Category Archives: WWII
Barney McCosky: From Naval Aviation Cadet to Slugging Champion
On Wednesday, August 8, 1945, the Detroit Tigers started the day atop the American League standings with a one-game advantage over the Washington Senators. They were set to host a doubleheader against the Red Sox at Briggs Stadium. At 12:47 p.m. (local time)) that afternoon, a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-29 bomber, nicknamed Bockscar, took off from the airfield at Tinian in the Marianas, headed northbound. Detroit took the opening game, 5-2, but dropped the nightcap, 7-4, ending the day with their one-game American League lead intact. After the game, at 10:02 p.m. on the other side of the globe, the USAAF B-29 released its payload over the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Having completed a four-game sweep of the visiting New York Yankees, Tiger players spent August 14 resting as they awaited the arrival of the second-place Senators, who now trailed Detroit by three games. News of Japan’s capitulation reached the U.S. that same day, which was cause for national jubilation as the war was over.
Hours after the Tigers defeated the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, September 1, at 9:08 p.m., General Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s surrender on behalf of the Allied Powers and signed in his capacity as Supreme Commander aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), bringing an official close to the war. The Tigers held a slim 1.5 game lead in the American League with 31 games remaining on the schedule.
On the Island of Saipan, just north of Tinian, where Bockscar was based, two former Detroit players were serving in the armed forces and paying close attention to the Tigers’ progress. Captain George “Birdie” Tebbetts first saw action with the Tigers in 1936 but took over the starting backstop position in 1939. Tebbetts was a key member of the 1940 pennant-winning club before joining the Army Air Forces following the 1942 season. Chief Petty Officer Barney McCosky was also a member of the 1940 World Series-losing Tigers and was serving with the Seabees as a physical fitness instructor, organizing softball and baseball leagues and playing in games. Now that the war was over, the hope for both players was to somehow make it back to the States in time if the Tigers advanced to the 1945 World Series.
For both former Tigers, 1942 seemed like ages ago and the sting of losing the 1940 World Series to Cincinnati still lingered. From 1939 to 1942, Barney McCosky carried a .316 average, and he finished in the top ten of the American League batting crown standings from 1940-1942. In the Tigers’ pennant-winning season, McCosky’s .340 average placed him behind Joe DiMaggio (.352), Luke Appling (.348), Ted Williams (.344), Rip Radcliff (.342) and Hank Greenberg (.340). When he was sworn into the Naval Aviation Cadet program on December 10, 1942, he was one of the future stars of Detroit.
With the United States fully engaged in the fight against the Axis powers, baseball was losing a significant number of players to the armed forces. Many of baseball’s athletes opted to pursue aviation in the armed forces, including Ted Williams, Johnny Sain, Johnny Pesky, Billy Southworth Jr., Bert Shepard and Buddy Lewis. McCosky applied for and was accepted into the V-5 Naval Aviation Training program and was sworn in on December 10, 1942, but faced a lengthy wait until he was called into the program. As winter ebbed and spring loomed on the horizon, McCosky turned down the Tigers’ invitation to training camp and continued to wait for the Navy’s call.
On opening day of the 1943 season, as Detroit hosted Cleveland, Barney McCosky was sworn into active service and reported to Wooster College to begin the U.S. Navy Flight Preparatory School (often referred to as “ground school”) phase of Navy Pre-Flight training. After nearly two weeks at Wooster, McCosky was added to the “Scots” baseball roster and anticipated starting against Kent State on April 26, but he was prevented from playing due to a quarantine. As McCosky progressed with his training, he played for the Scots throughout May and into June. By mid-June, he completed the first stage of ground school training and went home for weekend leave, which included a visit to Briggs Stadium and a workout with his old team. Feeling that his age was a limiting factor, McCosky sought an exit from the V-5 program. “I was 25 at the time,” he later said, “and when I got in that school there were kids 19 and 20, just out of college. I couldn’t keep up with those guys. I said, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ The Great Lakes Naval Training Station, north of Chicago, was home to the Navy’s Bluejackets, led by former Tiger manager Lieutenant Gordon “Mickey” Cochrane. He had led Detroit during McCosky’s first three seasons in the organization’s minor leagues.
“So, I called Great Lakes. I said, ‘Mickey, get me out of this end of it. Get me over there; I’ll be a sailor.’ About a week later I was in Great Lakes.” McCosky made his debut with the Bluejackets on June 21 as they hosted the Cleveland Indians, playing in front of more than 10,000 Navy recruits. For Great Lakes, the 2-1 victory was their 18th in 21 games and their fourth win over a major league club that season. Barney was one-for-three at the plate.
|Earl Bolyard||CF||Dallas (TL)|
|Dan Casey||Villanova U.|
|J. Russell Cook|
|George “Skeets” Dickey||C||White Sox|
|Robert R. M. Emmet|
|Carl Fiore||3B||Wilkes-Barre (EL)|
|Dennis Gleason||C||Lancaster (ISLG)|
|Joseph “Joe” Grace||RF||Browns|
|George “Pete” Hader||P||New Orleans (SOUA)|
|Chester Hajduk||2B||White Sox|
|Robert A. “Bob” Harris||P||Athletics|
|Tony Hinkle||1B Coach|
|Tom Madden||3B||Newport News (VIRL)|
|Glenn “Red” McQuillen||LF||Browns|
|Leo “Red” Nonnenkamp||RF||Kansas City (AA)|
|Eddie Pellagrini||SS||Louisville (AA)|
|Henry Perry||P||Dallas (TL)|
|Warren “Sheriff” Robinson||C||Rochester (IL)|
|Fred Shaffer||3B Coach|
After McCosky joined the club, Great Lakes had a 34-7-1 record. In those 42 games, McCosky had 154 at-bats, mustering 42 hits and scoring 39 runs. He also drove in 31 and finished the season with a .273 batting average as the Bluejackets concluded with a 52-10-1 record. With the end of the season, McCosky and nine of the Great Lakes squad, including Joe Grace, Red McQuillen, Leo Nonnenkamp, George Dickey, Eddie Pellagrini, Vern Olsen, Johnny Schmitz, Bob Harris, and Johnny Mize, received orders to report to the Navy Athletic Specialist Training School at Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland.
For McCosky, the Gene Tunney Physical Training Instructor Program was rigorous and changed his perspectives regarding Tiger spring camp workouts, “I have to laugh when I think how we used to beef down at Lakeland (Florida) when [Tiger manager] Del Baker would make us do some setting-up exercise four or five times,” he lamented. “There would be shouts of ‘enough…enough…”
Following his January, 1944 graduation from the Tunney training program, Athletic Specialist First Class McCosky was transferred to the west coast to await transport to the Hawaiian Islands. Many of his former Great Lakes teammates formed a contingent of players heading to the islands, including Dickey, Ferrick, Grace, Harris, Lucadello, Mize, Olsen and Pellagrini. Upon arrival on Oahu, McCosky and most of the former Bluejackets were assigned to the 14th Naval District to serve as physical fitness instructors. McCosky and Lucadello were transferred to the Aiea Naval Barracks and both were added to the unit’s baseball team, the Maroons.
|Abner “Andy” Ashford||1B|
|W. H. Epperson|
|William “Bill” Garbe||1B||Hollywood (PCL)|
|Bill “Dutch” Holland||P||Pittsfield (CAML)|
|Gordon Howerton||IF/OF||Muskegon (MICH)|
|Edgar “Special Delivery” Jones||2B/Mgr.|
|Max Patkin||P||Green Bay (WISL)|
|Eddie Pellagrini||SS||Louisville (AA)|
|Pat Ralsh||P||Willmington (ISGL)|
|Sal Recca||C/3B||Norfolk (PIED)|
|Wildred “Rhiney” Rhinelander||Mgr.||U.S. Navy|
|Tom Saviori||OF||Mobile (SEAL)|
|Charles B. Simmons|
|Bob Usher||CF||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|Larry Lee Varnell||Eastern league|
|Leo Visintainer||P||Redding Cubs (NorCal Amateur League)|
For McCosky, 1944 was a fantastic baseball year that saw him playing in some of the most incredible games of the war years as the diamond’s best congregated on the islands that season. When McCosky and Lucadello joined the Aiea club, the Honolulu League was nearly at the midpoint of its season. The Maroons were trailing the East Division-leading Pearl Harbor Marines by a game in second place in the ten-team circuit. At the conclusion of regular season play, Aiea finished with a won-lost record of 7-2, placing the club one game out of first place and as a qualifier for the Hawaii League’s playoffs.
Named the Cronin Series, the playoffs featured the top five teams of both divisions. The series took place throughout the month of April. Aiea’s 17-game winning streak after dropping their opening game of the Cronin Series was a dominant showcasing of the team’s talent as they captured the Honolulu League crown going away. Of the 23 players named to the Honolulu League All-Star team, eight were from the Aiea Barracks Maroons, including McCosky.
McCosky’s bat factored heavily in Aiea’s success as he was in the running for the league’s triple crown until the Pearl Harbor Marines’ Sam Mele pulled ahead and captured the batting title with a .358 average. Barney’s .333 was good enough for third in the standings behind the 7th Army Air Force’s Eddie Jabb’s .341, but the former Tiger captured the home run and RBI titles.
During the 1944 Honolulu League, Central Pacific Area (CPA) League and Hawaii League seasons, the two primary Oahu newspapers carried details of the noteworthy baseball talent present on the island. Future Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Johnny Mize headlined a group of former major leaguers who had arrived on the island since the end of the 1943 baseball season and were subsequently assigned to area naval bases. “It was good big-league ball because they were all out there,” McCosky told William J. Marshall in 1988. Eager to showcase the baseball players and to capitalize on their talent for the war effort, administrators planned an exhibition tilt for the end of April, pitting the Major League All-Stars against the local stars. To prepare the All-Stars for the event, the Pearl Harbor Sub Base Dolphins hosted the big leaguers for an April 19 contest on their home diamond, Weaver Field.
Pee Wee Reese was suffering from an injury that kept him out of the game. It necessitated some creativity with the lineup. With three pitchers on the roster, Lucadello was moved from second base to Reese’s vacated shortstop position and Barney McCosky was shifted to second base. Pitcher Vern Olsen was sent to right field. Despite the unusual positionings, the big leaguers were poised to give the Sub Base nine fits.
The major leaguers took care of the Dolphins handily behind the bat of Johnny Mize, who led with a home run, double, and two singles in the 9-3 victory. The Sub Base did manage three hits, with former Philadelphia Athletic shortstop Al Brancato accounting for an eighth inning roundtripper.
Chickamauga Park at the Schofield Barracks played host to another all-star competition that saw the Navy face off against the Army before 18,000 GIs. The Navy hit parade was led by second baseman Johnny Lucadello and former Indian pitcher Tom Ferrick, playing in right field, as both went three-for-five at the plate. In the top of the first, with Navy runners at every station, third baseman Al Brancato wiped the bases clean as he drove in three runs with a timely base hit, putting the Navy on top. The former Athletic shortstop was two-for-three on offense.
Ten days after the game at Weaver Field, the Major League All-Star squad, which this time included Pee Wee Reese, Al Brancato and Eddie Pellagrini as starting position players, faced the Honolulu League All-Stars for a game that benefited War Bond sales. The April 29 War Bond Game was played at Honolulu Stadium.
Reese had recovered from his injury and thus participated in the War Bond Game, a 12-inning battle. The event raised $650,000 solely from gate admissions with another $350,000 from a corresponding autographed memorabilia auction. The return of Reese for this game meant that McCosky occupied his natural spot in center.
Again, the major leaguers were the victors over an aggregation of Honolulu League all-stars augmented with several service team players, including Cornel “Kearny” Kohlmyer (SS), Joe Gedzius (2B) and Eddie Funk (P) of the 7th Army Air Force, Sam Mele (1B), Ed Puchleitner (CF) and Andy Steinbach of the Marines and Bob Usher (LF), Bill Holland (P), Frank Roberts (C) and Joe Wells (P) of Aiea Naval Barracks. The Honolulu All-Stars held their own against the former big leaguers through 11 innings with the score knotted at two runs apiece.
Reese had defensive trouble in the sixth as he could not handle a hard shot deep in the hole at short off the bat of rightfielder Tom Saviori, which ultimately deadlocked the game at two. Reese had six plate appearances and reached base with three singles but did not factor in any of the scoring. “The smoothness of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Pee Wee Reese at short was something to see, “the Honolulu Advertiser’s Red McQueen wrote, “and it was just Pee Wee’s luck to get hit on his sore heel by a bad throw-in from center by Barney McCosky.”
Army brass intent on laying claim to the preponderance of Hawaii baseball crowns that season pulled together their best players from the west coast and deposited them all on the 7th Army Air Force squad at Hickam Army Airfield in early June, with the Central Pacific Area League’s season already underway. A competitive force in the early goings of the year, the 7th AAF was transformed into a military version of the New York Yankees. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the 7th featured future Hall of Famers from the Bronx Bombers, including Charles “Red” Ruffing, Joe “Flash” Gordon and the “Yankee Clipper” himself, Joe DiMaggio, as the Fliers were the team to beat in the league.
Running neck-and-neck with the Army’s “Yankees,” the Aiea Naval Hospital Hilltoppers, now bolstered with Pee Wee Reese and Hugh Casey, put McCosky’s Maroons at a competitive disadvantage for the remainder of the season. The Maroons competed with the Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay “Klippers” and the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins” for the best position behind the two leaders.
The 7th AAF defeated the Aiea Naval Hospital in a best of three championship series while McCosky’s Maroons finished in fourth place and the Dolphins third. McCosky endured a slump and a mid-August ankle injury that impacted his offensive performance as he finished with a respectable .287 average with 33 runs scored, 29 RBIs and 12 home runs. The Fliers’ Walt Judnich overtook McCosky in the CPA League’s home run race at the end of the season with 14, leaving the two as the only batters with double-digit roundtrippers. McCosky’s 81 total bases were the best in the league. The former Tiger was named to the CPA League’s All-Star team.
As the juggernaut 7th AAF team also captured the Hawaii League crown in September, the Navy was assembling a powerhouse baseball team of its own to face the Army in the Servicemen’s World Series. The Navy pulled its stars from all the Hawaiian bases to form a collection of all-stars that was superior to any assemblage of players since the 1942 major league midsummer classic. To further bolster their roster, Phil Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio were flown in from Australia for the seven-game series.
In a pre-series tune-up game against the Sub Base Dolphins, McCosky’s bat factored heavily in the Navy stars’ 10-2 victory as he went four-for-five with three doubles and five RBIs. The seven-game Servicemen’s World Series ran from September 22 through October 4 with the Navy All-Stars capturing the first six. The show went on the road to the other islands for four more games on Maui, Hawaii and Kauai with the Navy taking two more and tying one. McCosky saw action in five games, posting a .273 average in 19 at-bats.
In early 1945, McCosky was named to the two-team contingent of Navy ballplayers sent to tour the western Pacific to boost the morale of troops stationed on remote islands. Departing aboard two Marine Corps C-46 transports in mid-February, the Navy baseball tour took the men to Johnston Island, Majuro Roi, Kwajalein, Ulithi, Peleliu, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, playing as many as two dozen games.
|Albert (Al) Brancato||SS||Athletics|
|George “Skeets” Dickey||C||White Sox|
|Del Ennis||LF||Trenton (ISLG)|
|Benny Huffman||LF||San Antonio (TL)|
|Frank Marino||P||Tulsa (TL)|
|Glenn “Red” McQuillen||CF||Browns|
|Johnny Vander Meer||P||Reds|
Once the tour ended, McCosky, along with Benny Huffman, Gene Woodling, Al Glossop, Jim Trexler and boxer Fred Apostoli, were assigned to serve on Saipan. McCosky served in his athletic specialist role as an athletics director until the war ended.
Hank Greenberg was discharged from the Army Air Forces in June and returned to the Tigers in time to play his first game on July 1. McCosky’s Serviceman’s World Series teammate and Pacific tour opponent, Virgil Trucks, arrived in St. Louis to start for the Tigers on September 30 against the Browns in the last game of the season. McCosky’s homeward-bound trek was far different.
“When it [the war] did end, I had enough points to come back. That’s the year that Detroit was playing the Cubs in the Series. In fact, Greenberg came back for that and, I think, somebody else. And our commander, Goodenough, he says ‘You’ve got enough points, Barney, and the best thing I can do is, I can fly you out of here (Saipan) and get you to Honolulu. But when you get there, you might have a tough time because of all the brass and everything else that can get ahead of you going back to the States.’ And I was trying to get back and I had plenty of time, about a month to get back and get into that World Series.”
McCosky continued, “I got to Honolulu, sat in the barracks, and finally my name came up to go back; no plane. They put me on an old LST, an old clunker. And we started back to Frisco. And we got out about ten miles and it broke down. They sent for a tug. They hooked a tug on that sucker and we went all the way back to Frisco with that. We listened to the game[s] on the boat. Missed it completely, right out of it.”
McCosky was in baseball shape and ready to play but it was not meant to be. “We could have been there. We could have been playing because we played enough ball that we were in good shape; it would be nothing to walk in there because we were facing big league pitching all the time on the island. It was one of those things that happened.”
|Apr – Jun 1943||Navy Flight Preparatory School – Wooster College “Scots”||Aviation Cadet||OF|
|June -Sep 1943||Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets||S1/c||CF|
|March – Sep 1944||Aiea Naval Receiving Barracks Maroons||Sp(A)1/c||RF/MGR|
|April 19, 1944||Major League All Stars vs Navy||Sp(A)1/c||CF|
|April 29, 1944||Major League Stars – War Bond Game||Sp(A)1/c||CF|
|April 30, 1944||14th Naval District All-Stars||Sp(A)1/c||CF|
|Sep – Oct 1944||Navy All-Stars (Servicemen’s World Series – Hawaii)||CSp(A)||CF|
|March 1945||Third Fleet||CSp(A)||CF|
Four days after the Tigers beat the Cubs in the seventh game of the World Series, Barney McCosky was discharged from the Navy on October 14, 1945. He resumed his baseball career with the Tigers the following spring but was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics for future Hall of Famer George Kell on May 26. McCosky played for the A’s until he was sold in May, 1951, to Cincinnati, where he remained for a few weeks until being claimed off waivers by Cleveland. He played for the Indians until he was released on July 10, 1953, bringing an end to his playing career. While McCosky’s career statistics are not legendary, he was a solid player with very good career numbers during his 11 seasons in the majors. His career .312 batting average ranks him 95th on the all-time list and his .286 on-base percentage ties him with Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan.
One can only speculate on McCosky’s career had he not given three prime baseball seasons in service to his nation.
Note: We are grateful to Jeffrey Lazarus and Harrington E. Crissey, Jr. for their contributions for this article.
Sources for Barney McCosky: From Naval Aviation Cadet to Slugging Champion
 George “Birdie” Tebbetts: From Waco to Tinian,” Chevrons and Diamonds (bit.ly/Tebbetts), accessed April 21, 2023.
 “Tigers Lose McCosky,” The Sault Daily Star (Sault St. Marine, Ontario, Canada), December 16, 1942: p.9.
 “The Day’s Sports in Short Order,” Detroit Free Press, April 14, 1943: p.23.
 “McCosky to Face Kent Nine Today,” The Akron Beacon Journal, April 26, 1943: p.17.
 “Kent State Bows to Wooster, 3-1,” The Akron Beacon Journal, April 27, 1943: p.25.
 “Today’s Sports in Short Order,” Detroit Free Press, June 12, 1943: p.14.
 “Advice from One Who Knows,” Detroit Free Press, June 13, 1943: p.22.
 Bedingfield, Gary, “Barney McCosky,” Baseball in Wartime (https://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/mccosky_barney.htm), accessed April 21, 2023.
 “Great Lakes Downs Cleveland, 2-1,” Palladium-Item (Richmond, IN), June 21, 1943: p.20.
 “Mize and 9 Others Leave Great Lakes for Eastern Base,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 28, 1943: p.19.
 “Major Leaguers Assigned to the 14th Naval District,” The Honolulu Advertiser, February 19, 1944.
 Marshall, William J., “Interview with William B. McCosky/A. B. “Happy” Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project,” March 16, 1988.
 “Big League Stars Defeat Navy, 9 To 3,” The Honolulu Advertiser, April 20, 1944: p.8.
 Vandergrift, K.S. Capt., “Major League Stars Blank Army Team 9-0,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 1, 1944: p.8.
 McQueen, Red, “Hoomalimali,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 2, 1944: p.10.
 Fowler, Chief Charles, “7th AAF Wins on Judnich’s Homer,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 16, 1944: p.8.
 Crissey Harrington E., Athletes Away: A Selective Look at Professional Baseball Players in the Navy during World War II. Archway Press 1984.
 Marshall, William J., “Interview with William B. McCosky” A. B. “Happy” Chandler: Desegregation of Major League Baseball Oral History Project, March 16, 1988.
Camp Chaffee Flannel: Arkansas Tanker Training Base a WWII Haven of Army Baseball
Researching wartime baseball can be a succession of twists, turns, roadblocks and dead ends as one travels down each road. One clue can remove a barrier or expose an alternate avenue to explore and lead to a highly rewarding breakthrough. In some instances, the objective that sets one onto the path of exploration becomes secondary or tertiary to the buried treasures that are discovered.
Quite typically, we acquire military baseball artifacts that require research to determine various historical aspects. Analyzing attributes that can then be compared with known artifacts, including those within our collection, affords us the ability to arrive at educated approximations or precise determinations. Military baseball uniforms can pose considerable challenges in pinpointing basic aspects such as the year they were manufactured. A task that is exceedingly more difficult is attributing an unnamed piece lacking provenance to a specific player.
In early March, 2022, we took a gamble on acquiring a flannel jersey lettered with “CAMP CHAFFEE” and listed at auction. Based upon several aspects discernible in the photographs of the listing, it was clear that the jersey dated from 1943-44. In addition to the athletic felt lettering on the chest, a large pair of numerals, “13,” was stitched across the back of the jersey in corresponding material. With high confidence that the jersey was used by an Army team from the World War II training base, we completed the purchase, deciding to trust in our research capabilities to connect the jersey to a team and players.
Named to honor the man who is considered the U.S. Army’s “Father of The Armored Force,” Major General Adna Romanza Chaffee Jr., Camp Chaffee was constructed in 1941 in western Arkansas. By March, 1942, Camp Chaffee was fully operational as a training base for the 6th, 14th, and 16th Armored Divisions. As the war progressed, Camp Chaffee expanded in both size and training operations, bringing engineer, artillery, and infantry units to the installation. Perhaps the most notable baseball athlete, the Boston Braves pitching prospect and future inductee into the Hall of Fame, Warren Spahn, trained at Camp Chaffee and played baseball while stationed there in 1943 and 1944.
As athletics played a significant role in the physical readiness and conditioning of troops, unit cohesion and morale also greatly benefited from competition among the commands by way of their sports teams. In the spring and summer, military installations could host their own graduated baseball leagues with classifications similar to what was seen in the minor leagues. Some units had the benefit of large pools of talent in assembling teams with experience that could rival clubs in the American Association and the International and Pacific Coast Leagues. Each of the various units stationed at Camp Chaffee fielded teams, including the 59th Field Artillery, 16th Armored Division, 47th and 62nd Armored Regiments and the 1850th Service Unit that featured Zeb “Red” Eaton, Ed “Truck” Kearse and Warren Spahn. In addition to local league play, the service teams competed against regional semi-pro, minor league and even college squads. In an August 5, 1943, game that pitted the 1859th against a team representing the KFPW radio station, Warren Spahn pitched a 15-0 no-hitter, striking out 17 opposing batters. Two defensive errors in the game allowed KFPW baserunners, thus preventing the Braves hurler from perfection.
Once the Camp Chaffee artifact arrived and was removed from its shipping container, it was immediately obvious that the jersey was heavily soiled and likely had been laundered by a commercial dry cleaner. Upon thorough inspection, the condition of the jersey was far better than was discernible in the auction listing photographs. All the garment’s seams showed no signs of separation, and the threads were tight. All the stitching securing the lettering, numerals and soutache was in the same condition with no signs of decay. Aside from a missing fifth button from the bottom of the placket, the musty odor and dirt-laden wool fibers were the only issues, and both were correctible.
With the jersey cleaned and prepared for display, research surrounding Camp Chaffee continued and we were able to identify a handful of players across multiple rosters from unit teams at the base. Former Sacramento Solon outfielder Averett Thompson and pitcher Elwood “Dinty” Moore of Salem (class “B” Western International League) played for the 47th Armored Regiment team while Jim Sheehan, a catching prospect in the New York Giants organization, served as a player-manager for the 59th Field Artillery. It was highly unlikely that any of these teams or players donned a Camp Chaffee-specific uniform in favor of a unit-corresponding flannel. Several newspaper articles and game summaries that we were able to uncover detailed games at or against Camp Chaffee unit teams for the 1943 season. No sources were found that referenced any Camp Chaffee base team.
The 1944 season at Chaffee saw competition from the 16th Armored Division (featuring former Pirates outfielder, Maurice Van Robays), 18th Armored Infantry Battalion, 736th Tank Battalion (Dinty Moore), and the 276th Engineers with Warren Spahn. This season also so the emergence of the Camp Chaffee base nine, led by their team captain, former Johnstown Johnnies first baseman Judson F. “Jay” Kirke, Jr.
1944 Camp Chaffee Baseball Team
|Pfc.||Judson F. “Jay” Kirke||1B/Capt.||Johnstown (PASA)|
Jay Kirke, a second-generation professional baseball player, was born on August 27, 1912, in Fleischmanns, New York as his father, Judson Fabian Kirke, was in his second major league season with the Boston Braves. A ten-year minor leaguer, Kirke entered the Army on January 4, 1944, at Fort McClellan, Alabama. By April, Kirke was tearing the hide off the ball with the Fort McPherson, Georgia ball team before transferring to Camp Chaffee.
As the 1944 season was getting underway, the Army activated and reconstituted the 174th Infantry Regiment, a historically New York National Guard unit, and assigned them to Camp Chaffee for training in anticipation of overseas deployment. Former Los Angeles Angels catcher Private First Class Harry M. Land started the year with the 174th at Camp White, located 16 miles north of Medford, Oregon and played for the regiment’s “Buffaloes.” By June, the 174th was at Camp Chaffee and began to dominate the competition. Captain Harry Lindsey, special services officer for the 174th dispatched a letter to the citizens of Buffalo, New York, the former home of the regiment when it was part of the state’s National Guard, requesting assistance in procuring new uniforms. Answering Lindsey’s request, John C. Stiglmeier, general manager of the Buffalo Bisons of the class “AA” International League, responded, “We can’t do too much for the soldiers and sailors these days and in particular for the Buffalo regiment.” Stiglmeier’s response, according to the Buffalo Evening News, “was immediate as well as enthusiastic,” as 15 uniforms were dispatched to the 174th at Camp Chaffee.
|John J. Botek|
|Frank Del Papa|
|Ed “Jake” Jacobs||P||House of David|
|Harry M. Land||C||Los Angeles (PCL)|
|Henry W. Mankowski|
|Wilburn C. Timmons||SS/P||Pampa (WTNM)|
|Raymond H. Trendle|
|Maurice Van Robays||OF/P||Pirates|
As the Camp Chaffee nine struggled to keep up, the 174th Buffaloes juggernaut motored on. By mid-summer, former Pirates outfielder Maurice Van Robays was added to the Buff’s roster and was, in addition to playing right field, trying his hand on the mound. By the end of the year, Van Robays, who took on the role of team manager, amassed a pitching record of nine wins and four losses, helping the Buffaloes to a 61-39 record.
In the months following the end of the 1944 baseball season, many of the units at Camp Chaffee were deployed to the European Theater and players including Kirke, Spahn, Kearse and Van Robays headed overseas.
In the final year of the war, baseball continued at Camp Chaffee and the base team fielded an entirely new roster of players. For the new season, the Chaffees competed as a service team in a semi-professional league as well as in their service league. In addition to military opponents, the team squared off against regional semi-pro industrial league teams and minor league clubs, including the Little Rock Travelers. The 1945 Chaffee team included multiple former professional players, including pitcher Witt “Lefty” Guise, who saw action in two September 1940 games for the Cincinnati Reds and was on the team’s roster for their World Series championship that season. Jim McLeod, an infielder with 15 years of pre-war professional experience, spent 1930 and 1932-33 in the major leagues with the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Camp Chaffee nine dominated the competition throughout the 1945 season. After winning the Arkansas State semi-pro championship in Pine Bluff on July 30, Chaffee was invited to the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.
|Sgt.||Kennon Black||P||Lake Charles (EVAN)|
|T/4||Charles Coleman||3B||Dover (ESHL)|
|Sgt.||Witt “Lefty” Guise||P||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|Sgt.||Soule James McLeod||SS||Baltimore (IL)|
|S/Sgt.||Russell Lowell Needham||P||Albany (EL)|
Many eyes in the baseball world were present and focused upon the National Baseball Congress’ Semi-Professional Tournament in Wichita, Kansas starting on August 10, 1945. In addition to a select few civilian industrial teams from Kansas, the 32-team field of competition consisted entirely of Army and Army Air Force teams from around the country. All the clubs participating were dominant in their regions and Camp Chaffee, after securing the Arkansas state semi-pro championship on July 29, received an automatic entry into the national tournament.
For the three-day event, more than 25,000 tickets were sold. Thirteen major league scouts were also in attendance, including Carl Hubbell (New York Giants); Jack Ryan (St. Louis Cardinals); Joe Cambria (Washington Senators); Carl Hagel and Joe Becker (New York Yankees); Tom Greenwade and Bert Wells (Brooklyn Dodgers); Bill Hinchman (Pittsburgh Pirates), and Bobby Mattick; to look over the talent-rich teams.
|Biggs Field||El Paso||TX|
|Camp Chaffee||Fort Smith||AR|
|Camp Kilmer||Piscataway Township||NJ|
|Columbia Army Air Field||Comets||Columbia||SC|
|Enid Army Flying School||Enidairs||Enid||OK|
|Gowen Field Army Air Field||Boise||ID|
|Great Falls Army Air Field||Great Falls||MT|
|Herington Army Air Field||Herington||KS|
|Lincoln Army Air Field||Wings||Lincoln||NB|
|Lockbourne Army Air Field||Lockbourne||OH|
|Orlando Army Air Field||Orlando||FL|
|Sherman Field||Ft. Leavenworth||KS|
|Sioux Falls Army Air Field||Marauders||Sioux Falls||SD|
|Suffolk County Army Air Field||Westhampton||NY|
|Waco Army Air Field||Flyers||Waco||TX|
|West/Pacific Coast ATC||Wings||CA|
For their tournament opener, the men of Camp Chaffee faced the “Marauders” of Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota. Moundsman “Lefty” Guise started on the hill for Chaffee, pitching five innings of scoreless ball. The Marauders drew first blood in the bottom of the sixth, plating two runs. Their lead was short lived as the Chaffee men countered with a Courtney single and Martinez reaching on an error. Guise helped to ameliorate his sixth inning stumble by sacrificing the two baserunners into scoring position and setting his team up for a rally. Beavers sent a two-out double off the right field wall, plating Courtney and Martinez, but was gunned down attempting to stretch it to a triple.
The wheels began to fall off the cart for Guise as Sioux Falls loaded the bases in the next inning. Guise worked out of the one-out jam, getting Marauders batters Morton and Monty Basgall out. In the eighth inning, Guise was in trouble again, giving up an infield hit and a pair of walks and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Russell Needham, who stranded the Marauders by striking out second baseman Basgall. Sioux Falls pitcher Herb Norquist went the distance, surrendering two runs on four hits but the real story of the game was his 16 strikeouts as Chaffee finished the top of the ninth without scoring. With the game tied, left fielder Edward Gittens reached on an error to get things started. After being sacrificed to second, shortstop Robert Henny stroked a convincing single off Needham, allowing Gittens to score the winning run. With one loss in the double-elimination tournament, Camp Chaffee needed to keep winning to continue.
The timing for Mississippi’s Key Field’s arrival at Wichita could not have been any worse as the team’s roster was hampered by illnesses and injuries as they faced off against Camp Chaffee. Sergeant Kennon Black, starting on the mound for Chaffee, took advantage of the diminished Key Fielders as he handcuffed his opponents at the plate. allowing just two hits. Meanwhile, seven of nine Camp Chaffee batters got hits off the Key Field pitcher, Smith. Camp Chaffee tallied four runs on eight hits. Shortstop McLeod was the game’s sole multi-hit batter in the 4-0 shutout on August 13.
Following in Black’s footsteps, Russell Needham pitched a 2-hitter of his own as Chaffee eliminated El Paso, Texas’ Biggs Field with a 4-0 blanking. Catcher William Glenn led the offense with two hits in three at-bats. Coleman, Pittman and McLeod each drove in runs as first baseman Martinez, who was one-for-three, tallied three of Chaffee’s four scores.
The tables were turned as former Cincinnati Reds pitcher “Lefty” Guise was met by the unfriendly bats of Ohio’s Lockbourne Field on Sunday, August 19. Guise was ineffective as he surrendered six runs on nine hits in his five and two-thirds innings for Chaffee. “Lefty” was lifted in favor of Russell Needham, but the damage was done. Lockbourne’s Wanke went the distance against Chaffee, holding them to two runs on as many hits in the 7-2 shellacking.
Eliminated from the tournament, Camp Chaffee’s season was effectively over except for a handful of exhibition games against local service and industrial league ballclubs. In a September 24 game against Fort Benning, Guise pitched a no-hitter for his 16th win of the season, having lost only two games.
Ahead of Japan’s unconditional surrender on September 2, the armed forces, already discharging servicemen from the war service following Germany’s capitulation in May, ramped up the process. Camp Chaffee’s Guise was set to be separated days after tossing his no-hitter.
With the rapid downsizing of the armed forces, much of the wartime equipment, weapons and uniforms were no longer needed and were divested as surplus materials from the War Department’s inventory. It is unknown if our Camp Chaffee jersey was acquired through this program or if it was taken home by one of the team members.
With nearly a year elapsing since the Camp Chaffee jersey was acquired, we have been unsuccessful in locating a single photo of the team or any players wearing this jersey. Similarly, our research has failed to uncover scorecards or rosters to reveal the players’ number assignments, let alone who specifically wore number 13. Despite the detailed history surrounding Camp Chaffee’s wartime baseball teams, we were forced to weigh our findings against the opportunity to acquire a full wartime service team baseball uniform that included the jersey, trousers and stockings that were named to a ballplayer who was a combat veteran: Lawrence Milton “Lefty” Powell. After several days of careful consideration, we decided to take a previously unthinkable action and trade the Camp Chaffee flannel in exchange for the 18th Field Artillery uniform. This exchange marked the first and hopefully the last time that we let go of such a highly valued artifact.
- Chevrons and Diamonds Collection’s Archive of Military Baseball Uniforms
- Chevrons and Diamonds Collection’s Archive of Army Uniforms and Jerseys
 Patterson, Michael Robert, “Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr. – Major General, United States Army, (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/achafjr.htm)” Arlington National Cemetery, Accessed December 28, 2022.
 Bedingfield, Gary, “Warren Spahn (https://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/spahn_warren.htm)” Baseball in Wartime, Accessed December 28, 2022.
 “Razorback Nine Plays Soldier Team at Fort Smith,” Northwest Arkansas Times, May 8, 1943: p6.
 “No-Hit Pitcher Whiffs 17 Batters,” The Shreveport Journal, August 6, 1943: p14.
 “Van Robays Set to Go Overseas,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 2, 1944: p8.
 “Tank Unit Has Crack Battery,” The Lawton Constitution (Lawton, Oklahoma), May 1, 1944: p3.
 “Swigart Bests Spahn 6-1 in Champ Battle,” The Gruber Guidon (Camp Gruber, Oklahoma), August 11, 1944: p3.
 “Atlas Electrics Play Soldiers at T.L. Park Today,” Tulsa Daily World, June 25, 1944: p25.
 “Three-Day Pass Goes to GI Member Who Can Smash C.O.’s Window,” The Birmingham News, April 19, 1944: p17.
 “Rainbow Downs Chaffee Nine,” The Gruber Guidon, August 11, 1944: p1.
 “Van Robays Now a Pitcher,” The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pennsylvania), December 2, 1944: p3.
 Doyle, Charles J., “Van Robays Set to go Overseas,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, December 1, 1944: p27.
 “Camp Chafee Wins,” Wichita Evening Eagle, July 30, 1945: p6.
 “Many Fast Army Clubs Are Ready for U.S. Tourney,” The Wichita Eagle, August 4, 1945: p10.
 “Camp Chaffee Wins,” Wichita Eagle, July 30, 1945: P6.
 “25,000 Will See Games in 3 Days,” Wichita Evening Eagle, August 8, 1945: p6.
 “Marauders of S. Dakota Win Thriller 3 to 2,” Wichita Evening Eagle, August 12, 1945: p14.
 “Key Fielders Go Out Without Run in National Meet,” The Wichita Eagle, August 14, 1945: p7.
 “Camp Biggs is Out,” The Wichita Eagle, August 16, 1945: p10.
 “Camp Chaffee is Out of Tourney,” The Wichita Eagle, August 20, 1945: p2.
 “Guise, Former Baron, Hurls No-Hitter; Expects Discharge,” The Birmingham News (Birmingham, AL) September 25, 1945: p17.
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.
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.
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.” 
Eight months after registering, Powell received his notice and was inducted into the U.S. Army on July 9, 1941, in Sacramento, California. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
1942 Camp Roberts All-Stars:
|Harold “Hal” Eckhardt||2B||Tucson (AZTX)|
|Carlo “Carl” Forni||2B/SS||Wenatchee (WINT)|
|Benite J. Guintini||CF||Salt Lake City (PION)|
|Earl Johnson||P||Red Sox|
|Morris “Morry” Jones||OF/1B||Columbus (AA)|
|Art Mangini||RF||Los Angeles (PCL)|
|Otto Meyers||Mgr./CF||Waterloo (IIIL)|
|Ralph “Hal” Mountain||1B||Meridian (SEAL)|
|Hal O’Banion||C||Twin Falls (PION)|
|Danny Phillips||2B||Tyler (EXTL)|
|Lawrence “Lefty” Powell||P||San Diego (PCL)|
|Darryl Reynolds||3B||St. Mary’s College|
|Melvin Wasley||OF||Pocatello (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 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. Unfazed, the Camp Roberts All-Stars soldiered on, closing out the month of April with a 4-2 won-lost record.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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”
|Sgt.||Ned Sheehan||IF/OF/coach||Boise (PION)|
|Corp.||“Big Jake” Jacobsen||Mgr.|
|Pvt.||Dick Linnell||P||Norfolk (PIED)|
|Pvt.||Lawrence “Lefty” Powell||P||Louisville (AA)|
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 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. 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. 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).  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.
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. 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?”
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.
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.
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
- Rhineland – September 15, 1944 – March 21, 1945
- Ardennes – December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945
- Central Europe – March 22, 1945 – May 11, 1945
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.
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.
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.
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||#||Player||Position||Former||Former Unit Team|
|20||Bill Ayers||P||Atlanta (SOUA)||65th Infantry Division|
|14||Charlie Bamberger||3B||London (PONY)|
|19||Alpha Brazle||P||Cardinals||65th Infantry Division|
|9||Herb Bremer||C||Little Rock (SOUA)|
|Capt.||22||Joe Costa||Mgr.||5th Infantry Division|
|6||Ettore Giammarco||OF||Fort Smith (WA)|
|Jim Gladd||C||Fort Smith (WA)||33rd Field Artillery|
|18||Ken Heintzelman||P||Pirates||65th Infantry Division|
|D. Louis Kauzlarich||Lubbock (WTNM)|
|1||Garland Lawing||LF||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|15||Earl Lindamood||OF||Wilmington (ISLG)|
|17||Anselm “Anse” Moore||3B||Beaumont (TL)|
|8||Walter Olson||P||Santa Barbara (CALL)|
|SSGT||21||Lawrence “Lefty” Powell||P||Louisville (AA)||18th Field Artillery|
|13||Bob Ramazzotti||SS||Durham (PIED)|
|10||Rudy Rundus||P||Allentown (ISLG)|
|7||Milton Ticco||1B||University of Kentucky|
|Maurice Van Robays||OF/P||Pirates||16th Armored/1st Division|
|Ken Trinkle||P||Giants||76th Infantry Division|
|Harry “The Hat” Walker||OF||Cardinals||65th Infantry Division|
|12||Benny Zientera||2B||Indianapolis (AA)|
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.”
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.
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. 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, but he was signed by the crosstown Braves on the following day. 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.
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.
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. In recognition of his contributions to the game, Larry Powell was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.
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.
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.
- 1943-1945 18th Field Artillery – 1st Sgt Lawrence “Lefty” Powell
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 Selective Service Registration Card, Ancestry.com (accessed November 20, 2022).
 Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946, National Archives AAD (accessed November 20, 2022).
 “Camp Roberts Seeks Games; Larry Powell Ace of Staff,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1941: p23.
 “Powell to Pitch for Army Squad,” The Bakersfield Californian, August 2, 1941: p10.
 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).
 “Camp Roberts Plays in S.F.,” The San Francisco Examiner, August 19, 1941: p19.
 “Ted Williams Not To Attend Big Dinner,” Durham Morning Herald (Durham, NC) January 28, 1942: p8.
 “Training Briefs,” Salinas Morning Post (Salinas, CA) March 21, 1942: p7
 “Camp Roberts Nine is Due in Fresno Today,” The Fresno Bee The Republican, April 4, 1942: p8.
 “In Between Briefs,” Stockton Daily Evening Record (Stockton, CA) April 22, 1942: p14
 “Army Team: Camp Roberts to Clash With Gardners Sunday,” The Bakersfield Californian, April 25, 1942: p12.
 Oliver, Ted, “Rodeo Buffet Beaten, 30-5 By Strong Army Outfit at Spreckles,” Salinas Morning Post, May 26, 1942: p9
 “Camp Roberts Beats Air Base Nine Twice,” The Californian (Salinas, CA), June 29, 1942: p7.
 “Larry Powell to Camp Claiborne,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA) January 7, 1943: p3
 Borba, Harry, “Side Lines,” The San Francisco Examiner, March 5, 1943: p23.
 Lemoore Army, All-Stars to Tangle Sunday,” Hanford Morning Journal (Hanford, CA), March 28, 1943: p7.
 “Powell Hurls No-Hitter for 18th Field Artillery,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, AL), August 22, 1943: p13.
 “Jackets Spoil 18th’s Record,” The Daily Oklahoman, August 5, 1943: p16.
 “’Logchips On The Way’ – History of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations,” U.S. Army, 1948: p13.
 “Powell Home on Leave,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA) January 13, 19443: p4
 ’Logchips On The Way’ – History of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations,” U.S. Army, 1948: p13.
 Ibid: p31.
 Authorized by General Orders No. 103, dated November 13, 1945
 Authorized by General Orders No. 118, dated December 12, 1945
 Authorized by General Orders No. 114, dated December 7, 1945
 Authorized by General Orders No. 116, dated December 11, 1945
 Ibid: p32-57.
 “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)
 Weston, Joe, “1st Div. Nine 5-4 Winner in Strange Germany Test,” Southern France Stars and Stripes, July 13, 1945: p7.
 “Larry Powell is Pitching for the 71st Division,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA), August 30, 1945: p3.
 Final Pay Voucher, National Archives and Records Administration (accessed November 23, 2022)
 “Powell Holds Redbirds Hitless,” The San Francisco Examiner, March 13, 1946: p22.
 “Marty, Powell Draw Releases,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 1, 1946: p21.
 “Braves Sign Powell,” Oakland Tribune, May 2, 1946: p23
 “Braves Bits,” The Boston Globe, May 5, 1946: p34
 “Braves Announce Powell’s Release,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 9, 1946: p19.
 Larry Powell Obituary, The Fresno Bee, May 28, 2009
 “Inductees for 1972 (https://www.fresnoahof.org/year-list.php?y=1972),” Fresno Athletics Hall of Fame (accessed December 1, 2022)