1942 U.S. Service All-Stars Treasured Ink
On February 2, 2023, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the prognosticating ground hog known to the people of Young Township, Jefferson County, as Phil, was said to have predicted six more weeks of winter. However, just two weeks later, spring arrived as was scheduled by Major League Baseball as pitchers and catchers reported to their respective teams’ training locations in Arizona and Florida. Despite wintry weather pounding many parts of the country in the weeks that followed, the long wait that began following the last out of Game 6 of the 2022 World Series on November 5 is finally over. The 2023 baseball season is about to commence.
While the game takes a three-month break, there truly is no offseason for it. For curators of the game’s history, the season ebbs and flows from one end of the calendar to the other as prospective candidates for the collection become available at any moment. While major league clubs were seeking their prized free agent acquisitions, we too were busy landing significant artifacts for the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection.
In the last few years, our collection of team-signed baseballs has grown at a snail’s pace, though the emphasis has been focused on quality rather than quantity. However, over a three-week span from February into March, we managed to land three significant team balls. Rather than spill the beans on all three pieces in one article, our current focus will be on the anchor of the group.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and while there seems to be a fair amount of truth in that expression, grouping together related artifacts can better serve in telling a complete story. In our January 2022 article, Historic Game Program Discovery: July 7, 1942 Service All-Stars, we introduced readers to the fund-raising game played between the American League All-Stars and the Service All-Stars at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. By bringing together a few of our press photos and a game scorecard, the game was elevated to an event rather than just a box score. While the group of photos and the game program are historic artifacts, the group of 1942 Service All-Star artifacts was further enhanced with a Reach Official American League, William Harridge baseball signed by the team.
Before 1942 began, serious doubts swirled throughout the game as to whether baseball would be played that season as players began volunteering for service in the armed forces. Cleveland Indians phenom pitcher Bob Feller enlisted into the Navy on December 9 as the first major leaguer to answer his nation’s call. Twenty days later, Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Sam Chapman followed suit, trading his flannels for Navy dress blues. Many ballplayers were already in uniform due to the enacted peacetime Selective Service Act, including Ernie Andres, Frank Baumholtz, Mickey Harris, and Fred Hutchinson. At the age of 41, George Earnshaw, former Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, was commissioned a Lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy in early December 1941.
With service baseball taking flight in the spring of 1942, teams at many domestic bases were competing in games to boost morale and to raise funds for Army and Navy Relief organizations and for recreation equipment funds for troops. As plans were drawn to field a team of military all-stars from across the country, Great Lakes Naval Training Station manager Lieutenant Gordon “Mickey” Cochrane began assembling his preferred list of players from the Army and Navy who would face the winners of the major league all-star game.
By late June as the majority of the service all-stars reported to Cochrane, coaches LT(jg) Earnshaw and WWI Army veteran Hank Gowdy began putting the club through workouts to build team cohesiveness. In preparation for the July 7 game, Cochrane took the team on the road for a handful of exhibition games.
|Ernie Andres||3B||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Louisville (AA)|
|Morrie Arnovich||LF||Fort Lewis||Giants|
|Frank Baumholtz||CF||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Riverside (CALL)|
|Sam Chapman||OF||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Athletics|
|Mickey Cochrane||Mgr.||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Tigers|
|George Earnshaw||Coach||Jacksonville Naval Air Station||Cardinals|
|Bob Feller||P||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Indians|
|Hank Gowdy||Coach||Reds Coach|
|Joe Grace||RF||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Browns|
|Johnny Grodzicki||P||Armed Forces Replacement Training Center – Fort Knox||Cardinals|
|Chet Hajduk||2B||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||White Sox|
|Mickey Harris||P||83rd Coast Artillery/Fort Kobbe||Red Sox|
|Sam Harshaney||C||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Toledo (AA)|
|Fred Hutchinson||P||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Tigers|
|Johnny Lucadello||SS||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Browns|
|Benny McCoy||2B||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Athletics|
|Emmett “Heinie” Mueller||2B||Jefferson Barracks||Phillies|
|Pat Mullin||CF||New Cumberland Army Reception Center||Tigers|
|Don Padgett||LF||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Cardinals|
|Frankie Pytlak||C||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||Red Sox|
|Johnny Rigney||P||Great Lakes Naval Training Station||White Sox|
|Kenneth J. “Ken” Silvestri||C||Fort Custer||Yankees|
|Vincent Smith||C||Norfolk Naval Training Station||Pirates|
|Johnny Sturm||1B||Jefferson Barracks||Yankees|
|Cecil Travis||SS||Camp Wheeler||Senators|
Manager Cochrane built the Service All-Stars around a core of 10 Great Lakes Naval Training Station players. Adding four players from the Norfolk Naval Training Station Bluejackets, Mickey had fifteen total naval players (including coach Earnshaw from Jacksonville Naval Air Station). The Army’s representation on the team included a pair from Jefferson Barracks (Missouri), and individuals from Fort Knox (Kentucky), Camp Wheeler (Georgia), New Cumberland (Pennsylvania), Fort Custer (Michigan), and Fort Lewis (Washington). Mickey Harris traveled the greatest distance, arriving from the Panama Canal Zone. Coach Hank Gowdy would receive his commission into the Army on February 6, 1943, and serve at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In the realm of collecting autographs, authenticity is the key. With the fraudulent memorabilia that permeates the collector hobby, exercising caution and performing due diligence are paramount for curating in this arena. Many collectors forgo the research steps and defer to third-party authentication (TPA) prior to making a purchase. While this may seem to be the safest approach, TPAs certainly are not infallible. With a combination of research, attention to detail and wisdom, some autographed memorabilia can be safely acquired.
The most commonly forged autographs are typically those of Hall of Fame players as well as those whose signatures are difficult to find. While there are team-signed balls that bear forgeries, they are more of a challenge to be fabricated as it takes a substantial investment in time for fraudsters to research rosters and practice the signatures of players who were seldom asked for autographs. Also, locating vintage baseballs requires a significant investment that can be quickly relegated to the scrap heap with a poorly executed fake autograph.
The first step in the analysis was to determine the age of the ball. The Official American League manufacturer’s stamp with the facsimile signature of the league president, William Harridge, dates the ball’s era to 1940-1942 which is in alignment with the game’s July 7, 1942 date.
Authenticating signatures is a bit more involved process. Two obvious questions that one may seek answers to are:
- How does one make the determination of which team signers were members of?
- What indicators are present to determine the age of the signatures? How can we tell if the autographs were placed in context with the ball’s age?
Before one can attempt to answer the first question, determining whose signatures are present on the ball is a must. Autographs from the 1940s are much more legible than those of contemporary ballplayers but without the ability to read cursive writing, it is virtually impossible to decipher what was placed onto the ball. Creating a list of signatures on each panel would help in identifying if a multi-player, signed ball is from a single team or is simply a collection of autographs. With our ball, the team identity became apparent quickly due to our familiarity with the roster.
Aside from the typical oxidation of the horsehide, rendering the original white finish to an even amber color, the absence of impact marks, skids or scuffs shows that the ball was not used in game play. Most of the signatures are dark and legible with a few that show degradation. Only one of the autographs is so faded that it makes it a challenge to read. In analyzing the ink, it is apparent that at least five different pens were employed. Further examination of the signatures reveals each signer’s pressure points and ink-load, revealing steady and confident motions of the pen rather than a person being careful in mimicking someone else’s penmanship.
After comparing all the signatures on the ball with known and verified examples, we confirmed that the ball was not only from the July 7, 1942, Service All-Stars team, but that 20 of the 21 signatures were indeed members of the team. Of the players listed on the team’s 25-man roster, the ball appears to lack autographs of Frank Baumholtz, Hank Gowdy, Johnny Grodzicki, Emmett “Heinie” Mueller, and Don Padgett as the one unidentifiable signature is incongruent with known marks from the five men.
Outpacing the attendance at the Major League All-Star game held at the Polo Grounds the day before by a nearly 2:1 margin, the July 7 game involving the Service All-Stars indicated the interest in seeing them was considerable. It saw 62,094 paid admissions plus an additional 2,000 uniformed service personnel admitted free-of-charge. Conversely, the Major League All-Star Game’s attendance was nearly half, with just 34,178 in attendance at New York’s Polo Grounds. After the 1942 service baseball season drew some opposition from families of service personnel serving in harm’s way, this game appeared to indicate a turning point as armed forces baseball exhibitions served as tremendous vehicles for charitable financial support for the men and women serving in uniform.
Despite the service team roster featuring eight players with major league all-star appearances in their careers, the star-studded American Leaguers routed them in a 5-0 shutout. The assemblage of military baseball players so early in the war was truly historic despite their loss on such an enormous stage. Curating a baseball related to the game is truly a high-water mark for the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection.
 “Official American League Baseball Dating Guide Index,” KeyMan Collectibles (http://keymancollectibles.com/officialamericanleaguebaseball.htm), accessed March 18, 2023.
 “1940-1942 William Harridge Reach OAL Baseball,” KeyMan Collectibles (http://keymancollectibles.com/balls/1940Harridgeoalreachbaseball1942.htm), accessed March 18, 2023.
 Grosshandler, Stan, “A Forgotten All-Star Game,” SABR Research Journal Archive (http://research.sabr.org/journals/forgotten-all-star-game), Accessed March 19, 2023.
A Lifetime Collection of Images: Star Baseball Player, Sam Chapman, the Tiburon Terror and Wartime Naval Aviator (part II)
(Note: this is the second of a two-part story. See part I of A Lifetime Collection of Images: Star Baseball Player, Sam Chapman, the Tiburon Terror and Wartime Naval Aviator)
Despite playing in the All-Star Game and appearing as a Norfolk Naval Training Station player, Chapman had already transferred from the Norfolk base to U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base (Anacostia), Washington, D.C. on June 30th to commence pre-flight training. Unlike the Navy Pre-Flight Schools at the colleges, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Iowa, University of Georgia and St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California), Anacostia’s program was more traditionally focused rather than to have a strong emphasis on sports and competition as part of the physical conditioning as with the college programs. Chapman reported for training and was reduced from a chief athletic specialist (a chief petty officer – CSpA) down to the rank of seaman second class (Sea2/c). In six months’ time, Chapman went from Sea2/c (when he enlisted) to chief boatswain’s mate (CBM) to CSpA and back to Sea2/c however his naval career was about to change and baseball would remain a part of his time in the Navy.
Chapman’s preliminary flight training lasted from July through September of 1942 after successful completion, was transferred to the Navy’s largest naval air station at Corpus Christi, Texas to participate in advanced flight instruction and to train as a torpedo dive bomber. Through the remainder of 1942, Naval Aviation Cadet Chapman went through the rigors of combat flight tactics and other facets of naval aviation such as the intricacies of navigation, carrier take-off and landing and targeting enemy ships.
After months of preliminary flight training, Chapman received his commission (as an ensign) and earned the naval aviators’ wings of gold on February 26, 1943. Ensign Chapman’s aviation path progressed as he moved on to advanced pilot training and torpedo dive bombing school, remaining at NATC Corpus Christi. While perfecting his skills as a flyer, the Tiburon Terror’s glove and bat were employed by the NATC team. As was the case for fellow major league naval aviator Ted Williams, upon Chapman’s graduation from advanced training, he was assigned to instruct new aviation cadets at the Nava instead of serving in a combat theater.
By April of 1944, (now) Lieutenant (junior grade) Chapman was teaching cadets how to fly and playing for the Naval Air Advanced Training Command (NAATC) team at Naval Air Auxiliary Station (NAAS) Waldron Field. Joining him on the roster and competing in the Air Center League was another former major leaguer (Boston Braves) and a graduate of Navy Pre-Flight Training, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), John Franklin “Johnny” Sain.
The eight team-Air Center League consisted of squads from the NAS Corpus Christi (“Main Station”), Waldron Field, Kingsville Field, Chase Field, Rodd Field, Cabiniss Field, Cuddihy Field and Ward Island Naval Air Training Center, all of which are from the surrounding area. During the 1944 season, the Air Center League featured (former and future major league) ballplayers:
- Ezra ‘Pat’ McGlothin (Elizabethton, Appalachian League)- RHP
- Joe Coleman (Philadelphia, AL) – RHP, CF, RF
- Ernie Koy (Philadelphia, NL) – CF
- Johnny Sain (Boston, NL) – RHP
- Sam Chapman (Philadelphia, AL) – OF
- Ralph Kiner (Toronto, IL) – OF
Frank C. Lane, former vice president in charge of Cincinnati Red farm teams, made an offer of $7,500 to Chapman in 1937 while the young ballplayer was at the University of California. Lane, a Navy lieutenant commander in charge of athletics for the Corpus Christi, Texas-area Naval Air Stations (which comprised the Naval Air Training Command), including Waldron Field. As a matter of irony, despite rejecting the offer to play for him in 1937, Chapman was now playing baseball for Lane for the meager wages of a junior naval officer while playing for Waldron.
Chapman met and married Mary Josephine (Frey), formerly of Dallas, during his time instructing Naval Aviation cadets at Corpus Christi. Serving as his best man, Lieutenant Robert D. Gibson, a veteran dive bomber pilot (VB-10 aboard the USS Enterprise) who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism in landing direct hits on a Japanese heavy cruiser and a transport vessel.
Following the Japanese unconditional surrender, many of those who volunteered early in the War began to be discharged immediately. Navy Secretary Forrestal and Major League Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler were pushing for assembling a major league all-star team to send on a 90-day tour of the remote installations across the Pacific. Despite this push, the Navy leadership declined the notion. Instead, the Navy decided to pull their own star players from around the glove and assemble them in the Hawaiian Islands for a Navy National League versus American League All Star championship series. Ted Williams, serving as a flight instructor in Florida was ordered to Oahu for the games. Due to Chapman’s early enlistment shortly after the December 7, 1941 attack and his length of time in in the Navy, he was released from service and made his way back to the Athletics starting in his first game on September 16th against the Cleveland Indians, going one for four – as he singled off Steve Gromek in the bottom of the first inning. Gromek pitched a five-hit shutout against the A’s limiting Buddy Rosar and George Kell (three-for-four) to account for the remaining four hits. Philadelphia finished in an all-too-familiar position (dead last) in the American League that year.
With just a handful of major league games under his belt during the tail end of the 1945 season, Chapman decided to go barnstorming with a team a team assembled by Earle Mack (the son of Philadelphia Athletics’ owner and manager, Connie Mack) that included Bert Shepard, (an amputee who lost his leg due to an anti-aircraft round penetrating his P-38 Lighting fighter aircraft over Germany. His leg was amputated below the knee in a Nazi Prisoner of War camp), Bobo Newsom, Frankie Hayes, Ed Lopat, Steve Gromek, Red Kress, Jim Bucher, Buddy Rosar, Jack Early and Dave Keefe. The team started on October 4, 1945 at Rochester, Minnesota and then barnstormed their way to Billings, Montana. After the barnstorming tour, Chapman returned to California, settling in Greenbrae, California, just south of his childhood home of Tiburon.
Sam Chapman resumed his major league career with the Athletics in 1946. He would play for the A’s into the 1951 season as his production saw some diminished output over resulting in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. At the end of the season, Sam called it quits on his major league career opting to play for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast league allowing him to be home with his young and growing family. In the three seasons Chapman suited up for Oakland (1952-54), he played for managers Mel Ott, Augie Galan and Chuck Dressen respectively and most of the roster was filled by players who were either major league veterans or would go on to play in the big leagues. Sam saw an uptick in his offensive production as he averaged.270 with while sustaining .336 on-base and .429 slugging percentages while tallying an OPS of .765 while totaling 49 home runs (he finished his career with 229 , including his 180 in the big leagues), but his baseball career came to a close at the end of the 1954 season, his last with the Oaks.
Armed with and education from the University of California (Berkeley), Chapman set aside his spikes and glove and and traded them for the tools of the construction trade, building homes, managing his own plumbing and HVAC company before ultimately serving as an inspector for the Bay Area Pollution Control District (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) before retiring. His prowess on the sporting field was never forgotten as his career accomplishments began to be recognized. In 1984, the former halfback was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Joining Willie McCovey as the pair of Bay Area baseball players, Sam was elected to another sports hall of fame in 1987. Though he would never be considered for enshrinement into Cooperstown, being honored in 1999 by having his name and likeness added to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame, joining legends of both original Philadelphia Major League organizations; the Phillies and Athletics. Samuel Blake Chapman passed away on December 22, 2006 at the age of 90.
The images of Chapman’s life from his youth and throughout his baseball and naval aviation careers were part of the auction group. While I would contend with the seller regarding the condition of the prints as most are well-worn, water-damaged or creased, I wasn’t too disappointed by what arrived. In addition, since they were part of a defunct newspaper’s archive, several of the images had surface-markings (art-pen and paint) to prepare them for half-toning and pressed onto newsprint. A few photos in the 25-image collection were lower-quality wire photos and yet the content of these images are fantastic additions.
- Sam Chapman, former top athlete, dies at 90 – By Dave Albee (Marin Independent Journal), December 26, 2006
- Sam Chapman: 1916-2006 / Marin star was 5-sport letterman – By Dwight Chapin (SF Chronicle) December 30, 2006
A Lifetime Collection of Images: Star Baseball Player, Sam Chapman, the Tiburon Terror and Wartime Naval Aviator (part I)
The search for vintage photographs is one that is predominantly accomplished with varied, dynamic keywords that more often than not, seldom yield windfalls of images. Occasionally locating an auction listing of an individual print is the norm and yet, competition for that one photograph can drive the price beyond what (I think) it is worth and preclude any chance at an acquisition. There are some moments when being the recipient of the big windfall does happen and this group of photographs underscores the need for patience, experience and knowledge with a measure of risk-taking mixed in.
Military baseball photographs are quite uncommon with original, vintage prints of known major or minor leaguers taken during their time in the armed forces next-to-non-existent. When I saw a group that was listed at (online) auction, I was floored by the description and the lone accompanying image (showing a selection of a group of photos). Based on what was visible, this group had the potential to be that windfall that I imagined I would one day find. Photo collection relating to baseball great Sam Chapman,” the description read. The next few sentences gave me heart palpitations, “Photos date from the very late 1930’s through the 1950’s with most being from the 1940’s. Some show him as a member of the US armed forces during WWII,” the listing continued. As if I still required confirmation, my decision to set snipe-bid was confirmed when I read, “Most are baseball related. Photos range in size from 6″ x 8″ to 8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″ – Conditions vary from VG to EX-MT with many EX. Most have caption sheets and some have newspaper edit markings.” In the years since I delved into military baseball history, Sam Chapman’s name has been squarely on my radar screen, in particular due to my inadvertently focus on several players who, at some point in their professional careers, were on the Philadelphia Athletics’ roster.
Admittedly, prior to delving into baseball militaria, I only heard the name “Sam Chapman” in relation to baseball history as part of discussion of difficult on-field feats such as unassisted triple plays, no-hitters and perfect games or hitting for the cycle (a batter hits a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in the same game). The 23-year-old Philadelphia Athletics outfielder, Sam Chapman became the 115th player to accomplish the feat when he faced the St. Louis Browns on May 5, 1939.
The 1941 Philadelphia Athletics finished dead last in the American League, 37 games behind the first place (and eventual World Series Champs) Yankees, dropping 90 games out of their 154-game season. Despite the A’s poor showing for the season, their young center-fielder, Sam Chapman had a fantastic year at the plate. Chapman’s .322 batting average ranked seventh in the American League behind Barney McCoskey (.324), teammate Dick Siebert (.334), Jeff Heath (.340), Joe DiMaggio (.357), Cecil Travis (.359) and Ted Williams’ incredible .406. The turnaround from the 1940 season was very noticeable as he cut his strikeouts in half while raising his average nearly 50 points. Chapman ranked fifth in slugging percentage, seventh in runs batted in and 7th in hits. In a season that saw two of the greatest offensive displays in the history of the game (Ted Williams’ .400 and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak), Chapman’s season doesn’t stand out but it was the best of his career.
Samuel Blake Chapman, a native Californian by birth, was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. A hotbed for baseball talent, the region was the epicenter of the Pacific Coast League with four teams that were anchored by the winningest franchise in the history of the league. Home to the Oaks (Oakland) two teams, the Seals and Mission Reds called Seals Stadium home and 86 miles east was home to the Solons (Sacramento). Some of the game’s greatest players, managers and pioneers hailed from the region with names such as Tony Lazzeri, Frank Crosetti, the DiMaggio Brothers, Joe Cronin, Lefty Gomez, Harry Heilmann, Frank Chance, High Pockets Kelly, Lefty O’Doul, Ernie Lombardi, Tony Freitas and Charlie Graham cast a long shadow of influence over the area youth. “My favorite team was the old San Francisco Seals,” Chapman recalled of his youth experiences. “Lefty O’Doul, Earl Averill, a few others like that were my favorites. I used to take two ferryboats across the San Francisco Bay and a long streetcar ride to get to the ballpark to watch the Seals play. I didn’t even know they played ball back East.”
Yet, Chapman excelled in four sports in addition to baseball (football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and track). His athletic prowess at Mill Valley, California’s Tamalpais High School led to receiving a scholarship to attend school and compete on the field for the University of California Bears where he excelled in Football. As a three-year (1935-37) starter playing on both offense and defense, the halfback worked his way into being selected as a 1937 consensus All American at his position which was not overlooked by professional scouts. Though the National Football League’s 1938 amateur player draft (held on December 12, 1937 in Chicago) bore no resemblance to the present-day spectacle, it wasn’t lost on Chapman being selected by the Washington Redskins who happened to defeat the Chicago Bears to capture the NFL Championship on that same day. Perhaps Chapman took notice of the Redskins’ backfield that was stocked with talent (Sammy Baugh and Cliff Battles became a force for Washington that season) which could have resulted in the Tiburon Terror with more bench-time rather than carrying the ball had he signed to play football. Nineteen days after being drafted by the Redskins, Chapman was starting in the 1938 Rose Bowl and contributing the Golden Bears’ 13-0 dominance over the Crimson Tide of Alabama (which was, coincidentally, Paul “Bear” Bryant’s second season as an assistant coach).
Chapman’s decision to decline to sign a contract avoiding a professional football career might have been surprising to many but for him, there was only one professional sports career path: baseball. Unbeknownst to Chapman, his defensive and batting prowess at Cal Berkeley was being observed by, perhaps the greatest ballplayer in baseball’s history, 51-year-old Tyrus Raymond “Ty” Cobb. The “Georgia Peach,” at the time, was residing in a Spanish Villa (on Spencer Lane in Atherton) close to the Stanford University campus and often took in amateur and professional baseball games in the Bay Area. Having played a role in San Francisco Seals’ 20-year-old star outfielder, Joe DiMaggio’s contract negotiations (with the Yankees) in 1935, Cobb invested time in observing and recognizing major league talent potential in the region. Though Chapman was unaware, Ty Cobb had been observing the University of California baseball team and took note of their star infielder. Chapman’s Cal teammates mentioned having observed the “Peach’s” presence after the fact but Sam never imagined that he was the one being scouted.
Working with his former A’s manager, Cobb wired Mack that he, “couldn’t go wrong on this kid,” encouraging the 75-year-old owner to sign Chapman for $8,500 per year (Joe DiMaggio’s Cobb-negotiated contract three years prior had been for $5,000). For the next three seasons, Chapman developed into a very good ballplayer with the A’s improving in the field and at the plate. War was raging in Europe and the Far East and the United States was slowly beginning to rebuild its long-ignored military force. President Roosevelt enacted the United States’ first peacetime draft with the stroke of his pen on September 16, 1940 resulting in Sam Chapman joining thousands of other men of age in registering a month later.
Sam’s father, 66-year-old Charles was working as a postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service while his ball-playing, 23-year-old son was out-earning him by nearly a four-to-one ratio. The 1940 census shows that though he was playing major league baseball in Philadelphia, his home of record was with his parents in Sausalito, California.
Leading up to World War II, former heavyweight champion boxer-turned naval officer, Gene Tunney (a WWI USMC veteran) was charged with establishing a physical fitness program for the Navy. The result of Tunney’s efforts was the creation of the Navy Athletics Specialist Program and the establishment of a new enlisted rating. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it became apparent to Chapman that he would be drafted and so, enlisted into the Navy on December 29, 1941 in San Francisco, under the V6 program (the classification for General Service and Specialists). Following basic and athletic instructor training, Chapman joined fellow major leaguer Bob Feller at Norfolk Naval Training Station and was promptly assigned to Bosun Bodie’s Bluejackets roster in the early stages of service team baseball play.
The Norfolk team was a force to be reckoned with having a formidable pitching trio. Feller headed up the pitching staff that included Maxie Wilson, a former Phillies prospect who last pitched for the Portsmouth Cubs (class “B” Piedmont League) and the Detroit fire-baller, Fred Hutchinson who at just 20 years of age was a rising star for the Tigers before he joined the Navy for the war. Chapman was an offensive leader for the Bluejackets as he fueled victories with his bat and glove.
Charged with assembling a service team of all stars, Lieutenant Mickey Cochrane pulled players from bases as far away as Panama (Canal Zone) to field a team that would take on the winner of the 1942 Major League All Stars. Joining fellow Norfolk Bluejackets players Feller, Hutchinson and (former Pittsburgh Pirates) catcher, Vinnie Smith and Sam Chapman. (Note: Vinnie Smith had a challenge getting his paperwork in order ahead of the Service All Star Game. With two men stationed at Norfolk named Vincent A. Smith, Great Lakes manager, Mickey Cochrane’s request for the former Pirates catcher resulted in mix-up with Vincent Addison Smith receiving orders to travel from Norfolk to Great Lakes. Though the young sailor was willing to play in the game despite not being in possession of the skills nor experience, the Navy managed to cut through the confusion in time to provide proper orders for Vincent Ambrose Smith to travel).
Ahead of the July 7 match-up between the winner of the Major League Baseball All Star Game and the Service Team All Stars, a series of games on successive days were scheduled and played by the Navy and Army players leading up to the fund-raising charity game in Cleveland. The Great Lakes Bluejackets team, managed by Lieutenant Cochrane was bolstered by the additional Navy players (Bob Feller, Sam Chapman and Vincent Smith) affording the Norfolk men to the time to acclimate to the Great Lakes men.
Great Lakes’ pitcher John Grodzicki and Norfolk’s Bob Feller collaborated in shutting out the Sutherland Paper semi-pro team at Kalamazoo, Michigan on July 3. Feller gave up three singles in the last five innings but the former Cardinal hurler who yielded five safeties, received credit for the win. Sam Chapman, formerly of the Athletics, hit a two-run home-run in the seventh frame.
On Independence Day, the augmented Great Lakes team was taking on the Fort Custer Reception team at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, shutting out the Army squad, 5-0. In the contest, Great Lakes manager and former Detroit Tiger, Mickey Cochrane struck out swinging in his pinch-hit return to his former home-field. Pitching for the Great Lakes team, Fred Hutchinson was locked in a scoreless duel with the Army’s Mickey Harris. The Navy scored in the sixth breaking the scoreless tie and tallied four more in the seventh with Frankie Pytlak’s two-run shot followed by Benny McCoy’s two-RBI-double.
Following the July Fourth game, the augmented Great Lakes Bluejackets faced an all-star team of former American Leaguers. For the Bluejackets, Army players Pat Mullin and Cecil Travis (both formerly of the Washington Senators) powered in some runs in the 8-2 win for the Navy, each hitting a triple (Travis plated three runs with his). Sam Chapman crushed a 400-foot home-run in the July 5th contest as Russell Meers surrendered just six hits and two unearned runs.
On July 6 at the Polo Grounds in New York, the National League hosted the American league for the friendly annual match-up. However, Tommy Henrich, Ted Williams and Bob Johnson were anything but, each notching a hit against the Nationals. Joe DiMaggio tallied two hits and two RBIs scoring a run as he led the American’s offense. Lou Boudreau and Rudy York each cracked solo home-runs as Pitchers Spud Chandler and Al Benton allowed a combined six hits and one run in the 3-1 victory and securing a trip to Cleveland to face the Service All Stars.
Chapman was tagged by Cochrane to play center-field, though not as a starter. The game, played at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium on July 7, 1942, saw the Service All Stars dominated by the American Leaguers. Chapman was overlooked as a starter by Coach Cochrane who went with a former Detroit Tiger center-fielder with only 58 games of major league experience. Pat Mullin went 0-3 against the American League starters until he was lifted late in the game in favor of Sam Chapman (who went hitless in his only at-bat) as the American Leaguers shut down the service members, 5-0.