Camp Chaffee Flannel: Arkansas Tanker Training Base a WWII Haven of Army Baseball
Researching wartime baseball can be a succession of twists, turns, roadblocks and dead ends as one travels down each road. One clue can remove a barrier or expose an alternate avenue to explore and lead to a highly rewarding breakthrough. In some instances, the objective that sets one onto the path of exploration becomes secondary or tertiary to the buried treasures that are discovered.
Quite typically, we acquire military baseball artifacts that require research to determine various historical aspects. Analyzing attributes that can then be compared with known artifacts, including those within our collection, affords us the ability to arrive at educated approximations or precise determinations. Military baseball uniforms can pose considerable challenges in pinpointing basic aspects such as the year they were manufactured. A task that is exceedingly more difficult is attributing an unnamed piece lacking provenance to a specific player.
In early March, 2022, we took a gamble on acquiring a flannel jersey lettered with “CAMP CHAFFEE” and listed at auction. Based upon several aspects discernible in the photographs of the listing, it was clear that the jersey dated from 1943-44. In addition to the athletic felt lettering on the chest, a large pair of numerals, “13,” was stitched across the back of the jersey in corresponding material. With high confidence that the jersey was used by an Army team from the World War II training base, we completed the purchase, deciding to trust in our research capabilities to connect the jersey to a team and players.
Named to honor the man who is considered the U.S. Army’s “Father of The Armored Force,” Major General Adna Romanza Chaffee Jr., Camp Chaffee was constructed in 1941 in western Arkansas. By March, 1942, Camp Chaffee was fully operational as a training base for the 6th, 14th, and 16th Armored Divisions. As the war progressed, Camp Chaffee expanded in both size and training operations, bringing engineer, artillery, and infantry units to the installation. Perhaps the most notable baseball athlete, the Boston Braves pitching prospect and future inductee into the Hall of Fame, Warren Spahn, trained at Camp Chaffee and played baseball while stationed there in 1943 and 1944.
As athletics played a significant role in the physical readiness and conditioning of troops, unit cohesion and morale also greatly benefited from competition among the commands by way of their sports teams. In the spring and summer, military installations could host their own graduated baseball leagues with classifications similar to what was seen in the minor leagues. Some units had the benefit of large pools of talent in assembling teams with experience that could rival clubs in the American Association and the International and Pacific Coast Leagues. Each of the various units stationed at Camp Chaffee fielded teams, including the 59th Field Artillery, 16th Armored Division, 47th and 62nd Armored Regiments and the 1850th Service Unit that featured Zeb “Red” Eaton, Ed “Truck” Kearse and Warren Spahn. In addition to local league play, the service teams competed against regional semi-pro, minor league and even college squads. In an August 5, 1943, game that pitted the 1859th against a team representing the KFPW radio station, Warren Spahn pitched a 15-0 no-hitter, striking out 17 opposing batters. Two defensive errors in the game allowed KFPW baserunners, thus preventing the Braves hurler from perfection.
Once the Camp Chaffee artifact arrived and was removed from its shipping container, it was immediately obvious that the jersey was heavily soiled and likely had been laundered by a commercial dry cleaner. Upon thorough inspection, the condition of the jersey was far better than was discernible in the auction listing photographs. All the garment’s seams showed no signs of separation, and the threads were tight. All the stitching securing the lettering, numerals and soutache was in the same condition with no signs of decay. Aside from a missing fifth button from the bottom of the placket, the musty odor and dirt-laden wool fibers were the only issues, and both were correctible.
With the jersey cleaned and prepared for display, research surrounding Camp Chaffee continued and we were able to identify a handful of players across multiple rosters from unit teams at the base. Former Sacramento Solon outfielder Averett Thompson and pitcher Elwood “Dinty” Moore of Salem (class “B” Western International League) played for the 47th Armored Regiment team while Jim Sheehan, a catching prospect in the New York Giants organization, served as a player-manager for the 59th Field Artillery. It was highly unlikely that any of these teams or players donned a Camp Chaffee-specific uniform in favor of a unit-corresponding flannel. Several newspaper articles and game summaries that we were able to uncover detailed games at or against Camp Chaffee unit teams for the 1943 season. No sources were found that referenced any Camp Chaffee base team.
The 1944 season at Chaffee saw competition from the 16th Armored Division (featuring former Pirates outfielder, Maurice Van Robays), 18th Armored Infantry Battalion, 736th Tank Battalion (Dinty Moore), and the 276th Engineers with Warren Spahn. This season also so the emergence of the Camp Chaffee base nine, led by their team captain, former Johnstown Johnnies first baseman Judson F. “Jay” Kirke, Jr.
1944 Camp Chaffee Baseball Team
|Pfc.||Judson F. “Jay” Kirke||1B/Capt.||Johnstown (PASA)|
Jay Kirke, a second-generation professional baseball player, was born on August 27, 1912, in Fleischmanns, New York as his father, Judson Fabian Kirke, was in his second major league season with the Boston Braves. A ten-year minor leaguer, Kirke entered the Army on January 4, 1944, at Fort McClellan, Alabama. By April, Kirke was tearing the hide off the ball with the Fort McPherson, Georgia ball team before transferring to Camp Chaffee.
As the 1944 season was getting underway, the Army activated and reconstituted the 174th Infantry Regiment, a historically New York National Guard unit, and assigned them to Camp Chaffee for training in anticipation of overseas deployment. Former Los Angeles Angels catcher Private First Class Harry M. Land started the year with the 174th at Camp White, located 16 miles north of Medford, Oregon and played for the regiment’s “Buffaloes.” By June, the 174th was at Camp Chaffee and began to dominate the competition. Captain Harry Lindsey, special services officer for the 174th dispatched a letter to the citizens of Buffalo, New York, the former home of the regiment when it was part of the state’s National Guard, requesting assistance in procuring new uniforms. Answering Lindsey’s request, John C. Stiglmeier, general manager of the Buffalo Bisons of the class “AA” International League, responded, “We can’t do too much for the soldiers and sailors these days and in particular for the Buffalo regiment.” Stiglmeier’s response, according to the Buffalo Evening News, “was immediate as well as enthusiastic,” as 15 uniforms were dispatched to the 174th at Camp Chaffee.
|John J. Botek|
|Frank Del Papa|
|Ed “Jake” Jacobs||P||House of David|
|Harry M. Land||C||Los Angeles (PCL)|
|Henry W. Mankowski|
|Wilburn C. Timmons||SS/P||Pampa (WTNM)|
|Raymond H. Trendle|
|Maurice Van Robays||OF/P||Pirates|
As the Camp Chaffee nine struggled to keep up, the 174th Buffaloes juggernaut motored on. By mid-summer, former Pirates outfielder Maurice Van Robays was added to the Buff’s roster and was, in addition to playing right field, trying his hand on the mound. By the end of the year, Van Robays, who took on the role of team manager, amassed a pitching record of nine wins and four losses, helping the Buffaloes to a 61-39 record.
In the months following the end of the 1944 baseball season, many of the units at Camp Chaffee were deployed to the European Theater and players including Kirke, Spahn, Kearse and Van Robays headed overseas.
In the final year of the war, baseball continued at Camp Chaffee and the base team fielded an entirely new roster of players. For the new season, the Chaffees competed as a service team in a semi-professional league as well as in their service league. In addition to military opponents, the team squared off against regional semi-pro industrial league teams and minor league clubs, including the Little Rock Travelers. The 1945 Chaffee team included multiple former professional players, including pitcher Witt “Lefty” Guise, who saw action in two September 1940 games for the Cincinnati Reds and was on the team’s roster for their World Series championship that season. Jim McLeod, an infielder with 15 years of pre-war professional experience, spent 1930 and 1932-33 in the major leagues with the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Camp Chaffee nine dominated the competition throughout the 1945 season. After winning the Arkansas State semi-pro championship in Pine Bluff on July 30, Chaffee was invited to the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.
|Sgt.||Kennon Black||P||Lake Charles (EVAN)|
|T/4||Charles Coleman||3B||Dover (ESHL)|
|Sgt.||Witt “Lefty” Guise||P||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|Sgt.||Soule James McLeod||SS||Baltimore (IL)|
|S/Sgt.||Russell Lowell Needham||P||Albany (EL)|
Many eyes in the baseball world were present and focused upon the National Baseball Congress’ Semi-Professional Tournament in Wichita, Kansas starting on August 10, 1945. In addition to a select few civilian industrial teams from Kansas, the 32-team field of competition consisted entirely of Army and Army Air Force teams from around the country. All the clubs participating were dominant in their regions and Camp Chaffee, after securing the Arkansas state semi-pro championship on July 29, received an automatic entry into the national tournament.
For the three-day event, more than 25,000 tickets were sold. Thirteen major league scouts were also in attendance, including Carl Hubbell (New York Giants); Jack Ryan (St. Louis Cardinals); Joe Cambria (Washington Senators); Carl Hagel and Joe Becker (New York Yankees); Tom Greenwade and Bert Wells (Brooklyn Dodgers); Bill Hinchman (Pittsburgh Pirates), and Bobby Mattick; to look over the talent-rich teams.
|Biggs Field||El Paso||TX|
|Camp Chaffee||Fort Smith||AR|
|Camp Kilmer||Piscataway Township||NJ|
|Columbia Army Air Field||Comets||Columbia||SC|
|Enid Army Flying School||Enidairs||Enid||OK|
|Gowen Field Army Air Field||Boise||ID|
|Great Falls Army Air Field||Great Falls||MT|
|Herington Army Air Field||Herington||KS|
|Lincoln Army Air Field||Wings||Lincoln||NB|
|Lockbourne Army Air Field||Lockbourne||OH|
|Orlando Army Air Field||Orlando||FL|
|Sherman Field||Ft. Leavenworth||KS|
|Sioux Falls Army Air Field||Marauders||Sioux Falls||SD|
|Suffolk County Army Air Field||Westhampton||NY|
|Waco Army Air Field||Flyers||Waco||TX|
|West/Pacific Coast ATC||Wings||CA|
For their tournament opener, the men of Camp Chaffee faced the “Marauders” of Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota. Moundsman “Lefty” Guise started on the hill for Chaffee, pitching five innings of scoreless ball. The Marauders drew first blood in the bottom of the sixth, plating two runs. Their lead was short lived as the Chaffee men countered with a Courtney single and Martinez reaching on an error. Guise helped to ameliorate his sixth inning stumble by sacrificing the two baserunners into scoring position and setting his team up for a rally. Beavers sent a two-out double off the right field wall, plating Courtney and Martinez, but was gunned down attempting to stretch it to a triple.
The wheels began to fall off the cart for Guise as Sioux Falls loaded the bases in the next inning. Guise worked out of the one-out jam, getting Marauders batters Morton and Monty Basgall out. In the eighth inning, Guise was in trouble again, giving up an infield hit and a pair of walks and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Russell Needham, who stranded the Marauders by striking out second baseman Basgall. Sioux Falls pitcher Herb Norquist went the distance, surrendering two runs on four hits but the real story of the game was his 16 strikeouts as Chaffee finished the top of the ninth without scoring. With the game tied, left fielder Edward Gittens reached on an error to get things started. After being sacrificed to second, shortstop Robert Henny stroked a convincing single off Needham, allowing Gittens to score the winning run. With one loss in the double-elimination tournament, Camp Chaffee needed to keep winning to continue.
The timing for Mississippi’s Key Field’s arrival at Wichita could not have been any worse as the team’s roster was hampered by illnesses and injuries as they faced off against Camp Chaffee. Sergeant Kennon Black, starting on the mound for Chaffee, took advantage of the diminished Key Fielders as he handcuffed his opponents at the plate. allowing just two hits. Meanwhile, seven of nine Camp Chaffee batters got hits off the Key Field pitcher, Smith. Camp Chaffee tallied four runs on eight hits. Shortstop McLeod was the game’s sole multi-hit batter in the 4-0 shutout on August 13.
Following in Black’s footsteps, Russell Needham pitched a 2-hitter of his own as Chaffee eliminated El Paso, Texas’ Biggs Field with a 4-0 blanking. Catcher William Glenn led the offense with two hits in three at-bats. Coleman, Pittman and McLeod each drove in runs as first baseman Martinez, who was one-for-three, tallied three of Chaffee’s four scores.
The tables were turned as former Cincinnati Reds pitcher “Lefty” Guise was met by the unfriendly bats of Ohio’s Lockbourne Field on Sunday, August 19. Guise was ineffective as he surrendered six runs on nine hits in his five and two-thirds innings for Chaffee. “Lefty” was lifted in favor of Russell Needham, but the damage was done. Lockbourne’s Wanke went the distance against Chaffee, holding them to two runs on as many hits in the 7-2 shellacking.
Eliminated from the tournament, Camp Chaffee’s season was effectively over except for a handful of exhibition games against local service and industrial league ballclubs. In a September 24 game against Fort Benning, Guise pitched a no-hitter for his 16th win of the season, having lost only two games.
Ahead of Japan’s unconditional surrender on September 2, the armed forces, already discharging servicemen from the war service following Germany’s capitulation in May, ramped up the process. Camp Chaffee’s Guise was set to be separated days after tossing his no-hitter.
With the rapid downsizing of the armed forces, much of the wartime equipment, weapons and uniforms were no longer needed and were divested as surplus materials from the War Department’s inventory. It is unknown if our Camp Chaffee jersey was acquired through this program or if it was taken home by one of the team members.
With nearly a year elapsing since the Camp Chaffee jersey was acquired, we have been unsuccessful in locating a single photo of the team or any players wearing this jersey. Similarly, our research has failed to uncover scorecards or rosters to reveal the players’ number assignments, let alone who specifically wore number 13. Despite the detailed history surrounding Camp Chaffee’s wartime baseball teams, we were forced to weigh our findings against the opportunity to acquire a full wartime service team baseball uniform that included the jersey, trousers and stockings that were named to a ballplayer who was a combat veteran: Lawrence Milton “Lefty” Powell. After several days of careful consideration, we decided to take a previously unthinkable action and trade the Camp Chaffee flannel in exchange for the 18th Field Artillery uniform. This exchange marked the first and hopefully the last time that we let go of such a highly valued artifact.
- Chevrons and Diamonds Collection’s Archive of Military Baseball Uniforms
- Chevrons and Diamonds Collection’s Archive of Army Uniforms and Jerseys
 Patterson, Michael Robert, “Adna Romanza Chaffee, Jr. – Major General, United States Army, (https://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/achafjr.htm)” Arlington National Cemetery, Accessed December 28, 2022.
 Bedingfield, Gary, “Warren Spahn (https://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/spahn_warren.htm)” Baseball in Wartime, Accessed December 28, 2022.
 “Razorback Nine Plays Soldier Team at Fort Smith,” Northwest Arkansas Times, May 8, 1943: p6.
 “No-Hit Pitcher Whiffs 17 Batters,” The Shreveport Journal, August 6, 1943: p14.
 “Van Robays Set to Go Overseas,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 2, 1944: p8.
 “Tank Unit Has Crack Battery,” The Lawton Constitution (Lawton, Oklahoma), May 1, 1944: p3.
 “Swigart Bests Spahn 6-1 in Champ Battle,” The Gruber Guidon (Camp Gruber, Oklahoma), August 11, 1944: p3.
 “Atlas Electrics Play Soldiers at T.L. Park Today,” Tulsa Daily World, June 25, 1944: p25.
 “Three-Day Pass Goes to GI Member Who Can Smash C.O.’s Window,” The Birmingham News, April 19, 1944: p17.
 “Rainbow Downs Chaffee Nine,” The Gruber Guidon, August 11, 1944: p1.
 “Van Robays Now a Pitcher,” The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pennsylvania), December 2, 1944: p3.
 Doyle, Charles J., “Van Robays Set to go Overseas,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, December 1, 1944: p27.
 “Camp Chafee Wins,” Wichita Evening Eagle, July 30, 1945: p6.
 “Many Fast Army Clubs Are Ready for U.S. Tourney,” The Wichita Eagle, August 4, 1945: p10.
 “Camp Chaffee Wins,” Wichita Eagle, July 30, 1945: P6.
 “25,000 Will See Games in 3 Days,” Wichita Evening Eagle, August 8, 1945: p6.
 “Marauders of S. Dakota Win Thriller 3 to 2,” Wichita Evening Eagle, August 12, 1945: p14.
 “Key Fielders Go Out Without Run in National Meet,” The Wichita Eagle, August 14, 1945: p7.
 “Camp Biggs is Out,” The Wichita Eagle, August 16, 1945: p10.
 “Camp Chaffee is Out of Tourney,” The Wichita Eagle, August 20, 1945: p2.
 “Guise, Former Baron, Hurls No-Hitter; Expects Discharge,” The Birmingham News (Birmingham, AL) September 25, 1945: p17.
Threads of Lefty: From Ace Farmhand to the GI World Series, Part II
This is the second of a two-part series. See Part I
Lawrence Milton “Lefty” Powell’s progression from high school ballplayer through the California State semi-professional league, into the minor leagues and onto the roster of the Boston Red Sox was not an easy road to the big leagues. The left-handed pitcher’s mastery of multiple pitches drew the attention of professional scouts, sportswriters and legends of the game and also prompted comparisons to pitching stars of the time, including such greats as New York Giants future Hall of Fame hurler Carl Hubbell. However, the road to the major league pitching mound is littered with broken dreams of countless thousands of such future talents whose arms suffered irreparable damage sustained from overwork and pitching through pain.
Larry Powell’s baseball career did not end with his 1941 spring training stint with the Boston Red Sox; however, it was impacted by an extended break due to the call of his country during the brewing national and international crisis. Following the enactment of the United States’ first peacetime draft in September, 1940, young men were required to register for the draft the following month and await the call from their local draft board.
Back home in Reedley, California following a tumultuous season with the class “AA” San Francisco Seals, Larry Powell registered with local draft board 124 on October 16. On block 10, Powell listed his employer as the Boston Red Sox as he was under contract with the major league club despite playing the entire 1940 season with the Seals. Physical attributes noted on the back of his draft card indicated the pitcher was 5-feet, 10-1/2 inches tall and weighed 175 pounds. He was of “ruddy” complexion with brown hair and hazel eyes. Listed on the “other obvious physical characteristics that will aid in identification” block was, “disfigured left thumb.” 
Eight months after registering, Powell received his notice and was inducted into the U.S. Army on July 9, 1941, in Sacramento, California. By late July, Powell found himself back in baseball flannels weeks after shedding his San Diego Padres togs. He was playing for the Camp Roberts team, the organizers of which began openly pursuing competitors from other service teams and area semi-pro clubs. In the following weeks, the Roberts club faced off against regional service nines, including Bakersfield Air Base, Camp San Luis Obispo, and the Camp Roberts Hospital team. Area newspapers touted the former star pitcher as the Camp Roberts club’s headliner. On August 24, the Roberts club traveled north to San Francisco to face the Letterman Army Hospital at the Presidio at the old sandlot, Funston Field.
Larry Powell’s entry into the armed forces through the selective service was not unique as others answered their draft boards’ calls to duty. Even in the major league ranks, some notable names were called into uniform, including Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Hugh Mulcahy, the first big leaguer to be drafted, and Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg. The trickle of ballplayers into the armed forces changed after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7. Hank Greenberg, who had been discharged just two days before, immediately joined the Army Air Forces. Cleveland Indians hurler Bob Feller volunteered for service, enlisting in the Navy on December 9. In the following weeks and months, many players from the major and minor leagues began pouring into the armed forces.
At the time of his entry into the Army, Larry Powell was still the property of the Boston Red Sox despite having been sent down to the minor leagues after failing to meet the club’s expectations. In late January, Boston General Manager Eddie Collins lamented the roster vacancies left by the departure of Powell, Mickey Harris, Al Flair and Earl Johnson to the service. “It hurts our chances but we’re still proud to lose them that way,” the Hall of Famer stated. Joining Powell at Camp Roberts was his fellow West Coast native, Earl Johnson, who enlisted on January 5, 1942, and was added to the post ball team. The 1942 Roberts men boasted such a wide-ranging roster of minor league talent that the club was dubbed the Camp Roberts “All-Stars.” As the Coast League was wrapping up spring training in Southern California, the Seattle Rainiers traveled to Camp Roberts to face the All-Stars. Private Earl Johnson got the start against the Coast Leaguers; however, the results were unfavorable for the soldiers. Roberts’ pitching surrendered six runs on 14 hits to the Seattle batters, who touched both Johnson and Powell. The All-Stars were stymied by a succession of Rainiers hurlers, Bill Bevens, Al Libke and Henry Bushman, who limited the Army batters to two runs on six hits.
1942 Camp Roberts All-Stars:
|Harold “Hal” Eckhardt||2B||Tucson (AZTX)|
|Carlo “Carl” Forni||2B/SS||Wenatchee (WINT)|
|Benite J. Guintini||CF||Salt Lake City (PION)|
|Earl Johnson||P||Red Sox|
|Morris “Morry” Jones||OF/1B||Columbus (AA)|
|Art Mangini||RF||Los Angeles (PCL)|
|Otto Meyers||Mgr./CF||Waterloo (IIIL)|
|Ralph “Hal” Mountain||1B||Meridian (SEAL)|
|Hal O’Banion||C||Twin Falls (PION)|
|Danny Phillips||2B||Tyler (EXTL)|
|Lawrence “Lefty” Powell||P||San Diego (PCL)|
|Darryl Reynolds||3B||St. Mary’s College|
|Melvin Wasley||OF||Pocatello (PION)|
The Johnson-Powell hurling duo was victimized in early April when the Roberts club travelled to Fresno to face the Hammer Field Bombers. For Powell, it was a homecoming of sorts as the game was played at Fresno State College Park before 3,000 fans, who no doubt included family and friends. Unfortunately, for Powell, former San Francisco Seal Harry Goorabian led the Bombers to a 7-4 victory, driving two home runs out of the park. Unfazed, the Camp Roberts All-Stars soldiered on, closing out the month of April with a 4-2 won-lost record.
On May 24, Camp Roberts traveled to Salinas to face the “Rodeo Buffet” town baseball team. Again, the Red Sox pitching “connection” of Johnson and Powell shared mound duties and were touched by the Rodeo club for a combined 13 hits. Buffet hurler Fred Lacy stated that he was unimpressed by the star-studded roster of former pro ballplayers in the opposing dugout and he set down the first Roberts batters in order. Buffet batters took a first-inning lead after touching Johnson for a leadoff walk and two singles. It did not take long for Lacy’s lack of respect for Camp Roberts to turn to awe as the Army hit him for three runs on three hits, including a triple by Earl Johnson. The Army poured gasoline onto the fire as the game progressed and carved a groove around the base paths by scoring 30 runs. Larry Powell gave up three runs on four hits while batting a perfect two-for-two at the plate and scoring two runs. When the dust settled, Camp Roberts departed Salinas after feasting on the Buffet.
Visiting Lemoore Army Air Field for a pair of weekend games on June 27-28, the Camp Roberts nine took both contests by a combined score of 30-2. Art Mangini’s 18-1 victory paved the way for Powell as he captured the 12-1 victory on the following day.
After the 1942 season ended and Powell spent some of the holidays with family, the pitcher was sent to Camp Claiborne outside of Alexandria, Louisiana in early January. With a letter of recommendation from San Francisco Seals team owner Charlie Graham, Private Powell, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a communications platoon, was anticipating an appointment to officer candidate school while at Claiborne in code training.
By early May, Powell had been assigned to Lemoore Army Air Field, suiting up for the “Mechs” nine as they played in the San Joaquin Valley Baseball League. Lemoore Field joined Camp Pinedale, 4th Air Force Replacement Depot, Hanford All-Stars, and Fresno’s Nick Kikkert’s club in the league.
1943 Lemoore Army Air Field “Mechs”
|Sgt.||Ned Sheehan||IF/OF/coach||Boise (PION)|
|Corp.||“Big Jake” Jacobsen||Mgr.|
|Pvt.||Dick Linnell||P||Norfolk (PIED)|
|Pvt.||Lawrence “Lefty” Powell||P||Louisville (AA)|
Throughout the spring and deep into the summer, Powell was manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers’ batting practice pitcher Tom Carey’s go-to starting pitcher as Lemoore was firmly entrenched in third place in the league’s standings. Powell’s time with Lemoore ended in July with his transfer to Fort Sill, Oklahoma when he was assigned to the 689th Artillery Battalion “Fabins” of the 18th Field Artillery. Powell was added to the 18th Field Artillery’s squad despite the season nearing its end. The dominant baseball team in the region, the Norman Naval Air Station “Skyjackets,” stocked with Al Benton, Bennie Warren, Johnny Rizzo, and Charlie Gelbert, had their way with all comers throughout the season on their way to claiming the league title. When Powell arrived, the 18th had an undefeated streak that surpassed 20 games. In his first game for the Fort Sill-based nine, Powell pitched a 13-0 no-hitter as the 18th claimed their 22nd consecutive win. Facing the Norman Navy Nine on August 4, the Navy handed the Army their first loss, pounding Powell for 11 runs on 11 hits. Lefty Powell walked five and struck out a pair of Norman batters. Following the end of the season, the 18th faced the Fort Sill Field Artillery School’s (FAS) Negro detachment club. The September 19 contest saw Powell entering the game in the top of the ninth with the FAS nine leading 7-6. Powell held the opponents scoreless, allowing the 18th to rally in the bottom of the frame, plating two runs to win the game, 8-7. With the war progressing in Europe, the 689th Artillery Battalion began preparing to enter the fight.
Seventeen days after defeating the Field Artillery School team, Powell packed his gear as the 689th departed Fort Sill by train for California. Four days later, the train arrived in the California desert near Camp Iron Mountain, where General George Patton’s 3rd Armored Division called home before deploying to the European Theater of Operations (ETO).  The men of the 689th commenced an intensive training and hardening program with two weeks of maneuvers in November leading up to Army Ground Force (AGF) testing. In December, the artillery battalion commenced firing tests that culminated on Christmas Eve with the unit being declared fit for battle.
Following training, Powell, now holding the rank of staff sergeant, spent 10 days on furlough over the holidays with his family back home in Reedley. For Powell and the rest of the 689th, baseball was now only a topic of GI conversation. Instead of preparing for spring training, Powell was once again on a train with his unit, bound for Camp Polk, Louisiana to await orders. The only question that remained among the men was “Where will we fight?”
More than two weeks after the commencement of the Normandy Invasion, the 689th departed Camp Polk by rail on June 16. With stops in Texarkana, Chattanooga and New Haven, the battalion arrived 10 days later on June 26 at Camp Miles Standish near Taunton, Massachusetts to prepare for departure to the ETO. For four days the battalion was organized and loaded aboard ships for their Atlantic crossing. Departing on July 1, the 689th was embarked aboard the USS Wakefield (AP-21), a former luxury ocean liner of the United States Lines named SS Manhattan, converted and commissioned into Navy service as a troop transport. Upon arrival in Liverpool, the battalion disembarked and were taken by rail to the newly constructed Camp Cwrt-y-gollen, five miles west of Abergavenny, Wales, where the Fabins were attached to the 12th Corps under the Third Army.
While in Wales, the 689th trained for combat operations and made all preparations for entering combat operations. From the docks of Southampton, the Fabins sailed for Northern France and made their landing on the beachhead at Utah Beach, Normandy on August 24 and connected with the XX Corps Artillery. The Fabins worked their way across France through St. Mars, Cloves, Navours, Herme, Mont Morte, Constantine, Puisileaux, Juoy, Ville, Fleville, Mancieulles, Trieux and Fontoy through September 12 and were predominantly assigned to the 195th Field Artillery Group in support of the 5th Infantry Division and 7th Armored Division as well as the 90th Infantry Division.
Now assigned to the 5th Artillery Group under the 5th Infantry Division as the Rhineland campaign began, the Fabins were now supporting the Allied forces’ push towards Germany. As the month of September wound to a close, the 689th crossed into Luxembourg and established a firing base at Welfrange. During a period of downtime, the men were able to listen to some of the 1944 World Series games through a small radio set as the St. Louis Browns faced off against their National League counterparts, the St. Louis Cardinals.
For the first few weeks of October, the 689th was attached the 40th Field Artillery group as they joined the 135th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 3rd Cavalry Group, constituting Task Force Polk. By November, the battalion had crossed back into France, maneuvering along the Luxemburg border and supporting various operations. On December 3, while assigned to the 10th Armored Division, the battalion entered Germany, advancing to Wehingen. By mid-December, the 698th was hampered by a serious bout of influenza sweeping through the battalion. A substantial portion of unit personnel were transferred to infantry units as German forces mounted a counteroffensive and broke through allied lines. The enemy offensive was later dubbed “The Battle of the Bulge.” With diminished ranks and a perilously low stocks of ammunition, the 689th was pulled back to a position across the French border near the town of Kirsch-lès-Sierck, where they remained through the end of January.
By March, the Fabins were largely assigned to the 193rd Field Artillery Group and continued supporting the 10th Armored Division for most of the month. In April, the 689th supported the 6th Armored Division for the first half of the month as they crossed over the Elbe River. The last vestiges of the Third Reich were being mopped up as the Allies pushed for Berlin as April ended. The 689th arrived in Eggstetten, Austria on May 3 across the Inn River from Hitler’s birthplace, the town of Branau. After the 689th commenced some missions, orders came from the command to cease all firing, with speculation and rumors flying among the men that the end might be near. On May 8, the proclamation was read to the troops that Germany had surrendered, bringing about the end of the war in Europe.
Though the battalion was only in the fight for eight months, the three batteries of the 689th sent nearly 50,000 artillery rounds onto enemy targets.
- 316 – Guns neutralized or destroyed
- 52 – Tanks destroyed or disabled
- 21 – Pillboxes knocked out
- 51 – Troop concentrations broken up
- 55 – Vehicles knocked out
- 24 – Enemy counter attacks broken up
- 17 – Enemy command posts knocked out
- 3 – Enemy command posts destroyed
- 1 – Railway station destroyed
- 4 – Bridges destroyed
- 3 – Barges destroyed
- 4 – Mine fields blown up
- 2 – Enemy mess halls destroyed
- 2 – Enemy ammunition dumps blown up
- 1 – Machine gun knocked out
For their combat service from the summer of 1944 through May, 1945, the Fabins men were authorized to wear four “battle star” devices on their European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal for the following campaigns:
- Northern France – July 25, 1944 – September 1944
- Rhineland – September 15, 1944 – March 21, 1945
- Ardennes – December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945
- Central Europe – March 22, 1945 – May 11, 1945
For the men of the 689th Artillery Battalion the surrender meant that they would be on the move to Freising, Germany, located near Munich, to serve as guards at a displaced persons camp where the Germans had incarcerated 60,000 Russians, French, Italians and others. Transforming from a combat artillery unit into an occupation battalion was “a pain in the neck,” and the men were glad when they were sent to the Bavarian town of Bayrischzell to guard hospitals and to patrol the German-Austrian border.
Following the German surrender, US Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and his staff devised a fair system in determining prioritization for sending troops home. The resulting system tallied points for each GI based upon five distinct factors. If the soldier, airman, sailor or Marine accrued 85 or more points, he was eligible to be sent home for discharge.
Points were awarded according to the following formula:
- One point for each month of service in the Army
- One additional point for each month of service overseas
- Five points for each campaign
- Five points for a medal for merit or valor (Silver Star for example)
- Five points for a Purple Heart (awarded to all soldiers who were wounded in action)
- Twelve points for each dependent child up to three dependent children
With the majority of the men having accrued the required 85 points by July 5, the officers and men of the 689th were homeward bound just two months after VE-Day. However, there were some men who remained in country despite their eligibility status. Staff Sergeant Larry Powell was one of those men who continued with occupation duties and was tapped to pitch once again for the 18th Field Artillery’s squad as the European continent saw more than 100,000 GIs forming teams in hundreds of leagues.
By early August, league winners were advancing into regional playoffs that would culminate in division and army championships. When teams were eliminated, rosters of the losing squads would be raided for the best players to better the chances of the raiding victors on their march toward the GI World Series. Such was the case for the 1st Infantry Division after defeating the Maurice Van Robays-managed 16th Armored Division team, though circumstances dictated a much more drastic action.
The entire 1st Division’s roster had acquired the points necessary for return to the states, but the victorious team stopped continuing their goal of reaching the GI World Series. With the entire 16th Armored roster’s players being under the points threshold, a team swap was enacted moments after the final out of the 6-5 “Big Red One” victory. Upon the realization that each team would be required to exchange their respective units’ shoulder insignia, the men refused to acquiesce to the order. “I’ll always be a 1st Division man,” one of the players asserted, “no matter where the hell they send me.” Similarly, the men of the 16th Armored Division refused the change. “We didn’t do so badly in this war, either,” declared Van Robays.
Staff Sergeant Larry Powell was added to the 71st Division Red Circlers’ roster ahead of the Third Army Championship series, scheduled for August 7-9. Defeating the 76th Division in a best of five series, the 71st continued to add to their roster from the ranks of their vanquished foes. Former New York Giants pitcher Ken Trinkle was taken from the 76th, joining Powell, Harry “the Hat” Walker, Ken Heintzelman, Maurice Van Robays, and Johnny Wyrostek as reinforcements for the Red Circlers.
71st Infantry Division Red Circlers
|Rank||#||Player||Position||Former||Former Unit Team|
|20||Bill Ayers||P||Atlanta (SOUA)||65th Infantry Division|
|14||Charlie Bamberger||3B||London (PONY)|
|19||Alpha Brazle||P||Cardinals||65th Infantry Division|
|9||Herb Bremer||C||Little Rock (SOUA)|
|Capt.||22||Joe Costa||Mgr.||5th Infantry Division|
|6||Ettore Giammarco||OF||Fort Smith (WA)|
|Jim Gladd||C||Fort Smith (WA)||33rd Field Artillery|
|18||Ken Heintzelman||P||Pirates||65th Infantry Division|
|D. Louis Kauzlarich||Lubbock (WTNM)|
|1||Garland Lawing||LF||Birmingham (SOUA)|
|15||Earl Lindamood||OF||Wilmington (ISLG)|
|17||Anselm “Anse” Moore||3B||Beaumont (TL)|
|8||Walter Olson||P||Santa Barbara (CALL)|
|SSGT||21||Lawrence “Lefty” Powell||P||Louisville (AA)||18th Field Artillery|
|13||Bob Ramazzotti||SS||Durham (PIED)|
|10||Rudy Rundus||P||Allentown (ISLG)|
|7||Milton Ticco||1B||University of Kentucky|
|Maurice Van Robays||OF/P||Pirates||16th Armored/1st Division|
|Ken Trinkle||P||Giants||76th Infantry Division|
|Harry “The Hat” Walker||OF||Cardinals||65th Infantry Division|
|12||Benny Zientera||2B||Indianapolis (AA)|
The Southern Germany Championship, pitting the Third Army Champions, the 71st Division, against the champs of the Seventh Army, the 29th Division’s Blues and Grays, was a best-of-five series played at Nuremburg Stadium from August 21-26. The 29th Division proved to be no match for the Red Circlers as they were swept in three straight games, including a 3-1 no-hitter by the 71st Division’s Bill Ayers in the second game. Nearly 6,000 miles away, news of the 71st Division’s ascension to the GI World Series reached a small farming community in California’s San Joaquin Valley. “Larry Powell is pitching ball for the 71st Division,” The Reedley Exponent reported, “They are playing for the championship of Europe.”
After the 71st was defeated by the Sam Nahem-led Oise All-Stars in the GI World Series, Larry Powell was ready to return home. Arriving at Camp Kilmer on November 26, Powell spent one day at the New Jersey base before boarding a train bound for California. Eight days after his arrival on U.S. soil, Lawrence Milton Powell was discharged from the U.S. Army as a 1st Sergeant at Camp Beal, 50 miles north of Sacramento, on December 5, 1945. With $263.12 in mustering-out pay, Larry Powell was left with a 240-mile trek to Reedley.
With the war behind him and having missed 4.5 years of his professional baseball career, “Lefty” Powell made his return to the diamond in the spring of 1946. Powell signed his contract with the Red Sox and reported to Sarasota, Florida for training camp. As if he picked up where he left off with Boston during spring training in 1941, Powell showed signs of brilliance on the mound in between his struggles with control. In his 1946 debut exhibition appearance against St. Louis, Powell entered the game in relief, holding the Cardinals hitless for the final three innings and notching a 1-0 victory as Eddie Pellagrini doubled in the winning run in the ninth. Despite an April 6 2-1 loss to the Reds, Cronin kept the 30-year-old rookie on the roster to start the season.
Finishing out April, the 11-3 Red Sox held a two-game lead over the Yankees. Though still with the Red Sox, Powell was withheld from taking the mound in any of Boston’s games for the opening month of the season. On April 30, the Red Sox parted ways with Powell, giving him his unconditional release, but he was signed by the crosstown Braves on the following day. Boston Braves manager Billy Southworth expressed enthusiasm in acquiring Powell (along with Si Johnson and Emerson Roser) and hoped that the change of scenery would be beneficial. Powell indicated that he had been dealing with a sore arm for a few weeks, which may have been the cause of his exclusion from pitching for the Red Sox. “If I just harness my control, I’m going to win,” Powell told the Boston Globe.
Unfortunately for Powell, his stay with the Boston Braves was short-lived as he was given his release on May 8, having spent just a week with the club without making any game appearances. With three chances at baseball’s highest level, Powell’s major league quest was over.
Despite his major league setback, Powell was not done with baseball and signed once again with the Seals. After making a handful of appearances, manager Lefty O’Doul sent Powell down to the Salt Lake City Bees of the class “C” Pioneer League. At the end of August, O’Doul recalled the left-hander as the Seals closed in on securing the Pacific Coast League crown and finishing the year with one of the best season records in league history.
From 1947 to 1954, Powell pitched in the minor leagues, largely on the west coast, never rising above class “A.” Larry Powell’s two best post-war seasons were in the Western International League with the Yakima Bears in 1949 and 1950. Powell posted won-lost records of 16-7 and 13-9 with ERAs of 3.42 and 4.63, respectively. After a brief 1954 season with the Visalia Cubs, 39-year-old Powell left the professional game for good.
Larry Powell spent his post-baseball years following in his father’s footsteps, farming. He served on the board of directors for the Central California Association of Farmers, Associated Farmers of America and Fresno County Farm Bureau. In recognition of his contributions to the game, Larry Powell was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.
After thoroughly researching the player, the veteran, and the uniform, we decided to move forward in negotiations to bring 1st Sergeant Larry Powell’s 18th Field Artillery uniform into the fold of the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection. Upon its arrival we conducted a thorough examination of the garments as we assessed the condition of the base wool flannel material, stitching, lettering, and embroidery. We checked for markings in each piece along with comparisons to other Lowe and Campbell wartime baseball uniforms to confirm the age. Of the issues noted, the most pressing concern lay with the back numerals as the fabric had separated from the stitching that affixed them to the base wool flannel. In the near future, we will be forced to address this issue to prevent further degradation and complete separation.
One interesting nuance with the jersey surrounds the buttons. Of the six on the placket, only the bottom-most is original to the piece. It is quite possible that the repairs were made by Powell or on his behalf during the war, which necessitates leaving the replacements intact.
First Sergeant Lawrence M. “Lefty” Powell’s wartime baseball flannel will be exhibited publicly in the coming years and will be showcased to baseball fans in one of the cities where he played during his professional career.
- 1943-1945 18th Field Artillery – 1st Sgt Lawrence “Lefty” Powell
- Powderhorns of the 399th
- Powderhorn Baseball: Seeking on-the-Diamond Photos of the 399th
- 1945 36th Infantry Division “Arrow Heads” German-made Flannel Uniform
- 1945 3rd Army Championship Flannel: Red Circlers of the 71st ID
- Third Army – Baseball Championship Series
- Southern Germany Championship – 3rd vs 7th Armies | Soldiers’ Field, Nuremberg, August 25, 1945
- USFET GI World Series – September 2, 1945 Soldiers’ Field, Nuremberg
 Selective Service Registration Card, Ancestry.com (accessed November 20, 2022).
 Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946, National Archives AAD (accessed November 20, 2022).
 “Camp Roberts Seeks Games; Larry Powell Ace of Staff,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1941: p23.
 “Powell to Pitch for Army Squad,” The Bakersfield Californian, August 2, 1941: p10.
 Funston Field (https://goodoldsandlotdays.com/medley/memories-of-the-game/182-funston-field-in-san-francisco-s-marina-district), Good Old Sandlot Days (accessed November 20, 2022).
 “Camp Roberts Plays in S.F.,” The San Francisco Examiner, August 19, 1941: p19.
 “Ted Williams Not To Attend Big Dinner,” Durham Morning Herald (Durham, NC) January 28, 1942: p8.
 “Training Briefs,” Salinas Morning Post (Salinas, CA) March 21, 1942: p7
 “Camp Roberts Nine is Due in Fresno Today,” The Fresno Bee The Republican, April 4, 1942: p8.
 “In Between Briefs,” Stockton Daily Evening Record (Stockton, CA) April 22, 1942: p14
 “Army Team: Camp Roberts to Clash With Gardners Sunday,” The Bakersfield Californian, April 25, 1942: p12.
 Oliver, Ted, “Rodeo Buffet Beaten, 30-5 By Strong Army Outfit at Spreckles,” Salinas Morning Post, May 26, 1942: p9
 “Camp Roberts Beats Air Base Nine Twice,” The Californian (Salinas, CA), June 29, 1942: p7.
 “Larry Powell to Camp Claiborne,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA) January 7, 1943: p3
 Borba, Harry, “Side Lines,” The San Francisco Examiner, March 5, 1943: p23.
 Lemoore Army, All-Stars to Tangle Sunday,” Hanford Morning Journal (Hanford, CA), March 28, 1943: p7.
 “Powell Hurls No-Hitter for 18th Field Artillery,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, AL), August 22, 1943: p13.
 “Jackets Spoil 18th’s Record,” The Daily Oklahoman, August 5, 1943: p16.
 “’Logchips On The Way’ – History of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations,” U.S. Army, 1948: p13.
 “Powell Home on Leave,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA) January 13, 19443: p4
 ’Logchips On The Way’ – History of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations,” U.S. Army, 1948: p13.
 Ibid: p31.
 Authorized by General Orders No. 103, dated November 13, 1945
 Authorized by General Orders No. 118, dated December 12, 1945
 Authorized by General Orders No. 114, dated December 7, 1945
 Authorized by General Orders No. 116, dated December 11, 1945
 Ibid: p32-57.
 “The Points Were All That Mattered: The US Army’s Demobilization After World War II, (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/points-system-us-armys-demobilization)” The National WWII Museum, New Orleans (accessed December 1, 2022)
 Weston, Joe, “1st Div. Nine 5-4 Winner in Strange Germany Test,” Southern France Stars and Stripes, July 13, 1945: p7.
 “Larry Powell is Pitching for the 71st Division,” The Reedley Exponent (Reedley, CA), August 30, 1945: p3.
 Final Pay Voucher, National Archives and Records Administration (accessed November 23, 2022)
 “Powell Holds Redbirds Hitless,” The San Francisco Examiner, March 13, 1946: p22.
 “Marty, Powell Draw Releases,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 1, 1946: p21.
 “Braves Sign Powell,” Oakland Tribune, May 2, 1946: p23
 “Braves Bits,” The Boston Globe, May 5, 1946: p34
 “Braves Announce Powell’s Release,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 9, 1946: p19.
 Larry Powell Obituary, The Fresno Bee, May 28, 2009
 “Inductees for 1972 (https://www.fresnoahof.org/year-list.php?y=1972),” Fresno Athletics Hall of Fame (accessed December 1, 2022)
Threads of Lefty: From Ace Farmhand to the GI World Series, Part I
This is the first of a two-part series: see Part II
After the dust settled following the Leghorn, Italy championship series that saw the All-Stars from European Theater of Operations (ETO) sweep the Mediterranean Command Champions in three games, players returned to their units and awaited their ticket to sail across the Atlantic and be reunited with their families. The final game, played on September 26, 1945, was a 13-3 rout in front of a small crowd of 4,000 GI spectators. The starting pitcher for the ETO team, Ewell Blackwell, was not in peak form, giving up eight hits. “The Whip” hurled a clean game, walking none and striking out six. To commemorate their diamond dominance, Blackwell and his teammates were presented with wrist watches and gold medals by Colonel Roger Whitman in addition to the team’s championship cup.
The ETO team consisted of select players predominantly from the Oise All-Stars from the Communication Zone (COM-Z) command and from the GI World Series losers, the 71st Infantry Division Red Circlers. Led by Oise All-Stars manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Sam Nahem, the ETO roster boasted stars including Harry “the Hat” Walker (Cardinals), Maurice Van Robays and Johnny Wyrostek (both Pirates), Blackwell (Reds), Tony Jaros (University of Minnesota) and Jim Gladd (Muskogee, Oklahoma).
As the end of September was fast approaching, the long baseball season was finished. Many of the players who started off with their unit teams were already home ahead of the opening game of the GI World Series. Many of Ewell Blackwell’s 71st Division Red Circlers teammates were gone. The Red Circlers’ post-season roster was a veritable collection of baseball all-stars, an aggregation of men pulled together from several units.
Service personnel stationed throughout the European and the Mediterranean theaters experienced one of the most memorable baseball seasons after the Third Reich was defeated. More than 100,000 troops on hundreds of teams competed in local leagues with the winners advancing through regional championships and getting into the GI World Series and the ETO-MTO Championship series. In those last few rounds, the advancing clubs would raid the rosters of the vanquished opponents for the best players in order to tilt the odds in their favor and be the last team standing.
By the time the Red Circlers reached the GI World Series, their roster included several players from other ETO baseball teams, including the 1st, 5th, 65th and 76thA Infantry Divisions, as well as the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion and 16th Armored Division. Since acquiring in 2012 a scorecard from the August 7-9 Third Army Championship Series, considerable effort has been put forth to fully identify all the players listed for both teams. However, a handful of the names are still being researched with one man, catcher “Tauzlarich,” identified only by his last name.
Among the 71st Division unidentified players listed on the Third Army Championship scorecard is a pitcher named “Powell.” Scouring several dozen articles of the 71st within the archives of Stars and Stripes and countless domestic newspapers, no mention is made of Powell or several others on the scorecard roster. Powell’s name appears once again in the late-August 1945 Southern Germany Baseball Championship scorecard, again without his first name. After the Red Circlers defeated the 29th Division’s Blues and Grays in the Southern Germany Championship series, they advanced to the GI World Series to face the Oise All-Stars. In all the published game summaries, Powell’s name is never mentioned, indicating that he likely did not appear in any of the five games. Who was Powell?
Through several years of researching for various Chevrons and Diamonds projects, we were able to positively identify most of the players printed on both teams’ rosters in the Third Army Championship scorecard. Powell’s identity still proved to be elusive; however, that was about to change.
Unlike the seemingly unending supply of World War II Pacific Theater game-used baseball militaria, items from the European Theater arrive on the market considerably less frequently. Listings for scorecards from the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series and the 1945 Navy World Series are recurrent throughout each year on popular auction sites. Conversely, in nearly 15 years we have accounted for five scorecards from the 1945 GI World Series games played at Nuremberg Stadium and single examples from preceding championship games played during the post VE-Day season. Pacific Theater vintage baseball photography, though quite rare, is far more easily curated than images from the championship games in Germany.
In 2016, Goldin Auctions listed a 1945 Rawlings-made flannel set that that was attributed to the 1945 season in Germany. In black block felt lettering, “THIRD ARMY” was emblazoned across the chest of the jersey while a chain-stitched 71st Infantry Division unit insignia was sewn onto the left sleeve. The jersey’s manufacturer tag included the player’s name, “Bremer,” hand-inscribed in ink onto the tag. The matching trousers’ tag bore the name of a different player, “Ticco.” Authenticated by Dave Miedema as an authentic mid-1940s uniform, the set sold for more than $2500. As an aside, the disparity of the inscribed names could be due to the player trading for a different size, though the chain of custody from 1945 through 2016 is not known, leaving questions as to how the jersey and trousers became paired (see: 1945 3rd Army Championship Flannel: Red Circlers of the 71st ID).
By defeating the 7th Army’s champion 29th Division and capturing the Third Army Championship crown, the Red Circlers of the 71st Division exchanged their unit togs to wear the Third Army flannels replete with their division insignia adorning the left sleeves. Entering the series with the Red Circlers, the Blue and Grays’ new uniforms featured an oversized, chain-stitched insignia on the left sleeves and the regulation “yin-yang” division insignia patch on the right sleeves.
Wartime service baseball uniforms are truly scarce artifacts. The Third Army champion jersey worn by the 71st Division’s Herb Bremer is the one of few confirmed examples from the 1945 season. To date, no baseball uniforms from the Oise All-Stars, the Twenty-Ninth and Seventy-Sixth Divisions or any other championship teams from the 1945 ETO baseball leagues have surfaced in the last decade.
The Chevrons and Diamonds Collection of service-related baseball artifacts is diverse, with scorecards, programs, vintage photography, personal items, awards, and on-field equipment. Each item in our collection is rich in historic value and serves to tell the story of the game and the part it played in armed forces history. The story of baseball within the ranks of the armed forces is well told through artifacts. No doubt, “one picture is worth a thousand words,” as photographs capture the attention of a wide variety of audiences. However, there is one category of military baseball artifacts that tends to draw the most attention among our viewers, readers or visitors to our public exhibits.
Whether it is a basic uniform with block letters or something far more colorful or elaborate, the visual aesthetic of vintage baseball flannels captures the gaze of almost everyone who spots these treasures. Our collection features nearly 30 examples of service baseball uniforms that date from 1940 to the mid-1950s, though most are World War II era pieces. Some flannels are connected to players who played in the major leagues or to teams that featured former major leaguers, making those artifacts even more significant.
In August 2022, we were made aware of a uniform set consisting of a jersey, trousers, and stirrups along with the owner’s pre-war baseball undershirt from his minor league playing career. Photos of the uniform group showed a brilliant color scheme of red and blue on a cream white base. The jersey and trousers, matching the Lowe and Campbell manufacturer’s tag design, placed the uniform’s age in the early to mid-1940s. The photos of the jersey showed two different sets of numerals. The front athletic felt five-inch “18” was sewn into the left breast while the back featured a seven-inch “15.” Both sets of numerals were three-dimensional red over-blue in appearance. Extending from the sleeve edge to the base of the collar, the jersey was trimmed with a 3/4-inch blue rayon soutache centered and sewn to a two-inch red athletic felt band.
The trousers were adorned with matching trim extending down the out seams of each leg. The wide belt loops were colored in alternating red and blue
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the uniform was the 3-1/4-inch by 3-inch chain-stitched insignia emblazoned on the left sleeve of the 18th Field Artillery Battalion. With most U.S. Army shoulder sleeve uniform insignia approximately two inches, the oversized insignia adorning the baseball jersey was custom made. Embroidered with gold, red, and blue chain stitched over a royal blue felt shield, the insignia is similar to that of the 71st Infantry and 7th Army baseball uniform patches as well as the 69th Division cap insignia. All these emblems appear to have been sourced from local German embroiderers. The 1945 36th Infantry Division’s “Arrow Heads” had their team uniforms entirely crafted by a local manufacturer in Munich, indicating that the practice of utilizing local European craftsmen was not an uncommon practice for baseball uniform customization.
For more than two decades, this named 18th Field Artillery uniform group has been in the possession of a California-based collector who obtained it directly from the veteran, who was also a former minor league ballplayer. The name of the ballplayer was Lawrence M. “Lefty” Powell, who played professional baseball from 1937 to 1954, with a four-year break from 1941 through 1945 coinciding with World War II.
Larry “Lefty” Powell
Laurence Milton Powell was born on July 14, 1914, in Dinuba, California, a small agricultural community 30 miles southeast of Fresno. He was the second oldest of four sons of Samuel McCutcheon Powell and Ruth Elenor Craven. While all four boys were born in California, their father, a farmer employed in the area’s vineyards, was a native of Kentucky who was born four years after the Confederates’ surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Born in Yorkshire, England thirty-three years after her husband, Elenor immigrated with her parents and six siblings to the United States in 1899, settling in Fresno.
Larry Powell attended Bradley High School and was a factor in the team winning its division championship. His high school coach, Jack Savory, taught him quite a bit about pitching and Powell carried his winning ways into the semipro ranks with the California State League’s Fresno Tigers in 1936. That season, the 21-year-old Powell caught the eye of the San Francisco Seals and was signed for the 1937 season. Seals manager Frank “Lefty” O’Doul had an opportunity to get a good look at his future hurler during an August 17 exhibition game at Fresno’s Frank Chance Field.
Tucson Cowboys, 1937
After spending spring training in camp with the Seals, Larry Powell was farmed out to the Tucson Cowboys in the Class “D” Arizona-Texas League. Under manager Harry Krause, Powell posted a 14-6 won-loss record in 161 innings. Krause, a longtime Pacific Coast League pitcher with Portland and Oakland, was also a member of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1908 to 1912, including their two World Series championship seasons. No doubt, Krause regaled the young left-handed hurler with stories of Athletics Hall of Fame pitchers Charles Bender and Eddie Plank. By early August, Powell was recalled to San Francisco, though he did not appear in any games that season.
After the end of the 1937 season, San Francisco management considered Powell to be a great prospect who was not yet ready for the highly competitive Coast League. They were seeking to further develop the young pitcher in the low minor leagues. Speculation that fall was that Larry would be destined for the Class “B” Western International League’s Tacoma Tigers. After signing his contract for the 1938 season, Powell reported to the Seals’ camp, though with the team having a full stable of arms, the green Powell was not likely to earn a spot on the San Francisco hurling staff.
Tacoma Tigers, 1938
“Powell really has something and should be a regular,” said Seals public relations director, Walter “Duster” Mails. “He has developed a screw ball which affords him a good assortment with his fast one and change of pace and he should win some big games for us,” Mails continued. “One thing in Powell’s favor is he has the proper disposition to make good,” said the former southpaw pitcher and winner of Game 6 in the 1920 World Series for the Cleveland Indians. Despite the heaps of praise from his Seals pitching coach, Powell was sent to Tacoma.
The 1938 Tacoma Tigers’ pitching staff led the Western International League in fewest runs allowed with a 4.09 per game average. However, the Tigers trailed all teams in both offense and fielding and finished last in the six-team standings. Powell’s second professional season saw him post another winning record at 14-10. In 224 innings, Lefty struck out 230 batters and walked only 86 and was stingy in allowing opponents to score. His earned run average was just 2.77. Towards the end of the season, Powell strung together six consecutive victories.
San Francisco Seals, 1939
Powell’s 1938 season success earned him ascension to the Seals in 1939. On January 8, the lefty signed his contract and was slated to report to spring training. There was excitement about the Seals’ strong pitching staff, which was set to be bolstered by young arms including that of “Lefty” Powell. “Powell is destined to be one of the really great pitchers in baseball,” Seals manager O’Doul told Prescott Sullivan. “He has a fine curve ball, a baffling screw ball, an adequate fast one and an understanding of pitching technique that is astonishing in a kid of his limited experience.” O’Doul astonishingly compared his young lefty to one of the best in the major leagues. “His control, right now, isn’t the best, but it will improve. When he gets that, he’ll be another Carl Hubbell. Mark my words,” O’Doul insisted.
Powell’s 1939 winning percentage was .522 or a game above .500. Looking solely at his 12-11 won-lost record, it would seem that his move to the Coast League was not that successful. However, his 2.79 ERA in 184 innings might have indicated a lack of run support more than pitching ineffectiveness. At the season’s outset, O’Doul predicted that he could easily win 20 games and mature into “one of the league’s best drawing cards.”
The Seals finished 4.5 games behind the Coast League champions that season. Powell’s teammate, Dom DiMaggio, the youngest of the famed baseball brothers, finished the season atop four of the league’s offensive categories: hits (249), triples (18), stolen bases (39) and runs scored (165). Major league clubs took notice of the young centerfielder, which led to the Seals selling their star to the Boston Red Sox on November 3. It was not enough to simply take the outfielder as the Boston brain trust of owner Tom Yawkey and general manager Eddie Collins also wanted the rising star pitcher and purchased the pair in a package deal for an unheard of sub-$100,000 price tag (reported to be in excess of $70,000). Recognizing Powell’s need for continued development, Red Sox management promptly optioned Powell back to San Francisco for the 1940 season.
Powell’s second season with the Seals was not as successful despite his equaling his 1939 12-win total against fewer (7) losses. Powell appeared in seven fewer contests (23) and made three less starts (21). His ERA climbed by nearly a full run to 3.57. For Powell, 1940 was a step in the wrong direction. “The highly touted left hander, who has already been sold for 1941 delivery to the big leagues, has been a distinct flop,” wrote the Oakland Tribune’s Lee Dunbar. “It is true Powell has won more than he lost but has not been at all impressive in his games. The kid looked like a great pitching prospect last year but this season has demonstrated little of the ability that made him a standout 12 months ago.” Dunbar concluded. “Lefty” was having some control problems in the early goings of the season.
By late May, Powell was among the Pacific Coast League’s leading pitchers with a 7-1 won-lost record, but sportswriters continued to observe his diminished brilliance from 1939. “Larry Powell’s defections are more mental than physical, amateur analysts contend,” Abe Kemp wrote. “They argue that the focal point of his trouble lies in his mind and not in his left arm, or left shoulder, as is popularly supposed.” Despite speculations, it was becoming clear that Powell was struggling with a physical issue. Through eight innings in a June 15 game against Los Angeles, Powell, having held the Angels to one hit, was lifted by O’Doul due to arm pain.  As the summer continued, the pitcher showed signs of recovering from his ailment. Under the watchful eyes of the visiting Director of Minor League Operations, Herb Pennock, the Seals continued to send the hurler to the mound for scheduled starts in early July. While he notched a win in one game, he was shelled in another.
On July 16, Powell was shut down by Dr. Floyd St. Clair, who stated that he could return in ten days. The doctor explained that “muscles in Powell’s left shoulder were sore but would respond to treatment.” The physician’s comments, by contemporary standards of sports medicine, demonstrated the risks that pitchers faced. “Powell has one of the finest arms that I have ever examined,” Dr. St. Clair boasted to Seals trainer Robert Johnson. “It is an arm that any young man should be proud of.” Unfortunately for Powell, the Seals and the Red Sox, the injury was likely to be considerably more serious and a few days’ rest could not possibly heal the hidden structural damage. “The boy has a sore spot in his left shoulder, but it is nothing alarming,” St. Clair insisted. “Time and rest will restore his arm to normal.”
Sportswriters were not convinced of the doctor’s prognosis nor the pitcher’s prospects of remaining on the Seals’ staff. Art Cohn of the Oakland Tribune suggested that Powell was lost for the season, quoting then baseball historian Bob Hunter of the Los Angeles Examiner, “Stupid handling of Powell as a starting pitcher for the past few weeks hasn’t helped his condition, morale or the Seals,” and then chided the Seals manager, “Are ya listening, Mr. O’Doul?” Cohn’s criticism of O’Doul was just the beginning. Curly Grieve of the San Francisco Examiner rang the alarm bell for Boston to get their star pitcher out of San Francisco In a scathing column on July 28.
Calling Powell’s situation one of the “minor tragedies of the current baseball season,” Curly Grieve meted out blame for Powell’s arm troubles to all involved. Almost excusing Powell’s concealing of his pain due to his fears of accusations of shirking his duties and his status as the property of a major league club, Powell pitched through the pain early in the season. By the time that it became obvious to all concerned that there was a problem, he finally conceded to the team that “something gave way” during a series with the Hollywood Stars. However, Grieve then addressed the failure of medical personnel in what he labeled “another series of semi-tragic incidents.” Citing an early diagnosis from Dr. St. Clair, “There’s nothing wrong with that wing that pitching won’t cure,” Grieve then took aim at the Seals’ management for sending Powell out to the mound repeatedly, referring to the diagnosis as an indictment of Powell, asserting that he was then judged as a “quitter, a bellyacher, a traitor to his club.”
Onward Powell pitched and had some success; however, his health continued to deteriorate as the season progressed. “He lost weight, his health was obviously affected,” Grieve noted. “He broke down completely two weeks ago yesterday. Starting against Seattle, he hurled one and one third innings. By that time, it was evident he had nothing at all on the ball and he was removed.” The psychological impact was exacting a toll upon the pitcher. “On the bench, he wept unashamedly. Tears coursed down his face. He was so distressed that Manager O’Doul had to escort him to the clubhouse and console him.” It was during his second visit to Dr. St. Clair on July 16 that other health issues were observed during Powell’s examination. “It was discovered that two teeth were infected, that the left shoulder muscle was sore.” Powell’s teeth were extracted and he developed a fever. He was subsequently hospitalized as his body was fighting an infection. An abscess in his throat was discovered and it required surgical attention.
Dr. St. Clair’s outlook that “Powell’s arm will give him no more trouble. He’ll be able to take his turn on the mound within fifteen days,” raised even greater concern for Curley Grieve. “Personally, I think it will take him a month to recover from the shock of treatment, build up his health, recover his poise, get his arm into shape. But I’m no expert.” Grieve’s closing comments suggested that Powell’s career and Boston’s investment were doomed if the pitcher remained in San Francisco. “The whole affair has been bungled abominably so far,” the columnist wrote. “If I were Joe Cronin of the Red Sox, I’d call Powell to Boston to be sure that his arm is ready before he pitches. Proceed with caution. A kid’s whole future hangs in the balance.”
Forty-three days after being shut down, Powell returned to the mound at San Diego’s Lane Field against the Padres. Powell went the distance in the 5-4 victory, surrendering seven hits while striking out four and walking none. It appeared that the injury and the mishandling of it were behind him, and the Red Sox announced that Powell was being recalled to Boston for the 1941 season. A glimmer of light began to return to the pitcher’s outlook as he beat the Hollywood Stars on September 1 for his twelfth and final win of the season.
Boston sportswriters were far from optimistic despite Powell’s apparent recovery. “Larry Powell, due for 1941 delivery to the Sox in the rest of the Dom DiMaggio deal,” Steve O’Leary of the North Adams (Massachusetts) Transcript reported, “has been under treatment with a sore arm for several weeks.” By December, Powell was cleared for his call up to Boston. “Coast officials gave the Sox good reports today on Larry Powell,” The Boston Globe reported that the young pitcher would be reporting to Sarasota, Florida for Red Sox spring training.
1941, Boston Red Sox
The start of the new year signaled the beginning of contract-signing season. As general managers prepare for spring training, contracts are mailed to players with the terms and compensation for the coming season. It is also the time when players, seeking better terms than being offered by their clubs, hold out rather than simply agree and sign. The Pacific Coast League’s reputation for better compensation than typical first-year major league salaries meant that players like Powell were taking sizeable pay cuts to play at the higher level.
At home in Reedley, California, Powell responded to Fresno Bee beat reporter Ed Orman’s inquiry about the status of his contract. “I had it with me for about a week,” Powell told Orman, “I thought it over, and then just mailed it back last Friday, the pitcher continued. “It seems to be the privilege or rather custom of ball players to fire back contracts they receive when first going to the big leagues.” Powell declined to sign the Red Sox’s contract, “If they get you down in salary, they are likely to keep you there. Maybe they will think more of sending it back. I hope so. Though I do not anticipate any trouble,” Powell stated with confidence. A brief time later, Powell signed with the Red Sox  and was ready to report for spring training.
Powell’s prospects with the Red Sox, in all appearances, seemed to be bright. “I know Larry Powell,” Red Sox star Dom DiMaggio told the Boston Globe, speaking about the class of incoming rookies, “They’re all liable to make the grade this spring. Boy, they are all pretty good,” DiMaggio asserted. “I’m only glad these boys are on my team and not against me.”
At camp, “Lefty” Powell, along with other rookie pitchers, began to work with future Hall of Famer, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove in the development of pitching mechanics and strategy. In Boston’s first contest of the spring, an intrasquad game on March 6, Powell hurled the first three innings, surrendering two runs on two hits and a pair of walks. Melville Webb commented, “Possibly the most encouraging feature from the standpoint of the boxwork [pitching] was that left-hander Larry Powell, from the Coast, started away by pitching nine balls off the plate and then settled down to look mighty good.” In another intrasquad game, Powell used his curve and screwball to strike out three, including catching Jimmie Foxx and Tom Carey looking. “Powell looked better than previously, showing a fine curve ball and a ‘screw ball’ pitch over which he had excellent control,” Melville Webb wrote on March 13.
Reports from Red Sox spring training began have a less favorable tone regarding Powell’s efforts. In a March 17 game against the International League’s Newark Bears, Powell pitched the first three innings, surrendering six hits, walking two and fanning five. Melville Web noted that Powell had “good control but not much on the ball.” Newark batters feasted on Powell, plating three of their runs in the first inning, though the Sox prevailed, 6-4. The performance against the Bears showed that he needed more work, or perhaps he was hampered by his shoulder injury. Regardless of the reason, 24-year-old Powell would not be part of the Red Sox opening day roster. He was optioned to the Louisville Colonels of the class “AA” American Association on March 22.
Powell’s struggles continued in Kentucky. By the end of April, his pitching accounted for two wins, but his control problems were showing as he had amassed 17 walks. The club was counting on Powell returning to 1939 form; however, it was not materializing with the Colonels. In his second consecutive victory, he issued nine free passes to Minneapolis Miller batters. His walks-per-game ratio was hovering near 7.5, though Louisville management was convinced he would help the club to a championship.
By mid-May, Powell had lost his starting role and was pitching in relief. In a May 15 game against the Indianapolis Indians, the left-hander entered the game in the fifth inning after starter Bill Sayles was touched for runs in each inning to give the opponent a 6-0 lead. Powell stopped the bleeding, allowing three hits and one run in the 7-2 loss. Four days later, the Colonels cut their losses and dropped Powell from their roster. He was sent down to class “A” Scranton of the Eastern League on May 19, but he refused to report and was returned to Boston. The Red Sox sent the pitcher back to the West Coast, optioning the former Seal to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League on May 25. The Oroville Mercury Register’s Bill Dolan called Powell’s demotion, “the number one Coast League let down” for former league pitchers in the major leagues.
San Diego Padres
With his major league hopes on hold, Larry Powell signed with the Padres, only to receive his Selective Service draft notice a few weeks later. The pitcher was ordered to report to local draft board 124 on May 24 for his pre-induction physical examination. San Diego seemed to be what the doctor ordered for turning his pitching fortunes around as Powell was showing flashes of his 1939 season. He was 2-0, having appeared in five games for the Padres with three complete games. On July 8, Powell received a call up that he was expecting but not anticipating. Instead of taking the hill for the Red Sox, the pitcher was added to the ranks of the U.S. Army on July 9.
- Seals at War
- Third Army – Baseball Championship Series
- Southern Germany Championship – 3rd vs 7th Armies | Soldiers’ Field, Nuremberg, August 25, 1945
- The 29th Infantry Division’s Blues and Grays: the Men Behind one of the Army’s best World War II Baseball Teams
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