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.