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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1942 Camp Roberts All-Stars:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

1943 Lemoore Army Air Field “Mechs”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points were awarded according to the following formula:

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

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

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

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

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

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

71st Infantry Division Red Circlers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[13] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[21] Ibid.

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

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

[24] Ibid: p31.

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

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

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

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

[29] Ibid: p32-57.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also read:

Continue to Part II


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

[2] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[18] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero Among Us: Just an Ordinary “Joe”

For most of our lives, we have been surrounded by people who were our neighbors, letter carriers, doctors, dentists, nurses or even grandparents or parents. They were ordinary people who lived ordinary lives. We encountered them every day and were entirely oblivious to the extraordinary lives they lived decades before. They didn’t dwell upon the things of the past as they sought only to pursue careers and raise families and leave their world better than it was when it was handed down to them.

“The Greatest Generation” is a term that has fallen out of favor in the last decade. Often overused to describe the men and women who were born following the Great War and spent their adolescence immersed in the Great Depression, the term spoke to their experiences that were brought to bear following the end of the Second World War when the United States saw its largest economic (and generational) boom. Most Americans didn’t recognize these aging men’s and women’s resilience, determination, patriotism and service to their communities and families as anything outside of normalcy until the last decade of the twentieth century, when they began entering their eighth decade and their rate of passing started to rapidly increase.

The kind-hearted, soft-spoken, gray-bearded gentleman was a favorite teacher among the students, year after year. He taught eighth-grade science at your junior high school and his style was anything but boring as he walked you through the basics in chemistry, light waves, refraction and reflectivity among many elementary principles. In ninth grade, many of the scientific elements that he previously introduced you to were foundational in the course that he taught in which his artistic passion was  transferred to you through the world of photography.

It was in ninth grade during that photography class that you noticed something different. As you worked through an assignment with your classmates, the gray-bearded man sat at his desk that was positioned at the head of the classroom and adjacent to the counter that contained the Bunsen burners and petri dishes. Upon his desk was a deformed metallic object, heavily oxidized with dirt caked into the recesses of the twists of what appeared to be aluminum. The shared curiosity among your classmates wasn’t enough to stir anyone to action; so you decided to approach the teacher, gesturing toward the object as you posed your simple question, unprepared for the emotion-filled story that he was about to bestow upon you.

In a matter of moments, you were transported from simple childhood ignorance to the 8th Air Force and B-17 Flying Fortresses on bombing missions over Third Reich targets, with a tale of bailing out over enemy-occupied territory after sustaining heavy enemy fire. The tears welling up in your teacher’s eyes provided a painfully obvious sense of loss as he described himself and one other crewmen as the only survivors from that flight as the others were too badly wounded and incapable of bailing out before the aircraft crashed. He told you that the pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft as he kept it at altitude long enough for the two survivors to make a safe exit. That harrowing story of survival decades earlier transitioned to the present day as your teacher shared with you his summer vacation of traveling to Europe and visiting the newly discovered crash site of his Flying Fortress. The remains of the crew who had been unable to escape the crash were among the wreckage when the site was discovered. Of course they had been removed before he visited. The piece that sat upon the teacher’s desk served as a reminder of the sacrifices made so that he could live his life in peace and share the stories of what made his generation truly great.

Seventy miles northeast of Detroit, Michigan, lies a small city on the shores of Lake Huron where the St. Clair River empties into the lake. Port Huron lies on the western bank of the river opposite  Sarnia, Ontario. The two cities are connected by the Bluewater Bridge on Interstate 94. Three miles southwest of the bridge on 24th and Court Streets lies Port Huron High School, which today looks nothing like it did in January of 1943 when Jack Dobratz, a multi-sport star athlete, graduated.

Jack Dobratz as he appeared in his 1942 Port Huron High School yearbook photo (image source: Ancestry.com).

Born to Charles G. and Minnie C. Dobratz, Jack was the third of five children and the third son born to first generation German-American parents. Jack was a stellar athlete in football, basketball and baseball, earning 10 letters with the Port Huron High School Reds, the first student to do so in twelve years. His departure from the school in the middle of winter left a gaping hole in two of the school’s sports rosters. The starting center for the basketball team graduated in the middle of the season and weeks later was wearing a different uniform.

Seeking Jack’s inspiration for participation in athletics, one need look no further than his father Charles, who clearly had a passion for sports. His August 6, 1951 Port Huron Times Herald obituary said that Charles’ love of sports was widely known. “Mr. Dobratz’ interest in every type of sporting event was carried over to the athletes who participated in them.” Charles left his imprint on the following generations with his involvement in Port Huron’s sports community. “Youngsters particularly, beginning to play softball, basketball and baseball, received invaluable counsel and encouragement from him.” The elder Dobratz was a member of the Port Huron Old Timers Association, whose members included notable baseball men such as Fred Lamlein, Frank Secory and Bill Watkins. Charles Dobratz also served as an umpire in industrial, city and church basketball leagues, no doubt influencing his son Jack.

There were no doubts about Jack’s post-graduation destination as he registered for the wartime draft on June 30, 1942, leading him to enlist in the U.S. Army on February 16, 1943. At that time in the Pacific theater, the ground offensive on Guadalcanal was pushing the Japanese off the island. With the Axis stranglehold across Europe, Operation Torch, the Allied offensive in French North Africa against German and Vichy units, was in its third month as the planning was well underway for what would be known as Operation Overlord – the Normandy Invasion.  Camp Wheeler served as an infantry replacement center and Dobratz was trained for future assignment to replace a combat casualty as the need arose.

Once his training was completed at Camp Wheeler, the six-foot-three, 182-pound private pitched for his unit’s baseball team before he was transferred to England in July, 1943. His athletic abilities were apparent to his unit upon his arrival overseas and he found himself continuing his mound duties on foreign soil through for the remainder of 1943 and into the following year.

This fantastic film captures the WWII actions of the 29th Division. At the 5:03 mark in the video, one can catch a glimpse of the 29th playing baseball in England well before the D-Day invasion.

Private First Class Dobratz reported to the 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division on July 18, 1944 and was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion. He was promptly appointed to the rank of sergeant. His arrival at the 115th was as a replacement. The regiment was in need of personnel, having sustained 3,700 casualties in the The Battle of Saint-Lo. Sergeant Dobratz’ military occupation specialty was 729 Pioneer (construction and engineering); so he was more than likely assigned to the support platoon.

The 115th Infantry Regiment saw action in the August-September battle for Brest during which Dobratz spent three days hospitalized for a non-battle injury. On September 30, the regiment crossed into Germany during the Rhineland Campaign, which saw the 115th along the Roer River. Due to the region’s heaviest rainfalls in more than three decades combined with heavy enemy resistance, the men of the 115th got bogged down in the very harsh conditions. The troops lacked personal foul weather gear to protect them from the wet conditions, resulting in an increase in non-battle casualties (NBC) for issues such as trench foot. In early December, Sgt. Dobratz came off the line and reported to the hospital for an NBC that ultimately saw him dropped from the 115th Infantry’s muster rolls. By February 10, 1945 he had been released and reported back to his unit. Two weeks later, the 29th Division launched their offensive on February 23, attacking the enemy across the Roer River towards their objective, the German town of Jülich, which fell on the first day of the assault. The Division pressed onward toward the Rhine, linking up with the British 21st Army Group, led my General Montgomery. Having seized München-Gladbach, just 32 kilometers west of Dusseldorf and the Rhine River, the 29th was relieved on March 1 for a much needed period of rest and recuperation as well as resupply and refit.

Footage of the 115th Infantry Regiment receiving their unit Presidential Unit Citation decoration.

The 29th Division’s Central European Campaign continued for several more weeks of mopping up pockets of German resistance, leading up to the May 2 surrender of Third Reich forces. The 115th Infantry Regiment began transitioning from combat to occupation duties. In the weeks that followed, idle troops across the European Theater began to form baseball leagues with more than 100,000 participants. Dobratz was an obvious choice for the 29th Division’s team as the search for the most talented players netted a mix of former professionals, semi-pros and star high school players in order to field a highly competitive roster.

The 29th Division’s Blue and Grays worked their way through the season and captured the Seventh Army Championship (details of the games and opponents have yet to surface) and gained entrance into the ETO (European Theater of Operations) World Series semifinal games against the 71st Infantry Division Red Circlers.  The Red Circlers were well rested following their early August five-game series in which they captured the Third Army championship by defeating the 76th Infantry Division’s Onaways. Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ewell Blackwell had tossed a 7-0 no-hitter in the second game and 5-0 two-hitter in the fifth and deciding game. 

The entire 29th Division Blue and Grays immediately following their 7th Army Championship victory in Mannheim, Germany. The bespectacled Sgt. Dobratz is seated in the second row, second from the right. Don Kolloway is seated in the same row, fifth from the left while Lloyd “Whitey” Moore is kneeling on the far left and Earl Ghelf is in the same row on the far right (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

40,000 GIs and WACS witnessed the 71st Division defeat the 29th at Nuremberg Stadium on August 26, 1945. “This was baseball’s biggest spectacle to date as pennants of all major league teams flew from the rim of the stadium and Red Cross vendors climbed up and down, peddling beer, soft drinks and peanuts. Two thousand cases of beer, mostly American brands, were sold during the day as shirt-sleeved soldiers reveled.” (Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, August 29, 1945.)

The 71st carried their momentum forward as they faced the Blue and Grays of the 29th Infantry. Ewell Blackwell’s pitching was dominant in the first game as he captured the 2-1 win. Bill Ayers, victorious pitcher from the 12-innnng, 2-1 Game Three in the Third Army Championships, followed Blackwell with a two-hit, 3-1 win that put the 29th on their heels for the make-or-break Game Three. Ken Heintzelman, former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher, entered the game with the score knotted at 3-3 in the top of the eighth inning and held the 29th hitless. In the bottom of the frame, Heintzelman’s bat ignited a three-run rally that broke the game open. In the top of the ninth, the ex-Pirate set the side down in order to seal the three-game sweep of the Blue and Grays. Dobratz and his teammates were eliminated from the series, falling three wins short of the ETO World Series and being forced to settle for the Seventh Army Crown. The 29th Infantry Division members were presented with engraved German-made medals that commemorated the Seventh Army title at Mannheim, Germany in August of 1945.

Another shot of the 29th shows Jack Dobratz in the second row at the far right. Don Kolloway and Earl Ghelf are in the back row at the far left. Whitey Moore is in the second row with his hand on the dog (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

After acquiring the medal awarded to his teammate, Earl Ghelf, a year earlier (see: European Theater Baseball (the 29th Infantry Division Blue and Grays at Nurnberg)), we were keenly aware of the significance of the piece when a second medal appeared in an online auction listing.  The engraving on the medal’s reverse was an identical match to our medal, prompting us to place a bid and hope for the best. When the auction closed, we were astounded at the minimal competition as our bid closed the deal. Upon its arrival, we were already challenged in researching the inscribed name as our attempts continued to reveal nothing. “J. DEBRATZ” was an absolute mystery and we were resigned to waiting and hoping for a research breakthrough.

This medal was manufactured in Germany and used to recognize the winners of the 7th Army’s championship (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Days after publishing our article regarding “Debratz’s” medal (Metal Championship: Two 7th Army Victors of the 29th Division), we were contacted by a board member of the Maryland Museum of Military History who was an actively serving U.S. Army colonel. Col. Drew Sullins, along with historian Joseph Balkoski, author of several 29th Infantry Division books (see below), had been researching the 29th Division’s 1945 Blue and Gray baseball team and had uncovered significant details. Sullins researched the Division’s archive within the museum on our behalf for “DeBratz” among the morning reports. He soon discovered that the name as it appeared on our medal was misspelled, “Those Army clerks weren’t always perfect.” Colonel Sullins said. The colonel’s research yielded significant details, opening the doors for us to pursue other directions into Jack Dobratz’ military life.

“Jack Dobratz is having a good time ‘abroad’ in spite of being in the service of his country,” the September 23, 1945 Port Huron Times Herald read. “He does some pitching on a team that lists former major league players like Whitey Moore, former Cincinnati pitcher, and Jack Calloway [Don Kolloway] of the Chicago White Sox.” The article made mention of the team’s championship. “The 29th claims the Seventh Army baseball title, winning it on a field built by German labor.” Uncertain about his return home, Dobratz made plans for the winter athletic season in Germany, as he “sent for his basketball togs,” the article concluded.

The misspelled surname of Jack Dobratz Inscribed 7th Army Championship medal made for a bit of a research challenge. Thankfully, Colonel Drew Sullins reached out and was able to find the sergeant listed in the 29th Division’s records (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

By early December, Dobratz was back home in Port Huron and resumed his athletic competitiveness. He signed onto semi-professional basketball teams, first with the Mueller Brass club followed by Chrysler, and dominated his teams’ offensive statistical categories. By the spring, Dobratz was back in flannels, pitching for the Marine City semi-pro club and leading the team into the Blue Water District League finals.

During his World War II service, Sergeant Jack Dobratz was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, two Bronze Star medals, the Army Presidential Unit Citation ribbon and the Army Good Conduct, Europe-Africa-Middle East (EAME) Campaign (with three bronze star devices), American Campaign and World War II Victory medals.

Nearly two years after returning from Germany, Jack Dobratz married Ruth (Jensen) Smith, who was widowed when her husband’s C-109 Liberator Express was lost on December 16, 1944 in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. First Lieutenant Walter J. Smith was serving as the converted B-24’s navigator at the time of the aircraft’s loss.

The Dobratz couple later moved to Kalamazoo, where Jack worked as a floral designer until he passed away at age sixty-six on September 29, 1989. Almost three years later, his wife joined him in death. The couple had no children. Throughout the 44 years following his return from Europe, how many people who encountered Sgt. Dobratz had any concept of his actions during the war? Did he ever speak of the horrors of battle or did he fondly recollect his four months on the diamond with the 29th Division Blue and Grays? Perhaps our medal with Dobratz’ misspelled name served as a pleasant reminder of the months following V-E Day while the rest of his war artifacts were pushed aside, never to be seen again. While we are grateful for the opportunity to preserve Sgt. Dobratz’ 1945 Seventh Army Championship medal, we are left wondering what became of his service decorations.

Related Chevrons and Diamonds Stories:

29th Infantry Division History (by Joseph Balkoski)

Keeping Score at Nuremberg: A Rare 1945 GI World Series Scorecard

Taking stock of the past three months’ worth of Chevrons and Diamonds articles, it is easy to discern a few emerging content trends that reflect the types of artifacts that are continually being added to our collection. In that span of time, three separate Chevrons and Diamonds articles have documented some of our recent acquisitions of noteworthy scorecards or programs originating from rather historic service team games that were played during World War II. Just as most parents can’t choose a favorite among their own children, none of the scorecards, programs or scorebooks within our collection receives such prized status, though there are some genuine stand-outs among the pack.

Collecting historic baseball military ephemera is far more rewarding than similar pieces from the professional game (or, at least that is our admittedly biased opinion). In terms of scarcity or rarity of items, those that were distributed at a major league game are of the most common by comparison to items distributed at a wartime service league or exhibition game. During the 1940s major league ballparks had seating capacities that ranged from the mid-30,000s in the smaller markets to 57,000 for the crown jewel of the big leagues, Yankee Stadium. One would have to assume that scorecards and programs printed for each game numbered in the range 30-50% of the capacity for each game, if not more. By WWII, teams employed the practice of limiting printing runs to a handful of editions throughout the season (changing only the actual scoresheets and specific rosters pages inside the booklets to reflect the current visitors and lineups). Despite these production factors, the sheer numbers of those individual-game scorecards that were printed increase the odds of having more surviving pieces to collect. In contrast, the pieces printed for a military game would number in the hundreds at best, resulting in far fewer surviving examples.

Survivability of military baseball ephemera (just as with those from the professional game) can vary dependent upon a few factors such as paper quality, modes of transporting the pieces home or just general handling (folding or being stuffed into a pocket). There is a notable difference in the quality of paper used by professional teams and the very rudimentary medium used to produce the service team pieces, especially for those printed in the overseas theaters. Due to these factors, the surviving military items are far outnumbered by their wartime major and minor league counterparts. Locating and acquiring a military scorecard, scorebook or program in excellent or better condition is next to impossible solely based on the the aforementioned factors.

Scarcity due to production, handling, transportation and storage are only part of the story to consider. Recognizing that as the last of the World War II veterans are passing, their heirs are often saddled with determining the disposition of the accumulation more than 70 years since their family member returned from the war. To the untrained eye, a piece of military baseball ephemera might appear to be nothing more than smelly old paper falling victim to a quick purge during a home clean-out and subsequently ending up in the trash. Those pieces that escape all of these situations and make their way into collections (such as ours) or to a museum are exceedingly scarce.

For the select few collectors of baseball militaria, items from notable games don’t typically slip past our watchful eyes undetected very often which is not to suggest that it never happens. However, when it does occur, the sheer joy of being the one to land such a piece with minimal (or without) competition from other collectors means that the acquisition costs are minimized. What determines the notability of a service team game and subsequently impacts the rarity (and collector-value) of military baseball scorecards?

The cover of the Third Army Baseball Championship series games score card. The 71st ID Defeated the 76th ID in five games that were played in early August, 1945.

During World War II, many significant service team games (or series) were played and were well-documented in the press by sportswriters (for domestic games) and war correspondents (for overseas games). Contests such as the 1943 exhibition game played between a combined team of Yankees and Indians (coached by Babe Ruth) versus the Navy Pre-Flight (UNC Chapel Hill) “Cloudbusters” or the 1944 Army versus Navy Championship series in the Hawaiian Islands have garnered significant attention both at the time of the games and, more recently, over the last decade. Scorecards from these games tend to surface on occasion though not nearly as much as their major league counterparts.

In more than a decade of researching, collecting and observing the baseball militaria market, we have been diligent in documenting and tracking artifacts (such as scorecards) that are listed for sale (or at auction) along with monitoring the corresponding pricing trends. During that period of observation, we have seen only three examples (two of which we acqired) of the scorecard (shown at right) originating from the 1945 Third Army Championship series played in Nuremberg, Germany. The August 11-13, 1945 (originally scheduled from August 7-9) series amounted to a preliminary play-off round in the run up to the overall championship of the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and pitted the “Onaways” of the 76th Infantry Division against the “Red Circlers” of the 71st Infantry Division (see: Authenticating a Military Championship Baseball and Third Army – Baseball Championship Series). Led by the dominant pitching performance of former Cincinnati Reds phenom Ewell Blackwell, the Red Circlers eliminated the Onaways in five games.

The pitcher (possibly Earl Ghelf) starts his windup in one of their US Army Ground Forces Championship Series Games against the 7ist Inf. Red Circlers.

Next up for the Third Army Champion-71st Infantry Division “Red Circlers” was the US Army Ground Forces Championship Series against the 7th Army Champion “Blue and Grays” of the 29th Infantry Division. This best of five games-series was played in both Nuremberg and Manheim, Germany with the ‘Circlers’ starting pitchers Ewell Blackwell and Bill Ayres dominating the opposing batters. The 71st swept the 29th in three straight to advance to the ETO World Series. While we have yet to uncover a scorecard or program, a significant group of photographs and other associated documents (along with a 7th Army Championship medal) originating from one of the 29th’s pitchers, former minor league pitcher, Earl Ghelf surfaced in early 2018 (see: Metal Championship: Two 7th Army Victors of the 29th Division and European Theater Baseball: the 29th Infantry Division Blue and Grays at Nurnberg for more details) which we were able to secure.

Baseball in Occupied Europe
In the weeks following the collapse and unconditional surrender of the Third Reich, U.S. Army leadership was successful in assembling one of the largest known baseball leagues featuring more than 200,000 soldiers and airmen filling rosters of bases and units stationed throughout the occupied European Theater. The autumn-1945 GI World Series was the culmination of the season-long competition throughout the continent with teams that consisted of regular soldiers playing alongside former minor and major leaguers, all of whom fought and served in the war in theater. By season’s end, some of the teams who made it to the lower level championships (such as the Seventh and Third Army series) had morphed, absorbing the top talent from their vanquished opponents within their leagues (for example, former Chicago White Sox infielder-turned-combat-medic Don Kolloway served in the 69th Infantry during the war and played for unit’s team before being tapped to join the 29th’s team after being defeated in the 7th Army Championships) as their commanders attempted to improve the odds of winning the championship for their unit.

Having eliminated the 76th ID’s Onaways and Blue and Grays of the 29th ID, the Red Circlers found themselves facing off against the The Advance Section, Communications Zone (ADSEC/COMZ) All-Stars based at Oise, France. This formidable opponent was led by a non-commissioned officer (who was a former major league pitcher), was unconventional with their roster. Named the Oise All-Stars, this group fought their way into the semi-final series that pitted them against the 66th Infantry Division and the 71st Infantry Division; three teams fighting for the two spots in the ETO World Series. This semi-final was a double-elimination contest of three games; the first of which was played on August 30 (71st Infantry Division versus Oise All-Stars) and a double-header on September 1 (71st Infantry Division versus 66th Infantry Division and Oise All-Stars versus 66th infantry Division). The 66th division was eliminated after sustaining losses to the 71st and Oise leaving the victors to advance to the GI World Series.

According to Gary Bedingfield, a military baseball historian and founder of Baseball In Wartime, there are a few questions surrounding the name of the Oise team. Bedingfield wrote in his Baseball in Wartime Newsletter Vol 7 No 39 September/October 2015, “Reims became the site of the U.S. Army’s redeployment camps, all of which were named after American cities. There were 18 of these “tented cities” scattered throughout the Reims area. This area was designated the Oise (pronounced “waz”) Intermediate Section by the U.S. Army, named after the local river and the Oise département, a French administrative division that covered much of the area.”

This scorecard was used when the GI World Series shifted for the September 6-7, 1945 games were played at Athletic Field in Reims, France (the Oise All-Stars “home field” for the series). This is the only other known example of a scorecard from the 1945 GI World Series.

The OISE All Stars baseball team was assembled by former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Sergeant Sam Nahem and featured a roster populated predominantly with former semi-pro, collegiate and minor leaguers. Only one Oise player, other than Nahem, played at the major league level. Going against unwritten rules (both in professional baseball and in the armed forces), Nahem insisted on adding two former Negro Leaguers to his roster. Willard Brown and Leon Day, undoubtedly ruffling some feathers in the Army establishment. Aside from the unique composition of Nahem’s roster, the team’s name has been the source of confusion. As Bedingfield wrote, “A strange myth has appeared over the years – that I, myself, have used at one time or another – that Oise stood for Overseas Invasion Service Expedition. I can find absolutely no evidence to support this and maintain that the Oise All-Stars were named for the Oise Intermediate Section. Other Sections in France included the Loire Base Section and the Seine Base Section, home of the formidable Seine Base Clowns, a ball team operated by Pacific Coast Leaguer pitcher Chuck Eisenmann.”

The GI World Series was a five-game affair with games one, two and five being played in Soldiers Field at Nuremberg Stadium and the “road” games (three and four) being played at the (long-ago demolished) Headquarters Command (HQ) Athletic Field in Reims. Nahem’s Oise All-Stars were evenly matched with the “Red Circlers” of the 71st which resulted in a great series for the fans to witness.

  • Game 1 (September 2, 1945 | Soldiers’ Field): Oise All-Stars 2 – 71st Infantry Division 9
  • Game 2 (September 3, 1945 | Soldiers’ Field): Oise 2 – 71st ID 1
  • Game 3 (September 6, 1945 | HQ Command Athletic Field): 71st ID 1 – Oise 2
  • Game 4 (September 7, 1945 | HQ Command Athletic Field): 71st ID 5 – Oise 0
  • Game 5 (September 8, 1945 | Soldiers’ Field): Oise 2 – 71st ID 1

The specifics of each game and the men who filled the rosters are laid out in great detail in Bedingfield’s September/October 2015 newsletter.

Until just a few months ago, the only scorecard that we have seen is one that was used for the two games played at the Oise All-Stars home field, Headquarters Command Athletic Field in Reims. Unfortunately, no copies of this piece have surfaced to the collector market in more than a decade of our searching. The piece (shown above) bears similarities to the hand-illustrated piece used at the 1945 Navy World Series in Hawaii. Regardless of any and all searching and maintaining watchful eyes on the market, nothing from the GI World Series has become available; not even the HQ Command Athletic Field scorecard.

A few months ago, one of our online auction searches that seldom produces results that are worthy of deeper investigation, finally listed an item that caught our attention. A strange title that read, “WWII GI  Scorebook Nurnberg Field USFET W1945 Unused Baseball,” with an accompanying-yet-tiny image (that was barely discernible) was enough to prevent me from performing my routine action of deleting the results. Upon opening the link and viewing the photos of the item, we were still unsure of what was listed. Very clearly, the piece shown was a service team baseball scorecard that was printed on the typical low-grade paper that was commonly employed for this purpose in all wartime theaters but the printed information wasn’t registering as we inspected each associated image. For some reason (perhaps due the lack of documented examples), the most obvious information printed across the cover didn’t immediately stand out. The interior pages featured blank scoresheets that were devoid of commonly seen team rosters or game line-ups which offered no further clues. Returning to view the lead image in the auction listing, something finally clicked and the reality surrounding this piece suddenly materialized. For the first time in more than ten years, a scorecard from the GI World Series had finally come to market.

How could anyone not notices the substantial lettering that seemingly broadcast that this scorecard was from the 1945 GI World Series?

With only two days remaining until the auction’s close, there was a lone bid which was incredibly low for such an important piece of baseball history.The seller’s starting price was merely $7.00. Not knowing the experience level of the bidder that I was hoping to wrest the scorecard away from left me wondering if his maximum price was in the sphere of reality as to the value of the scorecard. Noting the other bidder had a feedback count of less than two hundred, we coupled that with the behavior of early bidding (perhaps one of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced bidders) and decided that we would prepare a sniped bid and hope that it was enough to supplant the competition. Anxiously awaiting the auction’s close and the bad news that we were going to miss out on this piece due to its rarity and collector value, the congratulatory email regarding our bid arrived along with the invoice for payment. Our surprise at winning the auction was immediately surpassed by the sale price: $10.50 which was just $3.50 above the listed price and, $0.50 greater than the competing bid (maximum)! The seller listed the shipping price as $4.06 which was a bit lower than what we typically encounter with these items but it wasn’t so low to cause any sort of concern…until it actually became a concern.

This scorecard was most likely printed ahead of the teams being decided (by playoffs). The date as indicated by the “2” is printed in a silver-ink leading to the idea that the dates were applied as needed .

Note: In prefacing the next sequence of events, please understand that this article was not written admonish or to chastise the seller. Sharing details regarding all aspects of the transaction is done so with the hope that our readers consider what transpired as they engage in their own selling activities (we have omitted the seller’s name and altered the listing title to preserve their anonymity). 

After more than two weeks since submitting payment for the scorecard, the seller still hadn’t updated the listing with any shipping details (it was still marked as not being shipped) and was completely silent with regards to communication, an inquiry was dispatched through the auction provider’s messaging system. The brief response from the seller, “No tracking number. Mailed with a stamp which is why I gave you a partial refund,” was a little strange since I hadn’t asked for anything more than a status and a tracking number. The partial refund from the seller was $0.50 causing further confusion for us.

The beauty of this Nuremberg GI World Series scorecard lies with both covers as the interior is lacking team information. At least one can learn to score a game with this piece.

What amounts to a sponsors’ page, the GI World Series program’s back cover features adverts from AFN-Munich and the Southern Germany Stars and Stripes.

A few days following the seller’s strange message and partial refund, the letter carrier delivered the package containing the scorecard with $0.45 postage due. True to his message, the seller did exactly as was stated; the piece was stuffed into a thin and appropriately-sized paper envelope with a $0.55 Forever stamp affixed. There was no padding, backing boards or anything to protect the piece from moisture damage, inadvertent folding or from harm inflicted by postal sorting machinery which left this priceless artifact almost entirely exposed. Without purchasing postal insurance, there was no tracking. The envelope did receive damage (possibly from the sorting equipment) that tore and creased the envelope. Concern for the scorecard itself was put to rest once it was determined that the piece suffered only curling without being creased. In desiring to pass along the information regarding the arrival of the package, the condition and the additional postage that was paid to receive the envelope, we reached out to the seller. Rather than to address the concerns, the seller responded, “I will give you a full refund instead of the partial refund already provided,” closing out this intriguing saga (which included a fantastic result).

Our intention was to merely point out the issue and hope that subsequent shipments are better protected and postage is properly funded rather than to receive a refund. In the end, we received this incredible artifact without cost. Perhaps we should consider this a gift? Moving on, we were able to press the curl out of the scorecard and add it to the growing collection of baseball militaria paper.

The significance of the GI World Series scorecard (from the Nuremberg-hosted games) lies within the covers. The artwork and the two-color (red and blue) printing (the silver date appears to be applied subsequent to the initial printing) makes for stunning visual imagery on the front cover. The back was printed in three-color (adding black to the mix) and includes an advertisement for the Armed Forces Network (AFN) for radio coverage of the games. Beneath the AFN ad is a colorful advert for the Stars and Stripes newspaper (Southern Germany Edition).

One aspect of the scorecard and the GI World Series games was that it was hosted (at Nuremberg) by USFET (U.S. Forces, European Theater) which was known, during wartime combat operations, as ETOUSA (European Theater of Operations, United States Army). It makes sense that the GI World Series would be hosted at Nuremberg Stadium by the overall theater command, however prior to discovering this scorecard, this aspect was not known.

Located on the lower left edge of the program is the information detailing the date and the Army unit that produced the piece.

Confirmation of our assessment regarding the the game date being applied during a secondary printing is located at the bottom edge of the back cover. The date, 30 / Aug. 45, indicates that the scorecard was being printed as the first game of the semi-finals was being played.  The date on the cover, September 2, 1945 also indicates that this scorecard was printed for Game One of the GI World Series.

The Chevrons and Diamonds trend has continued with yet another article detailing a service team scorecard however, with the acquisition of this incredible find, we are certain that our readers will be just as fascinated by the discovery if this historic piece. In shining a spotlight upon scorecards that were previously undocumented, we are perhaps effectively increasing our competition for the still-needed HQ Command Athletic Field piece. However with the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of e the Nuremberg piece, we aren’t too concerned about our chances.

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Metal Championship: Two 7th Army Victors of the 29th Division

To most collectors of American militaria, vintage medals and decorations are easily recognizable with distinctive patterns stamped into each face as well as the ribbons that they are suspended from.  In our militaria collection, we have focused on people (family members), a handful of U.S. Navy warships and other places that my relatives and ancestors served. In terms of collecting, medals and decorations are of tertiary importance, though I have acquired several pieces that otherwise captured my interest.

The ribbon is tied into a bow affixed to the suspension ring; a match to the Debratz copy.

In 2017, a group of photos, game programs (basketball), correspondence and a medal were listed in an online auction. All of the items originated from a veteran who served in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) during World War II with the 69th Infantry Division and played baseball for the unit’s team on his way to pitching in the ETO World Series in 1945 for the 29th Infantry Division team, the Blue and the Grays. After winning the 7th Army Championship, a semi-final elimination tournament, the 29th team faced (and was defeated by) the Red Circlers of the 71st Division.

The reverse of E.R. Ghelf’s medal shows the basic brooch pin as it is stitched to the backside of the ribbon-bow.

Focusing primarily upon the photographs, European Theater Baseball (the 29th Infantry Division Blue and Grays at Nurnberg) also addressed the historic and rare imagery in the group (the Earl Ghelf Collection) – how Mr. Ghelf photo-documented the baseball park that was constructed on the grounds of Soldiers Field (formerly known as Nuremberg Stadium). What was not covered in the article was the medal that was central to the group; a German-made piece with a diminutive red and white ribbon with engraving on the reverse. The obverse features a relief bust of an athletically-built man with the words “Dem Sieger” (which translates to, “The Winner”) above the figure’s right shoulder. The engraving on the reverse reads:

7th Army Baseball Champions
E. R. Ghelf
Mannheim Stadium
Germany

It is apparent that the 7th Army leadership locally sourced the medal and had it engraved and presented to Mr. Ghelf. It was assumed that the entire 29th Division Blue and Greys team was presented with the same personalized medal to commemorate their victory en route to the ETO Championship series. Not having seen another copy previously, the assumption about the entire team receiving them was untested and unproven…Until today.

“The Winner,” a direct translation from German, the medal is clearly sourced from the local marketplace.

Some of the best finds that arrive to the Chevrons and Diamonds collection come by way of accidental discovery. When I was researching a ball player in an attempt to find any correlation or connection to military service, an unintentional Google image search yielded a photo of a familiar medal – one that featured the same obverse design as the Ghelf medal (above) along with the same ribbon and suspension.

Identical to the Earl Ghelf copy, the J. Debratz engraving matches perfectly.

Recognizing that the image was from an online auction listing, I clicked on the image, opening a current auction listing for another engraved copy of the 7th Army Championship medal. The engraving on the reverse is exactly the same as my copy (save for the name):

7th Army Baseball Champions
J. Debratz
Mannheim Stadium
Germany

29th Infantry Division Blue and Grays (Seventh Army Champions) 1945:

Rank Player Pos Previous
Pvt. Earl A. Dothager P Springfield (WA)
Sgt. Wallace W. Kale
Pvt. Kazimer J. Waiter
Pvt. Robert W. Lansinger P Lancaster (ISLG)
1st Lt. Erwin Prasse LF/Mgr. University of Iowa
Wesley “Lefty” Howard P
Herbert Biedenkapp RF
George Ortega
William A. “Bill” Seal, Jr. IF Vicksburg (CSTL)
Don Kolloway IF White Sox
Sgt. Jack Dobratz P High School
Joe Blalock
Lloyd “Whitey” Moore P Cardinals
Earl Ghelf C/P Amateur/Semi-pro
Ken Hess CF

 

The 7th Army Champions of 1945: The Blue and Grays of the 29th Infantry Division. Earl Ghelf is in the back row, second from the left. Sgt. Jack Dobratz is in the middle row, first from the right.

Without any hesitating, a sniped bid was set ahead of the due diligence in researching the name. The only instance of a roster for the 7th Army (29th Infantry Division) Championship team is located on Baseball in Wartime.com and a quick check revealed no player with that name. Searching through other sources yielded similar results. Who was J. Debratz?  Was his name misspelled on the medal? Was he a coach or a manager?  The decision was made to proceed despite the auction with the hope that should our bid prove successful, in time, the research could pan out.

Upon auction close, our bid was the only one and the Debratz medal arrived a few days later (a few days before publishing this article). One of the most rewarding aspects of collecting named pieces such as this medal is the satisfaction that follows a research or discovery breakthrough. For the present-time, this medal will be displayed along with the Ghelf copy.

With the assistance of Colonel Drew Sullins, board member of the Maryland Museum of Military History, J. Debratz was positively identified as Sergeant Jack Dobratz of Port Huron, Michigan. Sgt. Dobratz entered the United States Army on February 16, 1943 and was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion in the 29th Infantry Division. He was promoted from private first class to the rank of sergeant on July 18, 1944. Dobratz graduated in January, 1943 from Port Huron High School where he excelled in athletics earning 10 letters in football, basketball and baseball. He was the school’s quarterback and punter on the gridiron and toed the mound as their star pitcher. Leading up to D-Day, Jack “Dobie” Dobratz pitched for his company’s team domestically and after arrival in England.

 

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