Category Archives: Uniforms

Threads of Lefty: From Ace Farmhand to the GI World Series, Part II

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part I

Lawrence Milton “Lefty” Powell’s progression from high school ballplayer through the California State semi-professional league, into the minor leagues and onto the roster of the Boston Red Sox was not an easy road to the big leagues. The left-handed pitcher’s mastery of multiple pitches drew the attention of professional scouts, sportswriters and legends of the game and also prompted comparisons to pitching stars of the time, including such greats as New York Giants future Hall of Fame hurler Carl Hubbell. However, the road to the major league pitching mound is littered with broken dreams of countless thousands of such future talents whose arms suffered irreparable damage sustained from overwork and pitching through pain.

1941
Larry Powell’s baseball career did not end with his 1941 spring training stint with the Boston Red Sox; however, it was impacted by an extended break due to the call of his country during the brewing national and international crisis. Following the enactment of the United States’ first peacetime draft in September, 1940, young men were required to register for the draft the following month and await the call from their local draft board.

Private Larry Powell with the Camp Roberts All-Stars baseball team, August 1942 (Santa Cruz Sentinel-Sun, Aug 2,1942).

Back home in Reedley, California following a tumultuous season with the class “AA” San Francisco Seals, Larry Powell registered with local draft board 124 on October 16. On block 10, Powell listed his employer as the Boston Red Sox as he was under contract with the major league club despite playing the entire 1940 season with the Seals. Physical attributes noted on the back of his draft card indicated the pitcher was 5-feet, 10-1/2 inches tall and weighed 175 pounds. He was of “ruddy” complexion with brown hair and hazel eyes. Listed on the “other obvious physical characteristics that will aid in identification” block was, “disfigured left thumb.” [1]

Eight months after registering, Powell received his notice and was inducted into the U.S. Army on July 9, 1941, in Sacramento, California.[2] By late July, Powell found himself back in baseball flannels weeks after shedding his San Diego Padres togs. He was playing for the Camp Roberts team, the organizers of which began openly pursuing competitors from other service teams and area semi-pro clubs.[3] In the following weeks, the Roberts club faced off against regional service nines, including Bakersfield Air Base, Camp San Luis Obispo, and the Camp Roberts Hospital team.[4] Area newspapers touted the former star pitcher as the Camp Roberts club’s headliner. On August 24, the Roberts club traveled north to San Francisco to face the Letterman Army Hospital at the Presidio at the old sandlot, Funston Field.[5][6]

Larry Powell’s entry into the armed forces through the selective service was not unique as others answered their draft boards’ calls to duty. Even in the major league ranks, some notable names were called into uniform, including Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Hugh Mulcahy, the first big leaguer to be drafted, and Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg. The trickle of ballplayers into the armed forces changed after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7. Hank Greenberg, who had been discharged just two days before, immediately joined the Army Air Forces. Cleveland Indians hurler Bob Feller volunteered for service, enlisting in the Navy on December 9. In the following weeks and months, many players from the major and minor leagues began pouring into the armed forces.

1942
At the time of his entry into the Army, Larry Powell was still the property of the Boston Red Sox despite having been sent down to the minor leagues after failing to meet the club’s expectations. In late January, Boston General Manager Eddie Collins lamented the roster vacancies left by the departure of Powell, Mickey Harris, Al Flair and Earl Johnson to the service. “It hurts our chances but we’re still proud to lose them that way,” the Hall of Famer stated.[7] Joining Powell at Camp Roberts was his fellow West Coast native, Earl Johnson, who enlisted on January 5, 1942, and was added to the post ball team. The 1942 Roberts men boasted such a wide-ranging roster of minor league talent that the club was dubbed the Camp Roberts “All-Stars.” As the Coast League was wrapping up spring training in Southern California, the Seattle Rainiers traveled to Camp Roberts to face the All-Stars. Private Earl Johnson got the start against the Coast Leaguers; however, the results were unfavorable for the soldiers. Roberts’ pitching surrendered six runs on 14 hits to the Seattle batters, who touched both Johnson and Powell. The All-Stars were stymied by a succession of Rainiers hurlers, Bill Bevens, Al Libke and Henry Bushman, who limited the Army batters to two runs on six hits.[8]

1942 Camp Roberts All-Stars:

PlayerPositionFormer
Harold “Hal” Eckhardt2BTucson (AZTX)
Carlo “Carl” Forni2B/SSWenatchee (WINT)
Benite J. GuintiniCFSalt Lake City (PION)
Earl JohnsonPRed Sox
Morris “Morry” JonesOF/1BColumbus (AA)
 JoursLF
Art ManginiRFLos Angeles (PCL)
Otto MeyersMgr./CFWaterloo (IIIL)
Ralph “Hal” Mountain1BMeridian (SEAL)
Hal O’BanionCTwin Falls (PION)
Danny Phillips2BTyler (EXTL)
Lawrence “Lefty” PowellPSan Diego (PCL)
Darryl Reynolds3BSt. Mary’s College
William Scull1BSemi-Pro
Melvin WasleyOFPocatello (PION)


The Johnson-Powell hurling duo was victimized in early April when the Roberts club travelled to Fresno to face the Hammer Field Bombers. For Powell, it was a homecoming of sorts as the game was played at Fresno State College Park[9] before 3,000 fans, who no doubt included family and friends. Unfortunately, for Powell, former San Francisco Seal Harry Goorabian led the Bombers to a 7-4 victory, driving two home runs out of the park.[10] Unfazed, the Camp Roberts All-Stars soldiered on, closing out the month of April with a 4-2 won-lost record.[11]

Private Larry “Lefty” Powell sits with his former manager, Lefty O’Doul in the dugout at Seals Stadium (Courtesy of Zak Ford).

On May 24, Camp Roberts traveled to Salinas to face the “Rodeo Buffet” town baseball team. Again, the Red Sox pitching “connection” of Johnson and Powell shared mound duties and were touched by the Rodeo club for a combined 13 hits. Buffet hurler Fred Lacy stated that he was unimpressed by the star-studded roster of former pro ballplayers in the opposing dugout and he set down the first Roberts batters in order.[12] Buffet batters took a first-inning lead after touching Johnson for a leadoff walk and two singles. It did not take long for Lacy’s lack of respect for Camp Roberts to turn to awe as the Army hit him for three runs on three hits, including a triple by Earl Johnson. The Army poured gasoline onto the fire as the game progressed and carved a groove around the base paths by scoring 30 runs. Larry Powell gave up three runs on four hits while batting a perfect two-for-two at the plate and scoring two runs. When the dust settled, Camp Roberts departed Salinas after feasting on the Buffet.[13]

Visiting Lemoore Army Air Field for a pair of weekend games on June 27-28, the Camp Roberts nine took both contests by a combined score of 30-2. Art Mangini’s 18-1 victory paved the way for Powell as he captured the 12-1 victory on the following day.[14]

1943
After the 1942 season ended and Powell spent some of the holidays with family, the pitcher was sent to Camp Claiborne outside of Alexandria, Louisiana in early January.[15] With a letter of recommendation from San Francisco Seals team owner Charlie Graham, Private Powell, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a communications platoon, was anticipating an appointment to officer candidate school while at Claiborne in code training.[16]  

By early May, Powell had been assigned to Lemoore Army Air Field, suiting up for the “Mechs” nine as they played in the San Joaquin Valley Baseball League. Lemoore Field joined Camp Pinedale, 4th Air Force Replacement Depot, Hanford All-Stars, and Fresno’s Nick Kikkert’s club in the league.

1943 Lemoore Army Air Field “Mechs”

RankPlayerPositionFormer
Sgt.Ned SheehanIF/OF/coachBoise (PION)
Corp.Bill BurtonPSemi-pro
LtTom CareyMgr.*Dodgers
Jim ChambersP
Corp.“Big Jake” JacobsenMgr.
Pvt.Dick LinnellPNorfolk (PIED)
 PeytonC
Pvt.Lawrence “Lefty” PowellPLouisville (AA)
Sgt.Tony PrecinoSS
 StribicC
Sgt.Bob WolfPSemi-pro

Throughout the spring and deep into the summer, Powell was manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers’ batting practice pitcher Tom Carey’s go-to starting pitcher[17] as Lemoore was firmly entrenched in third place in the league’s standings. Powell’s time with Lemoore ended in July with his transfer to Fort Sill, Oklahoma when he was assigned to the 689th Artillery Battalion “Fabins” of the 18th Field Artillery. Powell was added to the 18th Field Artillery’s squad despite the season nearing its end. The dominant baseball team in the region, the Norman Naval Air Station  “Skyjackets,” stocked with Al Benton, Bennie Warren, Johnny Rizzo, and Charlie Gelbert, had their way with all comers throughout the season on their way to claiming the league title. When Powell arrived, the 18th had an undefeated streak that surpassed 20 games. In his first game for the Fort Sill-based nine, Powell pitched a 13-0 no-hitter as the 18th claimed their 22nd consecutive win.[18] Facing the Norman Navy Nine on August 4, the Navy handed the Army their first loss, pounding Powell for 11 runs on 11 hits. Lefty Powell walked five and struck out a pair of Norman batters.[19] Following the end of the season, the 18th faced the Fort Sill Field Artillery School’s (FAS) Negro detachment club. The September 19 contest saw Powell entering the game in the top of the ninth with the FAS nine leading 7-6. Powell held the opponents scoreless, allowing the 18th to rally in the bottom of the frame, plating two runs to win the game, 8-7. With the war progressing in Europe, the 689th Artillery Battalion began preparing to enter the fight.

Seventeen days after defeating the Field Artillery School team, Powell packed his gear as the 689th departed Fort Sill by train for California. Four days later, the train arrived in the California desert near Camp Iron Mountain, where General George Patton’s 3rd Armored Division called home before deploying to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). [20] The men of the 689th commenced an intensive training and hardening program with two weeks of maneuvers in November leading up to Army Ground Force (AGF) testing. In December, the artillery battalion commenced firing tests that culminated on Christmas Eve with the unit being declared fit for battle.[21]

1944
Following training, Powell, now holding the rank of staff sergeant, spent 10 days on furlough over the holidays with his family back home in Reedley.[22] For Powell and the rest of the 689th, baseball was now only a topic of GI conversation. Instead of preparing for spring training, Powell was once again on a train with his unit, bound for Camp Polk, Louisiana to await orders. The only question that remained among the men was “Where will we fight?”[23]

More than two weeks after the commencement of the Normandy Invasion, the 689th departed Camp Polk by rail on June 16. With stops in Texarkana, Chattanooga and New Haven, the battalion arrived 10 days later on June 26 at Camp Miles Standish near Taunton, Massachusetts to prepare for departure to the ETO. For four days the battalion was organized and loaded aboard ships for their Atlantic crossing. Departing on July 1, the 689th was embarked aboard the USS Wakefield (AP-21), a former luxury ocean liner of the United States Lines named SS Manhattan, converted and commissioned into Navy service as a troop transport. Upon arrival in Liverpool, the battalion disembarked and were taken by rail to the newly constructed Camp Cwrt-y-gollen, five miles west of Abergavenny, Wales, where the Fabins were attached to the 12th Corps under the Third Army.

While in Wales, the 689th trained for combat operations and made all preparations for entering combat operations. From the docks of Southampton, the Fabins sailed for Northern France and made their landing on the beachhead at Utah Beach, Normandy on August 24 and connected with the XX Corps Artillery. The Fabins worked their way across France through St. Mars, Cloves, Navours, Herme, Mont Morte, Constantine, Puisileaux, Juoy, Ville, Fleville, Mancieulles, Trieux and Fontoy through September 12 and were predominantly assigned to the 195th Field Artillery Group in support of the 5th Infantry Division and 7th Armored Division as well as the 90th Infantry Division.

Now assigned to the 5th Artillery Group under the 5th Infantry Division as the Rhineland campaign began, the Fabins were now supporting the Allied forces’ push towards Germany. As the month of September wound to a close, the 689th crossed into Luxembourg and established a firing base at Welfrange. During a period of downtime, the men were able to listen to some of the 1944 World Series games through a small radio set as the St. Louis Browns faced off against their National League counterparts, the St. Louis Cardinals.[24]

For the first few weeks of October, the 689th was attached the 40th Field Artillery group as they joined the 135th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 3rd Cavalry Group, constituting Task Force Polk. By November, the battalion had crossed back into France, maneuvering along the Luxemburg border and supporting various operations. On December 3, while assigned to the 10th Armored Division, the battalion entered Germany, advancing to Wehingen. By mid-December, the 698th was hampered by a serious bout of influenza sweeping through the battalion. A substantial portion of unit personnel were transferred to infantry units as German forces mounted a counteroffensive and broke through allied lines. The enemy offensive was later dubbed “The Battle of the Bulge.” With diminished ranks and a perilously low stocks of ammunition, the 689th was pulled back to a position across the French border near the town of Kirsch-lès-Sierck, where they remained through the end of January.

1945
By March, the Fabins were largely assigned to the 193rd Field Artillery Group and continued supporting the 10th Armored Division for most of the month. In April, the 689th supported the 6th Armored Division for the first half of the month as they crossed over the Elbe River. The last vestiges of the Third Reich were being mopped up as the Allies pushed for Berlin as April ended. The 689th arrived in Eggstetten, Austria on May 3 across the Inn River from Hitler’s birthplace, the town of Branau. After the 689th commenced some missions, orders came from the command to cease all firing, with speculation and rumors flying among the men that the end might be near. On May 8, the proclamation was read to the troops that Germany had surrendered, bringing about the end of the war in Europe.

Though the battalion was only in the fight for eight months, the three batteries of the 689th sent nearly 50,000 artillery rounds onto enemy targets.

  • 316 – Guns neutralized or destroyed
  • 52 – Tanks destroyed or disabled
  • 21 – Pillboxes knocked out
  • 51 – Troop concentrations broken up
  • 55 – Vehicles knocked out
  • 24 – Enemy counter attacks broken up
  • 17 – Enemy command posts knocked out
  • 3 – Enemy command posts destroyed
  • 1 – Railway station destroyed
  • 4 – Bridges destroyed
  • 3 – Barges destroyed
  • 4 – Mine fields blown up
  • 2 – Enemy mess halls destroyed
  • 2 – Enemy ammunition dumps blown up
  • 1 – Machine gun knocked out

For their combat service from the summer of 1944 through May, 1945, the Fabins men were authorized to wear four “battle star” devices on their European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal for the following campaigns:

  • Northern France – July 25, 1944 – September 1944[25]
  • Rhineland – September 15, 1944 – March 21, 1945[26]
  • Ardennes – December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945[27]
  • Central Europe – March 22, 1945 – May 11, 1945[28]

For the men of the 689th Artillery Battalion the surrender meant that they would be on the move to Freising, Germany, located near Munich, to serve as guards at a displaced persons camp where the Germans had incarcerated 60,000 Russians, French, Italians and others. Transforming from a combat artillery unit into an occupation battalion was “a pain in the neck,” and the men were glad when they were sent to the Bavarian town of Bayrischzell to guard hospitals and to patrol the German-Austrian border.[29]

Post-VE-Day Baseball
Following the German surrender, US Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and his staff devised a fair system in determining prioritization for sending troops home. The resulting system tallied points for each GI based upon five distinct factors. If the soldier, airman, sailor or Marine accrued 85 or more points, he was eligible to be sent home for discharge.[30]

Points were awarded according to the following formula:

  • One point for each month of service in the Army
  • One additional point for each month of service overseas
  • Five points for each campaign
  • Five points for a medal for merit or valor (Silver Star for example)
  • Five points for a Purple Heart (awarded to all soldiers who were wounded in action)
  • Twelve points for each dependent child up to three dependent children

With the majority of the men having accrued the required 85 points by July 5, the officers and men of the 689th were homeward bound just two months after VE-Day. However, there were some men who remained in country despite their eligibility status. Staff Sergeant Larry Powell was one of those men who continued with occupation duties and was tapped to pitch once again for the 18th Field Artillery’s squad as the European continent saw more than 100,000 GIs forming teams in hundreds of leagues.

By early August, league winners were advancing into regional playoffs that would culminate in division and army championships. When teams were eliminated, rosters of the losing squads would be raided for the best players to better the chances of the raiding victors on their march toward the GI World Series. Such was the case for the 1st Infantry Division after defeating the Maurice Van Robays-managed 16th Armored Division team, though circumstances dictated a much more drastic action.

The entire 1st Division’s roster had acquired the points necessary for return to the states, but the victorious team stopped continuing their goal of reaching the GI World Series. With the entire 16th Armored roster’s players being under the points threshold, a team swap was enacted moments after the final out of the 6-5 “Big Red One” victory. Upon the realization that each team would be required to exchange their respective units’ shoulder insignia, the men refused to acquiesce to the order. “I’ll always be a 1st Division man,” one of the players asserted, “no matter where the hell they send me.” Similarly, the men of the 16th Armored Division refused the change. “We didn’t do so badly in this war, either,” declared Van Robays.[31]

Late August, 1945, Nuremberg Stadium for the U.S. Army Ground Forces Championship Series, the 29th Division is on defense. The first base coach on the far right is wearing the uniform of the Third Army champions (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Staff Sergeant Larry Powell was added to the 71st Division Red Circlers’ roster ahead of the Third Army Championship series, scheduled for August 7-9. Defeating the 76th Division in a best of five series, the 71st continued to add to their roster from the ranks of their vanquished foes. Former New York Giants pitcher Ken Trinkle was taken from the 76th, joining Powell, Harry “the Hat” Walker, Ken Heintzelman, Maurice Van Robays, and Johnny Wyrostek as reinforcements for the Red Circlers.

71st Infantry Division Red Circlers

Rank#PlayerPositionFormerFormer Unit Team
20Bill AyersPAtlanta (SOUA)65th Infantry Division
14Charlie Bamberger3BLondon (PONY) 
5Ewell BlackwellPReds 
19Alpha BrazlePCardinals65th Infantry Division
9Herb BremerCLittle Rock (SOUA) 
Ben Capp 
Capt.22Joe CostaMgr.5th Infantry Division
6Ettore GiammarcoOFFort Smith (WA) 
Jim GladdCFort Smith (WA)33rd Field Artillery
3Jack HaleyP 
18Ken HeintzelmanPPirates65th Infantry Division
D. Louis KauzlarichLubbock (WTNM) 
22Russ KernSS 
1Garland LawingLFBirmingham (SOUA) 
15Earl LindamoodOFWilmington (ISLG) 
17Anselm “Anse” Moore3BBeaumont (TL) 
Andy Moroff 
11Marshall NesmithRF 
8Walter OlsonPSanta Barbara (CALL) 
SSGT21Lawrence “Lefty” PowellPLouisville (AA)18th Field Artillery
13Bob RamazzottiSSDurham (PIED) 
10Rudy  RundusPAllentown (ISLG) 
23Walter SmithC 
24 TauzlarichC 
7Milton  Ticco1BUniversity of Kentucky 
Maurice Van RobaysOF/PPirates16th Armored/1st Division
  Ken TrinklePGiants76th Infantry Division
Harry “The Hat” WalkerOFCardinals65th Infantry Division
16Johnny WyrostekCFPirates 
12Benny Zientera2BIndianapolis (AA) 
Roster from July through September 1945.

The Southern Germany Championship, pitting the Third Army Champions, the 71st Division, against the champs of the Seventh Army, the 29th Division’s Blues and Grays, was a best-of-five series played at Nuremburg Stadium from August 21-26. The 29th Division proved to be no match for the Red Circlers as they were swept in three straight games, including a 3-1 no-hitter by the 71st Division’s Bill Ayers in the second game. Nearly 6,000 miles away, news of the 71st Division’s ascension to the GI World Series reached a small farming community in California’s San Joaquin Valley. “Larry Powell is pitching ball for the 71st Division,” The Reedley Exponent reported, “They are playing for the championship of Europe.”[32]

After the 71st was defeated by the Sam Nahem-led Oise All-Stars in the GI World Series, Larry Powell was ready to return home. Arriving at Camp Kilmer on November 26, Powell spent one day at the New Jersey base before boarding a train bound for California. Eight days after his arrival on U.S. soil, Lawrence Milton Powell was discharged from the U.S. Army as a 1st Sergeant at Camp Beal, 50 miles north of Sacramento, on December 5, 1945. With $263.12 in mustering-out pay, Larry Powell was left with a 240-mile trek to Reedley.[33]

In January 1946, Powell, provided details of his wartime service. “Support of the 94th Division and 5th Ranger Battalion in their breakthrough of the Siegfried Switch Line,” as well as being “attached to the 6th Armored Division in their push from the Rhine River to the Mulde River at Chemnitz.” (Ancestry.com)

With the war behind him and having missed 4.5 years of his professional baseball career, “Lefty” Powell made his return to the diamond in the spring of 1946. Powell signed his contract with the Red Sox and reported to Sarasota, Florida for training camp. As if he picked up where he left off with Boston during spring training in 1941, Powell showed signs of brilliance on the mound in between his struggles with control. In his 1946 debut exhibition appearance against St. Louis, Powell entered the game in relief, holding the Cardinals hitless for the final three innings and notching a 1-0 victory as Eddie Pellagrini doubled in the winning run in the ninth.[34] Despite an April 6 2-1 loss to the Reds, Cronin kept the 30-year-old rookie on the roster to start the season.

Finishing out April, the 11-3 Red Sox held a two-game lead over the Yankees. Though still with the Red Sox, Powell was withheld from taking the mound in any of Boston’s games for the opening month of the season. On April 30, the Red Sox parted ways with Powell, giving him his unconditional release[35], but he was signed by the crosstown Braves on the following day.[36] Boston Braves manager Billy Southworth expressed enthusiasm in acquiring Powell (along with Si Johnson and Emerson Roser) and hoped that the change of scenery would be beneficial. Powell indicated that he had been dealing with a sore arm for a few weeks, which may have been the cause of his exclusion from pitching for the Red Sox. “If I just harness my control, I’m going to win,” Powell told the Boston Globe.[37]

Unfortunately for Powell, his stay with the Boston Braves was short-lived as he was given his release on May 8, having spent just a week with the club without making any game appearances. With three chances at baseball’s highest level, Powell’s major league quest was over.[38]

Despite his major league setback, Powell was not done with baseball and signed once again with the Seals. After making a handful of appearances, manager Lefty O’Doul sent Powell down to the Salt Lake City Bees of the class “C” Pioneer League. At the end of August, O’Doul recalled the left-hander as the Seals closed in on securing the Pacific Coast League crown and finishing the year with one of the best season records in league history.

From 1947 to 1954, Powell pitched in the minor leagues, largely on the west coast, never rising above class “A.” Larry Powell’s two best post-war seasons were in the Western International League with the Yakima Bears in 1949 and 1950. Powell posted won-lost records of 16-7 and 13-9 with ERAs of 3.42 and 4.63, respectively. After a brief 1954 season with the Visalia Cubs, 39-year-old Powell left the professional game for good.

Larry Powell spent his post-baseball years following in his father’s footsteps, farming. He served on the board of directors for the Central California Association of Farmers, Associated Farmers of America and Fresno County Farm Bureau.[39] In recognition of his contributions to the game, Larry Powell was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.[40]

With four of his 14 professional season in the Western International League, Lefty Powell participated in League reunions years later. Left to right in this undated photo are: Alden Wilkie, Harvey Storey, Herm Reich, Joe Kralovich, Jack Colbern and Powell (Courtesy of Marc Blau collection).

After thoroughly researching the player, the veteran, and the uniform, we decided to move forward in negotiations to bring 1st Sergeant Larry Powell’s 18th Field Artillery uniform into the fold of the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection. Upon its arrival we conducted a thorough examination of the garments as we assessed the condition of the base wool flannel material, stitching, lettering, and embroidery. We checked for markings in each piece along with comparisons to other Lowe and Campbell wartime baseball uniforms to confirm the age. Of the issues noted, the most pressing concern lay with the back numerals as the fabric had separated from the stitching that affixed them to the base wool flannel. In the near future, we will be forced to address this issue to prevent further degradation and complete separation.

First Sergeant Larry “Lefty” Powell’s World War II baseball uniform from his time playing for the 18th Field Artillery Battalion (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)

One interesting nuance with the jersey surrounds the buttons. Of the six on the placket, only the bottom-most is original to the piece. It is quite possible that the repairs were made by Powell or on his behalf during the war, which necessitates leaving the replacements intact.

First Sergeant Lawrence M. “Lefty” Powell’s wartime baseball flannel will be exhibited publicly in the coming years and will be showcased to baseball fans in one of the cities where he played during his professional career.

See more:


[1] Selective Service Registration Card, Ancestry.com (accessed November 20, 2022).

[2] Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946, National Archives AAD (accessed November 20, 2022).

[3] “Camp Roberts Seeks Games; Larry Powell Ace of Staff,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1941: p23.

[4] “Powell to Pitch for Army Squad,” The Bakersfield Californian, August 2, 1941: p10.

[5] Funston Field (https://goodoldsandlotdays.com/medley/memories-of-the-game/182-funston-field-in-san-francisco-s-marina-district), Good Old Sandlot Days (accessed November 20, 2022).

[6] “Camp Roberts Plays in S.F.,” The San Francisco Examiner, August 19, 1941: p19.

[7] “Ted Williams Not To Attend Big Dinner,” Durham Morning Herald (Durham, NC) January 28, 1942: p8.

[8] “Training Briefs,” Salinas Morning Post (Salinas, CA) March 21, 1942: p7

[9] “Camp Roberts Nine is Due in Fresno Today,” The Fresno Bee The Republican, April 4, 1942: p8.

[10] “In Between Briefs,” Stockton Daily Evening Record (Stockton, CA) April 22, 1942: p14

[11] “Army Team: Camp Roberts to Clash With Gardners Sunday,” The Bakersfield Californian, April 25, 1942: p12.

[12] Oliver, Ted, “Rodeo Buffet Beaten, 30-5 By Strong Army Outfit at Spreckles,” Salinas Morning Post, May 26, 1942: p9

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Camp Roberts Beats Air Base Nine Twice,” The Californian (Salinas, CA), June 29, 1942: p7.

[15] “Larry Powell to Camp Claiborne,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA) January 7, 1943: p3

[16] Borba, Harry, “Side Lines,” The San Francisco Examiner, March 5, 1943: p23.

[17] Lemoore Army, All-Stars to Tangle Sunday,” Hanford Morning Journal (Hanford, CA), March 28, 1943: p7.

[18] “Powell Hurls No-Hitter for 18th Field Artillery,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, AL), August 22, 1943: p13.

[19] “Jackets Spoil 18th’s Record,” The Daily Oklahoman, August 5, 1943: p16.

[20] “’Logchips On The Way’ – History of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations,” U.S. Army, 1948: p13.

[21] Ibid.

[22] “Powell Home on Leave,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA) January 13, 19443: p4

[23] ’Logchips On The Way’ – History of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations,” U.S. Army, 1948: p13.

[24] Ibid: p31.

[25] Authorized by General Orders No. 103, dated November 13, 1945

[26] Authorized by General Orders No. 118, dated December 12, 1945

[27] Authorized by General Orders No. 114, dated December 7, 1945

[28] Authorized by General Orders No. 116, dated December 11, 1945

[29] Ibid: p32-57.

[30] “The Points Were All That Mattered: The US Army’s Demobilization After World War II, (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/points-system-us-armys-demobilization)” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans (accessed December 1, 2022)

[31] Weston, Joe, “1st Div. Nine 5-4 Winner in Strange Germany Test,” Southern France Stars and Stripes, July 13, 1945: p7.

[32] “Larry Powell is Pitching for the 71st Division,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA), August 30, 1945: p3.

[33] Final Pay Voucher, National Archives and Records Administration (accessed November 23, 2022)

[34] “Powell Holds Redbirds Hitless,” The San Francisco Examiner, March 13, 1946: p22.

[35] “Marty, Powell Draw Releases,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 1, 1946: p21.

[36] “Braves Sign Powell,” Oakland Tribune, May 2, 1946: p23

[37] “Braves Bits,” The Boston Globe, May 5, 1946: p34

[38] “Braves Announce Powell’s Release,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 9, 1946: p19.

[39] Larry Powell Obituary, The Fresno Bee, May 28, 2009

[40] “Inductees for 1972 (https://www.fresnoahof.org/year-list.php?y=1972),” Fresno Athletics Hall of Fame (accessed December 1, 2022)

Threads of Lefty: From Ace Farmhand to the GI World Series, Part I

This is the first of a two-part series: see Part II

After the dust settled following the Leghorn, Italy championship series that saw the All-Stars from European Theater of Operations (ETO) sweep the Mediterranean Command Champions in three games,[1] players returned to their units and awaited their ticket to sail across the Atlantic and be reunited with their families. The final game, played on September 26, 1945, was a 13-3 rout in front of a small crowd of 4,000 GI spectators. The starting pitcher for the ETO team, Ewell Blackwell, was not in peak form, giving up eight hits. “The Whip” hurled a clean game, walking none and striking out six. To commemorate their diamond dominance, Blackwell and his teammates were presented with wrist watches and gold medals by Colonel Roger Whitman in addition to the team’s championship cup.[2]

The ETO team consisted of select players predominantly from the Oise All-Stars from the Communication Zone (COM-Z) command and from the GI World Series losers, the 71st Infantry Division Red Circlers. Led by Oise All-Stars manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Sam Nahem, the ETO roster boasted stars including Harry “the Hat” Walker (Cardinals), Maurice Van Robays and Johnny Wyrostek (both Pirates), Blackwell (Reds), Tony Jaros (University of Minnesota) and Jim Gladd (Muskogee, Oklahoma).[3]

As the end of September was fast approaching, the long baseball season was finished. Many of the players who started off with their unit teams were already home ahead of the opening game of the GI World Series. Many of Ewell Blackwell’s 71st Division Red Circlers teammates were gone. The Red Circlers’ post-season roster was a veritable collection of baseball all-stars, an aggregation of men pulled together from several units.

Service personnel stationed throughout the European and the Mediterranean theaters experienced one of the most memorable baseball seasons after the Third Reich was defeated. More than 100,000 troops on hundreds of teams competed in local leagues with the winners advancing through regional championships and getting into the GI World Series and the ETO-MTO Championship series. In those last few rounds, the advancing clubs would raid the rosters of the vanquished opponents for the best players in order to tilt the odds in their favor and be the last team standing.

By the time the Red Circlers reached the GI World Series, their roster included several players from other ETO baseball teams, including the 1st, 5th, 65th and 76thA Infantry Divisions, as well as the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion and 16th Armored Division. Since acquiring in 2012 a scorecard from the August 7-9 Third Army Championship Series, considerable effort has been put forth to fully identify all the players listed for both teams. However, a handful of the names are still being researched with one man, catcher “Tauzlarich,”  identified only by his last name[4].

Among the 71st Division unidentified players listed on the Third Army Championship scorecard is a pitcher named “Powell.” Scouring several dozen articles of the 71st within the archives of Stars and Stripes and countless domestic newspapers, no mention is made of Powell or several others on the scorecard roster. Powell’s name appears once again in the late-August 1945 Southern Germany Baseball Championship scorecard[5], again without his first name. After the Red Circlers defeated the 29th Division’s Blues and Grays in the Southern Germany Championship series, they advanced to the GI World Series to face the Oise All-Stars. In all the published game summaries, Powell’s name is never mentioned, indicating that he likely did not appear in any of the five games. Who was Powell?

Through several years of researching for various Chevrons and Diamonds projects, we were able to positively identify most of the players printed on both teams’ rosters in the Third Army Championship scorecard. Powell’s identity still proved to be elusive; however, that was about to change.

Unlike the seemingly unending supply of World War II Pacific Theater game-used baseball militaria, items from the European Theater arrive on the market considerably less frequently. Listings for scorecards from the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series and the 1945 Navy World Series are recurrent throughout each year on popular auction sites. Conversely, in nearly 15 years we have accounted for five scorecards from the 1945 GI World Series games played at Nuremberg Stadium and single examples from preceding championship games played during the post VE-Day season. Pacific Theater vintage baseball photography, though quite rare, is far more easily curated than images from the championship games in Germany.

One of the most historically significant baseball uniforms of WWII, the Red Circlers of the 71st Infantry Division were the Third Army Champions, losing to the OISE All Stars in the ETO World Series. This jersey belonged to Herb Bremer (image source: Goldin Auctions).

In 2016, Goldin Auctions listed a 1945 Rawlings-made flannel set that that was attributed to the 1945 season in Germany. In black block felt lettering, “THIRD ARMY” was emblazoned across the chest of the jersey while a chain-stitched 71st Infantry Division unit insignia was sewn onto the left sleeve. The jersey’s manufacturer tag included the player’s name, “Bremer,” hand-inscribed in ink onto the tag. The matching trousers’ tag bore the name of a different player, “Ticco.” Authenticated by Dave Miedema as an authentic mid-1940s uniform, the set sold for more than $2500[6]. As an aside, the disparity of the inscribed names could be due to the player trading for a different size, though the chain of custody from 1945 through 2016 is not known, leaving questions as to how the jersey and trousers became paired (see: 1945 3rd Army Championship Flannel: Red Circlers of the 71st ID).

By defeating the 7th Army’s champion 29th Division and capturing the Third Army Championship crown, the Red Circlers of the 71st Division exchanged their unit togs to wear the Third Army flannels replete with their division insignia adorning the left sleeves. Entering the series with the Red Circlers, the Blue and Grays’ new uniforms featured an oversized, chain-stitched insignia on the left sleeves and the regulation “yin-yang” division insignia[7] patch on the right sleeves.

Wartime service baseball uniforms are truly scarce artifacts. The Third Army champion jersey worn by the 71st Division’s Herb Bremer is the one of few confirmed examples from the 1945 season. To date, no baseball uniforms from the Oise All-Stars, the Twenty-Ninth and Seventy-Sixth Divisions or any other championship teams from the 1945 ETO baseball leagues have surfaced in the last decade.

The Chevrons and Diamonds Collection of service-related baseball artifacts is diverse, with scorecards, programs, vintage photography, personal items, awards, and on-field equipment. Each item in our collection is rich in historic value and serves to tell the story of the game and the part it played in armed forces history. The story of baseball within the ranks of the armed forces is well told through artifacts. No doubt, “one picture is worth a thousand words,” as photographs capture the attention of a wide variety of audiences. However, there is one category of military baseball artifacts that tends to draw the most attention among our viewers, readers or visitors to our public exhibits.

Whether it is a basic uniform with block letters or something far more colorful or elaborate, the visual aesthetic of vintage baseball flannels captures the gaze of almost everyone who spots these treasures. Our collection features nearly 30 examples of service baseball uniforms that date from 1940 to the mid-1950s, though most are World War II era pieces. Some flannels are connected to players who played in the major leagues or to teams that featured former major leaguers, making those artifacts even more significant.

In August 2022, we were made aware of a uniform set consisting of a jersey, trousers, and stirrups along with the owner’s pre-war baseball undershirt from his minor league playing career. Photos of the uniform group showed a brilliant color scheme of red and blue on a cream white base. The jersey and trousers, matching the Lowe and Campbell manufacturer’s tag design, placed the uniform’s age in the early to mid-1940s. The photos of the jersey showed two different sets of numerals. The front athletic felt five-inch “18” was sewn into the left breast while the back featured a seven-inch “15.” Both sets of numerals were three-dimensional red over-blue in appearance. Extending from the sleeve edge to the base of the collar, the jersey was trimmed with a 3/4-inch blue rayon soutache centered and sewn to a two-inch red athletic felt band.

The trousers were adorned with matching trim extending down the out seams of each leg. The wide belt loops were colored in alternating red and blue

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the uniform was the 3-1/4-inch by 3-inch chain-stitched insignia emblazoned on the left sleeve of the 18th Field Artillery Battalion. With most U.S. Army shoulder sleeve uniform insignia approximately two inches, the oversized insignia adorning the baseball jersey was custom made. Embroidered with gold, red, and blue chain stitched over a royal blue felt shield, the insignia is similar to that of the 71st Infantry and 7th Army baseball uniform patches as well as the 69th Division cap insignia. All these emblems appear to have been sourced from local German embroiderers. The 1945 36th Infantry Division’s “Arrow Heads” had their team uniforms entirely crafted by a local manufacturer in Munich, indicating that the practice of utilizing local European craftsmen was not an uncommon practice for baseball uniform customization.

For more than two decades, this named 18th Field Artillery uniform group has been in the possession of a California-based collector who obtained it directly from the veteran, who was also a former minor league ballplayer. The name of the ballplayer was Lawrence M. “Lefty” Powell, who played professional baseball from 1937 to 1954, with a four-year break from 1941 through 1945 coinciding with World War II.

Larry “Lefty” Powell
Laurence Milton Powell was born on July 14, 1914, in Dinuba, California, a small agricultural community 30 miles southeast of Fresno. He was the second oldest of four sons of Samuel McCutcheon Powell and Ruth Elenor Craven. While all four boys were born in California, their father, a farmer employed in the area’s vineyards, was a native of Kentucky who was born four years after the Confederates’ surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Born in Yorkshire, England thirty-three years after her husband, Elenor immigrated with her parents and six siblings to the United States in 1899, settling in Fresno.

Larry Powell attended Bradley High School and was a factor in the team winning its division championship[8]. His high school coach, Jack Savory, taught him quite a bit about pitching and Powell carried his winning ways into the semipro ranks with the California State League’s Fresno Tigers in 1936. That season, the 21-year-old Powell caught the eye of the San Francisco Seals and was signed for the 1937 season. Seals manager Frank “Lefty” O’Doul had an opportunity to get a good look at his future hurler during an August 17 exhibition game at Fresno’s Frank Chance Field.[9]

Tucson Cowboys, 1937
After spending spring training in camp with the Seals, Larry Powell was farmed out to the Tucson Cowboys in the Class “D” Arizona-Texas League.[10] Under manager Harry Krause, Powell posted a 14-6 won-loss record in 161 innings. Krause, a longtime Pacific Coast League pitcher with Portland and Oakland, was also a member of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1908 to 1912, including their two World Series championship seasons. No doubt, Krause regaled the young left-handed hurler with stories of Athletics Hall of Fame pitchers Charles Bender and Eddie Plank. By early August, Powell was recalled to San Francisco, though he did not appear in any games that season.[11]

After the end of the 1937 season, San Francisco management considered Powell to be a great prospect who was not yet ready for the highly competitive Coast League. They were seeking to further develop the young pitcher in the low minor leagues. Speculation that fall was that Larry would be destined for the Class “B” Western International League’s Tacoma Tigers.[12] After signing his contract for the 1938 season, Powell reported to the Seals’ camp, though with the team having a full stable of arms, the green Powell was not likely to earn a spot on the San Francisco hurling staff.[13]

Tacoma Tigers, 1938
“Powell really has something and should be a regular,” said Seals public relations director, Walter “Duster” Mails. “He has developed a screw ball which affords him a good assortment with his fast one and change of pace and he should win some big games for us,” Mails continued. “One thing in Powell’s favor is he has the proper disposition to make good,” said the former southpaw pitcher and winner of Game 6 in the 1920 World Series for the Cleveland Indians.[14] Despite the heaps of praise from his Seals pitching coach, Powell was sent to Tacoma.

Larry “Lefty” Powell with the Tacoma Tigers, 1938 (Courtesy of the Marc Blau collection).

The 1938 Tacoma Tigers’ pitching staff led the Western International League in fewest runs allowed with a 4.09 per game average. However, the Tigers trailed all teams in both offense and fielding and finished last in the six-team standings. Powell’s second professional season saw him post another winning record at 14-10. In 224 innings, Lefty struck out 230 batters and walked only 86 and was stingy in allowing opponents to score. His earned run average was just 2.77. Towards the end of the season, Powell strung together six consecutive victories.[15]

San Francisco Seals, 1939
Powell’s 1938 season success earned him ascension to the Seals in 1939. On January 8, the lefty signed his contract and was slated to report to spring training.[16] There was excitement about the Seals’ strong pitching staff, which was set to be bolstered by young arms including that of “Lefty” Powell. “Powell is destined to be one of the really great pitchers in baseball,” Seals manager O’Doul told Prescott Sullivan. “He has a fine curve ball, a baffling screw ball, an adequate fast one and an understanding of pitching technique that is astonishing in a kid of his limited experience.” O’Doul astonishingly compared his young lefty to one of the best in the major leagues. “His control, right now, isn’t the best, but it will improve. When he gets that, he’ll be another Carl Hubbell. Mark my words,” O’Doul insisted.[17]

Lefty Powell was sold to the Red Sox as part of a $100,000 package deal along with Seals teammate, Dom DiMaggio (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Powell’s 1939 winning percentage was .522 or a game above .500. Looking solely at his 12-11 won-lost record, it would seem that his move to the Coast League was not that successful. However, his 2.79 ERA in 184 innings might have indicated a lack of run support more than pitching ineffectiveness. At the season’s outset, O’Doul predicted that he could easily win 20 games and mature into “one of the league’s best drawing cards.[18]

The Seals finished 4.5 games behind the Coast League champions that season. Powell’s teammate, Dom DiMaggio, the youngest of the famed baseball brothers, finished the season atop four of the league’s offensive categories: hits (249), triples (18), stolen bases (39) and runs scored (165). Major league clubs took notice of the young centerfielder, which led to the Seals selling their star to the Boston Red Sox on November 3. It was not enough to simply take the outfielder as the Boston brain trust of owner Tom Yawkey and general manager Eddie Collins also wanted the rising star pitcher and purchased the pair in a package deal for an unheard of sub-$100,000 price tag (reported to be in excess of $70,000[19]). Recognizing Powell’s need for continued development, Red Sox management promptly optioned Powell back to San Francisco for the 1940 season.[20]

1940
Powell’s second season with the Seals was not as successful despite his equaling his 1939 12-win total against fewer (7) losses. Powell appeared in seven fewer contests (23) and made three less starts (21). His ERA climbed by nearly a full run to 3.57. For Powell, 1940 was a step in the wrong direction. “The highly touted left hander, who has already been sold for 1941 delivery to the big leagues, has been a distinct flop,” wrote the Oakland Tribune’s Lee Dunbar. “It is true Powell has won more than he lost but has not been at all impressive in his games. The kid looked like a great pitching prospect last year but this season has demonstrated little of the ability that made him a standout 12 months ago.” Dunbar concluded.[21] “Lefty” was having some control problems in the early goings of the season.

Seals trainer, Bobby Johnson, works on Lefty Powell’s pitching arm (The Fresno Bee, 3/13/1938)

By late May, Powell was among the Pacific Coast League’s leading pitchers with a 7-1 won-lost record, but sportswriters continued to observe his diminished brilliance from 1939. “Larry Powell’s defections are more mental than physical, amateur analysts contend,” Abe Kemp wrote. “They argue that the focal point of his trouble lies in his mind and not in his left arm, or left shoulder, as is popularly supposed.”[22] Despite speculations, it was becoming clear that Powell was struggling with a physical issue. Through eight innings in a June 15 game against Los Angeles, Powell, having held the Angels to one hit, was lifted by O’Doul due to arm pain. [23] As the summer continued, the pitcher showed signs of recovering from his ailment. Under the watchful eyes of the visiting Director of Minor League Operations, Herb Pennock, the Seals continued to send the hurler to the mound for scheduled starts in early July. While he notched a win in one game, he was shelled in another.

On July 16, Powell was shut down by Dr. Floyd St. Clair, who stated that he could return in ten days. The doctor explained that “muscles in Powell’s left shoulder were sore but would respond to treatment.”[24] The physician’s comments, by contemporary standards of sports medicine, demonstrated the risks that pitchers faced. “Powell has one of the finest arms that I have ever examined,” Dr. St. Clair boasted to Seals trainer Robert Johnson. “It is an arm that any young man should be proud of.” Unfortunately for Powell, the Seals and the Red Sox, the injury was likely to be considerably more serious and a few days’ rest could not possibly heal the hidden structural damage. “The boy has a sore spot in his left shoulder, but it is nothing alarming,” St. Clair insisted. “Time and rest will restore his arm to normal.”[25]

Lefty Powell (The San Francisco Examiner 5/30/1939)

Sportswriters were not convinced of the doctor’s prognosis nor the pitcher’s prospects of remaining on the Seals’ staff. Art Cohn of the Oakland Tribune suggested that Powell was lost for the season, quoting then baseball historian Bob Hunter of the Los Angeles Examiner, “Stupid handling of Powell as a starting pitcher for the past few weeks hasn’t helped his condition, morale or the Seals,” and then chided the Seals manager, “Are ya listening, Mr. O’Doul?”[26] Cohn’s criticism of O’Doul was just the beginning. Curly Grieve of the San Francisco Examiner rang the alarm bell for Boston to get their star pitcher out of San Francisco In a scathing column on July 28.[27]

Calling Powell’s situation one of the “minor tragedies of the current baseball season,” Curly Grieve meted out blame for Powell’s arm troubles to all involved. Almost excusing Powell’s concealing of his pain due to his fears of accusations of shirking his duties and his status as the property of a major league club, Powell pitched through the pain early in the season. By the time that it became obvious to all concerned that there was a problem, he finally conceded to the team that “something gave way” during a series with the Hollywood Stars. However, Grieve then addressed the failure of medical personnel in what he labeled “another series of semi-tragic incidents.” Citing an early diagnosis from Dr. St. Clair, “There’s nothing wrong with that wing that pitching won’t cure,” Grieve then took aim at the Seals’ management for sending Powell out to the mound repeatedly, referring to the diagnosis as an indictment of Powell, asserting that he was then judged as a “quitter, a bellyacher, a traitor to his club.”[28]

Onward Powell pitched and had some success; however, his health continued to deteriorate as the season progressed. “He lost weight, his health was obviously affected,” Grieve noted. “He broke down completely two weeks ago yesterday. Starting against Seattle, he hurled one and one third innings. By that time, it was evident he had nothing at all on the ball and he was removed.” The psychological impact was exacting a toll upon the pitcher. “On the bench, he wept unashamedly. Tears coursed down his face. He was so distressed that Manager O’Doul had to escort him to the clubhouse and console him.”[29] It was during his second visit to Dr. St. Clair on July 16 that other health issues were observed during Powell’s examination. “It was discovered that two teeth were infected, that the left shoulder muscle was sore.” Powell’s teeth were extracted and he developed a fever. He was subsequently hospitalized as his body was fighting an infection. An abscess in his throat was discovered and it required surgical attention.[30]

Dr. St. Clair’s outlook that “Powell’s arm will give him no more trouble. He’ll be able to take his turn on the mound within fifteen days,” raised even greater concern for Curley Grieve. “Personally, I think it will take him a month to recover from the shock of treatment, build up his health, recover his poise, get his arm into shape. But I’m no expert.” Grieve’s closing comments suggested that Powell’s career and Boston’s investment were doomed if the pitcher remained in San Francisco. “The whole affair has been bungled abominably so far,” the columnist wrote. “If I were Joe Cronin of the Red Sox, I’d call Powell to Boston to be sure that his arm is ready before he pitches. Proceed with caution. A kid’s whole future hangs in the balance.”[31]

Forty-three days after being shut down, Powell returned to the mound at San Diego’s Lane Field against the Padres. Powell went the distance in the 5-4 victory, surrendering seven hits while striking out four and walking none. It appeared that the injury and the mishandling of it were behind him, and the Red Sox announced that Powell was being recalled to Boston for the 1941 season. A glimmer of light began to return to the pitcher’s outlook as he beat the Hollywood Stars on September 1 for his twelfth and final win of the season.

Boston sportswriters were far from optimistic despite Powell’s apparent recovery. “Larry Powell, due for 1941 delivery to the Sox in the rest of the Dom DiMaggio deal,” Steve O’Leary of the North Adams (Massachusetts) Transcript reported, “has been under treatment with a sore arm for several weeks.”[32] By December, Powell was cleared for his call up to Boston. “Coast officials gave the Sox good reports today on Larry Powell,” The Boston Globe reported that the young pitcher would be reporting to Sarasota, Florida for Red Sox spring training.

1941, Boston Red Sox
The start of the new year signaled the beginning of contract-signing season. As general managers prepare for spring training, contracts are mailed to players with the terms and compensation for the coming season. It is also the time when players, seeking better terms than being offered by their clubs, hold out rather than simply agree and sign. The Pacific Coast League’s reputation for better compensation than typical first-year major league salaries meant that players like Powell were taking sizeable pay cuts to play at the higher level.

At home in Reedley, California, Powell responded to Fresno Bee beat reporter Ed Orman’s inquiry about the status of his contract. “I had it with me for about a week,” Powell told Orman, “I thought it over, and then just mailed it back last Friday, the pitcher continued. “It seems to be the privilege or rather custom of ball players to fire back contracts they receive when first going to the big leagues.” Powell declined to sign the Red Sox’s contract, “If they get you down in salary, they are likely to keep you there. Maybe they will think more of sending it back. I hope so. Though I do not anticipate any trouble,” Powell stated with confidence.[33] A brief time later, Powell signed with the Red Sox [34] and was ready to report for spring training.

Powell’s prospects with the Red Sox, in all appearances, seemed to be bright. “I know Larry Powell,” Red Sox star Dom DiMaggio told the Boston Globe, speaking about the class of incoming rookies, “They’re all liable to make the grade this spring. Boy, they are all pretty good,” DiMaggio asserted. “I’m only glad these boys are on my team and not against me.”[35]

At camp, “Lefty” Powell, along with other rookie pitchers, began to work with future Hall of Famer, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove in the development of pitching mechanics and strategy.[36] In Boston’s first contest of the spring, an intrasquad game on March 6, Powell hurled the first three innings, surrendering two runs on two hits and a pair of walks. Melville Webb commented, “Possibly the most encouraging feature from the standpoint of the boxwork [pitching] was that left-hander Larry Powell, from the Coast, started away by pitching nine balls off the plate and then settled down to look mighty good.”[37] In another intrasquad game, Powell used his curve and screwball to strike out three, including catching Jimmie Foxx and Tom Carey looking. “Powell looked better than previously, showing a fine curve ball and a ‘screw ball’ pitch over which he had excellent control,” Melville Webb wrote on March 13.[38]

Reports from Red Sox spring training began have a less favorable tone regarding Powell’s efforts. In a March 17 game against the International League’s Newark Bears, Powell pitched the first three innings, surrendering six hits, walking two and fanning five. Melville Web noted that Powell had “good control but not much on the ball.”[39] Newark batters feasted on Powell, plating three of their runs in the first inning, though the Sox prevailed, 6-4. The performance against the Bears showed that he needed more work, or perhaps he was hampered by his shoulder injury. Regardless of the reason, 24-year-old Powell would not be part of the Red Sox opening day roster. He was optioned to the Louisville Colonels of the class “AA” American Association on March 22.[40]

Louisville Colonels
Powell’s struggles continued in Kentucky. By the end of April, his pitching accounted for two wins, but his control problems were showing as he had amassed 17 walks. The club was counting on Powell returning to 1939 form; however, it was not materializing with the Colonels. In his second consecutive victory, he issued nine free passes to Minneapolis Miller batters. His walks-per-game ratio was hovering near 7.5, though Louisville management was convinced he would help the club to a championship.[41]

By mid-May, Powell had lost his starting role and was pitching in relief. In a May 15 game against the Indianapolis Indians, the left-hander entered the game in the fifth inning after starter Bill Sayles was touched for runs in each inning to give the opponent a 6-0 lead. Powell stopped the bleeding, allowing three hits and one run in the 7-2 loss.[42] Four days later, the Colonels cut their losses and dropped Powell from their roster.[43]  He was sent down to class “A” Scranton of the Eastern League on May 19, but he refused to report and was returned to Boston. The Red Sox sent the pitcher back to the West Coast, optioning the former Seal to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League on May 25.[44] The Oroville Mercury Register’s Bill Dolan called Powell’s demotion, “the number one Coast League let down” for former league pitchers in the major leagues.[45]

San Diego Padres
With his major league hopes on hold, Larry Powell signed with the Padres, only to receive his Selective Service draft notice a few weeks later. The pitcher was ordered to report to local draft board 124 on May 24 for his pre-induction physical examination.[46] San Diego seemed to be what the doctor ordered for turning his pitching fortunes around as Powell was showing flashes of his 1939 season. He was 2-0, having appeared in five games for the Padres with three complete games. On July 8, Powell received a call up that he was expecting but not anticipating. Instead of taking the hill for the Red Sox, the pitcher was added to the ranks of the U.S. Army on July 9.[47]

Also read:

Continue to Part II


[1] Slocum, Charles, “ETO Sweeps Series By Defeating MTO in 3rd Game, 13-3,” The Stars and Stripes, September 27, 1945: p7.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “E. T. O. Baseball Champs To Play Mediterranean,” The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), September 14, 1945: p26.

[4] “Third Army Baseball Championship” scorecard (http://bit.ly/3hxPOA9), Chevrons and Diamonds (accessed November 13, 2022).

[5] “Championship Baseball – Third Army vs Seventh Army” scorecard (http://bit.ly/3EtzU2N), Chevrons and Diamonds (accessed November 13, 2022).

[6] “1940s Herb Bremer World War II Third Army Game Used Flannel Baseball Jersey & Period Style Pants: Lot 318 (https://goldinauctions.com/1940s_herb_bremer_world_war_ii_third_army_game_use-lot28705.aspx),” Goldin Auctions (accessed November 13, 2022).

[7] Myers, Meghann, “The 29th Infantry Division gets to keep its Confederacy-themed patch (https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2022/08/01/the-29th-infantry-division-gets-to-keep-its-confederacy-themed-patch),” Military Times, August 1, 2022 (accessed November 13, 2022).

[8] “Larry Powell Pitches Way to Sightseeing Tour,” The Tacoma News Tribune, April 23, 1938: p7.

[9] Orman, Ed, “S.F. Seals And Fresno Tigers Clash To-night,” The Fresno Bee – The Republican, August 17, 1936: p6.

[10] “14 Players Chosen For Tucson Baseball Team,” Tucson Daily Citizen, April 3, 1937: p4.

[11] Kemp, Abe, “Locals Make Good,” The San Francisco Examiner, August 6, 1937: p23.

[12] Walton, Dan, “Sportologue,” The Tacoma News Tribune, November 19, 1937: p16.

[13] Newland, Russ, “Seal Squad In Running,” The Tacoma News Tribune, February 18, 1936: p14.

[14] Orman, Ed W., “Sport Thinks: Praise For Powell,” The Fresno Bee – The Republican, March 10, 1938: p16.

[15] “Tigers Defeat Vancouver For Fifth Straight Win,” The Tacoma News Tribune, September 13, 1938: p12.

[16] “Contract Signed by Larry Powell,” The Tacoma Times, January 8, 1939: p10.

[17] Sullivan, Prescott, “Low Down,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 11, 1939: p27.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Kemp, Abe, “Putnam’s Ballyhoo Missed in Baseball Deal,” The San Francisco Examiner, December 26, 1939: p20

[20] Dom DiMaggio Bought By Sox in Seals’ Deal,” The Boston Globe, November 13, 1939: p6.

[21] Dunbar, Lee, “The Bull Pen,” Oakland Tribune, April 28, 1940: pA11.

[22] Kemp, Abe, “On The Nose,” The San Francisco Examiner, June 9, 1940: p54.

[23] “Angels Outlast San Francisco, 5-4, The Pasadena Post, June 16, 1940: p18.

[24] Kemp, Abe,” Doctor Tells Larry Powell He’ll Be Ready in 10 Days,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 17, 1941: p15.

[25] Kemp, Abe, “On The Nose,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 18, 1940: p26.

[26] Cohn, Art, “Cohn-ing Tower,” Oakland Tribune, July 19, 1940: p27.

[27] Grieve, Curly, “Sports Parade,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 28, 1940: p43.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] O’Leary, “New England Sports,” The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, MA), August 13, 1941: p11.

[33] Orman, Ed, “Sport Thinks, The Fresno Bee The Republican, January 29, 1941: p12.

[34] “Sport Chatter,” Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, MA), February 5, 1941: p11.

[35] “Dom DiMaggio Here for Dinner,” The Boston Globe, January 29, 1941: p19.

[36] “Pitchers! Pitchers! Pitchers!.” The Boston Globe, March 1, 1941: p6.

[37] Webb, Melville, “Red Sox Warm Up With Win Over Their Yannigans, 5 to 3,” The Boston Globe, March 7, 1941: p26.

[38] Webb, Melville, “Sox Given Chance to Develop Flair,” The Boston Globe, March 13, 1941: p20.

[39] Webb, Melville, “Butland Fans Five as Sox Win, 6-4,” The Boston Globe, March 18, 1941: p20.

[40] Fitzgerald, Tommy, “Bosox Option Pair, Third Man Bought,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), March 23, 1941: p46.

[41] Associated Press, “Colonels Expect Lots From Powell,” Muncie Evening Press (Muncie, IN), April 26, 1941: p8.

[42] “Indians Blast Colonels,” The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana), May 16, 1941: p13.

[43] “Larry Powell Dropped From Roster of Colonels,” The Owensboro Messenger (Owensboro, KY), May 21, 1941: p6.

[44] Orman, Ed, “Sport Thinks,” The Fresno Bee The Republican, June 3, 1941: p20.

[45] Dolan, Bill, “Errors Lose 11-9 Game for Oroville,” Mercury Register (Oroville, CA), July 11, 1941: p2.

[46] “Coast Hurler to Army,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) June 22, 1941: p15

[47] Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946, National Archives AAD (accessed November 20, 2022).

Deceptively Authentic: Always Practice Due Diligence Before Buying

In the past several months, Chevrons and Diamonds has fielded several inquiries from interested collectors, baseball and militaria collectors and potential buyers regarding a vintage military baseball uniform group that has been listed online for months with an asking price nearing $9000.00. 

After glancing at the listing’s photos, the jersey, trousers, and ball cap uniform grouping is quite remarkable in terms of condition and authenticity. The Rawlings manufacturer’s tags in both the jersey and trousers are what one would expect to see in a flannel set from the 1940s. The Special Services U.S. Army tags are also correct for the era. The dark blue (nearly black), six-panel ball cap with white soutache applied to the panel seams is also a fantastic piece, featuring Wilson’s own Special Services U.S. Army tag. There is nothing about the group that would be cause for concern. Issues lie within how the uniform group is presented to potential buyers. 

Buy the item, not the story. 
Collectors are often lulled into overspending or making foolish purchases for items that are presented with a fantastic narrative from the seller. Often, the stories are so incredibly concocted that even the most seasoned collectors set aside reason in order to make a dream acquisition.  

While it is quite easy to lambaste sellers who present wonderful stories, they are not necessarily the authors of the stories they associate with their items. However, for those who do concoct narratives and combine them with incredibly inflated prices, it is not a difficult step to call attention to nefarious activities. 

The current owner’s listing has the price discounted from $8995 which is more than 10-times what it was sold for in 2021 (eBay screenshot, August 2022).

WW2 U.S. 3rd Army Baseball Championship Nurnberg, Germany Soldiers Field August 7, 8, & 9th 1945 Uniform Jersey, Pants, & Cap of 76th Infantry 3rd Army Baseball Player Lawrence James McNeely #4 (b. 26 Oct 1919 – d. 7 June 2002) US Army Service from 28 Dec 1942 – 28 Jan 1946.  The uniform jersey is tagged ‘Rawlings St. Louis U.S. Army Special Services Size 42’ and remains in fine condition, the trousers are similarly tagged in size 34 also remain in fine condition, and the cap is tagged ‘Special Service U.S. Army Wilson’ (larger size) Lawrence “Larry” McNeely additionally played Minor League Baseball in 1941 for Sioux Falls and again in 1946 / 47 St. Cloud and 1948 St. Hyacinthe.  McNeely went on to study law and had a law practice until retirement.  Estate of Lawrence J. McNeely (SIC)”

eBay seller, tortugaacquisitions, August 25, 2022 

The uniform is authentic, but when was it used? 
Emblazoned across the front of the size-42 jersey in royal blue block letters between two equal length horizontal bars, “THIRD ARMY” is spelled out quite beautifully. Flanking each edge of the button placket are two thin black rayon soutache strands that encircle the standard open collar. The sleeves feature single strands of the same material placed approximately 3/4-inch from the cuff edges. Sewn to the jersey’s back is a single numeral, “4,” in royal blue, corresponding to the front lettering. The matching size-34 trousers lack adornments entirely.  

Scorecard lineups from the August 1945 Third Army Championship series held at Nuremberg Stadium (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

None of the pieces in the group are marked with the player’s name, Army laundry tag or anything that could assist in identifying the veteran who wore it. The seller implies, though never explicitly states, that the group came from a known professional ballplayer, Lawrence J. “Larry” McNeely, “Estate of Lawrence J. McNeely,” but fails to provide any provenance in the listing, which should be a red flag for potential buyers. Also provided with the listing images is a “borrowed” image of the Third Army Championship scorecard from our online library. The auction item’s description also includes sourced text from one of our articles describing the Third Army Championship Series games, appearing to many who have reached out to us to be an implied Chevrons and Diamonds authentication of the seller’s listing. 

Regardless of the price tag of the item, collectors must perform their due diligence prior to making a purchase. So far, many are taking steps to research this Third Army baseball uniform group before being drawn into a heavily overpriced group. One of the overarching questions regarding the authenticity of the auction listing posed to Chevrons and Diamonds focuses on the assertion that this group was worn for the Third Army Championship. 

WW2 U.S. 3rd Army Baseball Championship Nurnberg, Germany Soldiers Field August 7, 8, & 9th 1945 Uniform Jersey, Pants, & Cap of 76th Infantry 3rd Army Baseball Player Lawrence James McNeely #4” 

Regarding the 1945 Third Army Championship game between the 71st Infantry Division’s Red Circlers and the 76th Infantry Division’s Onaways, only the victorious team would go on to wear uniforms emblazoned with Third Army adornments in the 1945 GI World Series. Erroneously suggested by the seller, 76th ID player McNeely wore this uniform in the losing effort against the Red Circlers.  

Another issue with the seller’s listing resides in the false claim that the uniform dates to 1945. Unfortunately for the seller, and quite fortunate for potential buyers, a verified and named example of an actual 1945 Third Army Champions jersey exists and was sold through Goldin Auctions on January 29, 2017. The jersey and trousers, coincidently bearing the same Rawlings and Special Services U.S. Army tags, were worn by Red Circlers (and former St. Louis Cardinals) catcher, Herb Bremer. Both the jersey and trousers are named (the trousers are named to Red Circlers first baseman Milt Ticco, likely provided to Bremer during the GI World Series).

The 60th Infantry Regiment “Go Devils” sporting their “Third Army” uniforms following their clinching of the championship heading into the 1946 G.I. World Series. Identified players are: (back row) Durban, Cliff Ratliff, Bob Morgan, Joe Moresco, Jim Patterson, Bill Sharp, Jerry Weston, Floyd Gurney, Bill Kurey and George Zallie. In the second row are Fay Starr (third from left) and Carl Scheib (far right).

Some behind the scenes collector speculation surrounding the auction listing is that the uniform group might date to the following season, when some former major and minor league players were still serving a full year after the German surrender. While it certainly is an avenue worthy of exploration, this particular road leads to an abrupt end for two reasons. First, following Larry McNeely’s January, 1946 discharge from the Army, his professional baseball career was reinstated on February 8, 1946 as he resumed play with the class “C” Northern League’s St. Cloud Rox, which eliminates him from having worn the uniform that year. The second and more defining reason is that the 60th Infantry Regiment “Go-Devils” team, featuring former Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Carl Scheib (see: Pro Ball Players Still Filled Army Rosters in 1946: “Go Devils” G.I. World Series Champs), wore an entirely different Third Army championship uniform. 

In answering a frequent follow-up question as to the seller’s false usage assertion, the year that this grouping was worn is not specifically known. The immaculate condition of the material, including the apparent absence of dirt or grass stains, could indicate that the uniform was unused and not worn by any ballplayer. While post-war occupation duties continued for the U.S. Armed Forces, the Third Army was recalled back to the United States in 1947. Perhaps the veteran who owned this group was discharged following the Third Army’s transition back the States.  

Originally sold through Manion’s in 1992 
The seller’s inference that the uniform group originated in McNeely’s estate is a false claim. While we are unaware of how the group reached the current owner’s possession, we do know the person who owned it in May-June of 2021 when he had it listed at auction. That particular seller, “Stan” (we will not disclose his full identity), had also listed the group as the 1945 Third Army Champions.  

The 2021 listing showing the seller’s $875 listing price (he offered it at a considerable discount) though it was significantly overpriced (eBay screenshot, June 2021).

“This is unquestionably one of the RAREST and UNIQUE items I acquired in 25+ years of collecting:  A COMPLETE 3rd Army Baseball uniform, as worn during the Occupation of Germany following VE-Day!  I was lucky enough to be the successful bidder for the uniform in the late, great Manion’s International Auction back on September 26, 1992, almost thirty years ago! Since that time, it’s been carefully stored in a mothproof environment in my storage.  The 3rd Army “Red Circlers” of the 71st Infantry Division went on to win the “1945 GI World Series” in the sixth game at Soldier’s Field in Nuremberg, no doubt to the great satisfaction of General George S. Patton, Jr. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate a team roster to determine who wore number 4, so if anyone has access to that roster, I would appreciate hearing from you.   

The uniform is comprised of the following items:  

(1) A wool worsted jersey, number “4” on the back, size 42″ chest;  

(2) A pair of wool worsted “knicker” style baseball pants, size 34″ waist;  

(3) A wool worsted baseball cap, size 7-1/4 to 7-3/8; and  

(4) A pair of modern baseball “cleats”, size 10-11, which I wore during my play in American Legion baseball.  All three uniform items are labeled “Special Services U.S. Army” (see images).   

The jersey and pants were manufactured by Rawlings and are so labeled in the neck and waist band, respectively.  The cap was manufactured by Wilson Sports Equipment and is labeled in the leather sweatband. The actual measurements of the jersey lying flat are as follows: (1) Chest 22.5″ from armpit to armpit; (2) Short sleeves 9.25″; (3) Waist 23″; and Overall length 31″. The actual measurements of the pants are as follows: (1) Waist 34″; Inseam 24″; and Overall or “Outseam” length 33.5″.  The uniform will easily fit a man of 6′ and 180 pounds, perhaps heavier if slim at the waist.  The uniform is in VERY GOOD condition with minor soiling here and there and slight yellowing of the white wool, but nothing unattractive.  The cap still has strong dark blue color with a supple leather sweatband.”

eBay seller, stan****, May 28, 2021

Following a lengthy exchange of correspondence with the seller, he recognized that the uniform group he acquired from Manion’s in 1992 was from a later year following the 1946 season and corrected his listing to reflect the information we provided regarding the 1945 and 1946 teams and their respective uniforms. 

Upon seeing tortugaacquisitions’ listing, we contacted and provided the seller with the correct information along with a request for cessation of incorporating our content into the listing. Rather than responding or taking corrective action, the seller blocked our account, preventing the receipt of further communication from us. 

Semper Diligens 
It is unfortunate that individuals and businesses knowingly present false information to defraud buyers while garnering considerable, ill-gained profit. The motivations of tortugaacquisitions are entirely unknown to us and we will refrain from making accusations of fraud or intentionally misleading claims regarding this or any other listings by the seller. One of the primary objectives of Chevrons and Diamonds is to provide our readers with research data, photographic evidence and artifacts serving as a trusted, reliable and growing reference resource.

Forging Ahead: An Early 1950s Navy Flannel

On June 25, 1950, the Communist Korean People’s Army (KPA) headed south, crossing the border, the 38th parallel, invading the southern part of the Korean Peninsula in open warfare against the free people of the Republic of Korea and igniting what would be known as the Korean War. That same day, lying at anchor in Hong Kong harbor, the commanding officer of the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) received orders to weigh anchor and set a course for Okinawa after a stop at Naval Station Subic Bay for replenishment. 

USS Valley Forge (CV-45) as she appeared during the Korean War (source: Naval History and Heritage Command)

Eight days after pulling up anchor in Hong Kong, the first carrier strikes of the Korean War flew from the flight deck of the Valley Forge. Multiple waves of naval aircraft were launched from the carrier against ground targets in Pyongyang, including a military airfield, rail yards and fuel depots. The Valley Forge had prop aircraft, including the WWII Navy and Marine Corps fighter Vought F4U Corsair and the Douglas A-1 Skyraider that debuted following the end of that war. Another historic aspect of these first strikes was the first use of jet fighter aircraft as Valley Forge’s Grumman FPF Panthers downed Soviet-made Yakovlev Yak-9 fighters attempting to intercept the strikes. 

USS Valley Forge remained on station for the next few months. The United States began landing troops at Inchon in late September with the ship’s aircraft providing cover. Valley Forge concluded her first wartime deployment and departed Korean waters in late November, having conducted more than 5,000 combat sorties. By the spring of 1953, USS Valley Forge was a veteran of four combat tours during the Korean War. 

This ten-minute film, “A Fighting Lady Speaks,” documents USS Valley Forge’s Korean War service.

During arduous deployments, the intensity of a combat-focused operational pace without breaks can be a detriment for warship crews. Recreation is a requirement for crews to maintain focus and to keep skills sharp. Without intervals of rest and recreation, the forces of a ship can be vulnerable to complacency and accidents. During World War II, baseball was at its zenith in popularity both in the public and military spheres. Bases, units, ships and squadrons fielded teams whose rosters were often dotted with former professionals ranging from minor to major leaguers. Ships were not as fortunate as Navy shore commands in having multiple former pros in their ranks. This tended to level the playing field among seagoing commands. 

World War II Marine Corps veteran fighter pilot and New York Yankees second baseman Jerry Coleman flew 63 combat missions during the Korean War (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

During the Korean War, the selective service pulled many ballplayers into the armed forces, though few of those draftees made it onto shipboard crews. In addition, select WWII veteran baseball players (such as Marine Corps fighter pilots Ted Williams and Jerry Coleman) who were still in the military reserve were activated. Hundreds of ballplayers served during the Korean War, compared to nearly 5,000 during the previous war. At present, 24 players are known to have lost their lives in the service during the Korean War. Eighteen were either killed in action or died of wounds.  

With one of the three New York major league teams in each World Series from 1950 through 1958 (the relocated Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the White Sox to close out the decade), the increased television audiences and the continued integration of the sport, the game of baseball was increasing in popularity. Though force levels were diminutive during the Korean War by comparison to manning during WWII, baseball was still the dominant sport in the military within organized leagues and ad hoc recreation. 

This USS Valley Forge (CV-45) baseball flannel uniform was used by the ship’s team during the early 1950s is shown here with our 1949-dated U.S.-stamped Bobby Doerr signature glove and 1964 model R43 Yogi Berra Naval Academy bat (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

When a colleague informed us of an available item of interest, it was a shock when we saw what was being offered. Though this group was not as historically awe-inspiring as some of the flannels in our collection, seeing the jersey and trouser set left us nearly frantic as we began to make acquisition arrangements. The simplistic road gray flannel is adorned with a subtle, four-piece emblem stitched to the jersey’s left breast. Spelling out the ship’s name, “Valley Forge,” the “V” and “F” are two-pie, red-over-navy athletic felt letters while the script lettering completing the wordmarks is chain stitched in dark navy directly onto the flannel. The back is adorned with “25” in the same two-color athletic felt as on the jersey’s front. Adorning the jersey’s sleeves and the out-seam of the trousers is a navy-red-navy rayon band of soutache. 

The flannel set is excellent. There is some visible wear, such as the back numerals showing signs of separation. Visible on the legs and seat of the trousers are field stains with a small hole. All the buttons are present and the zipper on the jersey functions flawlessly. 

Captured from a page of the 1952-56 USS Valley Forge cruise book, this photo shows the uniform worn by two unidentified ballplayers (source: USS Valley Forge CV-45 cruise book)
Page 52 of the Valley Forge’s 1952-56 book spotlights the ship’s athletics including baseball.

Photos in the corresponding USS Valley Forge cruise book show both the home flannel baseball uniform (with the ship’s name spelled out in an arc across the chest) and an image of players wearing the road uniform. 

The USS Valley Forge was authorized by Congress in June, 1943 and was the 24th of 26 Essex class aircraft carriers. Hull CV-37 was originally destined to carry the Valley Forge name; however, following the loss of the USS Princeton (CVL-23) during the battle of Leyte Gulf on October 24, 1944, the hull was renamed to honor the lost carrier. USS Valley Forge was christened more than two months after VJ–Day on November 5, 1945 and commissioned a year later. It served for more than 23 years. 

With service in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Valley Forge earned eight battle stars. While four of her sisters (Yorktown, Intrepid, Hornet and Lexington) survive and presently serve as museum ships, groups were unsuccessful in raising funds to preserve Valley Forge for such service. The retired carrier was sold for scrap in 1971. 
 


Originally in the collection of a veteran of the Valley Forge, this uniform was passed on to our colleague by the son of the veteran, who stated that his father did not play baseball. He was uncertain of the reason his father had the flannels in his possession. Regardless of the associated narrative, the group is a fantastic addition to the Chevrons and Diamonds baseball uniform collection.  

“Lucky Phoenix” – Pearl Harbor Survivor

Barely three years old in 1941, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL-46) was homeported in San Pedro, California, and operated in the Pacific between Hawaii and the west coast of the United States. With the fires of war raging in the Western Pacific and Europe, the U.S. Navy was amid a build-up of both manpower and equipment and was conducting exercises to prepare for war in case the forces of Japan demonstrated aggression against American interests. USS Phoenix, since her commissioning in October, 1938, was heavily involved in training operations and fleet exercises, with considerable time at sea. 

Months before President Roosevelt signed the executive order enacting the peacetime Selective Service Act, Vincent Burnell Gunderson enlisted into the United States Navy in Chicago, Illinois, on July 10, 1940. Upon completion of training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station north of Chicago, Apprentice Seaman Gunderson was transferred to the USS Phoenix, reporting aboard on October 5, 1940, soon after the ship returned from her summer South American goodwill cruise. 

In the Far East, Japanese forces had a stranglehold on China, with nearly 30 divisions including artillery, cavalry and armored units expanding their grip. In addition, the Imperial Japanese Navy was an intimidating presence as it vied for control over shipping lanes. German raiders were operating in the Western Pacific, opportunistically seizing merchant vessels and crews, making the situation on the high seas and waters surrounding American-held territories tenuous. The War Department leadership began to bolster and reinforce military bases in the Pacific and increase the fleet presence at Pearl Harbor, shifting ships from the U.S. West Coast. 

The Hawaiian Islands in the 1930s and through 1941 were truly an oasis. Bases were spread throughout Oahu and the outlying islands and American service members found an idyllic setting while serving, with a year-round pleasant tropical climate, beautiful beaches and plenty of leisure activities to occupy off-duty hours. Baseball was king of sports activities to play or to watch and more than 100,000 GIs were among the territory’s population. 

Our USS Phoenix baseball flannel was in rough condition and heavily soiled when we acquired it along with Fire Controlman 2/c Gunderson’s service uniforms (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

In the spring of 1941, the USS Phoenix was operating out of Pearl Harbor and her baseball team saw sporadic action against Oahu-based service teams. Seaman 2/c Gunderson, a member of the Phoenix roster, likely participated in games on the island. 

On Sunday, March 31, 1941, the USS Phoenix ball club was beaten, 6-4, by the Primo Beer nine, a team slated to enter the Oahu National League. Hal Crider and Sahoffer were the top hitters for Phoenix while the Primo batters stroked 11 hits off pitcher “Yank” Yonick. Phoenix batsmen touched Primo hurlers Frank Felles and Eddie Bahr for nine safeties in the loss. The 10-inning game was played at a ballpark in Waikiki near the old boat house. 

“The sailors are touted as being big-timers,” The Honolulu Advertiser wrote of the USS Phoenix ball club as they were set to take on the 21st Infantry “Gimlets” on Friday, May 2, 1941. On Friday, May 10, 1941, Fort Kamehameha defeated USS Phoenix, 6-3, in a 6-inning contest that was the second game of a double-header for the “Kams.” The Gimlets were the eventual champions of the 21st Infantry League for the season. 

The Phoenix battery of starting pitcher Joe Simone and backstop Hal Crider held the USS Richmond (CL-9) “Ramblers” to a single run on two hits in a 3-1 victory. USS Phoenix batters tallied three runs on six hits with Sandman and Lindsey each accounted for a pair of hits. Phoenix scored all three runs in the first and held Richmond scoreless until the fifth when a walk, a stolen base and a hit led to their lone run in their Thursday, May 30, 1941, game. By that summer, the Ramblers were out in front of Hawaii’s cruiser league and would advance to the Honolulu League, a longstanding, top-level circuit on Oahu. 

Departing Pearl Harbor on September, the Phoenix was tasked to escort the USS Hugh L. Scott (AP-43) as she transported more than 1,100 men consisting of troops from the 1st Battalion, 200th Coast Artillery and 14th Bomb Squadron and other replacements to Manila. Leaving Manila Bay, the Phoenix provided escort to the Cimarron-class oiler, USS Guadalupe (AO-32) to Pearl Harbor.  

We acquired two service dress blue uniforms and one undress blue uniform (the flap jumper flap absent white piping) along with Gunderson’s USS Phoenix baseball jersey (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

The Sunday routine aboard a ship at anchor in 1941 was at a slow pace. The men who were in the duty rotation stood watches, prepared morning chow and did normal upkeep. Following breakfast and the changing of the watch, preparations were made for raising the colors, with men positioned on the ship’s stern and bow readying the Ensign and Union Jack at their respective staffs. Anchored northeast of Ford Island, the men of the USS Phoenix were awaiting the signal to smartly raise each flag when planes bearing rising sun markings descended and bore down on the central tower on Ford Island, opening fire. A seemingly endless run of attacking aircraft followed suit and commenced attacks on the ships moored along the east shore of Ford Island known as Battleship Row.  

Gunderson, a non-rated seaman, was working that morning to finish his application for acceptance into the Naval Academy. “It never got there,” he told the Palm Beach Post December 2016. “Our boats were in the davits. Our plane was on the catapult. Our awnings were struck over the main deck.” 

“We were 100 percent startled,” Gunderson commented about the beginning of the attack. He thought the approaching aircraft were part of U.S. maneuvers until he saw the Japanese markings on the wings.  

 The USS Phoenix crew, ahead of the call for general quarters, rushed to their battle stations to man their guns and take defensive actions against the obvious enemy attack. “We never got any word to do anything,” Gunderson said. “Our ammunition was all below.”  

Her machine gunners and anti-aircraft and main battery gun crews worked tirelessly loading, training, aiming at and firing upon enemy bombers and fighters. The melee of anti-aircraft fire from ship and shore batteries left a shroud of doubt surrounding the USS Phoenix gun crews as to their effectiveness against the attackers. After the fight was over, her gun crews had expended 353 rounds of 5-inch, 35 3-inch, and 4,500 .50 cal. Rounds. Following Rear Admiral Leary’s orders, the Phoenix pulled up anchor and got underway at 11:15, three hours and 20 minutes after the attack began. The ship and her crew escaped completely unharmed. 

The USS Phoenix’s operational pace throughout the war was such that little time was afforded for the ship’s baseball team to play. 

On display – One of Gunderson’s dress blue jumpers, his flat hat (showing the USS Phoenix tally) and his baseball jersey were showcased in one of our public displays this past summer (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Gunderson, born June 27, 1922, in Beloit, Wisconsin, lived in Lake Worth, Florida, after his 1946 discharge from the Navy. He had served his entire enlistment aboard the Phoenix, separating as a fire controlman second class on July 1. Ninety-seven-year-old Vincent Burnell Gunderson passed away on the 78th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 2019. 

Gunderson’s early 1940s Wilson flannel jersey from the USS Phoenix, along with three of his dress blue uniforms and a flat hat with the USS Phoenix tally, were added to our collection in the spring of 2020 (see: Remembering Pearl Harbor and the Game).  

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