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From Hurling on the Hill to Landing on the Moon


“A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.” – Ansel Adams

Many people enjoy viewing old photographs, taking time to admire the composition and subject in order to get a sense of the moment or to attempt to envision what the photographer was seeing and sensing at that moment. A segment of photo viewers pays close attention to the details in an image such as the clothing worn by the subjects, the surrounding environment such as buildings and clues that might indicate the time at which the shutter was released. The vintage baseball photos in our collection are not only enjoyed (“looked at”) but also “looked into.”

The mission to add to the ever-increasing Chevrons and Diamonds vintage photograph library is one that is not taken lightly. When we spot a potentially desirable image, we consider several aspects including its military baseball subject matter, the composition and exposure, the vintage photograph classification and the feasibility of purchase as part of our due diligence. Often, we overlook one of more of the criteria in order to react quickly to the availability of the photograph and acquire it before it is snatched up by another collector. In the absence of pre-acquisition research, we commence our efforts once we have the opportunity to digitize the image and examine the details in search of clues.

Our collection contains a fair percentage of images that have captured stars of the game during their years in service during World War II; however, far more faces preserved in the emulsion are wholly unknown to us. One of our most recent arrivals depicted a pitcher wearing the flannels of the Army Air Forces Navigation School (AAFNS) Hondo. He was in middle of his of his throwing motion on the sidelines and near a bench of spectators. Until we researched our Birdie Tebbetts (George “Birdie” Tebbetts: From Waco to Tinian) and Enos Slaughter (The Wartime Flight of a Cardinal: Sgt. Enos Slaughter) articles, Hondo was an unfamiliar name. Purchasing the image of the AAFNS Hondo player was an easy decision.

With players such as the aforementioned Tebbetts and Slaughter or Red Ruffing (see: Red Ruffing, an Airman’s Ace), who were stellar, even Hall of Fame-caliber players, the task of researching and documenting service and baseball careers doesn’t pose too many challenges and seldom do we reveal significant discoveries in their lives.  However, with other ballplayers encapsulated in our artifacts, we sometimes do uncover quite profound details about their lives before, during or after the war.

Wartime service baseball team rosters were often endowed with former professional and semi-professional players along with men who were added because they possessed baseball skills or were athletically gifted when they played as youths. In researching post-war lives of pro and semi-pro ballplayers, it is not uncommon to discover that a large percentage of them resumed their baseball careers. However, it is uncommon to find a professional ballplayer who opted to pursue a career in the military as 37-year-old Larry French did following his 14 major league seasons. From 1943 to 1969, the former Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers pitcher, who appeared in seven World Series games in 1935, 1938 and 1941, served in the United States Navy during three wars and retired with the rank of captain. As we researched our Hondo pitcher, we discovered a different pathway was chosen and yet a very impactful contribution was made to the nation and to the armed forces.

When the undated AAFNS Hondo image arrived, we were able to examine the back side of the vintage press photo where a handwritten inscription seemed to read “Maity Enañto.” Turning to Baseball Reference, we could not find anything that resembled either of the inscribed names. A search of newspaper articles from the war years related to Hondo’s baseball team was an immediate success. Marty Errante, a pitcher on the 1943 Hondo Navigators roster, was a match. We consulted Baseball Reference again and confirmed that we had our man.

Mario “Marty” Errante warms up to pitch for the Army Air Forces Navigation School Comets ball club in this undated photo (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Some could argue that the level of play was not comparable to the major leagues or even the high minors but such a suggestion is either myopic or without substantiation. While the wartime service team competition environment might have been relaxed in some regions, in most that we have researched the level of play was on a par with pre-war professionalism. While pitching in the Army Air Forces, Errante faced many major and higher-class minor leaguers including Del Wilber, Dave Coble and Enos Slaughter.

Mario P. Errante (also listed as Mario F. Errante) was born in 1918 to Italian immigrants Ascenzio and Rosa Errante. Ascenzio, a home construction contractor, arrived to the United States in 1903 and his wife in 1907. Ascenzio was naturalized in 1917 as the United States was entering the Great War. Growing up just three miles from Ebbets Field, Marty developed a passion for baseball as he watched the Dodgers play and later excelled in the game. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, which he attended with two other ballplayers, Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Tommy Holmes and pitcher Jim Prendergast, who made 10 appearances for the Braves in 1948. Errante signed a minor league contract in 1938 and was assigned to the class “D” Bi-State League’s Bassett Furnituremakers (in Bassett, Virginia) along with Wes Livengood and Benny Zientara, both of whom would serve in the military and play service baseball.

From 1938 to 1942, Marty played for Bassett, Welch (class “D” Mountain State League), Muskogee and Topeka (the latter two were class “C” Western Association teams) and amassed a 37-24* won/lost record with an earned run average of 4.54 in 105 games and 464 innings. Marty was a lower-level minor league workhorse pitcher. His .118 batting average was less than stellar but he managed to keep himself on the roster with his arm. It was not until Errante was pitching for the Army Air Forces that the game came together for him.

Mario Felice Errante registered for Selective Service on October 16, 1940, but didn’t receive his draft notice until the spring of 1942. Errante reported for induction on March 24, 1942; however, his entry into active service was delayed for a few months, allowing him to continue playing with the Topeka Owls until Uncle Sam needed him. That met with manager Hack Wilson’s approval. Errante’s pitching was one of the contributing factors that pushed the Owls to the front of the Western Association by early June, when he was ordered to report to Hondo Army Air Field.

RankNamePositionPre-war Experience
 BuckleyP
Corp.Marty ErrantePTopeka (WA)
2nd Lt.Franklyn FaskePMilford (ESHL)
Clinton HartungPMinneapolis (AA)
Samp HemphillSS
Justin MartinLF
 McCoy2B
Bill McGaffP
 PankoC
Bill PhillipsCF
 PoolSS
 RomseyC
Lt.Bernie RundellMgr.
George Russell1B
Walter ScottC
 SinclairP
Floyd Stickney3BDecatur (IIIL)
Ray TidwellRF
 Walker3B
Jimmy WilsonC
Errante’s 1943 Hondo Navigation School “Comets” roster included a few former minor league players.

After completing basic and athletic instructor training, Errante was tapped to pitch for the Navigators, the Hondo Air Base team, and quickly asserted himself against the San Antonio-area competition in the 1943 season. “Showing top form of the season, Hondo ace pitcher Marty Errante allowed eight scattered hits and enjoyed excellent backing from teammates in the field,” the Hondo Anvil Herald published on June 4, 1943. “(Jimmy) Wilson was on the receiving end of Errante’s efforts on the mound” as the pitcher held the Kelly Field defense workers club to just a single tally in a June 3, 1943 game. Made up predominantly of former amateur players, the Hondo Navigators held their own in a talent-rich league that included Enos Slaughter’s San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center Warhawks and Dave “Boo” Ferriss’ Randolph Field Ramblers, clubs that featured an abundance of former minor league players and a few major leaguers.

As the 1943 season progressed, Errante’s pitching was responsible for Hondo’s success, with victories over the Bergstrom Air Base, the Stinson Field Pioneers and the Brooks Field Ganders. Hondo was trailing only Randolph Field for the league lead in the first two months of the season.

Errante’s success as the leading Hondo pitcher and one of the dominant hurlers in the San Antonio Service League made him an easy addition to a regional all-star team that faced Birdie Tebbetts’ Waco Army Flying School Wolves in front of a capacity crowd of more than 5,000 at Tech Field.

NamePositionPre-war ExperienceSan Antonio Svc Team
Matt BattsCCanton (MATL)Randolph Field
Arthur “Art” Bertelli1BCivilian War Worker 
Manuel CortinasOFMonterrey (MEX)Civilian War Worker 
Charlie EngleAsst. MgrLubbock (WTNM)Civilian War Worker 
Harold EppsUIFHouston (TL)Civilian War Worker 
Bibb FalkMgrIndiansRandolph Field
Dave “Boo” FerrissPRed SoxRandolph Field
Tom FingerPLafayette (EVAN)Randolph Field
Homer GibsonPSan Antonio (TL)Stinson Army Air Field
Hank GuerraCMonterrey (MEX)Civilian War Worker 
Clinton HartungPMinneapolis (AA)Hondo Navigation School
Eddie Kazak2BHouston (TL)Brooks Field
Karl KottAsst. MgrLafayette (EVAN)Brooks Field
Paul LehnerOFAndalusiaCadet Center
Frank Madura2BElmira (EL)Hondo Navigation School
Dick MidkiffPBaltimore (IL)Brooks Field
Jim Morris1BAbilene/Borger (WTNM)Randolph Field
Rube NaranjoOFMidland (WTNM)Randolph Field
Walter NothePReading (ISLG)Randolph Field
Rocky RocomontesPCivilian War Worker 
Paul ScheskeOFCadet Center
Enos “Country” SlaughterOFCardinalsCadet Center
Jim UnderwoodPKelly Field
Del Wilber3BColumbus (SALL)Cadet Center
Featuring three former major leaguers including future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter, Marty Errante was one of seven pitchers named to the San Antonio Service League All-Stars team. Pitching in middle-relief, Errante struck out Waco’s major leaguers, Tebbetts, Evers and Hudson.

Birdie Tebbetts flanked by two of his Waco Army Flying School teammates, Colonel “Buster” Mills (left) and Sid Hudson (right). (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)

In San Antonio on August 9.  Aside from former major leaguer Tebbetts, the Wolves roster included Walter “Hoot” Evers (Tigers), Bruce Campbell (Tigers/Senators), Buster Mills (Indians), Sid Hudson (Senators) and nine former minor leaguers. The San Antonio Service League All-Stars handled the Wolves with ease, tallying seven runs. The All-Stars pitchers kept Waco from plating a single run in a one-hit shutout, with Tebbetts’ single off Randolph Air Base’s Dave “Boo” Ferriss in the eighth inning being the only safety. Homer Gibson pitched with perfection in the first three innings, Errante followed suit without allowing a hit in the fourth and fifth.  “After walking two,” Errante wrote of his most interesting wartime experiences, he “struck out Birdie Tebbetts, Hoot Evers and Sid Hudson.”  Ferriss relieved Errante and pitched the remaining three innings.

In late August, the Hondo club’s pitching staff was bolstered with the addition of another Brooklyn arm as Franklyn Faske, formerly of the class “D” Milford Giants (Eastern Shore League) joined the third place Hondo nine. “Comet officials have high hopes for the two Brooklyn boys to lead them to the San Antonio Service League pennant,” the Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle reported on August 18, 1943. “Corporal Marty Errante, a Brooklyn pitcher who played sandlot and high school baseball with Lieutenant Faske, is Hondo Field’s star pitcher.”  With just a few games remaining, Hondo was unable to overtake the Randolph club in the league standings who finished with a league-leading record of 43-14.

RankNamePositionPre-war Experience
 BrownC
 ChudzickiP
 Davis3B
Ray EngellagePSemi-pro
Corp.Marty ErrantePTopeka (WA)
2nd Lt.Franklyn FaskePMilford (ESHL)
Clinton HartungPMinneapolis (AA)
Frank Madura2B/Mgr.
Bill McGaffP
John McQuareyP
 PalmerCF
 PoolSS
 PoolSS
 QuinnCF
Lt.Bernie RundellAth. Dir.
 WilliamsRF
Roster changes for service teams were an inevitability though Errante remained on the Hondo club for the 1944 season.

Marty Errante remained at Hondo Field and pitched again for the Comets in the 1944 season. Errante was transferred from Hondo Army Air Field to Randolph Field during the winter months, which worked in Ramblers manager Bibb Falk’s favor as his best pitcher, “Boo” Ferriss, was discharged ahead of the 1945 season due to a severe asthma condition. From the very start of the season, Errante’s mound presence was felt as the Ramblers moved out in front of the league. With wins over the University of Texas and San Marcos Army Air Field, Marty’s pitching was pushing the Ramblers ahead as they won seven of their first nine games. By mid-June, Errante was in top form with eight wins and no losses. In 69 innings, he had surrendered only 16 runs, placing him at the top of the pitching staff. After one more victory, a 19-1 rout of the Fort Worth Army Air Field Fliers on June 13, Errante was shipped to Fresno in preparation for his deployment to the Pacific.

RankNamePositionFormer
Tex AuldsCTucson (AZTX)
Matt BattsCCanton (MATL)
Dave CobleMgr.
Corp.Marty ErrantePTopeka (WA)
Bibb FalkMgr.Indians
Irvin FortuneCLeaksville (Bi-State)
Chick Hardin3B
Bill La FranceP
John LindstromP
Jim Morris2B
Rube NaranjoOF/SSMidland (WTNM)
Walter NothePReading (ISLG)
Stan NovakCBassett (BIST)
Clarence PfeilOFScranton (EL)
Dan ShepherdMgr.
Jim WrightLF
Elbert Young2B
1945 marked Errante’s third year in greater San Antonio and he was transferred to Randolph Field, 80 miles east of Hondo. Errante filled the vacant roster spot of former Red Sox pitcher, Ramblers’ Ace Dave “Boo” Ferriss who was discharged due to a respiratory ailment.
Four unidentified players from the Randolph Field Ramblers (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

With his arrival at the Army Air Forces’ Camp Pinedale, Errante was swiftly added to the pitching staff of the Interceptors, who were dead last in the San Joaquin Valley League (SJVL), trailing Hammer Field, Lemoore Army Air Field and Roma. Errante did not miss a beat and picked up where he left off with his nine-game win-streak. In his first three games against the Roma Vintners (an 8-1 win) and Lemoore (6-4 and 7-1 victories), Marty struck out 30 batters and allowed only six walks. Days later, his Pinedale win-streak was four (13 for the season including with Randolph) and he was averaging more than 10 strikeouts per game.

The Pinedale Interceptors trailed the league-leading Hammer Field squad by a half-game on August 25, heading into a matchup with Lemoore. Pinedale’s manager, Leo Jones, seeking to line up his rotation to insure Errante was rested to face Hammer in what would probably be the deciding game for the league championship, went with his number two pitcher, Steve Colosky, in an elimination game against the last place Lemoore nine with his ace in reserve. The Interceptors removed any concerns Jones may have had with an 18-1 thrashing of Lemoore that was called after seven innings were in the books. Having pulled into a tie with Hammer, the two teams were set to face off the following night to determine the SJVL and the 4th Air Force District Championships.

RankNamePositionPre-war Experience
Tex AuldsCTucson (AZTX)
Steven ColoskyPColumbus (SALL)
Hal “Ab” Davis1B
Corp.Marty ErrantePTopeka (WA)
Art GagliardiRFEl Paso (AZTX)
Bob GerstenSS
Bill HankinsCF
Leo JonesMgr.
 KostelLF
Hutch Lewis3B
Mickey MannjackP
Sal Modica2B
Bob Olesewicz1B
 Pifer2B
 QuiliciRF
 RitzlerCF
 RosenblattLF
Harold StraubP
Elbert “Al” YoungSS
Fresno, California’s 1945 Camp Pinedale Interceptors were dead last in the San Joaquin Valley League when former Randolph Ramblers airmen Tex Aulds and Marty Errante arrived to reverse the team’s fortunes, vaulting the team into first place by the end of the season.

In the championship game, Pinedale took the early lead, tallying three runs and giving Errante an instant cushion as he frustrated the Hammer batters. The Interceptors added two more runs in the third as Errante was having his way with the opposing lineup. He allowed nine Hammer hits throughout the game, but they were mostly ineffective as only one run scored. Errante secured his fifth consecutive Pinedale win as he struck out 12.

With the regular season over, Pinedale was scheduled to play the best of the SJVL in an All-Stars contest on September 3. Steve Colosky took the mound for the first four frames and kept the All-Stars’ bats silent. Marty Errante entered in the fifth inning, and though he fell victim to three Pinedale defensive errors and a few opportunistic All-Star hits, he had his way with the All-Stars in the 14-2 triumph. Marty allowed all five of the All-Stars’ hits while the Pinedale bats continued their torrent of hitting as they tallied 16 on their opponent’s pitching.

Holding the 4th Army Air Force San Joaquin Valley district championship, the Camp Pinedale Interceptors travelled to Spokane, Washington to face the Geiger Field Aviation Engineer nine who were the champions within their region. Six days after the Japanese signed the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Marty Errante played in one of the best games of his career against the Geiger team on September 8, 1945. Aside from pitching a three-hit, 13-strikeout shutout, the pitcher stroked a grand slam in the sixth inning, accounting for four of his team’s six runs, and secured the 4th Army Air Force’s Northern Section championship. The win over Geiger was Errante’s seventh consecutive victory for Pinedale and the 16th for his undefeated 1945 season.

With the preponderance of the Army’s major leaguers and star minor leaguers serving and playing in Hawaii and the Western Pacific Theater, Errante’s successful season could be the product of playing in a less competitive field than was seen in service leagues across the Western states in the previous years of the war. Nevertheless, Errante worked tirelessly on the Fresno base to remain strong by taking starts with a local Fresno-area industrial league team. During one of those non-Interceptor games in late September, Errante suffered a shoulder injury that kept him from throwing for several days as the Air Force scheduled the most important championship series of the season for the Interceptors.

Jess Dobernic, a standout Pacific Coast League pitcher who saw action with the Los Angeles Angels in 1941 and ’42, was the ace of the 2nd Air Force champion Kirtman Field 29ers. He was the first real test for the Camp Pinedale Interceptors’ hitters. Dobernic, who also served as his team’s manager, led the 29ers to a 32-9 record in the Albuquerque, New Mexico region. The Kirtman nine were in town to face the Interceptors at Fresno State College’s ballpark on September 25 for the start of the best of three series. Hot off their 2nd Air Force championship series with the Sioux Falls Marauders in which Dobernic pitched in 23 of the 27 innings, the 29ers sent their “Iron Man” former Angel to face Pinedale on their home turf. The series would decide the U.S Army Air Forces national champions for 1945.

Despite Errante’s nagging shoulder injury, Pinedale manager Leo Jones started his undefeated ace against the visiting 2nd Air Force champs. For the first six innings, the Marauders had their way with Errante as he surrendered 15 hits and nine runs. Nothing in his pitching arsenal worked. Errante’s struggles started with the game tied in the top of the fourth inning as four Marauders scored. Another run in the fifth put the visitors ahead 6-1. Jones left Errante in for the sixth and he gave up three more runs.

The damage was done as Jones lifted the starter and inserted Colosky, who allowed five more Kirtland hits and two more runs crossed the plate in his three innings of work. Dobernic retired 10 Interceptor batters on strikes while issuing eight free passes and surrendering just five safeties. Pinedale’s lone run came by way of a solo round tripper by catcher Tex Aulds in the bottom of the first that gave the Interceptors a momentary lead. The loss was a setback for Errante, who hoped to rebound for the next game in the series.

Traveling to Kirtland Field in Albuquerque for the Sunday game on the last day of September, the Pinedale Interceptors were hoping to extend the series to a third and deciding game. However, with Dobernic returning to the mound, the second game played out much like the first with Kirtland taking the series and the Air Forces national championship with a 7-2 victory over the Pinedale Interceptors.

With the Air Forces season over, the Pinedale club returned to Fresno for an exhibition game against the Roma Vintners, their 1945 SJVL rivals. Fresh from his major league season, hometown hero and Brooklyn Dodger rookie pitcher Vic Lombardi joined the club following the end of his major league all-star barnstorming tour. Scheduled for October 7, the game was indefinitely postponed due to the threat of thunderstorms over Fresno. The anticipated matchup between the Brooklyn native and the Brooklyn Dodger never materialized.

On January 26, 1946, Marty Errante’s application for reinstatement as an active professional ballplayer was granted following his discharge from the USAAF. Errante returned to San Antonio and to his wife Doris, whom he married while assigned to Randolph Field.  Perhaps cashing in on his wartime success, Errante was signed by the Dallas Rebels (class “AA” of the Texas League). In his first game, it was immediately apparent to team owners that Errante was not ready as he surrendered three hits and an equal number of walks. He left the game with four earned runs and an ERA of 36.00, though he did manage to strike out one opposing batter. Errante was sold to Montgomery of the class “B” Southeastern League and finished the season with a respectable 8-11 record and a 2.88 ERA.

For the next five years, Errante played in the Texas minor and Mexican winter leagues before hanging up his flannels and spikes at the age of 33. Errante packed up his young family and returned to New York with a career change in store. He landed a job with Republic Aviation in nearby Farmington, New York on Long Island, affording him the opportunity to attend college after hours.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

After 15 seasons of hurling a nine-inch sphere through 66 feet and six inches of the Earth’s gravity while employing trajectory calculations, release points and rotational direction to guide its path and landing point, Marty Errante brought his experience, education and knowledge to bear in Kennedy’s call to reach beyond the planet. Errante joined Grumman’s engineering and design team and its mission to create a lunar landing craft for NASA’s Project Apollo. 

Several of Marty Errante’s Grumman teammates discuss the Lunar Module contract and program and the development of the Apollo vehicle that not only landed on the Moon but served as a “life boat” for the astronauts of Apollo 13.

According to his daughter-in-law, Dr. Jane Williams, Errante worked with “first generation astronauts” in the development of the lunar module. She told the San Antonio News Express in 2016 that Marty “always said he was proud that his fingerprints went to the moon.” In the 1970s, after the Apollo program was discontinued, Errante worked on one of the longest-running Naval aircraft programs, Grumman’s A-6 Intruder carrier-based attack aircraft.

Grumman Lunar Module team (image source: NASA)

After retiring from Grumman in 1978, Errante moved back to where his service to his country first took flight and where he met his wife of 40 years – San Antonio.

By researching this photograph, we were able to see so much more of this man than his uniform, his pitching windup and his misspelled name on the reverse.



*1941 stats are incomplete. The Manhattan Mercury (Manhattan, Kansas) lists Errante as a 13-game winner for the 1941 season but provides no data for any other pitching statistic.

Game-Worn Baseball Caps of WWII: 3rd Air Force

Collecting game-used military baseball caps is a more challenging endeavor than the pursuit of professional game-used caps from the same era due to the extremely limited supply.

This 1937 road gray Lou Gehrig game-used jersey sold this year for more than $900k (most-likely north of $1M). The Iron Horse’s 1933 cap sold for 1/10th of this amount not too long ago (image source: Sports Collectors Daily).

Collecting vintage baseball artifacts, especially game-used pieces, is one of the more difficult and costly arenas in the hobby. With challenges ranging from limited availability to near-impossibilities in authentication and the existence of rock-solid provenance, collectors have to navigate a minefield of pratfalls when they set out to purchase such treasure. Baseball militaria adds in a layer of complexity that even after a decade of researching, documenting and making educated comparisons, pose a considerable challenge even for me.

If I was to be queried as to what my favorite baseball militaria artifacts are to collect, without hesitation my response would be jerseys and uniforms as they present such a vivid and tangible connection to the game. Enjoying my growing archive of vintage military baseball photographs, my attention is almost always focused on the details of the players’ uniforms. I study the designs, cut, fit and form zeroing in on the trim, lettering and other adornments. Other uniform elements also draw my attention such as the stockings, cleats and, what is perhaps my most favorite baseball garment (regardless of it being modern, vintage or reproduction), the baseball cap.

Lou Gehrig’s early 1930s cap sold for $191,200 (before buyer’s premiums) in 2013 (image source: Heritage Auctions).

Collectors of game-worn uniform items from the professional game understand that jerseys are typically the most sought after artifacts, especially when they are attributable (with provenance) to a well-known player. Baseball caps offer a more “affordable” foray into this sphere of baseball memorabilia in contrast to jerseys but can still carry substantial price tags for those pieces connected to legends of the game, such as Lou Gehrig’s early 1930s at more than $200,000. In contrast to Gehrig’s steep price, another Hall of Fame player’s cap sold around the same time but for a fraction of the cost – Paul Waner of the Pittsburgh Pirates uniform hat from the same timeframe – had a final bid price of less than $10,000. To compare these prices against jerseys from these players, a 1937 Gehrig game-worn home Yankees flannel jersey was sold for $870,000 in August of 2017 by Heritage Auctions. This year, another Lou Gehrig flannel old for an undisclosed price but SCP Auctions President David Kohler remarked that it was among the most expensive artifacts that his firm had ever handled and fetched the highest price paid for a Gehrig jersey (see: 1937 Lou Gehrig Jersey Emerges; Sold for Record Price), which in my estimation was well over $1 million.

In the baseball militaria sphere where collectors with reduced financial capabilities (and smaller bank accounts) exist, there is a similar cost-differential between jerseys and caps. Despite what many antiques pickers and online sellers may believe about these woolen treasures, most World War II era, unattributable (to a professional or named player) military jerseys sell for prices ranging from $50-170 dollars. Currently, a seller has some long-running auctions for two different road gray and red-trimmed USMC jerseys (one from WWII and the other from the mid-late 1950s) and both are considerably over-priced which is keeping the prospective buyers at bay.

This 1937 Gehrig jersey sold in 2017 for $870,000 (image source: Heritage Auctions).

When one considers the immeasurable number of uniforms and ballcaps used by the hundreds upon hundreds of unit and service teams throughout the more than 4.5 years of World War II, it is mind-boggling that so few of these fabric artifacts have survived.  In nearly a decade of collecting photographs of military baseball uniforms and documenting their designs and usage, the Archive of Military Baseball Uniforms has only a smattering of examples (even with the few additions that are soon to be added) further indicating that so few were preserved for posterity. Once the war ended and the troops returned home, the disposition of all the baseball equipment was similar to that of military surplus. Many of the baseball uniforms were donated to many organizations, schools and even lower level minor league teams. While the number of surviving jerseys is very small, existing military team baseball caps numbers are downright microscopic. In the decade that I have been researching and collecting baseball militaria, I have seen less than five confirmed caps, three of which are now in my collection.

I have studied hundreds of vintage photographs ranging from high-gloss, professional images to raw and very personal snapshots of baseball imagery dating from World War II to before the Great War. With considerable focus placed upon headgear of armed forces players, I have garnered a good sense about what was worn by ball-playing servicemen (and women). Two of the caps that landed in my collection (see: Marine Corps Baseball Caps: The End of My Drought?) in succession only weeks apart are both lids worn by Marines during WWII. In the absence of absolute provenance, relying on photographs, research and comparative analysis is the only means at my disposal to conclude with a fair amount of probability that the caps can be paired with jerseys that I acquired in my collection.

One cap that I have yet to commit a full article to is one that defies every research attempt. Combing through so many photographs (my own and images across the internet and in publications), I have not yet found a single reference to specific teams from the Third Air Force. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 3rd AF was responsible for providing air defenses for the southeastern United States (which included anti-submarine patrols for the coastal states). However the role for the Third changed to one of training within the confines of the country while other numbered air forces took the fight to the enemy overseas. The cap is clearly a 1940s vintage which means that it was used by team that was part of a domestic USAAF training unit.

This 1937 Gehrig jersey sold in 2017 for $870,000 (image source: Heritage Auctions).

There are some common features of this cap that are shared with my blue Marine cap. The shells use the same wool weave and and material weight and have leather sweatbands. Other than the materials, the the similarities end with the design – the cut of the panels and the shape of the bill. The underside of the Marine cap utilizes a white wool material while the 3rd AF cap is made with a more traditional green cotton material. The AF cap has a tag attached to the inside of the sweatband but if it possessed any information, it has long-since faded.  One difference between the AF and blue Marine cap is the elastic segment in the sweatband (similar to that found in my red Marine cap). On the front panel of the 3rd AF cap is a vintage Third Air Force should sleeve insignia (SSI) patch sewn (machine-stitched) across the center.

In lieu of concrete evidence supporting that the Third Air Force cap was actually game or team used, I lack the confidence (at this point) in making claims that the cap is more than a vintage lid with a period-correct 3rd Air Force SSI. Even without the confirmation, I will continue to display this cap along with the remainder of my baseball militaria.

My flannel and cap collection will never generate the scale of interest that fellow baseball collectors have in Gehrig, Ruth or pieces from any other legends of the game however these pieces of baseball history are considerably more scarce than their professional player counterparts.

 

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