In the past several months, Chevrons and Diamonds has fielded several inquiries from interested collectors, baseball and militaria collectors and potential buyers regarding a vintage military baseball uniform group that has been listed online for months with an asking price nearing $9000.00.
After glancing at the listing’s photos, the jersey, trousers, and ball cap uniform grouping is quite remarkable in terms of condition and authenticity. The Rawlings manufacturer’s tags in both the jersey and trousers are what one would expect to see in a flannel set from the 1940s. The Special Services U.S. Army tags are also correct for the era. The dark blue (nearly black), six-panel ball cap with white soutache applied to the panel seams is also a fantastic piece, featuring Wilson’s own Special Services U.S. Army tag. There is nothing about the group that would be cause for concern. Issues lie within how the uniform group is presented to potential buyers.
Buy the item, not the story.
Collectors are often lulled into overspending or making foolish purchases for items that are presented with a fantastic narrative from the seller. Often, the stories are so incredibly concocted that even the most seasoned collectors set aside reason in order to make a dream acquisition.
While it is quite easy to lambaste sellers who present wonderful stories, they are not necessarily the authors of the stories they associate with their items. However, for those who do concoct narratives and combine them with incredibly inflated prices, it is not a difficult step to call attention to nefarious activities.
“WW2 U.S. 3rd Army Baseball Championship Nurnberg, Germany Soldiers Field August 7, 8, & 9th 1945 Uniform Jersey, Pants, & Cap of 76th Infantry 3rd Army Baseball Player Lawrence James McNeely #4 (b. 26 Oct 1919 – d. 7 June 2002) US Army Service from 28 Dec 1942 – 28 Jan 1946. The uniform jersey is tagged ‘Rawlings St. Louis U.S. Army Special Services Size 42’ and remains in fine condition, the trousers are similarly tagged in size 34 also remain in fine condition, and the cap is tagged ‘Special Service U.S. Army Wilson’ (larger size) Lawrence “Larry” McNeely additionally played Minor League Baseball in 1941 for Sioux Falls and again in 1946 / 47 St. Cloud and 1948 St. Hyacinthe. McNeely went on to study law and had a law practice until retirement. Estate of Lawrence J. McNeely (SIC)”eBay seller, tortugaacquisitions, August 25, 2022
The uniform is authentic, but when was it used?
Emblazoned across the front of the size-42 jersey in royal blue block letters between two equal length horizontal bars, “THIRD ARMY” is spelled out quite beautifully. Flanking each edge of the button placket are two thin black rayon soutache strands that encircle the standard open collar. The sleeves feature single strands of the same material placed approximately 3/4-inch from the cuff edges. Sewn to the jersey’s back is a single numeral, “4,” in royal blue, corresponding to the front lettering. The matching size-34 trousers lack adornments entirely.
None of the pieces in the group are marked with the player’s name, Army laundry tag or anything that could assist in identifying the veteran who wore it. The seller implies, though never explicitly states, that the group came from a known professional ballplayer, Lawrence J. “Larry” McNeely, “Estate of Lawrence J. McNeely,” but fails to provide any provenance in the listing, which should be a red flag for potential buyers. Also provided with the listing images is a “borrowed” image of the Third Army Championship scorecard from our online library. The auction item’s description also includes sourced text from one of our articles describing the Third Army Championship Series games, appearing to many who have reached out to us to be an implied Chevrons and Diamonds authentication of the seller’s listing.
Regardless of the price tag of the item, collectors must perform their due diligence prior to making a purchase. So far, many are taking steps to research this Third Army baseball uniform group before being drawn into a heavily overpriced group. One of the overarching questions regarding the authenticity of the auction listing posed to Chevrons and Diamonds focuses on the assertion that this group was worn for the Third Army Championship.
“WW2 U.S. 3rd Army Baseball Championship Nurnberg, Germany Soldiers Field August 7, 8, & 9th 1945 Uniform Jersey, Pants, & Cap of 76th Infantry 3rd Army Baseball Player Lawrence James McNeely #4”
Regarding the 1945 Third Army Championship game between the 71st Infantry Division’s Red Circlers and the 76th Infantry Division’s Onaways, only the victorious team would go on to wear uniforms emblazoned with Third Army adornments in the 1945 GI World Series. Erroneously suggested by the seller, 76th ID player McNeely wore this uniform in the losing effort against the Red Circlers.
Another issue with the seller’s listing resides in the false claim that the uniform dates to 1945. Unfortunately for the seller, and quite fortunate for potential buyers, a verified and named example of an actual 1945 Third Army Champions jersey exists and was sold through Goldin Auctions on January 29, 2017. The jersey and trousers, coincidently bearing the same Rawlings and Special Services U.S. Army tags, were worn by Red Circlers (and former St. Louis Cardinals) catcher, Herb Bremer. Both the jersey and trousers are named (the trousers are named to Red Circlers first baseman Milt Ticco, likely provided to Bremer during the GI World Series).
Some behind the scenes collector speculation surrounding the auction listing is that the uniform group might date to the following season, when some former major and minor league players were still serving a full year after the German surrender. While it certainly is an avenue worthy of exploration, this particular road leads to an abrupt end for two reasons. First, following Larry McNeely’s January, 1946 discharge from the Army, his professional baseball career was reinstated on February 8, 1946 as he resumed play with the class “C” Northern League’s St. Cloud Rox, which eliminates him from having worn the uniform that year. The second and more defining reason is that the 60th Infantry Division “Go-Devils” team, featuring former Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Carl Scheib (see: Pro Ball Players Still Filled Army Rosters in 1946: “Go Devils” G.I. World Series Champs), wore an entirely different Third Army championship uniform.
In answering a frequent follow-up question as to the seller’s false usage assertion, the year that this grouping was worn is not specifically known. The immaculate condition of the material, including the apparent absence of dirt or grass stains, could indicate that the uniform was unused and not worn by any ballplayer. While post-war occupation duties continued for the U.S. Armed Forces, the Third Army was recalled back to the United States in 1947. Perhaps the veteran who owned this group was discharged following the Third Army’s transition back the States.
Originally sold through Manion’s in 1992
The seller’s inference that the uniform group originated in McNeely’s estate is a false claim. While we are unaware of how the group reached the current owner’s possession, we do know the person who owned it in May-June of 2021 when he had it listed at auction. That particular seller, “Stan” (we will not disclose his full identity), had also listed the group as the 1945 Third Army Champions.
“This is unquestionably one of the RAREST and UNIQUE items I acquired in 25+ years of collecting: A COMPLETE 3rd Army Baseball uniform, as worn during the Occupation of Germany following VE-Day! I was lucky enough to be the successful bidder for the uniform in the late, great Manion’s International Auction back on September 26, 1992, almost thirty years ago! Since that time, it’s been carefully stored in a mothproof environment in my storage. The 3rd Army “Red Circlers” of the 71st Infantry Division went on to win the “1945 GI World Series” in the sixth game at Soldier’s Field in Nuremberg, no doubt to the great satisfaction of General George S. Patton, Jr. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate a team roster to determine who wore number 4, so if anyone has access to that roster, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The uniform is comprised of the following items:
(1) A wool worsted jersey, number “4” on the back, size 42″ chest;
(2) A pair of wool worsted “knicker” style baseball pants, size 34″ waist;
(3) A wool worsted baseball cap, size 7-1/4 to 7-3/8; and
(4) A pair of modern baseball “cleats”, size 10-11, which I wore during my play in American Legion baseball. All three uniform items are labeled “Special Services U.S. Army” (see images).
The jersey and pants were manufactured by Rawlings and are so labeled in the neck and waist band, respectively. The cap was manufactured by Wilson Sports Equipment and is labeled in the leather sweatband. The actual measurements of the jersey lying flat are as follows: (1) Chest 22.5″ from armpit to armpit; (2) Short sleeves 9.25″; (3) Waist 23″; and Overall length 31″. The actual measurements of the pants are as follows: (1) Waist 34″; Inseam 24″; and Overall or “Outseam” length 33.5″. The uniform will easily fit a man of 6′ and 180 pounds, perhaps heavier if slim at the waist. The uniform is in VERY GOOD condition with minor soiling here and there and slight yellowing of the white wool, but nothing unattractive. The cap still has strong dark blue color with a supple leather sweatband.”eBay seller, stan****, May 28, 2021
Following a lengthy exchange of correspondence with the seller, he recognized that the uniform group he acquired from Manion’s in 1992 was from a later year following the 1946 season and corrected his listing to reflect the information we provided regarding the 1945 and 1946 teams and their respective uniforms.
Upon seeing tortugaacquisitions’ listing, we contacted and provided the seller with the correct information along with a request for cessation of incorporating our content into the listing. Rather than responding or taking corrective action, the seller blocked our account, preventing the receipt of further communication from us.
It is unfortunate that individuals and businesses knowingly present false information to defraud buyers while garnering considerable, ill-gained profit. The motivations of tortugaacquisitions are entirely unknown to us and we will refrain from making accusations of fraud or intentionally misleading claims regarding this or any other listings by the seller. One of the primary objectives of Chevrons and Diamonds is to provide our readers with research data, photographic evidence and artifacts serving as a trusted, reliable and growing reference resource.
Almost a full month of the 2016 baseball season has elapsed and we are beginning to see the alignments taking shape within the standings. My family knows that I follow three Major League Baseball teams; LA, Boston and Seattle. When I was a kid, I discovered the Blue Wrecking Crew of LA during the Cey, Lopes, Russell and Garvey era (“The Penguin,” Ron Cey was from my hometown and my favorite Dodger) watching the NBC Saturday Game of the Week which the Dodgers and my other favorite team of that time, the Red Sox, seemed to dominate the recurring programming. My passion for the Mariners didn’t materialize until the later 1970s with they came into being. Seeing these three teams perched atop their respective division standings as I write this gives me hope for an entertaining season. Heartbreak is certain to follow as the season wears on when one or all three teams will fall back to earth.
As the season continues, my collecting interest presses onward. A few weeks ago, a package arrived from my favorite clothing manufacturer bearing five wonderfully nostalgic garments that fit directly into my area of interest and the subject of this blog. While I have referenced Ebbets Field Flannels in a few postings regarding their jerseys and caps (see: Replicating Military Baseball Style, US Marines Baseball Uniforms) and how this company does fantastic work in recreating this forgotten part of the game’s history. The five garments that arrived are part of EFF’s vintage T-shirt product line that borrows from various elements of history (logos, graphics, patches and other visual cues). The visuals from select teams are tastefully nostalgic and classic designs that are imprinted onto high-quality, domestically sourced jersey-cotton T-shirts.
When I saw the 71st Infantry Division (the “Red Circlers”) shirt, I immediately recognized the graphic from my original 1945 Third Army Baseball Championship scorecard
I owned a T-shirt (of the Vincennes (IN) Velvets) from EFF years ago that I wore so often that it was quite literally reduced to rags after years of use (please reissue this one again, Mr. Cohen!) so I was familiar with the quality of the shirts. The very tastefully executed graphics are over-layed onto the corresponding colors creating a visually appealing garment that will make you want to wear it as often as possible. Buying the 5-pack was an obvious choice so that I can enjoy wearing a bit of history without donning a heavier wool flannel jersey.
For a short time, EFF has introductory pricing (20% off the $30.00 price) on these Military Baseball T-shirts that would make it worth the $24 to give one a try.
The Overseas Invasion Services Expedition (OISE) All Star baseball team (source: Baseball in Wartime).
With the dog days of summer and the elevating outside temperatures, one can sense the waning of the present baseball season. It will only be a matter of weeks before the minor league teams will be wrapping their schedules and the major league teams will expand their rosters, calling up the top performers from their respective farm systems.
During the 1940s, many of the major and minor league players received a call for service of a far greater nature from their teams. The armed forces had needs to fill on both the battlefield and the playing field. The need for service teams to spread good will and transport the service men and women, if only for a few innings, from the monotony and horrors they were facing each day. Some
professional ball players, rather than donning ODs (olive drab uniforms) and boondockers, sported spikes and flannel. Instead of M1 Garands and grenades as tools of the trade, these professionals picked up gloves, bats and horsehide balls.
Throughout the war, service teams played before crowds of GIs on fields in both the Pacific and European war theaters. Their rosters would feature names like Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller, though “Rapid Robert” would volunteer for combat service early in the war, battling the Japanese aboard the USS Alabama (BB-60).
By August of 1945 with the war in Europe complete, the service teams began an elimination series to narrow the select group of teams to determine who would play in the final championship games. Ultimately, the 71st Infantry Division team, featuring St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harry Walker and Ewell Blackwell, pitcher from the Cincinnati Reds, would be be matched up with the Overseas Invasion Services Expedition (OISE) All Stars. The OISE team also included several professionals such as Negro Leaguers Leon Day and Willard Brown. Ultimately, the OISE All Stars would win the five game series, three games to two.
Collectors are fully aware aware of the scarcity of vintage major league baseball (and now, minor league) memorabilia. Items from the WWII service teams are even more difficult to locate. To find pieces from these historic games? Forget about it.
A few years ago, I was able to purchase a program and scoresheet from the championship games played at Nuremberg Stadium. The scoresheet was for the games that were played between the 71st and 76th Infantry Division teams in early August, sixty seven years ago. With that acquisition, I thought that would be the end of the availability of anything from these games.
Not too many months later, I was aghast to discover an online auction listing for a vintage autographed baseball that looked to be from one of these championship games. The ball, though lacking the typical “US” markings seemed to have some legitimacy with signatures from what I thought were familiar names. The auction description read:
It’s a REACH brand baseball, the logo readable. It has 9 signatures on it and on one side it looks as if it is written 1945 E. T. O Champs. The autographs I can make out are: Elmer J Madden, Joe Mattingly, Lou Mazaretta, Frankie Cato, Glenn Smith, Tony Mancini, Collins Haigler, and Bill something, could be Ayers, as he pitched a 2 hitter.
I checked several references including the extremely detailed Baseball in Wartime site (by WWII baseball historian, Gary Bedingfield) and my program and was not successful in matching a single name from the ball. Intuition dictated that the ball could still be authentic as the rosters could easily change from one series to the next due to the needs of the Army. In addition, I reasoned that there was little reason for anyone to fake such a ball as it could never attain the sort of money forgers typically try for with Hall of Fame-inductee signed balls.
I considered the facts and decided to place what I thought was a safe bid (at least for my budget), so if it turned out to be a forgery, the sting wouldn’t be so bad. The days ticked off until the auction close, and my snipe bid dropped in at the last seconds, which turned out to fall short. Another bidder felt that the value was (at least) a dollar greater than my bid amount. It wasn’t meant to be.
What are the odds of seeing anything else from the championship games?
Only time will tell.