Historic Game Program Discovery: July 7, 1942 Service All-Stars
By the summer of 1942, the transformation of professional baseball was well underway. Starting with a trickle of personnel hanging up their flannels and spikes to volunteer for wartime service in the armed forces in December, 1941, the exodus of players from major and minor league baseball picked up a head of steam through the Selective Service draft and volunteer enlistments.
“Immediately after Pearl Harbor, baseball executives began devising scenarios in which the professional game could contribute to the war, even as some were questioning the need for the game’s very existence,” author Steven R. Bullock wrote in his 2004 book, Playing for Their Nation: Baseball and the American Military during World War II.
Thirty-nine days after the December 7, 1941 Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was prompted to dispatch a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt regarding the 1942 season:
January 14 1942
Dear Mr. President:
The time is approaching when, in ordinary conditions, our teams would be heading for spring training camps. However, inasmuch as these are not ordinary times, I venture to ask what you have in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate. Of course my inquiry does not relate at all to individual members of this organization whose status in this emergency is fixed by law operating upon all citizens.
Health and strength to you – and whatever else it takes to do this job.
With great respect,
Very truly yours
Kenesaw M. LandisJanuary 14, 1942 Letter from Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Landis to FDR
Those interested in baseball history know very well President Roosevelt’s famous “green light letter” response. The President detailed the importance of the game – 300 teams employing 5-6,000 players being a recreational outlet to 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens during the tough times the nation was facing. Despite his call for the continuance of the game for the sake of the citizens, the President did not levy any measure of exclusion of players from wartime service, “As to the players themselves, I know you agree with me that individual players who are of active military or naval age should go, without question, into the services. Even if the actual quality of the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport. Of course, if any individual has some particular aptitude in a trade or profession, he ought to serve the Government. That, however, is a matter which I know you can handle with complete justice.”
By the spring of 1942, with players such as Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller, Sam Chapman, Hugh Mulcahy, Fred Hutchinson, Morrie Arnovich, Cecil Travis and Mickey Harris already serving in the armed forces, baseball owners sought out means to support the war effort by elevating the national morale. St. Louis Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, according to Steven R. Bullock, “expressed the opinion that baseball had an obligation to do everything within its power to bolster the Allied cause, even operating at a break-even level if necessary.” As baseball was deeply ingrained into the fabric of American life, it was more than just a sport or a pastime to the people, players and owners. Bullock continued, “For Rickey, professional baseball’s fate paralleled the fate of the nation as a whole, and thus the national pastime should not hesitate to drain its resources to support the war effort.”
Major League Baseball as a whole did operate at a loss during the war. Not only did clubs fail to cover costs due to reduced ticket sales, but each club donated money, equipment and other resources. With baseball’s players now serving, the issues and concerns of the troops were brought to the forefront. The Pearl Harbor attack and subsequent losses suffered by the armed forces early in the war illuminated the need to provide financial support to the surviving spouses of troops who lost their lives in service. Beginning with the May 8, 1942 Giants versus Dodgers game at Ebbets Field, Major League Baseball began a wartime campaign to raise funds to address the needs of troops and their families, with monies collected directly supporting Army and Navy Relief organizations, recreational equipment for troops and War Bond drives. Not only did baseball play regular season games to raise funds but professional teams played countless exhibitions against service teams throughout the war in support of troops and their families.
Perhaps the most notable fund-raising exhibition game was the one that was played early in the war at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, home of the American League’s Indians franchise. The game was slated to feature the winner of the Major League All-Star game playing host to an assemblage of players serving in the armed forces on the last of the three-day All-Star break, July 7, 1942. The Brooklyn Dodgers were originally slated to host the July 6 mid-summer classic at 35,000-seat Ebbets Field. With more than 50,000 seats available at the neighboring New York Giants’ ballpark, the Polo Grounds, Dodgers president Larry McPhail shifted the game. Inclement weather negated the move as thousands of fans did not attend the game. The National League All-Stars, headlined by Arky Vaughn, Johnny Mize, Mel Ott and Johnny Vander Meer, were favored over the American League led by Lou Boudreau, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon and Spud Chandler.
|National League||Pos||Batting Order||American League||Pos|
|Jimmy Brown||2B||1||Lou Boudreau||SS|
|Arky Vaughan||3B||2||Tommy Henrich||RF|
|Pete Reiser||CF||3||Ted Williams||LF|
|Johnny Mize||1B||4||Joe DiMaggio||CF|
|Mel Ott||RF||5||Rudy York||1B|
|Joe Medwick||LF||6||Joe Gordon||2B|
|Walker Cooper||C||7||Ken Keltner||3B|
|Eddie Miller||SS||8||Birdie Tebbetts||C|
|Mort Cooper||P||9||Spud Chandler||P|
|Leo Durocher||Mgr||Joe McCarthy||Mgr|
|Frank McCormick||Rsrv||George McQuinn||Rsrv|
|Billy Herman||Rsrv||Bobby Doerr||Rsrv|
|Bob Elliott||Rsrv||Bill Dickey||Rsrv|
|Ernie Lombardi||Rsrv||Buddy Rosar||Rsrv|
|Mickey Owen||Rsrv||Hal Wagner||Rsrv|
|Danny Litwhiler||Rsrv||Stan Spence||Rsrv|
|Willard Marshall||Rsrv||Dom DiMaggio||Rsrv|
|Terry Moore||Rsrv||Bob Johnson||Rsrv|
|Enos Slaughter||Rsrv||Phil Rizzuto||Rsrv|
|Pee Wee Reese||Rsrv||Jim Bagby||Rsrv|
|Paul Derringer||Rsrv||Al Benton||Rsrv|
|Carl Hubbell||Rsrv||Tiny Bonham||Rsrv|
|Cliff Melton||Rsrv||Sid Hudson||Rsrv|
|Claude Passeau||Rsrv||Tex Hughson||Rsrv|
|Ray Starr||Rsrv||Hal Newhouser||Rsrv|
|Johnny Vander Meer||Rsrv||Red Ruffing||Rsrv|
|Bucky Walters||Rsrv||Eddie Smith||Rsrv|
Despite the heavy lumber on both rosters, the game was a pitching duel with the American League hurlers Chandler and Al Benton holding the Nationals to six hits and a run, a leadoff home run by catcher Mickey Owen in the bottom of the eighth inning. With the infield playing at normal depth, Owen had tried to catch the defense flat-footed with a bunt attempt that rolled foul. With a planned citywide blackout fast approaching, fans shouted at the Dodgers catcher to hurry back to the plate, to which he responded by trotting back to the dish from first base.
All the American League’s tallies came in the top of the first at the expense of starting pitcher Mort Cooper. Lou Boudreau led off the game with a home run. Tommy Henrich followed with a double to right field. Ted Williams hit a fly ball to Joe Medwick in left field and Joe DiMaggio grounded out to Arky Vaughn at third. With Henrich sitting at third base, Rudy York drove a ball over the right field wall for the second and third runs in the 3-1 victory. The game ended at 9:28 p.m. and the victorious American League squad was whisked away to board a train for Cleveland.
|Pat Mullin||CF||1||Army||New Cumberland Army Reception Center|
|Benny McCoy||2B||2||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Don Padgett||LF||3||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Cecil Travis||SS||4||Army||Camp Wheeler|
|Joe Grace||RF||5||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Johnny Sturm||1B||6||Army||Jefferson Barracks|
|Ernie Andres||3B||7||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Vinnie Smith||C||8||Navy||Norfolk Naval Training Station|
|Bob Feller||P||9||Navy||Norfolk Naval Training Station|
|Morrie Arnovich||LF||Rsrv||Army||Fort Lewis|
|Frank Baumholtz||OF||Rsrv||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Sam Chapman||RF||Rsrv||Navy||Norfolk Naval Training Station|
|Johnny Grodzicki||P||Rsrv||Army||Fort Knox|
|Chet Hajduk||2B||Rsrv||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Mickey Harris||P||Rsrv||Army||83rd Coast Artillery/Fort Kobbe|
|Fred Hutchinson||P||Rsrv||Navy||Norfolk Naval Training Station|
|Johnny Lucadello||SS||Rsrv||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Emmett “Heinie” Mueller||2B||Rsrv||Army||Jefferson Barracks|
|Frankie Pytlak||C||Rsrv||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Johnny Rigney||P||Rsrv||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|Ken Silvestri||C||Rsrv||Army||Fort Custer|
|Mickey Cochrane||Mgr||Navy||Great Lakes Naval Training Station|
|George Earnshaw||Coach||Navy||Jacksonville Naval Air Station|
|Hank Gowdy||Coach||Army||Fort Benning|
As the Major League All-Star festivities were taking place in New York, Navy Lieutenant Gordon “Mickey” Cochrane was leading practices for his new assemblage of Army and Navy ballplayers. By Saturday, July 4, Cochrane had assembled a squad of 16 players that included 14 with previous major league experience. “I won’t be able to pick any sort of starting lineup for the Cleveland game until we know whom we are playing,” the current Great Lakes Naval Training Station (GLNTS) Bluejackets manager told the Associated Press. “The major leaguers may beat us Tuesday night, but we’ll put up a helluva argument over the outcome,” LT Cochrane stated, following a Great Lakes 5-0 victory over the Fort Custer Reception Center (Battle Creek, Michigan) team at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium. Both service teams used players that would be among the Service All-Stars for the July 7 game. The Great Lakes squad saw Norfolk Naval Training Station’s (NTS) Fred Hutchinson start the game, with George Earnshaw completing the shutout. Mickey Harris, who had arrived fresh from the Panama Canal Zone, started on the mound for Fort Custer, with Ken Silvestri serving as his battery mate. With nearly 7,000 paid attendees, $10,000 was raised in support of service athletic funds.
The following day, the enhanced Great Lakes squad defeated an All-Star squad from the Flint, Michigan Amateur Baseball Federation in Flint. The Bluejackets featured Norfolk NTS outfielder Sam Chapman, the New Cumberland Army Reception Center’s Pat Mullin and Camp Wheeler’s Cecil Travis, who accounted for most the GLNTS firepower in the 8-2 victory.
After traveling from Detroit to Cleveland, the Service All-Stars held a workout at Municipal Stadium on July 6 as the American and National League squads squared off in New York. Newspapers were predicting as many as 75,000 spectators for the highly anticipated 9:00 p.m. game. Speaking to reporters a few days before his probable start against the eventual winner of the Major League All-Star game, Bob Feller was candid with his self-assessment. After spending the entire spring pitching for the Norfolk Naval Training Station club, Feller speculated that consistently facing inferior batters led to a dulling of his skills. “You throw to a lot of ham-and-eggers in some of these exhibition games,” he told Blosser. “You can’t keep an edge that way.” Cleveland Fans Cheer Bullet Bob Feller Even in Defeat; Fireballer Wasn’t Sharp for Battle – July 8, 1942
The Chevrons and Diamonds collection holds numerous scorecards and programs from service and fund-raising exhibition games from 1942 into 1946. With so many artifacts continuing to surface, we have been able to assemble a broad range that encompasses significant games in all war theaters as well as domestic games. One piece that was on our wish list was the program from the July 7, 1942 Service All-Star game in Cleveland. Over the holiday season, we were able to source and acquire a beautiful example in near-mint condition.
Sixteen pages cover-to-cover and printed on cardstock, the entire program (view a full PDF version), save for the scorecard inserted at the center, is the same as was used by the Cleveland Indians for their 1942 season home games. The internal pages are printed in blue monochrome with the covers being both blue and red, two-color printing. In addition to the scorecard with printed lineups and rosters, the program also includes two pages that spotlight the Service All-Stars.
Pre-game festivities included service marching bands and parading ranks of Army and Navy uniformed personnel. The “Clown Prince of Baseball,” Al Schacht, entertained fans while the Service All-Star starting pitcher, Chief Athletic Specialist Bob Feller, warmed up. Soon, Schacht began humorously mimicking Feller and the two began playing off each other for the crowd’s amusement. When the game finally got underway, the home team, the American League All-Stars, took the field with Jim Bagby, Jr. on the mound.
Bagby’s first pitch resulted in an easy infield ground ball from the leadoff hitter, Detroit Tigers outfielder Pat Mullin, for the first out of the inning. Second baseman and former Tiger and Athletic Benny McCoy watched four Bagby pitches pass by to earn a free pass. Left fielder Don Padgett strode to the plate and drove one of Bagby’s offerings to deep right center, splitting Tommy Henrich and Joe DiMaggio and dropping for a single. McCoy, with a slight lead off first, waited to see the ball drop before tagging and sprinting to second base. With two runners on base and just one out, former Senator star Cecil Travis worked another four-pitch walk from Bagby.
With the bases loaded, former St. Louis Browns outfielder Joe Grace stood on the right side of the plate. Having hit .309 with St. Louis in 426 plate appearances in 1941, Grace was a rising star in the American League before entering the Navy. Grace walked nearly twice as much as he struck out, showing that he was decidedly a threat at the plate. Bagby’s first two pitches were off the plate, placing the count decidedly in Grace’s favor and prompting the AL manager, Joe McCarthy, to get Red Ruffing up and warming in the bullpen. Bagby seemed to rebound against the Navy hitter as he pitched the count full before Grace watched strike three land in AL All-Star catcher Buddy Rosar’s mitt. American League umpire Ernie Stewart made the call.
Now with two outs and the bases still jammed, Johnny Sturm represented the Service All-Stars’ last hope to score. After fouling off the first pitch, the former Yankee grounded to Ken Keltner at third. Keltner easily tagged the bag to retire the side.
In the bottom of the inning the hometown crowd cheered the match-up of Indians teammates Lou Boudreau and Bob Feller. “Rapid Robert” coaxed the Cleveland shortstop to hit a routine fly ball to Mullin in shallow center field. As easy as the first out came to Feller, the rest of the inning didn’t go his way. Tommy Henrich drove a 1-2 count pitch back to the box, deflecting off Feller’s foot and allowing the Yankees right fielder to safely reach first. With one on and one out, Ted Williams came to the plate to face Feller. Williams worked Feller to a full count before coaxing a walk.
Centerfielder Joe DiMaggio faced Feller with a runner in scoring position and drove a pitch up the middle into center field, allowing Henrich to score and Williams to reach third. Rudy York stood at the plate with runners at the corners and one out and drove a ball to Joe Grace in right center. Williams tagged and crossed the plate to tally the American League’s second run. Feller coaxed Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr to foul out to third base and at least temporarily stop the scoring.
In the bottom of the second, Cleveland’s Ken Keltner legged out a triple to lead off the inning. Catcher Buddy Rosar followed Keltner with a single just out of reach of third baseman Ernie Andres, scoring Keltner. This led manager Mickey Cochrane to walk to the mound to hook his starting pitcher in favor of Johnny Rigney, a former Chicago White Sox hurler, who proceeded to shut down the American League stars. Rigney kept the AL score at three until he was spelled by Mickey Harris in the bottom of the seventh. Harris was dogged by a leadoff double by Phil Rizzuto, who then swiped third base. Williams, a recipient of three free passes in earlier innings, pounded a triple, scoring Rizzuto from third. Harris got DiMaggio to pop out to Travis at third base before George McQuinn tripled, driving in the fifth and final tally for the Americans as Williams crossed the plate. American League pitching held the servicemen to six hits in the 5-0 shutout.
The Service All-Stars had a total of six safeties, with singles by Padgett, Travis, and Sturm and two by Ernie Andres. Cecil Travis had the only extra-base hit, a double.
“We lost in the first inning,” Mickey Cochrane told Associated Press reporter Charles Dunkley after the game. “We had the bases loaded and a single would have changed the whole story. We just muffed a big opportunity. That’s all. You don’t get a chance to beat a team like those American Leaguers every day in the week. Poor Feller didn’t have a thing. I’ve never seen him get belted like that. It proves that he wasn’t there – his duties in the navy robbed him of his timing, his control,” Cochrane concluded. – The Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune (Muscatine, Iowa), July 8, 1942.
“I just couldn’t seem to get loosened up,” Feller told Ray Blosser of the Associated Press after the game.
When the game’s program-scorecard became available and we were able to secure a deal, it was a boon for our collection, which also includes photographs related to the game. The piece was a target of our search for more than a decade and the only drawback is that our example is unscored.
See Related Chevrons and Diamonds stories:
- Morrie Arnovich – Breaking Ground for Branch Rickey’s Bold Move
- Sam Chapman – A Lifetime Collection of Images: Star Baseball Player, Sam Chapman, the Tiburon Terror and Wartime Naval Aviator Part 1 | Part 2
- Mickey Harris – Visual Traces of a Wartime Service Career
- Hugh Mulcahy – Visual Traces of a Wartime Service Career
- Mickey Owen – Vintage Leather: Catching a Rawlings Mickey Owen Signature Mitt
Tools of the Trade: Wartime Equipment used by (Former) Professional Ballplayers
Chevrons and Diamonds was founded with the principal purpose to inform and educate readers who are interested in the rich history surrounding the game of baseball and its intertwined history with the armed forces of the United States. Incorporating artifacts such as uniforms, photographs, ephemera and game equipment, we research every possible angle and aspect of a piece in an attempt to share details about players, teams, units or anything that can illustrate and demonstrate each item’s associated history. With many of our readers sharing our interest in collecting baseball militaria artifacts, we end up fielding a fair volume of questions surrounding authenticity, valuation or preservation.
One of the most common areas that readers ask questions about concerns baseball equipment used by troops during World War II. Discovering a common baseball glove or mitt with additional markings such as “U.S.” or “U.S. Army Special Services” at a flea market, estate or garage sale tends to create a bit of a stir for the baseball militaria collector but can leave most other people wondering what they are seeing. Many assumptions are made by both novice and expert alike surrounding the markings as to their purpose and what they may indicate. Perhaps the most common understanding is that all equipment disseminated to each branch bears such markings.
Baseball equipment used by members of the armed forces was not issued to them in the same way that military equipment was provided. Troops were issued uniforms and personal gear along with the appropriate tools that were needed to perform their duties (including weapons and ammunition). These materials were purchased through war department appropriations contracts with dedicated funds allocated through Congress. Every piece of equipment was accounted for through accounting and inventory operational procedures. Though sports equipment was managed through the war and branch departments followed supply department practices, the way that a glove reached a soldier, airman, sailor or marine was far different.
Sports and recreational equipment was not purchased using funds appropriated by Congress (taxes and war bonds). Recognizing the need for troops to maintain physical fitness, athletic agility, hand-eye coordination and dexterity as well as providing for respite from the rigors of combat and operational monotony, baseball men such as Clark Griffith (owner of the Washington Senators) took action to begin raising funds for the purpose of providing baseball equipment for the troops (see: Ted Williams: BATtered, Abused and Loved). Besides Griffith’s efforts, major and minor league club owners donated equipment and uniforms, both newly purchased and used, to the troops. Manufacturers such as Rawlings, GoldSmith MacGregor, Hillerich and Bradsby, Wilson and Spalding all got into the game and donated to the cause. Hollywood stepped up to the plate and contributed as they participated in actor and comedian Joe E. Brown’s tremendous fund-raising efforts (see: Service All-Stars Raising Funds on the Diamond for their Comrades in the Trenches).
Ultimately, millions of gloves, bats, balls and bases as well as catchers’ and umpires’ protective kits were acquired and distributed throughout the domestic and combat theaters. Our educated opinion is that, despite the abundance of military-marked sports equipment, only a small percentage of the bats, balls, gloves and protective gear was actually marked before being distributed to the troops. With two examples of non-military-marked gloves in the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection that bear personalization from their wartime owners (see: Catching Corpsman: The Search for a Ball-Playing WWII Pharmacist’s Mate and An Intercontinental Wartime Veteran – S/SGT “Chick” McRoberts’ Rawlings “Bill Doak” Model Glove), it is a safe conclusion that much of the wartime-manufactured equipment could have been used by service personnel despite the absence of military stamps.
For baseball collectors, game-used uniforms and equipment have significant meaning. Owning a jersey worn by a famous major leaguer provides a connection to that player and to his on-field exploits. Holding a bat that was used to hit notable home runs or the glove that caught the game-ending out of a historical game is the ultimate for baseball memorabilia collectors. For baseball militaria collectors, this principal holds true; however, provenance is far less attainable for a number of reasons. Regardless of the player’s stature as a professional, service in the armed forces is the great equalizer. A private, whether he is Joe DiMaggio or Joe Smith, is still a private. Their uniforms, bats and gloves were not provided to them through their professional channels that they were accustomed to with endorsement contracts. Once a professional player enlisted or was drafted, his contracts with glove and bat companies ceased. Bats used by players were acquired through the same channels for all men and women who were serving with an exception. In 1943, Zeke Bonura requested a shipment of his signature bats to share with players in his North African baseball leagues. See World Series Champions on Two Continents: the 1943 Yankees).
Unless a player brought his equipment home with him (like S/SGT McRoberts or PhM 2/c Gerald Benninghoff) after his service during the war and provenance is attached to the item by that player, proof of personal attribution is nearly impossible on military-used equipment.
Bats and gloves sold to the general public typically bear player endorsements and stamped signatures with the idea that an amateur or youth player would want to use the equipment of his/her on-field heroes. These same “store-model” bats and gloves were the commonly-used consumer examples that were also purchased or donated for service personnel to use. Until we acquired proof, we could only assume that this same equipment was used by the game’s top (former) professionals while playing on wartime service teams.
A few weeks ago, we acquired a type-1 press photo showing Ted Williams (in his Marine Flyers flannels) kneeling next to his former Red Sox and Cloudbusters teammate, Johnny Pesky, (clad in his Naval Air Station Honolulu Crossroaders flannels) at Pearl Harbor’s Furlong Field in 1945. Close examination of the photograph’s details on the bat held by Pesky provided confirmation of our assertions surrounding professionals and the fund-supplied equipment. The bat held by Pesky bears the signature stamp of George “Babe” Ruth with “U.S.N.” stamped directly above the “autograph.” The Hillerich and Bradsby center brand featured the markings that confirm the bat is not a professional model. Rather than the typical “125” placed at the upper center inside the oval (directly above the “Hillerich & Bradsby Co.” word mark that stretches across the oval’s center), Pesky’s bat is clearly stamped with “125BRS” (perhaps indicating “Babe Ruth Special?”), the mark of a consumer bat.
One photo does not prove that all equipment used by wartime active duty major and minor leaguers was fund-purchased but it certainly supports our assertion. Logic would also dictate that actively serving baseball players would be hard pressed to travel between duty assignments bogged down with unnecessary sports equipment in addition to their duffle bags, seabags and flight bags filled with their full complement of uniforms and personal gear. Additional proof along the lines of the Williams and Pesky photo would certainly lend credence to our theory.
As the Chevrons and Diamonds vintage photo archive continues to grow, each image is scanned at the highest possible resolution and corrected to ensure that we have the best possible digital copy preserved for subsequent use in our articles and other related projects. All of our images are heavily scrutinized for details that can help to tell the story of the game or provide useful evidence in support of (or dispel) theories regarding military baseball. A new acquisition arrived in the past day that provided additional support to this idea surrounding professionals and fund-supplied equipment.
Twenty-year-old Cleveland Indians rookie Gene Woodling enlisted into the United States Navy following the conclusion of the 1943 baseball season. With just eight games of major league experience (plus four seasons and 462 games in the minor leagues), Woodling was tapped by the Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets’ manager, Mickey Cochrane, (following the completion of his boot camp training) to play centerfield for the team during the 1944 season (batting .342 for the year). Following his Great Lakes tenure, Woodling was transferred to Pearl Harbor and would play on the Navy’s All-Star team in the Service World Series, facing the Army’s All-Star lineup. Our newly acquired photo shows Woodling kneeling in his two-color, pinstriped Navy flannels with his left hand inserted into what appears to be a GoldSmith MacGregor “DW” Model Elmer Riddle signature glove (see: A War Veteran Who Never Served). The wrist strap is clearly marked with the familiar “U.S.N.” stamp.
With these two examples showing major league professionals with fund-appropriated equipment, our assertion seems to be supported by the visual evidence within each photograph. Collectors may still acquire period-correct equipment for their collections with certain confidence of wartime use despite the lack of military markings. However, gloves and bats bearing branch markings add so much more to a collection and make for fitting accompaniments for both militaria and baseball displays alike.
Related Chevrons and Diamonds Articles:
- Charlie “King Kong” Keller Rattles the Woodshed ending a Yearlong Silence
- Vintage Leather: Catching a Rawlings Mickey Owen Signature Mitt
- Hard to Find Military Sticks: “Double-X” Joins My World War II Baseball Lumber Pile
- Close to Completion: Restoring a 1950s Ferris Fain Signature Model Bat
- 75 Years Later, WWII Navy Baseball is Still Giving
Navy Pre-Flight Round-up: The Growth of the Cloudbusters Collection Takes Flight
After a spate of articles surrounding the Navy Pre-Flight program of World War II, boredom with this subject would seem to be a reasonable response. However, thanks in large-part to author Anne Keene’s 2018 Casey Award-nominated book, The Cloudbuster Nine, a bright spotlight is shining along with newfound and much-deserved attention is being given to the highly successful flight training program. However, either due to coincidence or that it just is a simple fact that more historic artifacts from the V-5 program are finding their way to the market.
For years prior acquiring a group of three vintage photographs from the late Boston Red Sox infielder, Johnny Pesky’s estate (which included two images from his tenure with the Cloudbusters of Navy Pre-Flight, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), there were virtually no artifacts available on the baseball militaria market. For several months since last January (2018), that same story played out leaving me to suspect that all personal and promotional items from this program are either long since disposed of or remain within private collections or the museums of the host schools. However, later in the year, pieces began to surface that bucked the trend and facilitated the assembling of a small, related group of Pre-Flight artifacts.
The Pesky-owned photographs were just the beginning as the next piece to land was an original vintage artifact from yet another baseball legend’s private collection. As was covered in Coaching Cloudbusters: A St. Louis Scholastic Coach Teaches Aviation Cadets During The War, the autographed photo was inscribed to scout Howard “Howie” Haak (pronounced “HAKE”), one of the coaches of the team from 1944-45. It was Haak who would, while serving under Dodgers Owner and General Manager, Branch Rickey, open the doors to scouting talent in Latin America, discovering Roberto Clemente. Upon seeing the future hall of fame Pirates outfielder, Haak later recalled ”I did see Clemente play in Puerto Rico after the season was over and my eyes almost popped out. I told Rickey: ‘We gotta draft him. He’s better than anything we have.'”
The added bonus of the Haak-owned photograph, gaining the autographs of Glenn Killinger, an NCAA Hall of Fame coach and Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Bees and New York Yankees fielder, Buddy Hassett (who went on to serve aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Bennington as she carried the fight to the Japanese homeland in 1944 and 45).
With these pieces anchoring the Pre-Flight collection, the next piece came to me outside of the realm of online auctions and sales. A fellow militaria collector was seeking to reduce the pieces in his collection that were not on point with his interest. When he advertised on one of the militaria sites (where I am a member) a 1946 retrospective book, “The History of U.S. Navy Pre-flight School at St. Mary’s California,” I couldn’t express my interest fast enough reaching a deal to add the piece to my growing archive (see: Discovering New Research Avenues: SABR and The U.S. Navy Pre-flight School at St. Mary’s). Now, not only did I have few vintage photographs but also an historic piece that documents one of the handful of Pre-Flight schools. Included within the historical narrative and assemblage of photographs were several pages of the St. Mary’s Pre-Flight baseball team, led by another baseball legend (and February 6, 1943 graduate of Navy Pre-Flight Instructor’s school at Chapel Hill), Charlie Gehringer. In light of the absolute absence of photos or other artifacts, this book is a fantastic addition to the collection.
Besides possessing vintage photographs, there is an added thrill of locating publications or marketing materials where the images have been utilized. One such image from my Pre-Flight collection features another group of Chapel Hill Cloudbusters coaches. This photograph piqued my interest more for the uniforms than people shown. Captured in March, 1945, the coaching staff are bundled up in their leather and wool warm-up jackets that are complete with the blocked N A V Y lettering across the fronts and N C on the left sleeve, following the design of the uniform jerseys.
The four coaches, while not Cooperstown-noteworthy, each possesses pedigrees in baseball and athletics qualifying them for coaching the young naval aviation cadets on the diamond.
LCDR Edward Wesley Shulmerich
With the detachment and departure of the Cloudbuster’s previous head coach, Lieutenant Commander Glenn Killinger, Navy Pre-Flight North Carolina Commanding Officer, LCDR James P. Raugh announced that former Boston Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds outfielder, Lieutenant Wes Shulmerich assumed the helm of the baseball team on February 16, 1945 (Killinger’s vacancy as the school’s head football coach would be filled by LCDR Paul “Bear” Bryant). During Schulmerich’s career consisting of 14 professional baseball seasons, he spent years with Los Angeles and Portland in the Pacific Coast League and stints with Toronto (International League), Lewiston, Spokane and Bellingham (Western International League) before his final year with Twin Falls of the class “C” Pioneer League. While with Lewiston and Twin Falls, Wesley gained experience in the role of team manager which he carried with him to the Navy.
Schulmerich retired from the game all together following his 1941 season as player-manager with the Twin Falls (Idaho) Cowboys (his second stint in this capacity) and was hired by the Shell Oil Company. According to the 1940 Census, Wes was working as a Tourist Cabin operator in Tillamook, Oregon where he lived with his wife Cecile and daughters Betty and Cecile. Nearly a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Schulmerich entered the U.S. Navy receiving his commission as an officer. Following training at Navy Pre-Flight at the University of Iowa, Schulmerich was assigned in June of 1943 to Naval Air Station Kaneohe in Hawaii. When he was transferred to Chapel Hill, he assumed duties as the coach of the school’s soccer team.
LT Greene Flake “Red” Laird
When Cloudbuster head coach Lieutenant Edward W. Schulmerich named LT Greene F. Laird as an assistant coach, he had previously been serving at the Navy Pre-Flight School as an assistant battalion officer. Before he enlisted into the Navy (on February 4, 1943), Laird had been coaching at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now known as Virginia Tech). Upon graduating from Davidson College in 1928 (earning 10 letters in football, baseball and basketball), “Red” Laird signed on with the Carrollton Frogs (class D) of the Georgia-Alabama League for the season, making 15 professional relief pitching appearances (Frogs teammate, 19-year-old center fielder, Jo Jo White launched his career with Laird) . He finished the season with a 9-4 record. Following his lone professional baseball season, Laird served as the athletic director at Catawba College (Salisbury, NC) and University School (Atlanta, GA) before returning to his alma mater, Davidson as an assistant coach for the basketball and baseball teams. Laird coached the VPI baseball team from 1940-42 before joining the Navy. Following his service at Navy Pre-Flight, Laird returned to VPI, resuming his head coaching duties until retirement in 1973. He was inducted into the American Association of College Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1971.
LT Howard Haak
Howard “Howie” Haak has, perhaps one of the most circuitous routes heading into the Navy during World War II and serving as on the Cloudbusters coaching staff. In the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) biography regarding Haak’s life, researchers Rory Costello and Jim Sandoval delve into the longtime major league scout’s baseball career. Though little evidence exists to remove all doubts surrounding Haak’s supposed pre-war professional baseball career (from 1939 to 1941 at the class “D” level), the two researchers believe that the “Howard A. Haack” listed with Mayodan Millers (Mayodan, NC) and the Landis Dodgers (Landis, NC) is the man who would become Branch Rickey’s lead scout with the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates.
Haak’s military career has three acts beginning with his first enlistment when he (according to Costello and Sandoval) enlisted underage with his father fudging his age to get him into the Navy. In 1930, the federal census shows Haak, at the age of 21, assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor (located at Ford Island). Further details of this enlistment are, at present, unknown. What is known is that Navy veteran Haak sought to further enrich his military career by joining the Marine Corps Reserve os July 2, 1935. Life in the Marine Corps reserve may not have suited Private First Class Haak as he was honorably discharged on July 29 at his own request.
With the U.S. fully engaged in World War II, Howie Haak joined the Navy again (on May 17, 1943), obtaining a commission as a Naval Officer. Five months prior, Haak (at the time, was at the University of Rochester) officiated a Navy Pre-Flight (Chapel Hill) vs Appalachian (State) basketball game on December 16, 1942. After completing initial indoctrination and training, Haak was assigned to the Chapel Hill Pre-Flight school, serving as an assistant athletic trainer. In January 1943, Haak was detached to help establish the new Navy Pre-Flight School at Del Monte, California (at the recently U.S. Navy-acquired Hotel Del Monte). By mid-February of 1944, LT Haak returned to Chapel Hill to serve as the trainer for (then) head coach Glenn Killinger’s Cloudbusters baseball team along with LT Buddy Hassett and LT(jg) Tom McConnell. That fall, Paul “Bear” Bryant, head coach of the school’s football team, would tap Haak to serve on his staff as the head athletic trainer.
LT(jg) Harry Craft
Besides playing in five World Series games (four in 1939 and one in 1940) with the Reds, Harry Craft is known for securing the final out in Johnny Vander Meer’s second consecutive no-hitter. Craft, an everyday outfielder went 0-3 in the June 11, 1939 Vander Meer blanking of the Boston Bees at Crosley Field. Against Brooklyn five days later at Ebbets Field, Craft batted 3-5 driving in one of the Reds’ six runs (note: fellow Cloudbuster coach, Buddy Hassett was 0-4 with four groundouts against Vander Meer) before gloving the flyball hit to him in center field off the bat of Brooklyn’s Leo Durocher with the bases loaded (Cookie Lavagetto at 3B, Dolph Camilli at 2B and Ernie Koy at 1b).
Part way through the 1942 season, Craft was traded to the Yankees and promptly reassigned to their American Association affiliate (the Blues) in Kansas City, Missouri to finish out the season in the minor leagues. After playing just eight games with the Blues, Craft enlisted into the U.S. Navy on May 26, 1943. Harry Craft completed Navy Flight Preparatory School in Liberty Missouri on his way to Navy Pre-Flight School in Del Monte, California (at Hotel Del Monte). Cloudbusters head coach Wes Shulmerich named Craft as one of his assistants in February of 1945 and he would serve there until his discharge from the Navy on February 29, 1946.
Following his wartime service, Craft resumed is playing career with the Kansas City Blues of the class “AA” of the American Association League for three seasons before the parent club (the Yankees) signed him the manager of the Independence Yankees (of the class “D” Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League) where he would coach and manage a 17-year old, switch-hitting outfielder from Commerce, Oklahoma during his first professional baseball season. That young Independence Yankee outfielder was Mickey Charles Mantle. For the 1950 season, both Craft and Mantle were promoted to the class “C” Joplin (Missouri) Miners of the Western Association where the two would part ways at the season’s end. Mantle would be brought up to New York and Craft went on to manage for two seasons at Beaumont, Texas (class “AA”), tutoring players such as Gus Triandos and Whitey Herzog. Crafts last minor league managerial stop saw him return to Kansas City to pilot the Blues for the 1953 and ’54 seasons, coaching Yankees prospects such as Bob Cerv, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, and Marv Throneberry.
In 1955, Harry Craft was hired by Lou Boudreau as an assistant coach of the transplanted Athletics (the American League club relocated to Kansas City from Philadelphia during the previous off-season) where he served for two seasons. Craft’s return to the major league came in 1957 when he tapped to replace Boudreau as the skipper of the Athletics on August 6 of that year as Lou Boudreau was ejected due to his team’s 1-16 record against the Yankees. Craft took over to finish the 40 games of 1957, posting a 23-27 record. Craft would finish his tenure with the A’s posting a 360-485 record (.426 winning percentage). After a few years spent coaching and managing with the Chicago Cubs, Craft was hired in 1962 to serve as the inaugural field manager for the expansion Houston Colt .45s (renamed Astros when the team moved into the brand new Astrodome for the 1966 season). He was fired with just 13 games remaining in the 1964 season. Harry Craft remained in baseball until 1991 serving as a field coordinator and a scout, having served 66 years in the game (including his coaching during WWII). Though his isn’t a household baseball name, he is known by die-hard Cincinnati Reds fans as he was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1963.
An active search for more artifacts from the baseball teams of the U.S. Navy V-5 Pre-Flight Training program will be a perpetual pursuit. One piece that seems to fit with those in the collection is a photograph of a crouching catcher in a uniform that is nearly identical to those used by the pre-flight teams. From the lettering across the jersey’s front to the soutache on the placket and sleeves, nothing sets it apart save for the absence of lettering on the left sleeve (“NC” for Chapel Hill and “CAL” for the school at St. Mary’s in Moraga, California). An initial thought is that the player was from the U.S. Naval Academy however that was possibility was ruled out due – the lettering and trim for the Annapolis flannels are very different from what is seen on the pre-flight teams.
It is possible that the mystery surrounding the lone Navy catcher photo may be cleared up in the coming months and might very well not be a Pre-Flight school ball player. At present, this photo will remain with others as a group the search continues of new acquisitions. However, upon subsequent comparisons to the other two Cloudbusters images and this photo showing Howie Haak crouched as a catcher for the University of Rochester, it seems fairly reasonable that the photo of the Navy catcher is none other than the legendary scout himself.
Separately, the Pre-Flight items are great additions to any militaria or baseball collection on their own but together, they begin to breathe life into the forgotten narrative of the naval flight training program and the dominance that emerged when the rosters of each school began to be filled by professional baseball talent and experience.