds organization. During a July 27 exhibition game between the camp squad and the local semipro Orinda Reds, Guisto accounted for the campers’ lone score in the 3-1 loss with a line shot to left centerfield, driving in a base runner. Guisto had another tryout at the end of September, but unfortunately he was not one of the three players, all pitchers, signed to minor league contracts. Guisto entered the Navy in early 1943 and following completion of boot camp, he boarded the USS Republic (AP-33) on July 21, bound for Pearl Harbor. The future Flyers first baseman was transferred to Hilo soon after arriving on Oahu. He was added to the Navy Flyers’ basketball roster as a forward and was touted by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald as a ringer would “give opponents a real headache” (Navy Cagers Look Strong, by Jim Moore, November 29, 1943). 

Hilo’s 1944 Baseball Season  
Pre-season prognostications pointed toward an end-of-season showdown between the two well-stocked clubs: Hilo’s civilian club, the Hawaiis, and the Naval Air Station Hilo club, the Navy Flyers. By the end of the season’s first half of play, the civilian club held a one-game advantage over the Flyers heading into the break. At the AAA League’s mid-season break, five of the Flyers, first baseman Francis Guisto, pitcher George Babich and second baseman Gunnar Hagstrom, were selected as league All-Stars.  

At a mere 145 pounds, the diminutive second baseman, Ensign Gunnar Hagstrom, stared down some of baseball’s giant hitters in pair of games on July 3 and 5, 1944, at Truck Park in Hilo. Arguably the game’s greatest hitter of the 1940s, the “Yankee Clipper,” Joe DiMaggio, was three years removed from his 56-game hitting streak when he stood in the batter’s box against Hagstrom and his Defenders, a squad of the island’s AAA League All-Stars. While many of Hagstrom’s teammates may have been intimidated by the visiting juggernaut 7th Army Air Force team, sharing the diamond with such talent was nothing new to him. 

Hagstrom’s Navy Flyers club finished the season’s first half of play one game behind the Hawaiis. Though Leon “Lefty” Vannais would have been a shoo-in selection for the AAA All-Stars, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald’s sports columnist, Jimmie Page, reported on June 19 that the Navy Flyers had lost him, their best pitcher. Though his departure to the fleet left a hole in the NAS Hilo’s pitching rotation, Page wrote on July 8, “the Navy Flyers should have about the same kind of club.”   

The two-game series with the 7th AAF was scheduled by AAA League officials in early June to coincide with the mid-season break.  

All-Star Player Position Hometown AAA Club 
Carl Allen UIF Denver, CO Templeers 
George Michael Babich Bayonne, NJ Navy Flyers 
John Berutich OF San Francisco, CA Navy Little Varsity 
Harry Brooks OF St. Louis, MO Marines 
Tom Cancelli SS Patterson, NJ Scrap Irons 
Wardell Clyburn UIF Englewood, NJ Renords 
James Corbett N. Tonawanda, NY Navy Flyers 
Bill Fowler Mgr. Yakima, WA Navy Flyers 
John Fox OF Marian, IN Sea Bees 
Francis Guisto 1B Stockton, CA Navy Flyers 
Gunnar Hagstrom 2B Pittsfield, Mass. Navy Flyers 
Frank Kendall Canby, OR Sea Bees 
Sam Mamula 3B Martins Ferry, OH Marines 
Martin Moharsky Kingston, PA Marines 
Tom Peacock OF Fort Worth, TX Navy Flyers 
Bob Peterson UIF Denver, CO Sea Bees 
Roe Sarsuelo Territory of Hawaii Hawaiis 
Edward Schnelling St. Louis, MO Templeers 
Julius Siegel OF Detroit, MI Templeers 
The AAA League’s All-Star “Defenders” roster that faced the 7th Army Air Force during the mid-season break.

The Defenders roster, led by Chief Athletic Specialist Bill Fowler, featured the league’s best pitcher (in the absence of the departed Vannais) in Babich, who, in addition to Hagstrom and Guisto, was accompanied by fellow Flyers Tom Peacock (OF) and Jim Corbett (P) on the All-Star roster.  

The 7th AAF swept the series with a 5-2 victory in the first game and a 5-0 shutout in the second. The Defenders’ pitching and defense held the great DiMaggio hitless until game two, when he hit a sizzling shot down the left foul line past Hagstrom, who was then stationed at the hot corner. In seven total at-bats, DiMaggio reached base on a single, an error and a walk and scored a run. Facing Frank Saul, former Seton Hall standout, Hagstrom was hitless in four appearances in the first game. Starting at third base in game two, Hagstrom was blanked twice by pitcher Bill Schmidt before he was lifted in favor of the Marines’ Sam Mamula. The 7th AAF’s pitchers had their way with their hosts, stymieing batters and limiting them to just nine hits in 18 innings.  

Gunnar Arvid Hagstrom, Williams College, class of 1942 (Williams College Gul/Ancestry.com)

Cloudbuster Gunnar Hagstrom 
Though he had never set foot on a professional baseball diamond, the DiMaggio name on an opponent’s roster was not an unfamiliar sight for Gunnar Hagstrom. The year before, while attending Navy Pre-Flight training at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Naval Aviation Cadet Hagstrom had played for the school’s “Cloudbusters,” joining forces with former major leaguers Joe Coleman, Johnny Pesky, Buddy Gremp, Buddy Hassett, Johnny Sain, and Ted Williams on one of the most dominant service teams of World War II, a team which had a 30-9 won-lost record for 1943. Born on January 10, 1920, in Enviken, Sweden, and having immigrated to the U.S. in 1923, Pittsfield (Massachusetts) High School’s Gunnar Hagstrom, class of 1938, lettered in football, basketball and baseball, and captained the school’s cage and diamond squads. He took his athleticism to Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he lettered again in basketball and baseball and served as the captain of the latter team, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1942. Hagstrom returned home and was signed to the semi-pro Mohawk Beverage club of Shire City Twilight League, playing throughout the summer. Hagstrom volunteered for the Navy V-5 Naval Aviation program and was sworn in on August 1. A month later, on September 1, Hagstrom departed Pittsfield to commence his training. 

Following his July 6, 1943, completion of the 11-week Navy Pre-Flight course at Chapel Hill, Hagstrom was assigned to primary flight training at Naval Air Station Glenview, Illinois. Upon graduation, Ensign Hagstrom was assigned to Carrier Aircraft Servicing Unit (CASU) Thirty-One at Hilo, Hawaii and added to the unit’s baseball team ahead of the 1944 AAA Baseball League’s season opener. 

Fordham’s Captain Babich 
Born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey, George Michael Babich was four-letter high school athlete before heading to Brooklyn to attend college and play on Fordham’s football, basketball, and baseball teams. Starting center for the Fordham University basketball team, George Babich was a powerhouse in the Rams’ starting five and served as the team’s captain. With seven games remaining in the regular season, Babich graduated on January 21, 1943, and entered the U.S. Navy. In addition to his caging duties, Babich saw action on Fordham’s gridiron from 1940-1943 and was the starting left end. On November 28, 1942, the University of North Carolina Navy Pre-Flight Cloudbusters football team visited the Polo Grounds to face the Fordham Rams. Though he did not factor in the 6-0 victory over the aviation cadets, Babich was the starting left end for Fordham, which relied heavily on a ground game. With just two completed passes for 72 total yards, the Rams’ only score occurred in the opening quarter. Babich also played in Fordham’s 1942 New Year’s Day Sugar Bowl victory over the University of Missouri. Following several days of heavy rains, the saturated Tulane Stadium field surface stripped Fordham of their dominant passing game that relied heavily upon Babich at left end, resulting in a sloppy ground game and a 2-0 Rams victory. Babich was ranked fifth in the AP Features’ Poll in all-round college athlete voting (Paul Governali Best in East – News-Pilot San Pedro, March 9, 1943) 

Babich’s skills were refined on a Rams diamond club that also produced several pro ballplayers, including Steve Filipowicz, Al Litwa, George Cheverko, and John Szajna. Six weeks after graduating from Fordham, Chief Babich enlisted into the U.S. Navy on March 9, 1943, and arrived on the big island of Hawaii in the spring of 1944 after completing basic training and the Gene Tunney Athletic Specialist School. 

Second Half Flyers 
Kicking off the second half of the AAA season, a double feature was scheduled for Sunday, July 9, at Hoolulu Park with the early game, a harbinger of the season outcome, featuring the Hawaiis hosting the Navy Flyers.  

George Babich struggled early in the game, allowing four Hawaii runs on three hits in the top of the first inning, but settled down when he returned to the mound in the second inning after his teammates cut the lead in half. The Hawaiis’ Roe Sarsuelo traded goose eggs with Babich for the next six innings, transforming what started off looking to be a high-scoring affair into a pitchers’ duel. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Flyer bats broke through when shortstop John Kennedy dropped a bloop single to drive in the tying run.  

The Hawaiis failed to counter the Flyers in the top of the ninth as Babich’s dominance continued. In the bottom of the ninth, first sacker Francis Guisto, who was 2-4 heading to the plate, crushed a two-run bomb and sealed the 6-4 victory for the Flyers.  

The nightcap game saw the Navy “Little Varsity” capitalizing on eight Renords miscues. The “Little Varsity” batters tallied three runs in the second inning and another one in the eighth. None of the Navy’s three hits scored runs as all four of their tallies were unearned. The Renord batters plated their two runs against Navy’s Johnny Mize, who went the distance. Mize’s bat also accounted for one of the three Navy hits in the 4-2 victory. 

Rank # Name Position Former/Hometown 
CSp (A) George Michael Babich Fordham University 
LTjg  Anso Belardinelli RF/P  Norwalk, CT
 Danny Brosman SS  
  Leo Connors 3B  
 15 James Corbett  
 Robert Cummins CF Roanoke (PIED) 
  Melvin Fletcher Asst. Equip. Mgr.  
CSp (A)  Bill Fowler Mgr. Yakima, WA 
S1/c 12 Francis Guisto 1B Stockton, CA 
Ens. Gunnar Hagstrom 2B Pittsfield, MA 
 Harper M. “Bud” Heitmeyer LF Oakland, CA
  Bert Irish Scorer  
  Art “Fats” Johnson Equip Mgr.  
 John Kennedy SS Pellston, PA 
 Thomas Truman Peacock LF  
  Joe Sirgo OF Canton, OH 
 17 Tom “Tommy” Sutton 3B/OF  
 13 James “Jimmie” Tiger 3B/UT/OF  
Ens.  Leon “Lefty” Vannais Hackensack, NJ 
 10 Edward Zielinski RF  
The 1944 Naval Air Station Hilo Flyers baseball team. Due to the Navy’s operational needs, some team members did not play the entire season.
Kicking off the second half of the AAA League’s season, Hoolulu park hosted two of the games on July 9, 1944. Click the image to view the entire scorecard (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)

An Invaluable Game Program 
A recent acquisition of a rare eight-page program from the July 9 pair of games provides a wealth of research data with the rosters of all four teams, AAA League staff and officials, rosters with scorecards, two weekend schedules, and the AAA League ground rules. Though the grids are unscored, the printed rosters of the four clubs are a truly invaluable record. The overall condition of the program is quite good despite having been folded. The binding staples are still strong and the paper has not oxidized or degraded. The cover, printed on heavy orange paper stock, has faded only slightly over the course of nearly eight decades but the monochrome black ink is still very dark and crisp. The paper of the inner pages is lightweight and very typical of wartime service game programs and has yellowed with age. Despite the lack of major league names within the lineups, this scorecard is a highly prized piece within the Chevrons and Diamonds collection due to its scarcity (view a downloadable copy of the entire program)

The top two AAA League clubs faced each other in the second half-opener (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Flying High to the Finish 
The second half of AAA League play saw the Flyers and Hawaiis battling for the top spot in the standings. With an August 4 victory over Little Varsity, the Flyers opened a two-game margin over the civilian club. By September 2, the Flyers held a half-game lead over the Hawaiis as the season was drawing to a close. With a game remaining for each club to play, both the Flyers and Hawaiis suffered losses, keeping the ½-game lead intact and securing the second half victory for the Navy squad. 

The AAA League championship pit the winners of each half of the season for a scheduled best of three series between the Hawaiis and Flyers. The opening game saw Babich hurl all nine innings in a 7-5 victory on September 15. The second game, planned for September 17, was rained out, forcing the first of several rescheduling actions. Knotted at two runs apiece in the 11th Inning, the umpire called the September 20 game due to darkness. Babich pitched brilliantly for all eleven innings. Another rainout pushed the September 20 game resumption ahead to the 24th

With the series in the balance, league officials made the decision to start fresh, effectively nullifying the tied game. Babich once again took the mound for the Flyers and he held his opponents to two runs on seven hits as the Navy tallied nine on 12 hits in the rout, locking up the AAA championship in two games. 

(Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

In the weeks following the end of the 1944 AAA League season, major league ballplayers returned to the big island to showcase the premier talent that resided on Oahu. In what was essentially a continuation of the Servicemen’s World Series, the star players serving in the Army and Navy competed against each other at Hoolulu Park for the 10th game of the Series. With a 7-2 record heading into the game, the Navy played to a 6-6 tie.  

Grounded Flyers  
Weeks after his teammates locked up the league title, former star pitcher Lefty Vannais was in the thick of the fight across the Pacific. Vannais, a TBF Avenger pilot, participated in the October 24 Battle of Leyte Gulf, scoring a hit on “what was then believed to be the [Yamato-Class battleship] Musashi,” wrote Philip S. Heisler, Musashi Sinking Revives Plane-Battleship Tiff, The Baltimore Sun, January 28, 1945. “All of the returning pilots agreed that the Musashi was hit repeatedly but continued on her course,” the article continued. “The attack continued throughout the morning and afternoon,” and the mighty ship’s deck was awash by 4 p.m… After the war, the Silver Star and Air Medal-decorated pilot returned to New Jersey. 

U.S. Navy Task Force 38 aircraft, including a TBF Avenger piloted by Leon “Lefty” Vannais, attack the Japanese battleship Musashi (foreground) and a destroyer in the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944 (U.S. Navy Photo).

The 9-2 championship-winning game was Babich’s last in Hawaii as the chief athletic specialist was transferred stateside. Discharged from the Navy on March 15, 1946, Babich returned home to Bayonne, accepting the athletic director position at St. Peter’s College in August. George Babich resumed his athletic career, playing for the North Plainfield Saracens of the New Jersey Football League. He also signed with the Jersey City Atoms for the 1946-48 seasons and saw time with the American Basketball League’s Brooklyn Gothams in 1948 and 1949. In keeping with his three-sport pre-war prowess, Babich also played part of 1948 with the St. Louis Browns’ Port Chester Clippers and part of 1949 with the Stamford Pioneers, both of the Class B Colonial League.  

Bob Cummins, the lone Flyer with pre-war professional ballplaying experience, resumed his career in the Boston Red Sox organization, where he had previously spent the 1942 season and part of 1943 in the minor leagues. The Willows, California native was assigned to the Class “C” San Jose Red Sox of the California League, spending the 1947 and 1948 seasons with that club. In 1949, Cummins was released and subsequently signed in mid-April with the El Paso Texans of the Arizona-Texas League. He was released and added to the inactive list in September, having appeared in just 72 games. In March 1950, Cummins returned to California and signed with the Class “D” Marysville Peaches of the Far West League. After a full season with the Peaches, Cummins hung up his spikes for good to work the next 34 years for Pacific Bell, raise a family and coach youth baseball. 

After winning the AAA League championship, the Flyers roster was broken up. First baseman Frank Guisto joined Gunnar Hagstrom on the CASU Airdales squad for the 1945 season. Under manager Pat Colgan, a former Boston catching prospect from the Eastern League’s Scranton Red Sox, the Airdales posted a 35-5 won-lost record and captured the AAA League crown. With the Japanese surrender, Guisto was discharged and returned home with a very bright baseball future looming ahead. With contract opportunities with the Sox of Boston and Chicago, he opted to stay closer to home and instead played ball with local semipro clubs, including the Stockton Ports, Senior Pro Stockton Braves, and other organizations. He lent his experience to area youth by coaching Little League and led one of his teams to the World Series in Pennsylvania. 

With two AAA League titles under his belt and a discharge from the Navy, former naval aviator LTjg Gunnar Hagstrom returned to Pittsfield and began a career with New England Telephone and Telegraph Company, where he spent his entire post-Navy career until retirement.  

Without much fanfare or media coverage beyond the big island’s shores, the small wartime community of Hilo supported and enjoyed baseball that was an equivalent of that of pre-war high minor leagues. The Navy’s diamond dominance in the Hawaiian Islands was furthered by the Naval Air Station Flyers’ title season in 1944. 

Dizzy Dean Settles Score with Lt. Ted Lyons in Iowa

After hanging up his cleats with his 1941 release from the Chicago Cubs and his Cooperstown destination cemented, the Gashouse Gang pitching legend, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean traded his position on the mound for one behind the radio microphone.  

Dizzy Dean talking to players before a game. Following his Hall of Fame pitching career, Dean was a broadcaster for his former team, the Cardinals and for the Browns from 1941-46 (Dennis Bell Collection).

By 1947, as the Browns’ play-by-play man, ‘Ol Diz was vocalizing his discontent with the pitching of the St. Louis pitchers’ performance during game broadcasts. Sports Illustrated’s Ted O’Leary noted in his September 28, 1964 piece, Short Noisy Return of Dizzy, that his oral frustrations such as, “What’s the matter with that guy? Why don’t he throw that fast one? Dawg gone, I don’t know what this game’s acomin’ to. I swear I could beat nine out of 10 of the guys that call themselves pitchers nowadays,” drew the ire of Browns hurlers’ wives. O’Leary wrote, “They were not too keen on going to the ball park to witness the humiliation of their husbands. Most of the pitchers’ wives began calling both [Browns Owner Bill] DeWitt and Dean on the phone. ‘If that big lug thinks he can do any better than my husband, why doesn’t he get out there and try?’ one wife asked DeWitt.”  

St. Louis was firmly entrenched in its familiar low position in the American League standings, inspiring discontented fans to stay at home, leaving Sportsman’s Park with an abundance of empty seats for late season games. Bill DeWitt saw an opportunity to create a little bit of fan interest and perhaps to satisfy the Browns’ wives by calling Dean’s bluff. DeWitt signed Dizzy to a $1 contract on September 17, giving the pitcher a little more than a week to get into shape. As if seeing the beloved Cardinals pitcher wearing a rival Cubs uniform from 1938-41 was not bad enough, fans of the National League St. Louis club saw the 37-year-old suit up for the Browns to face the visiting Chicago White Sox on September 28 for the last game of the season. Dean pitched the first four innings and surrendered three hits and a walk before he was pulled in favor of reliever Glen Moulder, who gave up five runs on five hits and four walks to lose the game.  

Sitting and watching in the visitor’s dugout, White Sox second-year manager Ted Lyons may have been recalling that moment he saw Dean first don the Browns’ colors just a few years earlier. Despite what the record books reflect, Dizzy’s four shutout inning performance for the Browns in 1947 was not the first time he suited up for the perennial American League second-division dwellers.  

More than two weeks following Mickey Cochrane’s Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets’ 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs, Davenport, Iowa’s Quad-City Times announced on June 25, 1943 that an exhibition game would be played at Davenport’s Municipal Stadium (known today as Modern Woodmen Park), home of the independent league Maroons. Arranged by the Quad-City Athletic Club, the contest was set to bring major league baseball back to the small ballpark situated above the levy on the bank of the Mississippi River, with a big league club facing off against a service team from the Windy City of Chicago. “We had a chance to book several service clubs in here for that night,” club president Jack Lagomarcino told the Quad-City Times. “But when we heard that Teddy Lyons was pitching for the Marines in Chicago, that was all we wanted to know.” Lagomarcino continued, “We got in touch with him and his officers, and they agreed to the game.” Anticipating drawing a large crowd, the ballpark was expanded by 1,500 to accommodate 8,000 fans for what was being billed as “Ted Lyons Night” on July 13.

Months away from his own departure for the armed forces, Ted Lyons presents a watch to former White Sox and current Great Lakes Training Station Bluejackets hurler, Johnny Rigney, July 3, 1942. The players, left to right are: Dario Lodigiani, Mule Haas, Lyons, Rigney, Thornton Lee and Orval Grove (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Theodore Amar Lyons, a stalwart pitcher for 20 seasons with the White Sox, enlisted into the Marine Corps on November 1, 1942. The future Hall of Fame enshrinee applied for the Marine Corps Officers Training program on October 12 and ten days later divested his financial interest in his south side Chicago bowling alley business in preparation for departure. The 41-year-old told reporters that he hoped to pitch every day for the Marines rather than his once-weekly rotation with the Chicago club, according to the October 22 edition of The Times of Streator, Illinois.  

Lyons trained at Quantico, Virginia, completing his training and being commissioned as a second lieutenant. While undergoing his Marine Corps instruction, he joined former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Ike Pearson on the Quantico nine. 

After detaching from his training school commands, Lyons was assigned duty at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Marine Aviation Detachment at the Navy Pier in Chicago, where he assumed duties as the athletics officer in charge of combat conditioning and physical training. By early June, Lyons was with the Navy Pier Aero-Macs baseball team, whose roster was an aggregation of Navy and Marine Corps players. On June 2, the Aero-Macs faced the East Chicago Sox, a semipro club, and Lyons was added to the lineup for duties on the mound. Unfortunately, the results of the game are unknown. With the Navy Pier command’s primary role as a training center, the baseball team roster was in constant flux. By the end of June, the positions were filled entirely with Marines. 

Ted Lyons poses in his Navy Pier Marines flannels on the Chicago waterfront, 1943 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Taking the reins of the Navy Pier Marines team, Lt. Lyons prepared the players to face their scheduled opponent, the St. Louis Browns. Unlike Cochrane’s major and minor league star-studded Bluejackets roster, Lyons’ 21 “leatherneck” players were true amateurs, pulled together from four separate Marine Corps training squadrons. Staff Sergeant James G. Hallet, the shortstop, served as the detachment’s acting first sergeant. For weeks leading up to the game, the team prepared to face seasoned professionals. Aside from perfecting their defense and base running acumen, Lyons had to prepare the men to face major league pitching, which the former White Sox ace provided healthy doses of in practice. However, the Marines were in for quite a surprise when the Browns announced their starting pitcher four days ahead of the game. 

In front of Chicago’s Navy Pier, Lt. Ted Lyons prepares his Marines squad for their upcoming game against the St. Louis Browns (Quad City Times, July 4, 1943).

“Dizzy is not signing a contract, and by no means is it to be construed that he is joining the Browns except to face his old friend, Ted Lyons,” manager Sewell told reporters. “Dean is not returning to organized baseball except for the one night,” The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) reported on Friday, July 9. In 1943, Dean was reportedly earning $10,000 to broadcast both Browns and Cardinals games in St. Louis and was two years removed from pitching for the Cubs. “You bet your boots I’ll pitch for the Browns next Tuesday night,” Dean stated. “Ted Lyons made the crack once that he could beat me in my best days. I’ll show him in Davenport that my best days are not over. I guarantee you that I will strike out that old man once,” the former Cardinals great boasted. 

Newspapers touted the event for several days leading up to the day of the game. Despite all the press and the expanded seating, slightly more than half of the seats were filled. Both veteran pitchers were slated to hurl the first three frames. 

Navy Pier Marines

Rank Player Pos. 
Pvt. Grover C. Boldt 2B 
Corp. Somes J. Dagle LF 
S.Sgt. James G. Hallet SS 
Corp. James L. Coldiron CF 
Pvt. Charles F. Wallraff 
Pvt. Lee F. Houser 3B 
Sgt. Frank L. Klein RF 
Pfc. Kenneth Callewaert 1B 
Capt. Theodore “Ted” Lyons P/Mgr. 
Corp. Samuel E. House 
The Marines held their own against the Browns until the major leaguers pulled away starting in the bottom of the sixth inning (The Dispatch – Moline, Illinois, July 14, 1943).

Before the game started, the two teams engaged in field events that included 100-yard dash races, a long-distance throwing competition and throwing for accuracy. It was all business when the Browns took the field for the top of the first inning and Dizzy strode to the mound. For several weeks, Dean had worked on strength training and other conditioning, ensuring that his arm was in peak form. Marine second baseman Boldt and left fielder Dagle were retired for the first two outs but SSGT Hallet doubled off Dean. He was gunned down by right fielder Al Zarilla as he attempted to stretch the safety to a triple. Lyons retired the side in the bottom of the frame, with both teams coming up empty. The Browns struck first in the bottom of the second inning following Zarilla’s single. Marines catcher Wallraff muffed a pitch, allowing Zarilla to reach second on the passed ball while a throwing error by shortstop Hallet moved the runner to third. Joe Schultz singled to drive Zarilla home. The Marines countered in the top of the third, with successive hits by Callewaert and Dagle evening the score, 1-1. Dean’s night was done, his having surrendered five hits and striking out one. Archie McKain took over for Dean to pitch the middle three innings.  

In the bottom of the third frame the knotted score did not last as the Browns moved ahead by a run, only to have the Marines tie the game in the top of the fourth as McKain allowed the final leatherneck score. Lyons finished the bottom of the fourth with the game tied at two runs apiece. The former White Sox pitcher allowed two runs while striking out three Browns.  

Corporal Samuel E. House hurled the last five frames but allowed the Browns to tally four runs. He struck out nine Browns, walking three. The Browns secured the 6-2 win, aided by Fritz Ostermueller’s brilliant pitching. Ostermueller struck out seven of the nine Marines he faced during innings 7, 8 and 9. In the weeks following the game and with the completion of their aviation training, most of the Marine players were detached and transferred to their wartime assignments. By August, Lt. Lyons was assigned to duty at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, California. 

The program and scorecard from the exhibition game is utilitarian and lacking aesthetics seen on many wartime domestic examples. Sparing no space, even half of the cover was dedicated to advertisements (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

This copy of the game’s scorecard is a recent arrival to the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection, donated by a baseball historian, colleague and friend. From the front cover to the back, the program consists of 12 pages, with the majority of the content being dedicated to advertising support. In addition to the team scoring grid pages, separate pages include the team rosters (view the complete scorecard).

At the time of printing, our scorecard listed the Marines team roster, albeit with misspellings of some players’ names (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

With just 4,500 fans at the game, our scorecard is certainly a scarce piece. With only the first few frames of each team’s grids scored, it appears that the original owner was in attendance solely for the spectacle of the two pitching greats squaring off. The lineups on our scorecard differ from the actual game record due to the last-minute changes submitted by each team’s manager after the pieces were printed.  

Navy Pier Marines reserve players

Rank Player Pos. 
Pfc. John J. Adamcik  
Sgt. John A. Bercich  
Pfc. Trifko Culibrk 1B 
Pvt. Nick Fasso  
Pfc. Harold Kendall  
Pfc. Charles J. Misko  
Pfc. Elmer W. Mory  
Pfc. Robert E. Rudewick  
Sgt. Dallas R. Stahr  
Pvt. John Steiger  
Pvt. Everett R. Sumpter  

The booklet-sized, 9-inch by 6-inch piece is in excellent condition with very minor wear showing on the pages. The staples, though rusting slightly, are solid and the pages are held firmly in place. The real treasure in this piece lies within the roster of Lyons’ team, which has enabled us to shed light upon an aggregation of regular Marines who, while serving their country, stood in the batter’s box against one the game’s pitching legends. 

In researching the Marines players in pursuit of professional baseball experience, only Private Everett Sumpter, shown on our scorecard as “Simpter,” played organized ball, He didn’t play until 1947, when he was with the Lamesa Lobos of the class C West Texas-New Mexico League. Following his duty as the non-commissioned officer in charge of drill and instruction as part of Headquarters Squadron, Marine Aviation Detachment, Sergeant Dallas R. Stahr was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross medal in the Pacific Theater. The balance of the squad, while not as highly decorated as Sergeant Stahl, served throughout the war, with a few continuing to retirement from the Marine Corps. 

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