Category Archives: Hall of Fame Players
For more than a century, the change of the calendar from September to October has truly signaled the actual arrival of autumn for baseball fans across North America, despite the autumnal equinox occurring more than a week earlier. The World Series looms large over the hearts and minds of fans from coast to coast. The marathon 162-game season race has been run, and as they approach the finish line, the leaders are clearly visible.
“By far, the best moment of my big league career was when I caught the last out at the World Series.”– Cal Ripken, Jr.
October has historically been the month of the year when heroes of the game have been made. Legends are born during the championship games with stellar on-field performances. Dreams of hitting the game-winning or series-clinching home run or striking out the last batter for the final out exist in the minds of thousands of youths throughout their childhood and remain an unspoken desire for those who transition to a professional baseball career. In recent major league baseball seasons, November has become the month of post-season diamond feats as the expanded playoffs extended play beyond October.
“You never forget the feeling of not getting to the World Series. Yes, it sticks with you.”– Ryne Sandberg
The World Series has always held the attention of baseball fans whether they have a cheering stake in the game or not. Seeing the two best teams facing each other and wondering who among the most unlikely players will rise to the enormity of the occasion and etch their names in the lore of the Fall Classic with a clutch hit or overcoming a pressure-packed situation by striking out the league’s best slugger with the bases loaded hold even the most casual of baseball fans’ attention. For fans, remembering these moments and engaging in discussion about which of them is the greatest always leads to debate. However, for some, it is not enough to savor them just in memory.
“The best possible thing in baseball is winning the World Series. The second-best thing is losing the World Series.”– Tommy Lasorda
A trip to the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York is an eye-opening experience for any visitor. For those enamored with the game’s artifacts, a visit can awaken desires to collect game treasures and catapult them into the lifelong and expensive pursuit of building a collection.
Collecting World Series artifacts is cost-prohibitive for average baseball fans. Some of the most expensive objects stem from the participants in the games in the form of uniforms, equipment, and championship awards such as trophies, pendants and rings which can carry price tags of five, six or even seven digits. There are more reasonable items from these games that are within reach of collectors with less available discretionary financial resources.
Baseball programs represent a lower-cost investment alternative to the typical vintage sports collectible. “In many cases, programs cost far less than a trading card of a popular player from the same year,” wrote Sal Barry, “and can give you more enjoyment.”
Harry Chadwick is noted as the man who conceived a system of scorekeeping in the 1860s that paved the way for tracking player performance statistics. His system of notation has stood the test of time and provides sportswriters, team managers and fans with the ability to measure player and team performance. It was not until entrepreneur Harry M. Stevens attended a Columbus (Ohio) Senators baseball game in 1887 that one of the best baseball collectibles was born. Though scorecards were already in use throughout baseball at the time, Stevens recognized a financial opportunity for baseball team owners to sell advertising space on the cards. Stevens’ idea was to purchase the rights from the team to sell the scorecards for the games. For the sum of $500, Stevens struck a deal and set out to sell the advertising space and to get the cards printed. After selling his first block of advertising, Stevens had a 140-percent return on his investment before printing or selling a single scorecard. Stevens began expanding his service to other ballparks around the country. He is responsible for what became one of the most figuratively and literally colorful pieces of baseball history and one of the most affordable and available collectibles.
Though not a typical mainstream collectible, baseball scorecards along with game programs have their own niche among collectors. Contemporary scorecards are printed in a more generic fashion as rosters are far too fluid throughout the season. Printing costs and the waste associated with changing rosters are not fiscally sound. The more generic-oriented cards are more challenging to pinpoint to a specific game if left unscored. However, vintage pieces such as from the 1940s tend to be more easily pinpointed to a specific week of the season, depending on the team that produced the scorecard. World Series pieces, however, are far more desirable due to the nature of the games’ importance, historic nature, and roster specificity.
In addition to condition, there are many factors that can impact or drive the collector value of a World Series scorecard including the age, the specific game, outcome, teams involved, and player heroics as well as if the piece is scored. Many World Series scorecards are easily fetching 4-digit values on the collector market, inching several of these items out of reach for everyday collectors. Depending upon the historical magnitude of the game, collector demand increases, driving the values skyward. For example, “a scorecard of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series on October 8, 1956, is worth more than most other programs,” Jeff Figler wrote in 2018. “The same would hold true with the program of Jackie Robinson’s debut on April 15, 1947.”
Another niche area of scorecard collecting exists in the realm of military or service team baseball. With the flow of the game’s top-tier, youthful talent into the armed forces and onto service baseball teams, scorecards from these games are quite collectible. Unlike major league games where thousands of cards were produced, the smaller venues and one-off games saw far smaller numbers printed, which leads to greater scarcity.
Wartime service game scorecards have created a considerable increase in interest in the last few years that is likely attributable to their affordability combined with the presence of Hall of Fame players including Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Stan Musial, and Billy Herman, who all served and played on service teams during the war. By 1944, the largest assemblage of the game’s stars was serving in the Hawaiian Islands and playing for teams such as the Aiea Naval Hospital “Hilltoppers,” Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins,” Aiea Naval Receiving Barracks “Maroons,” Naval Air Station (NAS) Kaneohe Bay “Klippers,” and the 7th Army Air Force “Flyers.” The major leagues were populated with players beyond their prime, others who were brought up the big leagues before gaining the necessary experience and those who were deemed unfit for military service, resulting in a diminished quality of play on the field; but the island of Oahu was the epicenter for baseball star power.
For those attending wartime games on the islands, preprinted scorecards were available. While these pieces tend to be extremely scarce, collector interest is relatively weak due to the lack of knowledge of the leagues, games, teams, and the players on the rosters. However, there were important games that drew substantial crowds due to the caliber of the players on the rosters and the historic nature of the contests themselves.
For decades, Oahu was a hotbed for baseball with several leagues that included civilian and military clubs operating before the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1942, some former professional players who were serving began to trickle onto the island and onto their respective units’ baseball teams. The following year saw a greater increase leading to one club, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins, dominating other service teams and civilian clubs in the various leagues. By 1944, the Army responded in kind and emptied their West Coast bases of talent to build a super club to take the fight to the Navy with the 7th Army Air Force team based at Hickam Field. With major league talent including Mike McCormick, Walt Judnich, Dario Lodigiani, John “Long Tom” Winsett, Joe Gordon, Red Ruffing and Joe DiMaggio, the club was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to the major league stars, the 7th’s minor leaguers truly propelled the Flyers to the top of the standings. Former San Francisco Seals first baseman Ferris Fain led the field, claiming a league batting crown. Former Seal hurler Al Lien was a dominant force on the mound, with future Yankee backstop Charlie Silvera handling the pitchers from behind the plate.
Unlike the Army, who amassed its talent on the 7th AAF squad, the Navy had their share of stars spread throughout multiple bases. Walt Masterson, Jimmy Gleeson, Al Brancato, Joe Grace, Bob Harris, Rankin Johnson, and Mo Mozzali led the Pearl Harbor Sub Base. Johnny Lucadello, Barney McCosky, and Eddie Pellagrini were at Aiea Receiving Barracks. Tom Ferrick, Johnny Mize, Hugh Casey, and Wes Schulmerich were stationed at NAS Kaneohe; and Vern Olsen, George Dickey, and Pee Wee Reese were at the Aiea Naval Hospital.
By the end of regular season play, the 7th captured the championship hardware, with the already-planned inter-service All-Stars championship looming for September and October. It was billed as the Servicemen’s World Series, a seven-game contest that pitted baseball stars from the Army against those of the Navy and was played solely at military facilities for the benefit of service personnel. Planning for the series began late in the summer and speculation began to swirl about prospective players being dispatched to the islands for the series. Three major league stars serving elsewhere in the Navy – Dom DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto, both in Melbourne, Australia and Bob Feller, who was serving aboard the battleship USS Alabama – were the favorite contenders for the Series discussed in the local papers. However, by mid-September, only Rizzuto and DiMaggio were en route to Oahu. The operational necessities of the USS Alabama kept Feller out of contention for the Navy team.
The best-of-seven series was set to commence on September 22 at the Navy’s home, Furlong Field, at Pearl Harbor (for Games 1, 5 and 7) and would extend into October with games hosted at Hickam Field (Games 2 and 6), Redlander Field at the Schofield Barracks (Game 3), and Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay (Game 4) to ensure that service personnel throughout the island had opportunities to experience the excitement in person. Prior to the opening game, all the fields underwent some form of expanded seating construction to increase capacity for the expected crowds.
Riding the wave of the 7th AAF’s regular season success in defeating the Oahu Navy clubs, Army leadership built their All-Star roster around 17 players drawn from the Flyers. The remainder of the club consisted of players pulled from other area Army commands including the Schofield Barracks. The Navy, however, pulled out all the stops in loading their lineup. With the arrival of Rizzuto and DiMaggio from Australia, the already stacked Navy All-Stars featured a lengthy list of nearly 40 former major and minor leaguers and semi-pros, outnumbering the Army by 11 players.
Recognizing the need to unify their personnel, the Navy played two warmup games, including an intra-squad tilt, leading up to the opening game of the Series. With three future Hall of Fame enshrinees filling positions on the Navy’s opening day starting lineup, the Navy was hoping to turn the tables on the Army’s dominance. Recognizing the comparatively lopsided Navy advantage, local sportswriters favored the Navy to take the series. “Today is the day of the opening of the Service World Series out at Furlong Field,” Red McQueen wrote in The Honolulu Advertiser. “If for no other reason than to stick out the ol’ neck so that some Army boys can chop it off, we’re going out on the proverbial limb with a call on the outcome of the classic,” McQueen continued. “The Navy in six or less games is our guess. Pitching is 80 to 90 percent of the battle and the Tars have it.”
Further contributing to the Navy’s edge was the absence of one of the Army’s and the game’s greatest stars. Staff Sergeant Joe DiMaggio spent the better part of the 1944 season dealing with ulcers, which limited his availability for the 7th AAF. With the continuation of his health issues, the Yankee Clipper was wholly unavailable for the Servicemen’s World Series.
|SM3/c||26||Arnie “Red” Anderson||P||Chattanooga (SOUA)|
|TM2/c||10||Norman Gene “Pee Wee” Atkinson||C||Semi-Pro|
|9||John “Johnny” Berry||RF||U of Oregon/Semi-Pro|
|SK2/c||17||Albert (Al) Brancato||3B||Athletics|
|Sp(A) 1/c||15||George “Skeets” Dickey||C||White Sox|
|CSp(A)||11||Dom DiMaggio||CF||Red Sox|
|31||Gordon Evans||LF||Charleston (MATL)|
|Hank Feimster||P||Danville-Schoolfield (BIST)|
|Sp(A) 1/c||18||Marvin Felderman||C||Cubs|
|Sp(A) 1/c||31||Tom Ferrick||P||Indians|
|Sp(A) 1/c||28||Joseph “Joe” Grace||RF||Browns|
|Sp(A) 2/c||29||Jack Hallett||P||Pirates|
|Sp1/c||24||Robert A. “Bob” Harris||P||Athletics|
|PhM3/c||20||John “Hubie” Jeandron||2B||Port Arthur (EVAN)|
|YN1/c||23||A. Rankin Johnson||P||Athletics|
|6||Dave Liebold||Bat Boy|
|CSp (A)||5||Johnny Lucadello||2B||Browns|
|Sp(A) 1/c||3||Barney McCosky||CF||Tigers|
|Sp(A) 2/c||32||Johnny Mize||1B||Giants|
|TM1/c||13||Maurice “Mo” Mozzali||CF||Semi-Pro|
|Sp(A) 1/c||30||Vern Olsen||P||Cubs|
|21||Sal Recca||3B||Norfolk (PIED)|
|CSp (A)||34||Harold “Pee Wee” Reese||SS||Dodgers|
|CSp (A)||2||Phil Rizzuto||SS||Yankees|
|26||Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe||P||Tigers|
|LT||30||Wes Schulmerich||Asst. Mgr.||Twin Falls (PION)|
|14||Ken “Ziggy” Sears||C||Yankees|
|29||Eddie Shokes||1B||Syracuse (AA)|
|S1/c||27||Johnny Vander Meer||P||Reds|
|Corp.||13||Renaldo “Rugger” Ardizoia||Kansas City (AA)|
|Corp.||10||James Ashworth||Helena (CSTL)|
|Lt.||16||John “Johnny” Beazley||Cardinals|
|Lt. Col||30||Joseph D. “Joe” Clarke||Semi-Pro|
|Bill DeCarlo||Minneapolis (AA)|
|Corp.||27||Carl DeRose||Amsterdam (CAML)|
|Cpl.||1||Bob Dillinger||Toledo (AA)|
|19||Eddie Erautt||Hollywood (PCL)|
|S/Sgt.||7||Ferris Fain||San Francisco (PCL)|
|Sgt.||18||Edward Funk||Federalsburg (ESHL)|
|15||Sid Gautreaux||Memphis (SOUA)|
|Pvt.||28||Hal Hairston||Homestead Grays|
|Sgt.||3||Walter “Wally” Judnich||Browns|
|Corp.||22||Cornel George “Kearny” Kohlmeyer||Tyler (ETXL)|
|12||Don Lang||Kansas City (AA)|
|Pfc.||9||Will Leonard||Oakland (PCL)|
|Pfc.||25||Al Lien||San Francisco (PCL)|
|Sgt.||2||Dario Lodigiani||White Sox|
|Corp.||5||Myron “Mike” McCormick||Reds|
|Corp.||24||William “Bill” Schmidt||Sacramento (PCL)|
|Corp.||8||Charlie Silvera||Wellsville (PONY)|
|1st Lt.||20||Tom Winsett||Dodgers|
Shortly after 8:00 a.m., servicemen began arriving at the Furlong Field gates more than six hours before the 2:30 p.m. game time in eager anticipation for the start of the Series. With all games set to be played on area military installations, the games were Inaccessible to the civilian population; however, Honolulu radio station KGMB was on site to broadcast the game and the entire Series, with rebroadcasts set for distribution to the Armed Forces Radio Service throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations.
Army bats were silenced from the first pitch through the top of the ninth, stymied by Navy hurler Virgil “Fire” Trucks. Though Trucks pitched a four-hit shutout, the Army managed to reach base seven times. In addition to solid Navy fielding stranding five of the opposition’s runners, Trucks fanned six, winning the opening game, 5-0. The Tars touched Don Schmidt for 10 singles while Trucks helped his own cause with a pair of hits, one of them pushing a run across the plate.
Shifting venues to the more friendly surroundings of Flood Field at Hickam Army Air Field, the Army sought to even the Series, sending former San Francisco Seal Al Lien to the mound. The Navy countered with Johnny “Double-No-Hit” Vander Meer for the second game. The two clubs matched run for run in the first and fifth innings, leaving the score knotted at two heading into the eighth. Vander Meer held the Army scoreless after the Navy plated the go ahead run in the top of the eighth inning, leaving the Navy with a 3-2 advantage. In the top of the ninth, Dom DiMaggio walked with one out followed by a Reese single and was plated on a rocketed comeback through the box off the bat of Vinnie Smith that Lien deflected. As Gordon fielded the ball, DiMaggio sped around and scored while Smith reached first safely. With two on and one out, Lien was lifted for reliever Eddie Funk, but the Navy bats were still hot.
Manager Bill Dickey sent Ken Sears to bat in Vander Meer’s spot. After Sears flied out, Rizzuto walked. Joe Grace came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and promptly dispatched a souvenir to the fans beyond the right field fence for a grand slam. Funk coaxed McCosky to foul out to the catcher to end the inning, but the damage was done. Navy manager Lieutenant Bill Dickey sent Hugh Casey in to lock down the 8-2 victory and put the Navy up two games to none.
After taking Sunday, September 24, off, the teams traveled to the Schofield Barracks to face off at Redlander Field. Don Schmidt hoped to silence the Navy’s guns as he took the mound for the Army in the third game, opposed by Tom Ferrick. After setting down Rizzuto, who struck out looking, any confidence Schmidt may have felt soon vanished with Joe Grace’s one-out double. McCosky singled to right field and Grace scored from second. McCosky scored another run on Mize’s single to center before Schmidt got the final two outs of the frame.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Army cut the lead in half on a Judnich home run. Heading to the top of the fourth, the Army saw an unfamiliar sight on the scoreboard, a 3-2 lead. The Army had pulled ahead after two outs in the bottom of the third. Dillinger singled to left field and swiped second base. Mike McCormick singled and drove Dillinger across the plate to tie the game. Edwards reached first on a Lucadello error. McCormick scored on Judnich’s single, leaving the Navy down by a run. The Army’s lead was short-lived due to a series of Army miscues.
Lucadello grounded to third but reached first as first baseman Fain dropped Lodigiani’s throw. Catcher Sid Gautreaux let one of Schmidt’s pitches get by him, allowing Lucadello to advance to second. After DiMaggio whiffed for the first out and Reese walked, Vinnie Smith singled to left field to drive Lucadello home, tying the game, 3-3.
The score remained knotted until the top of the twelfth. With Schmidt still in for the Army, Ken Sears broke the tie with a 360-foot bomb to right field with one out. In the bottom of the frame, Navy reliever Casey, back on the hill for his third inning, looked to be in trouble after Fain singled off second baseman Lucadello’s glove. Casey hunkered down to get Gordon out swinging for the first out. Lodigiani hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Fain out at second. Pinch hitter Don Lang grounded to short, giving the Navy a 4-3 victory and a three-game lead.
The Navy juggernaut was seemingly unstoppable as the Series shifted 20 miles northeast of Pearl Harbor to Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station for the fourth game. The Navy was set on putting the series to bed, though discussions were already underway to play the full seven games for the benefit of the serviceman spectators. The Navy went back to the pitching well to bring Game 1 starter Virgil Trucks to the mound in hopes of a repeat performance. Winsett pinned the Army’s hopes upon Johnny Beazley to keep the Navy off the base paths.
Kaneohe Bay’s ball field was engulfed by more than 10,000 sailors as Trucks took the mound and set down the first three in order, fanning one. In the bottom of the opening frame, Beazley did not have the same luck. Rizzuto hit the Army pitcher for a leadoff single, but Grace seemed to swing the momentum in Beazley’s favor by grounding into a double play. McCosky walked on four straight and reached second on wild pitch. With two down and a runner in scoring position, Beazley pitched to slugger Johnny Mize, who took him deep to straight away center field for a two-run shot.
Leading 4-0 after four innings, Navy loaded the bases with no outs. Beazley was lifted for Eddie Erautt, who walked DiMaggio and Reese to force in two runs. Smith singled and drove in another pair before Trucks struck out and Rizzuto grounded into a double play to end the carnage. Navy was ahead, 8-0, and well on its way to securing the series-clinching game. Trucks had a comfortable lead and was dominating Army hitters, allowing just four hits and on his way to another shutout victory.
Not ready to lay down their arms, Army bats came to life in the top of the sixth. Leading off, Judnich singled to right field. The league batting champion, Fain, strode to the plate and drove Trucks’ offering 340 feet on a line shot over the right field wall. Joe Gordon followed Fain’s lead and powered a line drive over the left field wall and suddenly, the Army was back in the game. Trucks walked Lodigiani and uncorked a wild pitch to Army backstop Gautreaux allowing Dario to move to second. The big catcher was called out on strikes for the first out. Hitting for the pitcher Erautt, Don Lang whiffed for the second out and Trucks appeared to be working out his kinks. Bob Dillinger had other ideas and stroked a single to center field, scoring Lodigiani as the pressure on Trucks began to increase once again. McCormick worked the Navy pitcher for a free pass to load the bases with two outs, ending Trucks outing.
With “Schoolboy” Rowe taking over on the mound, Edwards singled and drove in Dillinger from second base. Rowe walked Judnich, filling the sacks with Army runners. With two outs and five runs already scored, Fain grounded to first for the final out, but the Army had narrowed the gap, trailing 8-5.
The Army manager sent former Homestead Grays hurler Hal Hairston to the mound to hold the Navy bats at bay and he promptly fanned Joe Grace to start the bottom of the sixth. McCosky grounded to short. Gordon mishandled the ball, rushed his throw to Fain at first and threw wide of the bag, allowing the runner to reach second. Mize singled next and drove in McCosky before Hairston worked out of the jam, but Navy now led 9-5.
Rowe set down the Army in order in the top of the seventh, but Hairston was unable to do the same in the bottom half. Reese led off with a single and Smith bunted him to second, then Rowe popped out to first. Rizzuto singled to score Reese, extending the Navy’s lead. In the last two frames, Judnich accounted for the Army’s last hit of the game as the Navy locked up their fourth straight win by a score of 10-5, and the Series crown.
With more than 56,000 service personnel attending the first four games, it was clear to leadership that the Servicemen’s World Series was a resounding success and a considerable morale boost to the troops stationed on Oahu. The decision was made to play the remaining three games on the schedule. Returning to the site of the opening game, Vander Meer was called upon to start for the Navy on Furlong Field’s mound for Game 5.
Dickey began to change things with his lineup, insuring other players on the roster saw action in the Series. Rizzuto, who had been manning the hot corner throughout the first four games, was moved to second base, replacing Lucadello, and Al Brancato took over at third, making his initial appearance in the Series.
As Vander Meer continued his dominance over Army batters, the change in the lineup only seemed to improve Navy hitting. Lucadello’s 0-16 bat, now on the bench, was replaced by Brancato, who joined in the Tars’ hit parade. Navy batters touched Lien, Molberg, Hairston and Ardizoia for 12 runs on 10 hits while Vander Meer held Army bats to two runs on five hits. The Army’s defensive woes also continued into the fifth game as they tacked on three to the eleven errors committed over the first four games. The Furlong crowd of 16,000 saw yet another Navy win and the Army fans were left wondering if their boys were entirely outmatched with the 12-2 drubbing.
The Series made its return to Hickam’s Flood Field for Game 6 as Winsett sent Don Schmidt back to the mound for his second series start. Former Pittsburgh Pirate hurler Jack Hallett made his rubber-toeing debut for the Navy.
Rizzuto got things going for the Navy in the top of the first as Schmidt could not find the strike zone with his initial four pitches. Gautreaux neutralized the leadoff baserunner when he gunned down “Scooter” as he attempted to steal second. Schmidt walked the next batter but coaxed DiMaggio to whiff and Mize ended the inning with a fly out to center. In the bottom of the inning, the Army took the lead when Dillinger reached on a Pee Wee Reese error. After McCormick’s failed bunt attempt, Dillinger accomplished what Rizzuto could not, swiping second. Hallett walked Edwards and Judnich to load the bases before Fain plated Dillinger on a fielder’s choice. Hallett struck out Gordon to end the inning with the Army out to an early lead.
In the third inning, the Navy finally got to Schmidt for two runs after Rizzuto singled with two outs and then stole second. Joe Grace kept things going, working Schmidt for a free pass. DiMaggio cleared the bases with a drive to right center but was out at third attempting to stretch his double to a triple.
Trailing Navy 2-1 and with two outs in the bottom of the third, Ferris Fain singled off Pee Wee Reese’s glove. Catcher Sears let one of Hallett’s pitches get by, allowing Fain to take second base. Gordon came to the plate with Fain in scoring position and two down, working the count full against Hallett before smashing the next pitch into the left field stands to put Army back on top, 3-2.
In the top of the fourth, left fielder Schoolboy Rowe lined a one-out double and was plated when Sears made amends for his third inning miscue by doubling to the right field corner. Brancato flied out to left field before Reese walked ahead of the pitcher’s spot in the order. Manager Bill Dickey called his own number to pinch hit for Hallett. With Reese and Sears on first and second, and perhaps intimidated by the legendary Yankee catcher at bat, Schmidt was called for a balk, moving the base runners up 90 feet. With both runners in scoring position, Schmidt coaxed Dickey into fouling to the third base side as Dillinger made the out to retire the side, leaving the score locked up at three runs each.
Masterson took over for Hallett, pitching one-hit ball through the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, Dickey sent Jim Carlin to pinch hit for Masterson and he promptly singled to lead off the inning. After Rizzuto flied out to Gordon, Gautreaux misplayed a Schmidt pitch, allowing Carlin to move to second. Joe Grace singled and Carlin raced around third and broke for home. The relay from Lodigiani to home went to the backstop as Carlin scored and Grace advanced to second. Schmidt limited the damage to one run by working out of the jam.
Trailing 4-3, the Army answered. Tom Ferrick replaced Masterson on the hill and Don Schmidt greeted the relief pitcher with a single. Bob Dillinger bunted, pushing Schmidt to second. McCormick joined the fray and crushed a triple to deep left center, plating Schmidt to tie the game, 4-4.
In the eighth, Rowe singled and was sacrificed to second by new catcher Vinnie Smith. After a Brancato pop fly to short for the second out, Reese grounded to short and Rowe was caught trying to advance to third. Instead of getting the sure out at first, Gordon tossed to Dillinger, but Rowe scampered back to second, beating the throw. Still with two outs, Ferrick lined a single to left center, allowing Rowe to score and Reese to move to third on the throw home. With runners at the corners, Rizzuto executed a perfect bunt base hit that scored Reese, putting the Navy ahead, 6-4.
Army hitters managed a hit in each of the last two frames, but Ferrick and the Navy’s defense shut the Army down to extend their Series win streak to six.
Through the previous six games, the Navy held a 45-16 scoring advantage. Navy hurlers were stingy, allowing just 1.78 runs per game, proving Red McQueen’s pitching assessment and prediction to be correct. Meanwhile, their offense was relentless, averaging five runs per game. For the Army fans filing into the stands for Game 7, the outlook was bleak.
For the seventh and final game, the Series moved to Furlong Field on Sunday, October 1, for a third visit to the Navy’s premier ballpark on the Island. Trucks made his third start of the series and was opposed by Carl De Rose. In the top of the first, Trucks set down the Army in order. DeRose retired Rizzuto and Grace, walked DiMaggio, then coaxed Rowe to hit a slow roller in front of the plate and be thrown out by catcher DeCarlo.
In the second frame, Don Lang homered off Trucks to right center with two outs. In the bottom half, Brancato led off with a single. With Brancato breaking for second, Reese lined a single into right field that allowed the leadoff man to reach third. Shokes popped out to second base for the first out. Bill Dickey hit a sharp grounder to Dillinger, who promptly threw home to get Brancato at the plate. Dickey lifted himself for Vinnie Smith and Virgil Trucks came to the plate with runners at first and second and two down. The Navy pitcher doubled down the right field line, scoring Reese. Rizzuto followed with a foul out.
After Army was retired in order in the third, Dom DiMaggio hit a one-out single up the middle. The “Little Professor” swiped second before Rowe whiffed for the second out. Brancato sent a line drive to right field that drove in DiMaggio. DeRose walked Reese, pushing Brancato into scoring position. Shokes singled sharply up the middle, allowing Brancato to score and putting the Navy on top, 3-1. Army players and fans could not help but think, “here we go again,” as the Navy was once again pulling away.
Trucks was unhittable in the fourth and fifth innings and DeRose only allowed one Navy hit in the fifth. In the top of the sixth, DeCarlo reached on a single to open the frame. With one out, Dillinger crushed a two-run bomb deep over the right field corner fence to even the game, 3-3. Trucks kept the Army hitless in the seventh and eighth innings while Bill Schmidt, who relieved DeRose after the sixth, allowed just two hits in the eighth.
The score was tied heading into the ninth. Gordon was set down on strikes by Trucks for the first out. Judnich worked the Navy pitcher for a walk before Fain strode to the plate. The Army first baseman and future American League batting champ promptly cracked the longest home run of the Series, sending a 390-foot bomb to the right center stands and putting his team ahead, 5-3.
Schmidt kept the Navy’s bats silenced for the bottom of the frame as Army players and fans had their moment to celebrate.
Navy first baseman Johnny Mize, former St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants slugger, led all batters in average for the seven-game series, hitting .450; however, Phil Rizzuto captured the top position in hits with 12.  The Navy’s 48-21 scoring advantage would lead one to assume that the sailors crushed Army pitching with a multitude of home runs. However, with a total of 10 four-sackers, it was the Army lumber that sent more balls over the fences, with Ferris Fain and Joe Gordon each hitting a pair followed by Dillinger, Judnich and Lang with one apiece. For the Navy, Grace, Sears, and Mize accounted for all three of the Navy’s long balls.
The Series was a monumental success as more than 100,500 troops attended the seven games, boosting morale throughout the island. With barely a moment to celebrate the series victory, Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio departed Oahu immediately following the conclusion of Game 7. With plenty of service personnel stationed on other Hawaiian islands, plans were established in August by the military leadership to send two service All-Star squads for morale-boosting exhibition baseball to those islands. By late September, the decision was made to dispatch the Service World Series clubs to Maui, Hawaii and Kauai for Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel to enjoy high caliber baseball on the outer islands.
Three days after the seventh game, the two service All-Star teams packed up and flew to Maui for a two-game series, played at the Kahului Fairgrounds on October 4th and 5th. On October 6, the teams faced off at Hoolulu Park, Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Nine days later, the final game in the four-game exhibition was played at Kukuiolono Park, Kauai on October 15.
While wartime service game scorecards are largely ignored by collectors, some of the game items do garner interest, with attention being given to the significant players present on the rosters. The Servicemen’s World Series pieces feature a handful of players who would later be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. One name that draws collector interest, Joe DiMaggio, is listed on all seven game programs and scorecards and yet he was on the mainland by September 2, having departed Hawaii indefinitely in late August. Acquiring all seven game pieces is not for the impatient. In more than a dozen years, we have seen only 15-20 total pieces from the entire Oahu series.
There are several factors that contribute to the challenges of locating these game pieces. With each of the games at or near capacity attendance, for every person to have a scorecard would mean that an average of 14,000 pieces were printed per game. In reality, the number for each game was reasonably less than the audience capacity. These estimates, while inexact, are much more scientific than determining the number of surviving copies. In the eight decades that have elapsed since the Series, it is impossible to number the pieces based upon market observation.
“Prior to the construction of concrete and steel stadiums beginning in the 1920s, ballparks often held less than 25,000 fans. Only some bought programs. Fewer saved them. Those who did may have passed them down, but others simply were discarded by family members because some of the earliest programs were actually simple scorecards that made no mention of the magnitude of what was taking place. They weren’t exactly considered keepsakes.”
How many GIs maintained their scorecards after the game? A few of the pieces in our collection appear to have been sent home by the GIs. Of those that made it home, how many endured through home moves, storage failures or being discarded as “old stuff” by surviving children when estates were liquidated?
As of the writing of this article, Chevrons and Diamonds has acquired six of the seven game scorecards. In viewing our collection online, it appears to readers that we possess all seven pieces as we digitally replicated and altered our scored Game 6 piece in order to display a representation for Game 2. Both of the games played at Hickam Field used the same printing for both games (see Service World Series, 1944 – Hawaiian Islands).
All the Furlong Field games share a common design, with the game date being the only variation. The program and scorecard from Game 4 at NAS Kaneohe Bay is one of the most well-done pieces for a wartime service baseball game. Not only does the piece include the rosters, but the headshot photographs of the star players encompass five of the oversized pages. The final addition comes from the Redlander Field-hosted game and is the only one that includes scoring by the original owner.
Our collection also features two of the four pieces originating from the Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai games. Our hunt continues for the remaining pair as well as another Hickam piece to complete the full set.
 Berry, Sal; Lehman, Bert, “Sports programs are becoming an alternative for collectors who crave vintage material (https://sportscollectorsdigest.com/news/sports-programs-collectors),” Sports Collectors Daily, February 8, 2019 (accessed October 25, 2022).
 “Baseball Basics: How to Keep Score (https://www.mlb.com/official-information/basics/score),” MLB.com, (accessed October 25, 2022)
 Cieradkowski, Gary, “218. Harry M. Stevens: The Visionary” (http://infinitecardset.blogspot.com/2016/04/218-harry-m-stevens-visionary.html),” The Infinite Baseball Card Set, April 29, 2015 (accessed October 22, 2022).
 Cresi, Frank; McMains, Carol, Baseball Programs and Scorecards (https://www.baseball-almanac.com/treasure/autont006.shtml), Baseball Almanac (accessed October 22, 2022).
 “Projected Line-ups for the Service World Series,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 15, 1944: p10.
 McQueen, Red, “Hoomalimali,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 22, 1944: p12.
 “Friday Stars the World Series,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, September 21, 1944: p.13
 Fowler, Chas., Ensign, “Yesterday’s Highlights,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 15, 1944: p10.
 “Mize Leads Batters in Service World Series,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 2, 1944: p.11.
 Bedingfield Gary. “Baseball in Hawaii during World War II,” Baseball in Wartime Publishing 2021.
 “Oahu All-Stars to Bring Baseball Headliners,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 30, 1944: p4.
 “Late Sports,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 30, 1944: p4.
 Mueller, Rich, “Vintage World Series Programs Offer Collector Challenges. (https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/hey-get-your-programs-here/),” Sports Collectors Daily, October 24, 2006 (accessed October 25, 2022).
After hanging up his cleats with his 1941 release from the Chicago Cubs and his Cooperstown destination cemented, the Gashouse Gang pitching legend, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean traded his position on the mound for one behind the radio microphone.
By 1947, as the Browns’ play-by-play man, ‘Ol Diz was vocalizing his discontent with the pitching of the St. Louis pitchers’ performance during game broadcasts. Sports Illustrated’s Ted O’Leary noted in his September 28, 1964 piece, Short Noisy Return of Dizzy, that his oral frustrations such as, “What’s the matter with that guy? Why don’t he throw that fast one? Dawg gone, I don’t know what this game’s acomin’ to. I swear I could beat nine out of 10 of the guys that call themselves pitchers nowadays,” drew the ire of Browns hurlers’ wives. O’Leary wrote, “They were not too keen on going to the ball park to witness the humiliation of their husbands. Most of the pitchers’ wives began calling both [Browns Owner Bill] DeWitt and Dean on the phone. ‘If that big lug thinks he can do any better than my husband, why doesn’t he get out there and try?’ one wife asked DeWitt.”
St. Louis was firmly entrenched in its familiar low position in the American League standings, inspiring discontented fans to stay at home, leaving Sportsman’s Park with an abundance of empty seats for late season games. Bill DeWitt saw an opportunity to create a little bit of fan interest and perhaps to satisfy the Browns’ wives by calling Dean’s bluff. DeWitt signed Dizzy to a $1 contract on September 17, giving the pitcher a little more than a week to get into shape. As if seeing the beloved Cardinals pitcher wearing a rival Cubs uniform from 1938-41 was not bad enough, fans of the National League St. Louis club saw the 37-year-old suit up for the Browns to face the visiting Chicago White Sox on September 28 for the last game of the season. Dean pitched the first four innings and surrendered three hits and a walk before he was pulled in favor of reliever Glen Moulder, who gave up five runs on five hits and four walks to lose the game.
Sitting and watching in the visitor’s dugout, White Sox second-year manager Ted Lyons may have been recalling that moment he saw Dean first don the Browns’ colors just a few years earlier. Despite what the record books reflect, Dizzy’s four shutout inning performance for the Browns in 1947 was not the first time he suited up for the perennial American League second-division dwellers.
More than two weeks following Mickey Cochrane’s Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets’ 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs, Davenport, Iowa’s Quad-City Times announced on June 25, 1943 that an exhibition game would be played at Davenport’s Municipal Stadium (known today as Modern Woodmen Park), home of the independent league Maroons. Arranged by the Quad-City Athletic Club, the contest was set to bring major league baseball back to the small ballpark situated above the levy on the bank of the Mississippi River, with a big league club facing off against a service team from the Windy City of Chicago. “We had a chance to book several service clubs in here for that night,” club president Jack Lagomarcino told the Quad-City Times. “But when we heard that Teddy Lyons was pitching for the Marines in Chicago, that was all we wanted to know.” Lagomarcino continued, “We got in touch with him and his officers, and they agreed to the game.” Anticipating drawing a large crowd, the ballpark was expanded by 1,500 to accommodate 8,000 fans for what was being billed as “Ted Lyons Night” on July 13.
Theodore Amar Lyons, a stalwart pitcher for 20 seasons with the White Sox, enlisted into the Marine Corps on November 1, 1942. The future Hall of Fame enshrinee applied for the Marine Corps Officers Training program on October 12 and ten days later divested his financial interest in his south side Chicago bowling alley business in preparation for departure. The 41-year-old told reporters that he hoped to pitch every day for the Marines rather than his once-weekly rotation with the Chicago club, according to the October 22 edition of The Times of Streator, Illinois.
Lyons trained at Quantico, Virginia, completing his training and being commissioned as a second lieutenant. While undergoing his Marine Corps instruction, he joined former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Ike Pearson on the Quantico nine.
After detaching from his training school commands, Lyons was assigned duty at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Marine Aviation Detachment at the Navy Pier in Chicago, where he assumed duties as the athletics officer in charge of combat conditioning and physical training. By early June, Lyons was with the Navy Pier Aero-Macs baseball team, whose roster was an aggregation of Navy and Marine Corps players. On June 2, the Aero-Macs faced the East Chicago Sox, a semipro club, and Lyons was added to the lineup for duties on the mound. Unfortunately, the results of the game are unknown. With the Navy Pier command’s primary role as a training center, the baseball team roster was in constant flux. By the end of June, the positions were filled entirely with Marines.
Taking the reins of the Navy Pier Marines team, Lt. Lyons prepared the players to face their scheduled opponent, the St. Louis Browns. Unlike Cochrane’s major and minor league star-studded Bluejackets roster, Lyons’ 21 “leatherneck” players were true amateurs, pulled together from four separate Marine Corps training squadrons. Staff Sergeant James G. Hallet, the shortstop, served as the detachment’s acting first sergeant. For weeks leading up to the game, the team prepared to face seasoned professionals. Aside from perfecting their defense and base running acumen, Lyons had to prepare the men to face major league pitching, which the former White Sox ace provided healthy doses of in practice. However, the Marines were in for quite a surprise when the Browns announced their starting pitcher four days ahead of the game.
“Dizzy is not signing a contract, and by no means is it to be construed that he is joining the Browns except to face his old friend, Ted Lyons,” manager Sewell told reporters. “Dean is not returning to organized baseball except for the one night,” The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) reported on Friday, July 9. In 1943, Dean was reportedly earning $10,000 to broadcast both Browns and Cardinals games in St. Louis and was two years removed from pitching for the Cubs. “You bet your boots I’ll pitch for the Browns next Tuesday night,” Dean stated. “Ted Lyons made the crack once that he could beat me in my best days. I’ll show him in Davenport that my best days are not over. I guarantee you that I will strike out that old man once,” the former Cardinals great boasted.
Newspapers touted the event for several days leading up to the day of the game. Despite all the press and the expanded seating, slightly more than half of the seats were filled. Both veteran pitchers were slated to hurl the first three frames.
Navy Pier Marines:
|Pvt.||Grover C. Boldt||2B|
|Corp.||Somes J. Dagle||LF|
|S.Sgt.||James G. Hallet||SS|
|Corp.||James L. Coldiron||CF|
|Pvt.||Charles F. Wallraff||C|
|Pvt.||Lee F. Houser||3B|
|Sgt.||Frank L. Klein||RF|
|Capt.||Theodore “Ted” Lyons||P/Mgr.|
|Corp.||Samuel E. House||P|
Before the game started, the two teams engaged in field events that included 100-yard dash races, a long-distance throwing competition and throwing for accuracy. It was all business when the Browns took the field for the top of the first inning and Dizzy strode to the mound. For several weeks, Dean had worked on strength training and other conditioning, ensuring that his arm was in peak form. Marine second baseman Boldt and left fielder Dagle were retired for the first two outs but SSGT Hallet doubled off Dean. He was gunned down by right fielder Al Zarilla as he attempted to stretch the safety to a triple. Lyons retired the side in the bottom of the frame, with both teams coming up empty. The Browns struck first in the bottom of the second inning following Zarilla’s single. Marines catcher Wallraff muffed a pitch, allowing Zarilla to reach second on the passed ball while a throwing error by shortstop Hallet moved the runner to third. Joe Schultz singled to drive Zarilla home. The Marines countered in the top of the third, with successive hits by Callewaert and Dagle evening the score, 1-1. Dean’s night was done, his having surrendered five hits and striking out one. Archie McKain took over for Dean to pitch the middle three innings.
In the bottom of the third frame the knotted score did not last as the Browns moved ahead by a run, only to have the Marines tie the game in the top of the fourth as McKain allowed the final leatherneck score. Lyons finished the bottom of the fourth with the game tied at two runs apiece. The former White Sox pitcher allowed two runs while striking out three Browns.
Corporal Samuel E. House hurled the last five frames but allowed the Browns to tally four runs. He struck out nine Browns, walking three. The Browns secured the 6-2 win, aided by Fritz Ostermueller’s brilliant pitching. Ostermueller struck out seven of the nine Marines he faced during innings 7, 8 and 9. In the weeks following the game and with the completion of their aviation training, most of the Marine players were detached and transferred to their wartime assignments. By August, Lt. Lyons was assigned to duty at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, California.
This copy of the game’s scorecard is a recent arrival to the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection, donated by a baseball historian, colleague and friend. From the front cover to the back, the program consists of 12 pages, with the majority of the content being dedicated to advertising support. In addition to the team scoring grid pages, separate pages include the team rosters (view the complete scorecard).
With just 4,500 fans at the game, our scorecard is certainly a scarce piece. With only the first few frames of each team’s grids scored, it appears that the original owner was in attendance solely for the spectacle of the two pitching greats squaring off. The lineups on our scorecard differ from the actual game record due to the last-minute changes submitted by each team’s manager after the pieces were printed.
Navy Pier Marines reserve players:
|Pfc.||John J. Adamcik|
|Sgt.||John A. Bercich|
|Pfc.||Charles J. Misko|
|Pfc.||Elmer W. Mory|
|Pfc.||Robert E. Rudewick|
|Sgt.||Dallas R. Stahr|
|Pvt.||Everett R. Sumpter|
The booklet-sized, 9-inch by 6-inch piece is in excellent condition with very minor wear showing on the pages. The staples, though rusting slightly, are solid and the pages are held firmly in place. The real treasure in this piece lies within the roster of Lyons’ team, which has enabled us to shed light upon an aggregation of regular Marines who, while serving their country, stood in the batter’s box against one the game’s pitching legends.
In researching the Marines players in pursuit of professional baseball experience, only Private Everett Sumpter, shown on our scorecard as “Simpter,” played organized ball, He didn’t play until 1947, when he was with the Lamesa Lobos of the class C West Texas-New Mexico League. Following his duty as the non-commissioned officer in charge of drill and instruction as part of Headquarters Squadron, Marine Aviation Detachment, Sergeant Dallas R. Stahr was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross medal in the Pacific Theater. The balance of the squad, while not as highly decorated as Sergeant Stahl, served throughout the war, with a few continuing to retirement from the Marine Corps.
After the final out was made in the 11th game of the 1944 Serviceman’s World Series on the Island of Kauai, the landscape of service baseball in Hawaii was drastically reformed for 1945 with respect to the spring and summer teams and leagues. When the season ended ahead of the Serviceman’s World Series, the Army’s 7th AAF team was standing alone atop the mountain of Hawaii Baseball by finishing first in the Central Pacific Area (CPA) League standings, sweeping the Hawaii League’s Cartwright Series and claiming the CPA League’s championship in a best-of-three series by sweeping the Aiea Naval Hospital club.
Following the holiday season, baseball on Oahu was set to recommence without the previous season’s champion. The powerhouse 7th Army Air Force squad, loaded with major league stars, including Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, and Red Ruffing, three Yankees and future members of the Hall of Fame, was dissolved. While Ruffing and DiMaggio were back in the States, the remainder of the team was distributed among other area Army teams.
The 1945 Hickam Field “Bombers” roster, when viewed as a cumulative total over the course of the season, appears as a sizeable aggregation of players. Numbering nearly 65 players in total, the roster was actually in flux with each passing month. The team that finished the season was quite different from the group that began play in the Honolulu League in January. During the middle months of their campaign, an influx of former major leaguers from Army airfield teams on the mainland resulted in the displacement of several players to other league teams. By August, many of the Bombers were starring on civilian rosters in Hawaii due to rule changes restricting service teams from playing in civilian leagues. Despite the season’s impacts due to military leadership decisions, the Hickam squad lived up to pre-season expectations.
Introduced to the public by the Honolulu Advertiser on January 28, the Hickam Bombers squad was built around a core of players from the 1944 7th AAF squad, including standouts Ferris Fain (San Francisco Seals), Dario Lodigiani (Chicago White Sox) and Eddie Funk (Federalsburg). Outfielder and pitcher Izzy Smith, a star semipro player hailing from Sacramento who was wrested from his centerfield position by Joe DiMaggio in June, 1944 and subsequently transferred to the Wheeler nine, was joined by James Hill (catcher), John Andres (outfield) and John Bialowarczuk (second base), thus rounding out the 7th AAF contingent. Former Detroit Tigers rookie Shortstop Billy Hitchcock arrived from Greenville Army Air Base to play third, with Martin “Luau” Pigg taking turns in the outfield with George Sprys.
|Joe “Moe” Ambrosio||Batboy|
|John Andre||OF||Honolulu League|
|John (Murphy) Bialowarczuk||2B||Perth-Amboy (Semi-Pro)|
|Bill Dillon||Eqp Mgr|
|Ferris Fain||1B||San Francisco (PCL)|
|Eddie Funk||P||Federalsburg (ESHL)|
|Dario Lodigiani||SS/Coach||White Sox|
|Paul Pancotto||C||Sheboygan (WISL)|
|Melvin “Luau” Pigg||2B||Pampa (WTNM)|
|Don Schmidt||P||Seton Hall College|
|George Sprys||OF||Charleston (MATL)|
The 10-team league included service teams from Tripler General Hospital, Hawaiian Air Depot, Wheeler Airfield, Fort Shafter, and Bellows Field along with an Army Engineer nine and the Eagles, an all-colored ball club. Two area civilian clubs, Kaimuki and Waikiki, were also league participants. Hickam was off to a fast start from the outset of Honolulu League competition with Eddie Funk’s pitching setting the pace in his first appearance of the season for the Bombers. On February 1 against Tripler, the former Federalsburg Athletic turned in a masterpiece by striking out 15 Tripler men on his way to a two-walk no-hitter at home. Six days later against the Kaimukis, Funk surrendered seven hits while fanning 11 in the 13-3 victory. Fain led the Bomber attack by scoring two tallies and driving in four.
By the end of March 25, Hickam was firmly in second place in the Honolulu League standings. Wheeler was out in front with a won-lost record of 19-2 with the Bombers three games behind at 16-5. Fort Shafter (15-5) and Bellows Field (14-7) rounded out the top four clubs. Eddie Funk was carrying an eight-game win streak and Ferris Fain’s .448 batting average was good enough for second place in the league behind the .485 of Kaimuki’s Muramoto. Fain led all batters with 23 RBIs.
While the Honolulu League’s season was underway, the 15-team Central Pacific Base Command (CPBC) All-Army League competition commenced on April 1. Bellows, Wheeler, and Hickam were the premier clubs in the CPBC league and played games between contests in the Honolulu League.
As the Honolulu League season was winding to a close, Hickam trailed Wheeler by three games with three left to play heading into a matchup between the two teams on April 3. Wheeler needed only to beat Hickam to secure the championship. With only 3,500 on hand at Honolulu Stadium, the Wingmen sent Carl DeRose to the mound to quell the Bomber bats; however, it was not to be. DeRose was assaulted by Hickam batters as he surrendered 10 hits and seven runs. His troubles with control made his outing even more troublesome as he issued six free passes. Hickam’s 7-3 advantage did not rest entirely on DeRose’s shoulders when he was pulled after 5-2/3 innings. His defense committed five errors along the way.
Despite plating eight runs in the game, Hickam stranded 16 base runners. Bomber starter Don Schmidt helped himself at the plate with two hits, driving in two runs while scoring one. Trailing 8-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Wingmen staged a comeback attempt, exiting the game after getting three runs, with the Bombers’ Salveson entering in relief to close out the game. With the 8-6 victory, the Bombers pulled to within two games. The Bombers’ hopes were dashed as Wheeler closed out the season the following day with an easy 4-3 victory over Waikiki, giving the league title to the Wingmen.
The culmination of the three-month season resulted in the Hickam squad coming together as a well-oiled club. Manager Dario Lodigiani’s use of talent in the right situation resulted in a highly competitive Bombers team. Two of his players garnered post-season awards. Billy Hitchcock, who arrived on the island after the season started and missed several early games, claimed prizes of war bonds and fruit bowls for leading the league in runs scored (34) and tying teammate Ferris Fain in RBIs (29). In addition to his shared RBI champion award, Fain also claimed the prize for doubles (10). Eddie Funk, Fain, Lodigiani and Hitchcock were named Honolulu League All-Stars.
The lion’s share of hardware and accolades went to the Wheeler Wingmen along with the league pennant, much to the disappointment of Hickam brass as the Honolulu League championship playoffs, known as the Cronin Series, were set to commence on Wednesday, April 11. The teams that qualified for the Series in addition to Wheeler and Hickam were the Bellows Flyers, Fort Shafter Commandos and Honolulu League All-Stars.
On the opening day of the round-robin play, the Honolulu Advertiser wrote, “Manager Mike McCormick’s Wingmen, who won the Honolulu league pennant with 23 wins against three defeats, will be pressed hard for the Cronin Series championship,” in the article Wingmen, Shafter Open Cronin Series Tonite at Hon. Stadium. In the run up to the close of the regular season, the Bombers were playing their best as they fought to the end. “The most improved team in the circuit during the final stages of league play was Hickam, and Manager Dario Lodigiani’s Bombers are favored in many quarters to beat the other teams to the wire in this series,” the piece said. Despite having pitchers Rugger Ardizoia, who won 12 consecutive games to close out the season, and Carl DeRose, the Wingmen were lacking in starters to carry them to the title.
The Honolulu Advertiser’s predictions appeared to be accurate in the opening game of the series as Shafter dismantled Ardizoia with five hits and three runs in the first three frames on the way to a 5-1 win over the pennant-winning Wingmen. Hours later, news of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reached the islands, which compelled organizers to postpone the upcoming weekend games until the following weekdays out of respect for the President.
After the first week of play, Shafter was out in front with a won-lost record of 2-0. Hickam’s 2-1 record, after their series-opening loss to Bellows, placed them a half game behind. Wheeler also fell behind, dropping two games and winning just one. On April 20, fifteen Army baseball stars landed on Oahu. George “Birdie” Tebbetts, Enos “Country” Slaughter, Howie Pollett, George Gill, Stan Rojek, Roy Pitter and John Jensen were among the newly arrived contingent. They reported for duty with Hickam. Unfortunately for several of the seasoned Bomber players, the roster additions translated to reassignments to other teams. Among the transfers, two of the team’s stars, Paolo “Paul” Pancotto (C) and Isadore “Izzy” Smith (OF) were sent to the civilian Wanderers club of the Hawaii League along with Joe Sciurba (2B), Melvin “Luau” Pigg (OF) and James Hill (C).
|John “Johnny” Beazley||P||Cardinals|
|Johnny “Swede” Jensen||LF/CF||San Diego (PCL)|
|Roy Pitter||P||Binghamton (EL)|
|Frank Saul||P||Seton Hall College|
|Enos “Country” Slaughter||CF/LF||Cardinals|
|Geroge “Birdie” Tebbetts||C||Tigers|
As the second week progressed, Hickam pulled into a 5-1 tie with Shafter with the Wingmen behind at 3-3. The Bombers were experiencing a shot in the arm from the new stars. In a Tuesday, April 24 game against Fort Shafter, Enos Slaughter drilled a solo shot deep into the Honolulu stands to put Hickam ahead 2-0. Eddie Funk hurled all nine innings and survived to secure a 2-1 victory.
On April 29, Hickam and Wheeler found their roles reversed from the April 3, do-or-die game between the two clubs. The two teams faced off with the Bombers in the driver’s seat, needing to defeat the Wingmen to secure the series championship. In front of 10,000 fans at the wooden Honolulu Stadium, the Wingmen shelled Bomber pitchers Funk, Don Schmidt, and Bill Salveson for 14 hits while Ardizoia and Albert Olen held Hickam to eight safeties. Hickam was unable to quiet the bats of Wheeler first baseman Chuck Stevens, who crushed a home run to deep right field and singled, and catcher Charlie Silvera, who had three singles and two RBIs. Hickam’s power hitters – Slaughter, Fain, Hitchcock and Lodigiani – were a combined three-for-16 with two runs. Bomber right fielder George Sprys’ three-for-four and two runs scored led Hickam in the 7-4 loss.
On May 1, an order from the Army’s Pacific Base Command ruled that Army personnel could no longer participate in athletic events deemed unessential to war activities. In addition, Army teams were disallowed from participating in civilian professional leagues against all civilian clubs. The Army’s ruling forced the Honolulu League officials to coordinate with AAF-POA baseball officer Lt. Tom Winsett and Shafter Commandos business manager Vernon Holt to address the situation. With the cancellation of all remaining Cronin Series games, the decision was made to determine the series winner. Due to the standings as of April 30, with Hickam (6-2) leading Ft. Shafter by a half-game (5-2) coupled with the April 30 Bellows-Shafter game being called after three innings, a ruling was needed. With only three innings in the books, the Bellows-Ft. Shafter game could not be considered complete, and the Army’s decree precluded the game from being finished on May 1. The panel was forced to determine that Fort Shafter, with a six-run lead, would not have beaten Bellows, thus leaving Hickam alone at the top of the Cronin Series standings. Hickam was declared the champion.
With the Honolulu League and Cronin Series in the rearview mirror, there was no looking back. Hickam Army Air Field’s base commander, Colonel Malcolm S. Lawton, transferred the Bombers’ reins from manager Sergeant Lodigiani’s hands to those of Captain Birdie Tebbetts. “The 30-year-old receiver is a pepperbox behind the plate, keeping up a continuous line of chatter throughout the game,” the Honolulu Advertiser’s Al Sarles wrote of Tebbetts. Touting Birdie’s five big league seasons behind the plate with the Tigers and his time at the helm of the Waco Army Flying School’s club since 1942, Sarles penned “Tebbetts has a wealth of major league experience to bring to the managerial post,” in Ex-Tiger Catcher Succeeds Lodigiani (May 4, 1945).
The Hickam, Bellows and Wheeler Field clubs found a workable solution to continue competing in the civilian Hawaii League as several players from the three clubs were distributed among the civilian teams to augment rosters that suffered their own losses due to military inductions. With military players on the rosters of the Tigers, Hawaiis, Braves, Athletics and Wanderers, the league could continue.
Hawaii League competition opened for Hickam on May 2 with Tebbetts at the helm. Adding to his already stocked stable of pitchers, the ace of the 1942 World Series, former St. Louis Cardinals hurler Johnny Beazley, was added to the roster. The Hickams were a formidable club and decimated the “civilian teams.” In a May 21 match against the Wanderers, Bomber batters racked up 13 hits as they crushed the team that featured a handful of former Hickam players. Outfielder Enos Slaughter toed the rubber in the ninth inning for his second pitching outing of the season, though he was wild, walking one batter, plunking another and allowing two tallies as no Wanderer batter could touch his offerings. Perhaps showing his opponents a bit of mercy, Tebbetts pulled Lodigiani in favor of team mascot Joe “Moe” Ambrosio at second base in the seventh. Ambrosio went hitless in his lone at-bat.
By June 4, Hickam was in a three-way tie atop the Hawaii League with the other two USAAF teams at the end of the season’s first half. Once again, an Army ruling altered the course of service team play in Hawaiian civilian leagues. It forced Hickam, Bellows and Wheeler to withdraw from the league. As June was drawing to a close, the Hickam squad suffered a bomb blast of their own as most of the team’s stars were pulled for duty in the Western Pacific. Dario Lodigiani, Stan Rojek, Birdie Tebbetts, Howie Pollett, Ferris Fain, John Jensen, Billy Hitchcock, George Gill, Roy Pitter, and John Mazur were all pulled from the roster. The departed Hickam players joined a contingent of USAAF former major and minor leaguers to form a three-team league in the Marianas which played dozens of games on Guam, Tinian, and Saipan through August to entertain the troops.
Hickam continued to compete against service teams throughout the summer despite their withdrawal from the CPBC League after the conclusion of the first round of play on May 20. “In 14 consecutive contests, the Bombers have scored 100 runs, or better than seven per game,” Al Sarles wrote in his Hickam Sports Shorts column in the August 9 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser. “They have collected 144 hits for an average of better than 10 per game.” New manager Johnny Bialowarczuk had his team playing incredible baseball regardless of being outside league competition. “Hickam’s opponents have only been able to collect 45 runs in 14 contests,” Sarles wrote. Salveson and Schmidt had become a solid tandem of starting pitchers. As of August 9, Salveson had won three straight complete games while surrendering just six runs on 22 hits. He had walked five batters during the stretch but fanned 24.
By mid-September, the Bombers’ dominance was noteworthy, though they were not infallible. Wimpy Quinn’s Fleet Marines faced Hickam in a best-of-five series that came down to the final game. Quinn’s and Hal Hirschon’s bats were the bane of Bomber pitching as FMF downed Hickam in a 3-0 series- clinching game on September 15. With barely enough time to lick their wounds, the Bombers played host to former Red Sox slugger Ted Williams’s Marine Fliers the next day. Hickam bats laid waste to the Fliers’ pitching and opened a 10-run lead after the first few innings. Bill Salveson held a comfortable, 10-2 lead when the Fliers’ bats began to chip away at the deficit. The Marines tagged Bomber pitching for 14 hits in the last three innings and tallied three runs in each of the final frames before Saul stemmed the flow and Hickam walked away with a 13-11 victory.
When we acquired a team-signed ball with 26 autographs featuring Enos Slaughter, Birdie Tebbetts, Ferris Fain, and Dario Lodigiani in 2020, the seller listed it as originating from the USAAF Marianas games. However, analysis of the ball’s signatures and comparison with the three Marianas Rosters (58th Bombardment Wing “Wingmen,” 73rd Bombardment Wing “Bombers,” and 313th Bombardment Wing “Flyers”), our research led to investigating Hawaii service team rosters. With the exception of three names, all the players were members of the Hickam Bombers.
Once it was established that our signed ball was from the Hickam team, the fruitless pursuit of additional artifacts ensued. One of our colleagues, a noted St. Louis Cardinals historian, reached out that year and shared with us (in a social media chat) a team photo that he had in his possession that showed the Bombers posed on their home field. The photo, formerly in the possession of Enos Slaughter, was given to our colleague by his family following the passing of the Cardinal legend. Last month, we executed a trade to bring the Hickam photo into the fold after two years of infrequent discussions.
After further analysis of the 1945 Hickam roster, the identities of the players in the photo and the signatures present on the ball, it is apparent that both were captured during the first half of the Hawaii League season, between May 2 and late June. To some, it may seem inconsequential to locate two significant pieces from the same brief span of time in the context of Hickam’s 1945 season and the personnel churn the team experienced throughout the year.
After the stars were dispatched to the Marianas, the Hickam team, dubbed “Medium Bombers” by the Honolulu Advertiser on July 20, continued to be an impressive squad. With the departure of both Lodigiani and Tebbetts, second baseman Johnny “Murphy” Bialowarczuk was named as the Bomber manager on June 28 despite the questions surrounding the continuation of service team play.
Aside from the major leaguers who signed our ball, including two-time American League batting champion Ferris Fain, four-time All-Star catcher Birdie Tebbetts, and Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter, there are a few signatures from Hickam Bomber players that stand out.
Seton Hall basketball star Frank Saul, who left school after his freshman year to enter the service, joined the Bombers as a pitcher following the conclusion of the Hawaii basketball season in late April. “Pep” Saul remained with the baseball team through September and would return to college in 1946, when he became the school’s first career 1,000-point scorer before joining the National Basketball Association. During his professional career, he won four NBA titles with the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and the Minneapolis Lakers (now in Los Angeles). Saul was inducted into Seton Hall’s hall of fame in 1973.
Baseball connects people in ways that are often overlooked. Saul’s Hickam teammate, pitcher Don Schmidt, was also a Seton Hall alum, with their college careers overlapping. It is unknown whether the two Pirates encountered each other on campus or if they met for the first time on the Hickam roster. In 1944, Schmidt was a member of the 7th AAF juggernaut that included three future members of the Hall of Fame, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, and Red Ruffing. His pitching was good enough to get him named to the Army All-Star team by Tom Winsett. Schmidt pitched two complete games in the Serviceman’s World Series but both resulted in losses (Game 3, 4-3 and Game 6, 6-4). He made relief appearances in Games 1 and 10. In 1949 Schmidt wrote that his ambition in baseball was to “win in the majors” but his career never took him higher than class AAA with Milwaukee of the American Association. Schmidt played seven minor league seasons from 1946 to 1953 before hanging up his spikes.
The University of Tulsa’s first team All-American quarterback, Glenn Dobbs, led his team to a perfect 10-0 1942 season that culminated in a Sun Bowl victory over Texas Tech on January 1, 1943. Dobbs joined Hickam on May 9 and remained with the club through the summer as the starting second baseman. After his discharge, Dobbs played football professionally with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Los Angeles Dons in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1946 to1949 and the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 1951 to 1954. He earned first-team All-Pro honors in 1946 and was a CFL All-Star in 1951. Dobbs was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. He returned to coach his alma mater from 1961 to 1968, leading the team to two first-place finishes and two Bluebonnet Bowl appearances (see: Glenn Dobbs Statue Unveiled At Tulsa University).
During a stint with an unknown professional baseball club, Carteret, New Jersey’s John P. Bialowarczuk wrote that his most interesting experience was hitting a home run off former Washington Senators pitcher Walt Masterson. The 1939 American Legion ball player had stints with the Perth Amboy club of the Metropolitan Semi-Pro league between 1940 to 1942 before joining the Army Air Force. Serving with the 7th Army Air Force in Hawaii for three years, Bialowarczuk shared the diamond with Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Pee Wee Reese, Schoolboy Rowe, and Hugh Casey. Manager Tom Winsett took notice of his talent and added him to the Army All-Stars for the Serviceman’s World Series in the fall of 1944.
The non-Hickam Bombers who signed our ball include former Cincinnati outfielder Mike McCormick, who carried a .288 batting average and a .302 on-base percentage in 14 World Series games with the Reds, Boston Braves and Brooklyn; and Walt Judnich, formerly with the Browns. One name we are still researching is “Bill Mosser.” Though we have found a corresponding minor leaguer who served in the armed forces from February, 1944 to May, 1946, we have yet to confirm or rule him out as the player who signed our ball.
|Joe “Moe” Ambrosio||Bat Boy|
|John (Murphy) Bialowarczuk||IF||Perth-Amboy (Semi-Pro)|
|Leonard Burton||P||Houston (TL)|
|Richard “Dick” Cattabiani||LF|
|Don “Pee Wee” Dwyer|
|Ray Edwards||Biz Mgr.|
|John Geilen||Ath. Dir.|
|Cornel George “Kearny” Kohlmyer||2B||St. Joseph (MICH)|
|Paul Pancotto||C||Sheboygan (WISL)|
|Roy Pitter||P||Binghamton (EL)|
|Frank Saul||P||Seton Hall College|
|Don Schmidt||P||Seton Hall College|
|Joseph “Joe” Sciruba||2B||Lynchburg (VIRL)|
|George Sprys||OF||Charleston (MATL)|
As we continue to identify each player in the team photo, we are more than pleased to unite these two incredible artifacts within the Chevrons and Diamonds collection.
Related Chevrons and Diamonds Articles:
- Service World Series, 1944 – Hawaiian Islands
- The Wartime Flight of a Cardinal: Sgt. Enos Slaughter
- George “Birdie” Tebbetts: From Waco to Tinian
- Signature Search: The 1945 Hickam Bombers
- The Navy’s Little Colonel: Chief Athletic Specialist Harold “Pee Wee” Reese
- Red Ruffing, an Airman’s Ace
- More Than Seven Decades in the Game From North Beach Sandlots to the Coral Fields of Guam, Saipan and Tinian
Our collection, while diverse in its artifacts, is still narrowly focused on a spectrum that we have labeled “baseball militaria.” From uniforms, scorecards and programs, vintage photographs to on-field equipment, we have curated a broad range of items to shed light on the game’s lengthy, intertwined history with the armed forces and the people who played and served.
Without conducting a detailed inventory and employing a proper taxonomic, categorical and dating scheme, we can only approximate statistical data regarding the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection. Somewhere between 85 and 95 percent of our artifacts originate from the World War II period, with a handful dating to before or after that time frame.
Standing in the batter’s box and staring down a major league pitcher while attempting to determine the type and location of the pitch about to be thrown requires steel nerves and concentration. Prior to that moment, batters will have seen hundreds if not thousands of pitches, with considerable success in putting the ball in play. The sensation of leveling a bat and solidly connecting with a baseball is a feeling that is indescribable, especially if one is swinging a wood bat. While wooden bats are a mainstay of the professional game, college players employ aluminum “lumber” at the plate.
The switch to aluminum bats in the NCAA addressed two significant issues in the college game: the lack of offense (and thus, low fan interest and poor ticket sales for games) and increasing equipment costs to replace bats due to breakage. Aluminum bats were advantageous due to their significant reduction in weight, which allowed batters to increase bat speed and provide an increased energy transfer to the ball. The velocity at which the ball left the bat dramatically increased, allowing batters to hit for better power and average.
While college players are still permitted to use wooden bats, doing so would put hitters at a competitive disadvantage. Rather than the crack of the wood connecting with a pitch, fans attending college baseball games hear only the “tink” of aluminum from coast to coast, including at the armed forces service academies.
Our collection has a modest gathering of baseball artifacts from both West Point and Annapolis; however, two pieces of note are bats used by Annapolis’ baseball team. They stand out when compared to our WWII service lumber. From the center brands and barrel markings to the imprints on the knobs, the two bats differ from the 1940’s retail pieces commonly distributed to troops during the war.
Based upon the tight wood grain, weight and length along with the markings, it is quite apparent that these bats were manufactured for players who possessed greater strength, talent and skills. Properly identifying the bats provides data for cataloging as well as establishing an approximate value.
The two Naval Academy bats in our collection were manufactured with specific characteristics, including weight, length and proportional dimensions that were customized to meet the desires of professional ballplayers. These specifications were catalogued and assigned model numbers which could be ordered from Hillerich & Bradsby (H&B) by other players and teams.
Many professional model bats are marked with college or university names beneath the player signature on the barrel. In some instances, locating a professional model bat with a notable name and a correlating college can add significance to a collection as is the case with a Jackie Robinson model purchased by Ohio Wesleyan University, the alma mater of Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey. Located below the players’ signatures on the barrel of each bat are stamps spelling out the team name; N A V Y, indicating that our two examples were purchased by the Naval Academy.
Each N A V Y-marked bat in our collection is team-purchased and known in the sphere of collecting as “Team Index Bats” or TIB. Baseball artifact expert Dave Grob wrote an excellent piece (Team Index Bats | MEARSONLINE.com, April 29, 2007) documenting TIBs for individual players. He stated “Team Index Bats provided the team with the ability to make orders for:
- General, At-Large Team or Organizational Use.
- Specific Specialized Team Use for items like Fungoes, Weighted Bats, and Generic Pitchers’ Bats.
- Special Events such as World Series and Old Timers Games.
- Bulk specific orders to facilitate spring training.
- And yes, possible individual player orders.”
The first point in Grob’s list is most applicable regarding collegiate use of professional bats and directly pertains to our two examples.
The first NAVY professional bat that we acquired was an “R43” Yogi Berra model (coincidentally, Berra served in the Navy during WWII). The measured length of this bat is 35 inches, which corresponds to the bats that the Yankee catcher ordered from H&B starting in 1947. Prior to Berra adopting the R43, the model was a Babe Ruth Model.
Chicago White Sox second baseman Nelson “Nellie” Fox, who starred with the club from 1950 to 1963 after three seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics, used an H&B model “C12” throughout his career. However, in researching Fox’s C12 bat lineage, an interesting and likely speculative historical bat lineage surfaced on a few different bat collectors’ forums. Unfortunately, the following is not attributable and unverified yet is fascinating.
In June 1932, Detroit’s Charlie Gehringer ordered a ” [Rogers] Hornsby model bat with a Billy Rhiel (Gehringer’s Tiger teammate) handle.” The Rhiel handle was thicker than the Hornsby model cited. After additional orders in May 1934, that model was designated as “Gehringer’s 5-26-34,” and subsequently, in the early 1940’s was assigned H&B model number “G7.”
In April 1951 Nellie Fox ordered a bat that had likely been crafted to the dimensions of a player identified as R. Kramer that had been apparently designated model C12. The dimensions were apparently the same as Gehringer’s G7 model, as the entry in Fox’ H & B records reads “4-13-51 R Kramer C12 use G7.” A similar notation “C12 use G7” appears several more times in Fox’s records in 1951, and finally, when Fox signed an endorsement contract with H&B on 7/11/51, his signature was put on a Model C12 which also became his Pro Stock model and, due to the somewhat unique dimensions of the bat, became forever linked with Nellie Fox.
Theory — There is no Major League player of the period named R. Kramer. Although the R. Kramer notation in Fox’s records may refer to a minor league player, it is also possible that the name was misspelled in Fox’s records and actually refers to Roger “Doc” Cramer who played with the Tigers throughout the 1940s and who would have been in a position to see and try out Rhiel’s and Gehringer’s bats and request the same model for his own use. Later, when bats were pulled from the H&B vault to be assigned numbers, the bat was designated C12, which would be consistent with H&B’s system of the first letter of the model number reflecting the bin from which it came, in this, the C (Doc Cramer) bin….
Thus, it is possible that Billy Rhiel’s model bat (Hornsby with thick handle), Charlie Gehringer’s model bat (Hornsby with Rhiel handle designated G7), Doc Cramer’s model bat (designated C12) and Nellie Fox’ model bat (C12) all share the same dimensions, with the lineage of Hornsby to Rhiel to Gehringer to Cramer to Fox.Unattributed commentary published in multiple locations.
Setting the Nelson Fox C12 model heritage aside, our more pressing desire was to properly date the two bats. Referring to the Keyman Collectibles’ Louisville Slugger Bat Dating Guide, we can narrow down the age of each bat to a range of years by focusing on details in the center brand.
Both of our bats are marked with the same center brand that was used by Hillerich and Bradsby from 1965 to 1979. We focused attention on the registered trademark symbol, the circled “R” located adjacent to the “R” at the end of SLUGGER.
With the era established and seeking to further narrow down the age of the bats, we referred to the POWERIZED wordmark to the right of the center brand. The absence of the registered trademark over the “d” on the Yogi Berra model narrows the age of the bat to 1965-1972. However, the unusual font-style of the wordmark (which includes a serif on the end of the “d”) was employed by H&B from 1964-66 along with our specific center brand. Based on these details, our “R43” Yogi Berra model bat dates to the above three-year period in the mid-1960s.
The Powerized wordmark on the Nelson Fox bat includes the registered trademark symbol above the “d,” indicating a date range of 1973-1979. However, H&B relocated model numbers from the knob to the barrel in 1976. Since the “C12” is located on the knob, we can further narrow the range to 1973-1975.
With the NCAA’s approval of aluminum bats ahead of the 1974 season, it is unlikely that colleges continued ordering wood bats. Because of the shift in materials, it is our assertion that our Nelson Fox bat dates to the last year of the wood bat regulation for collegiate baseball, pinpointing the year to 1973.
Baseball bat research resources:
- Louisville Slugger Knob Markings and Model Numbers – KeyMan Collectibles
- Mickey Mantle Louisville Slugger K55 College Baseball Bat – KeyMan Collectibles
Now that the regular season of baseball has ended and the postseason is underway, the ballparks have fallen silent as players pack their personal effects and head off to their off-season activities. For curators and collectors alike, there is no down time as artifacts require attention whether for care and maintenance or for acquisitions and research. Earlier this year, we spotlighted the maintenance program which we use to care for and preserve the leather fielding equipment in our collection (see: Maintenance Stop: Caring for 75 Year-Old Fielding Leather) and also planned to document preservation processes used for other artifacts in our collection
Baseball bats, like gloves, are a highly tangible and tactile part of baseball history and represent one of the most significant aspects of collecting. To most collectors, a wooden implement that has been turned on a lathe, sanded smooth and applied with a finish, would not appear to require much, if any, preservation. For a substantial percentage of collectible bats, limited intervention is all that is required. However, many of the military-used bats have been subjected to years of use and improper storage, resulting in destabilized wood cells, grain separation and even decay (rot).
World War II bats, while not entirely scarce, can be quite a challenge to source. When they do surface on the market, they are typically well-used and replete with more than their share of battle scars, cracks, divots and other signs of long-term abuse. Often stored for decades in harsh environs and exposed to moisture, paints and solvents, service-marked baseball bats tend to have hardly any aesthetically pleasing traits that would make them display-worthy. Our U.S.N-marked Ted Williams signature model bat was in such poor condition when we acquired it that it appeared to have been used to smack line drives with crushed stones (see: Ted Williams: BATtered, Abused and Loved); however, with cautious preservation it is now displayed among our rarest baseball artifacts.
With retail or store-model bats, the brand and model markings are lightly applied with stamps and colored foil (most often black) to simulate the burned brands seen on professional bat models. Through normal use, the foil flakes away, leaving a faint indentation that is barely discernible. One of our earliest non-military bat acquisitions, an early-1950s, Ferris Fain signature, store-model bat, was completely devoid of the black foil. After cleaning and reconditioning the wood, we carefully restored the brand, model markings and Fain’s facsimile autograph with display-worthy results (see: Close to Completion: Restoring a 1950s Ferris Fain Signature Model Bat).
In May, we provided guidance on Hillerich and Bradsby store-model bats that were stamped and distributed throughout the armed forces during World War II (see: Batting Around: Special Services U.S. Army Equipment Drives the Military Baseball Market). In focusing attention on the two levels of “H&B” store models, player-endorsed (which feature facsimiles of player autographs) and player models (marked with the catalog number “No. 14” and the “Safe Hit” brand), we spotlighted the most prevalent of service-used bats. Offerings in these two lines are pursued by collectors who focus on specific players and include the potential of acquiring two different bats associated with a favorite player.
We have several service-marked, store-mode bats in the Chevrons and Diamonds collection with player endorsements, such as those of Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, Charlie Keller and the aforementioned Ted Williams. While we prefer to source bats with endorsements from players who served, we take pieces as they become available, regardless of the player’s name stamped onto the barrel. A fair amount of these wartime service bats tends to be associated with the game’s legends, such as Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth and others who did not serve during WWII, if at all. Yet other bats endorsed by players who served, including Charlie Gehringer, Joe DiMaggio, Musial and Williams, are of great interest to military-focused curators and collectors. In some instances, drawing correlations between players and the armed forces in order to satisfy an unwritten acquisition rule can make for an enjoyable exercise in the exploration of the notion of “six degrees of separation.” Perhaps it is more honestly stated that stretching facts in order to justify an accession of a non-veteran-associated bat came into play with two specific pieces within our collection.
By the fall of 1944, 34-year-old Mel Ott, longtime right fielder for the New York Giants, achieved his twelfth All-Star selection and finished his third season as the manager of the team that finished fifth in the National League. With a lengthy list of Giants players serving in the armed forces, including Johnny Mize, Morrie Arnovich, Buddy Blattner, Ken Trinkle, Harry Danning and Willard Marshall, Ott signed on with the USO to visit the troops and provide a morale boost to the men who were engaged in pushing German forces out of the nations they occupied. Joining Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bucky Walters, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Frankie Frisch, and Washington Senators pitcher Dutch Leonard, Mel Ott and the rest of the men traveled to the European combat theater.
The men saw the war in ways that Americans could not comprehend as their tour put them in front of GIs whom they addressed from makeshift stages in precarious conditions. These included being on flimsy platforms in shambles that were once buildings during some of the worst winter weather conditions on European record. Their tour took them into Belgium as the Wehrmacht began their massive offensive that would be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Wearing Army combat uniforms, the ballplayers toured areas that were, at times, within a half-mile of the enemy lines. Dutch Leonard recalled the following spring, “I’ve gone through some bad winters around my home in Illinois, but what we had on the trip around the front beat anything I’d ever experienced. No matter how much I put on, I never felt warm.” The players witnessed the horrors of combat just hours after an appearance. Leonard continued, “…and the boys who listened to us at night would be in action the next morning.” Ott and the rest of the men did not back out of their mission despite the harsh and dangerous conditions and instead pressed on to finish the tour. Appearing before more than 300,000 GIs, the men took the time to engage with the service members after the shows, signing autographs and talking baseball.
Recognizing Mel Ott’s Hall of Fame playing career along with his time spent with the troops, we acquired a “U.S.” marked Melvin Ott Model H&B Safe Hit bat that had some condition issues but would make an aesthetically pleasing display once meticulously cleaned and conditioned. Just weeks after receiving the Safe Hit Ott model, a “U.S.N.” marked, Mel Ott signature model became available, which we did not hesitate to add to the collection. The condition of the U.S.N. bat was as close to “poor” as could be without being worthless in terms of collectability.
In assessing the condition of each Ott bats once in hand, it became quite apparent that both would require considerable reconditioning effort to stabilize and make them presentable among the other pieces in our collection. Our approach to conditioning is to preserve as much of the original wear and natural aging as possible while removing the decades of accumulated dirt and foreign substances. Once the surfaces are prepared, we assess the condition of the brand marks to determine if additional intervention should be taken and restoration work done. One of the challenges in collecting service bats in particular is that they have seen a lot of use after the war.
In the post-war years, the armed forces began to sell off outmoded or aged equipment that was considered surplus as each branch of the military contracted to significantly reduced manpower sizes. Baseball equipment was sold as inexpensive alternatives for industrial and Little League teams and advertisements proliferated in periodicals such as The Sporting News, featuring military-marked mitts, gloves and bats. Though some equipment sold was in new condition, having never made it to the GIs, much of it was used before beginning another cycle of game activity.
Both of our Mel Ott bats showed significant use, including breakage and field repairs in order to extend their usefulness. Broken bat handles complicated our rejuvenation process, adding multiple steps as we strove to maintain the aged appearance. After gluing a break, the removal of excess glue and the smoothing of the wood surface required abrasives such as sandpaper which easily cleared away the oxidized top surfaces and left behind a new, lighter surface.
The Ott Couple
The condition of our Safe Hit, Melvin Ott Model, H&B (catalog) No. 14 bat was fair. The crack extending from the upper reach of the handle towards the backside of the center brand was not obvious when viewing the stamped markings, which meant that the bat could be left as it was and displayed to conceal the most severe damage. However, with paint and what appeared to be tape residue on the barrel, restorative work had to be done, including closing and stabilizing the crack. Working through the process, we worked to remove the paint and soften the discoloration left behind by the tape. Desiring to retain the original patina of the wood, our crack repair did not conceal the crack, but when we completed our efforts, the crack appeared less obvious than it was when we acquired the bat.
Describing our second Mel Ott bat as a basket-case would be a mild description. With nearly all of the black foil worn or flaked off, little remained of the contrasting markings. Fortunately, the impressions were quite deep, leaving the brand, model number and signature somewhat visible. The upper third of the handle was wrapped in grip tape, leaving a rather unusual appearance. Applied decades ago, the tackiness was long gone, having left behind an almost shell-like covering over the handle. To properly preserve and revitalize this piece, the tape was removed, revealing a sizeable crack. As with the Safe Hit Ott bat, the ensuing crack repair was minimal in order to preserve much of the aged and worn appearance while providing stability to the bat.
Considering that both bats required cleaning and removal of layers of dirt, grime and other foreign substances, we employed a safe and very mild adhesive remover (Goo Gone) possessing subtle solvent properties and, with light application, is safe for wood finishes. With stubborn substances such as paint, we combined the solution with .000 fine steel wool and a light pressured motion moving with the woodgrain to begin stripping away the surface buildup. To preserve the original finish of the bat, we took our time with the most difficult areas. Once we were satisfied with the results, we removed all the loosened material with a clean cloth that was lightly soaked in the solvent. Once the Goo Gone had fully evaporated, the next step was to address the cracks.
Our process for repairing cracks was rather lengthy. Two essential elements that we used were carpenter’s glue and enough clamps to provide enough compression to squeeze the crack tightly. After carefully and generously applying glue into the full extent of the crack, pressure needed to be applied so that it forced the excess to emerge. Wiping away the excess, we allowed each bat to sit for 12 hours before releasing the clamps.
With the glue hardened, the next step was to use an abrasive to smooth away any remaining excess glue while limiting removal of the aged finish from the surrounding areas. Inevitably, some of the surrounding wood surface would be impacted and could be addressed in a subsequent step. For each of our bats, we briefly employed 240-grit sandpaper to wear down the heaviest glue deposits before switching to 800-grit to remove the majority of what remained. To ensure a smooth surface, .000 steel wool removed the last remnants of the excess glue.
With the crack repairs complete, the area surrounding the crack was lightened due to excessive material removal and it almost screamed of repair work. Since the wood of both bats was hickory, the aged finish darkened to a reddish-brown hue. Applying a rub of wet coffee grounds directly to the area provided a subtle stain to soften the brightness of the fresh wood surface.
Evaluating the brand stamps and lettering applied to each bat, we determined two separate paths to address the dulled appearances. With the Safe Hit Ott bat, the brands were applied deep enough that they were quite visible and merely needed to have the dirt and dust deposits carefully removed. We determined that the signature Ott bat would be negatively impacted by any attempts to manually restore the center brand as it remained somewhat visible. However, the signature and the U.S.N. stamp were candidates for restoration.
Restoration of black foil stampings can be a challenge. In assessing the impressions, some first-time restorers may be inclined to use a black art ink pen with a fine tip. Considering the porous nature of the wood, the cellular structure is absorbent and will draw the ink away from carefully applied lines and leave an unsightly and amateurish appearance, regardless of the careful hand-applied markings. We recommend using fine tipped acrylic paint pens. The black paint does get absorbed into the wood and mistakes can be easily corrected (wiping with a paper towel). Once the marks have dried, the black paint is easily aged. With careful and precise application, the “U.S.N.” stamp and the impression of Mel Ott’s signature were filled with black paint however, some excess extended beyond the lines which we opted to address once the paint cured. After the paint dried overnight, the appearance did not align with the markings of a worn and battered bat. Using a fresh piece of steel wool, we began to remove the excess paint. The result of the synthetic distressing resulted in an aged appearance of the markings.
Utilizing toothpicks to remove crusted dust and dirt from the Safe Hit Ott bat’s stampings revealed a much more crisp and dark impression for both the barrel and center brand markings. After preparing the stamps and marks, each bat was ready for a final cleaning before applying the surface-conditioning linseed oil.
Before applying the conditioning, the surfaces of the bats required one final surface cleaning to remove the debris and dust and to ensure a clean surface to receive the oil finish. Using a clean cloth or fresh paper towels generously saturated with the gentle solvent, we thoroughly wiped down each bat, ensuring that all substances were removed. With another 24 hours of drying, we undertook the last step of coating the wood with linseed oil. This final step might have taken a few applications over the course of multiple days. We allowed the bats to absorb the oil and to dry coats. When the wood no longer absorbed the oil, the excess was wiped away and the bats were staged to provide for complete drying.
The ultimate step of our process was to gently buff the wood with a clean and dry cloth, which brought a dull shine to the wood, revealing its natural beauty, emphasizing the years of use and providing a visually pleasing artifact for display.
Related Chevrons and Diamonds Articles
- Batting Around: Special Services U.S. Army Equipment Drives the Military Baseball Market – May 11, 2021
- “Game Used” Lumber: Wartime Service Adds Meaning for Collectors – October 31, 2020
- Tools of the Trade: Wartime Equipment used by (Former) Professional Ballplayers – July 9, 2020
- Charlie “King Kong” Keller Rattles the Woodshed ending a Yearlong Silence – May 8, 2020
- Bat Restoration: New Life for Ferris Fain’s Signature lumber – August 8, 2019
- Hard to Find Military Sticks: “Double-X” Joins Our World War II Baseball Lumber Pile – April 9, 2019
- Ted Williams: BATtered, Abused and Loved – February 7, 2019
- Close to Completion: Restoring a 1950s Ferris Fain Signature Model Bat – July 10, 2018
- KeyMan Collectible Louisville Slugger Dating Guide
- WWII Professional Equipment Fund (KeyMan Collectibles)
Equipment Fund Raising Events
- A Passion for the Troops: Joe E. Brown’s All Pacific Recreation Fund – October 17, 2019
- Service All-Stars Raising Funds on the Diamond for their Comrades in the Trenches – October 2, 2019
*- Hubler, David, and Joshua H. Drazen. 2015. “The Nats and the Grays: how baseball in the Nation’s Capital survived WWII and changed the game forever.”