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Threads of Lefty: From Ace Farmhand to the GI World Series, Part I

This is the first of a two-part series: see Part II

After the dust settled following the Leghorn, Italy championship series that saw the All-Stars from European Theater of Operations (ETO) sweep the Mediterranean Command Champions in three games,[1] players returned to their units and awaited their ticket to sail across the Atlantic and be reunited with their families. The final game, played on September 26, 1945, was a 13-3 rout in front of a small crowd of 4,000 GI spectators. The starting pitcher for the ETO team, Ewell Blackwell, was not in peak form, giving up eight hits. “The Whip” hurled a clean game, walking none and striking out six. To commemorate their diamond dominance, Blackwell and his teammates were presented with wrist watches and gold medals by Colonel Roger Whitman in addition to the team’s championship cup.[2]

The ETO team consisted of select players predominantly from the Oise All-Stars from the Communication Zone (COM-Z) command and from the GI World Series losers, the 71st Infantry Division Red Circlers. Led by Oise All-Stars manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Sam Nahem, the ETO roster boasted stars including Harry “the Hat” Walker (Cardinals), Maurice Van Robays and Johnny Wyrostek (both Pirates), Blackwell (Reds), Tony Jaros (University of Minnesota) and Jim Gladd (Muskogee, Oklahoma).[3]

As the end of September was fast approaching, the long baseball season was finished. Many of the players who started off with their unit teams were already home ahead of the opening game of the GI World Series. Many of Ewell Blackwell’s 71st Division Red Circlers teammates were gone. The Red Circlers’ post-season roster was a veritable collection of baseball all-stars, an aggregation of men pulled together from several units.

Service personnel stationed throughout the European and the Mediterranean theaters experienced one of the most memorable baseball seasons after the Third Reich was defeated. More than 100,000 troops on hundreds of teams competed in local leagues with the winners advancing through regional championships and getting into the GI World Series and the ETO-MTO Championship series. In those last few rounds, the advancing clubs would raid the rosters of the vanquished opponents for the best players in order to tilt the odds in their favor and be the last team standing.

By the time the Red Circlers reached the GI World Series, their roster included several players from other ETO baseball teams, including the 1st, 5th, 65th and 76thA Infantry Divisions, as well as the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion and 16th Armored Division. Since acquiring in 2012 a scorecard from the August 7-9 Third Army Championship Series, considerable effort has been put forth to fully identify all the players listed for both teams. However, a handful of the names are still being researched with one man, catcher “Tauzlarich,”  identified only by his last name[4].

Among the 71st Division unidentified players listed on the Third Army Championship scorecard is a pitcher named “Powell.” Scouring several dozen articles of the 71st within the archives of Stars and Stripes and countless domestic newspapers, no mention is made of Powell or several others on the scorecard roster. Powell’s name appears once again in the late-August 1945 Southern Germany Baseball Championship scorecard[5], again without his first name. After the Red Circlers defeated the 29th Division’s Blues and Grays in the Southern Germany Championship series, they advanced to the GI World Series to face the Oise All-Stars. In all the published game summaries, Powell’s name is never mentioned, indicating that he likely did not appear in any of the five games. Who was Powell?

Through several years of researching for various Chevrons and Diamonds projects, we were able to positively identify most of the players printed on both teams’ rosters in the Third Army Championship scorecard. Powell’s identity still proved to be elusive; however, that was about to change.

Unlike the seemingly unending supply of World War II Pacific Theater game-used baseball militaria, items from the European Theater arrive on the market considerably less frequently. Listings for scorecards from the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series and the 1945 Navy World Series are recurrent throughout each year on popular auction sites. Conversely, in nearly 15 years we have accounted for five scorecards from the 1945 GI World Series games played at Nuremberg Stadium and single examples from preceding championship games played during the post VE-Day season. Pacific Theater vintage baseball photography, though quite rare, is far more easily curated than images from the championship games in Germany.

One of the most historically significant baseball uniforms of WWII, the Red Circlers of the 71st Infantry Division were the Third Army Champions, losing to the OISE All Stars in the ETO World Series. This jersey belonged to Herb Bremer (image source: Goldin Auctions).

In 2016, Goldin Auctions listed a 1945 Rawlings-made flannel set that that was attributed to the 1945 season in Germany. In black block felt lettering, “THIRD ARMY” was emblazoned across the chest of the jersey while a chain-stitched 71st Infantry Division unit insignia was sewn onto the left sleeve. The jersey’s manufacturer tag included the player’s name, “Bremer,” hand-inscribed in ink onto the tag. The matching trousers’ tag bore the name of a different player, “Ticco.” Authenticated by Dave Miedema as an authentic mid-1940s uniform, the set sold for more than $2500[6]. As an aside, the disparity of the inscribed names could be due to the player trading for a different size, though the chain of custody from 1945 through 2016 is not known, leaving questions as to how the jersey and trousers became paired (see: 1945 3rd Army Championship Flannel: Red Circlers of the 71st ID).

By defeating the 7th Army’s champion 29th Division and capturing the Third Army Championship crown, the Red Circlers of the 71st Division exchanged their unit togs to wear the Third Army flannels replete with their division insignia adorning the left sleeves. Entering the series with the Red Circlers, the Blue and Grays’ new uniforms featured an oversized, chain-stitched insignia on the left sleeves and the regulation “yin-yang” division insignia[7] patch on the right sleeves.

Wartime service baseball uniforms are truly scarce artifacts. The Third Army champion jersey worn by the 71st Division’s Herb Bremer is the one of few confirmed examples from the 1945 season. To date, no baseball uniforms from the Oise All-Stars, the Twenty-Ninth and Seventy-Sixth Divisions or any other championship teams from the 1945 ETO baseball leagues have surfaced in the last decade.

The Chevrons and Diamonds Collection of service-related baseball artifacts is diverse, with scorecards, programs, vintage photography, personal items, awards, and on-field equipment. Each item in our collection is rich in historic value and serves to tell the story of the game and the part it played in armed forces history. The story of baseball within the ranks of the armed forces is well told through artifacts. No doubt, “one picture is worth a thousand words,” as photographs capture the attention of a wide variety of audiences. However, there is one category of military baseball artifacts that tends to draw the most attention among our viewers, readers or visitors to our public exhibits.

Whether it is a basic uniform with block letters or something far more colorful or elaborate, the visual aesthetic of vintage baseball flannels captures the gaze of almost everyone who spots these treasures. Our collection features nearly 30 examples of service baseball uniforms that date from 1940 to the mid-1950s, though most are World War II era pieces. Some flannels are connected to players who played in the major leagues or to teams that featured former major leaguers, making those artifacts even more significant.

In August 2022, we were made aware of a uniform set consisting of a jersey, trousers, and stirrups along with the owner’s pre-war baseball undershirt from his minor league playing career. Photos of the uniform group showed a brilliant color scheme of red and blue on a cream white base. The jersey and trousers, matching the Lowe and Campbell manufacturer’s tag design, placed the uniform’s age in the early to mid-1940s. The photos of the jersey showed two different sets of numerals. The front athletic felt five-inch “18” was sewn into the left breast while the back featured a seven-inch “15.” Both sets of numerals were three-dimensional red over-blue in appearance. Extending from the sleeve edge to the base of the collar, the jersey was trimmed with a 3/4-inch blue rayon soutache centered and sewn to a two-inch red athletic felt band.

The trousers were adorned with matching trim extending down the out seams of each leg. The wide belt loops were colored in alternating red and blue

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the uniform was the 3-1/4-inch by 3-inch chain-stitched insignia emblazoned on the left sleeve of the 18th Field Artillery Battalion. With most U.S. Army shoulder sleeve uniform insignia approximately two inches, the oversized insignia adorning the baseball jersey was custom made. Embroidered with gold, red, and blue chain stitched over a royal blue felt shield, the insignia is similar to that of the 71st Infantry and 7th Army baseball uniform patches as well as the 69th Division cap insignia. All these emblems appear to have been sourced from local German embroiderers. The 1945 36th Infantry Division’s “Arrow Heads” had their team uniforms entirely crafted by a local manufacturer in Munich, indicating that the practice of utilizing local European craftsmen was not an uncommon practice for baseball uniform customization.

For more than two decades, this named 18th Field Artillery uniform group has been in the possession of a California-based collector who obtained it directly from the veteran, who was also a former minor league ballplayer. The name of the ballplayer was Lawrence M. “Lefty” Powell, who played professional baseball from 1937 to 1954, with a four-year break from 1941 through 1945 coinciding with World War II.

Larry “Lefty” Powell
Laurence Milton Powell was born on July 14, 1914, in Dinuba, California, a small agricultural community 30 miles southeast of Fresno. He was the second oldest of four sons of Samuel McCutcheon Powell and Ruth Elenor Craven. While all four boys were born in California, their father, a farmer employed in the area’s vineyards, was a native of Kentucky who was born four years after the Confederates’ surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Born in Yorkshire, England thirty-three years after her husband, Elenor immigrated with her parents and six siblings to the United States in 1899, settling in Fresno.

Larry Powell attended Bradley High School and was a factor in the team winning its division championship[8]. His high school coach, Jack Savory, taught him quite a bit about pitching and Powell carried his winning ways into the semipro ranks with the California State League’s Fresno Tigers in 1936. That season, the 21-year-old Powell caught the eye of the San Francisco Seals and was signed for the 1937 season. Seals manager Frank “Lefty” O’Doul had an opportunity to get a good look at his future hurler during an August 17 exhibition game at Fresno’s Frank Chance Field.[9]

Tucson Cowboys, 1937
After spending spring training in camp with the Seals, Larry Powell was farmed out to the Tucson Cowboys in the Class “D” Arizona-Texas League.[10] Under manager Harry Krause, Powell posted a 14-6 won-loss record in 161 innings. Krause, a longtime Pacific Coast League pitcher with Portland and Oakland, was also a member of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1908 to 1912, including their two World Series championship seasons. No doubt, Krause regaled the young left-handed hurler with stories of Athletics Hall of Fame pitchers Charles Bender and Eddie Plank. By early August, Powell was recalled to San Francisco, though he did not appear in any games that season.[11]

After the end of the 1937 season, San Francisco management considered Powell to be a great prospect who was not yet ready for the highly competitive Coast League. They were seeking to further develop the young pitcher in the low minor leagues. Speculation that fall was that Larry would be destined for the Class “B” Western International League’s Tacoma Tigers.[12] After signing his contract for the 1938 season, Powell reported to the Seals’ camp, though with the team having a full stable of arms, the green Powell was not likely to earn a spot on the San Francisco hurling staff.[13]

Tacoma Tigers, 1938
“Powell really has something and should be a regular,” said Seals public relations director, Walter “Duster” Mails. “He has developed a screw ball which affords him a good assortment with his fast one and change of pace and he should win some big games for us,” Mails continued. “One thing in Powell’s favor is he has the proper disposition to make good,” said the former southpaw pitcher and winner of Game 6 in the 1920 World Series for the Cleveland Indians.[14] Despite the heaps of praise from his Seals pitching coach, Powell was sent to Tacoma.

Larry “Lefty” Powell with the Tacoma Tigers, 1938 (Courtesy of the Marc Blau collection).

The 1938 Tacoma Tigers’ pitching staff led the Western International League in fewest runs allowed with a 4.09 per game average. However, the Tigers trailed all teams in both offense and fielding and finished last in the six-team standings. Powell’s second professional season saw him post another winning record at 14-10. In 224 innings, Lefty struck out 230 batters and walked only 86 and was stingy in allowing opponents to score. His earned run average was just 2.77. Towards the end of the season, Powell strung together six consecutive victories.[15]

San Francisco Seals, 1939
Powell’s 1938 season success earned him ascension to the Seals in 1939. On January 8, the lefty signed his contract and was slated to report to spring training.[16] There was excitement about the Seals’ strong pitching staff, which was set to be bolstered by young arms including that of “Lefty” Powell. “Powell is destined to be one of the really great pitchers in baseball,” Seals manager O’Doul told Prescott Sullivan. “He has a fine curve ball, a baffling screw ball, an adequate fast one and an understanding of pitching technique that is astonishing in a kid of his limited experience.” O’Doul astonishingly compared his young lefty to one of the best in the major leagues. “His control, right now, isn’t the best, but it will improve. When he gets that, he’ll be another Carl Hubbell. Mark my words,” O’Doul insisted.[17]

Lefty Powell was sold to the Red Sox as part of a $100,000 package deal along with Seals teammate, Dom DiMaggio (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Powell’s 1939 winning percentage was .522 or a game above .500. Looking solely at his 12-11 won-lost record, it would seem that his move to the Coast League was not that successful. However, his 2.79 ERA in 184 innings might have indicated a lack of run support more than pitching ineffectiveness. At the season’s outset, O’Doul predicted that he could easily win 20 games and mature into “one of the league’s best drawing cards.[18]

The Seals finished 4.5 games behind the Coast League champions that season. Powell’s teammate, Dom DiMaggio, the youngest of the famed baseball brothers, finished the season atop four of the league’s offensive categories: hits (249), triples (18), stolen bases (39) and runs scored (165). Major league clubs took notice of the young centerfielder, which led to the Seals selling their star to the Boston Red Sox on November 3. It was not enough to simply take the outfielder as the Boston brain trust of owner Tom Yawkey and general manager Eddie Collins also wanted the rising star pitcher and purchased the pair in a package deal for an unheard of sub-$100,000 price tag (reported to be in excess of $70,000[19]). Recognizing Powell’s need for continued development, Red Sox management promptly optioned Powell back to San Francisco for the 1940 season.[20]

1940
Powell’s second season with the Seals was not as successful despite his equaling his 1939 12-win total against fewer (7) losses. Powell appeared in seven fewer contests (23) and made three less starts (21). His ERA climbed by nearly a full run to 3.57. For Powell, 1940 was a step in the wrong direction. “The highly touted left hander, who has already been sold for 1941 delivery to the big leagues, has been a distinct flop,” wrote the Oakland Tribune’s Lee Dunbar. “It is true Powell has won more than he lost but has not been at all impressive in his games. The kid looked like a great pitching prospect last year but this season has demonstrated little of the ability that made him a standout 12 months ago.” Dunbar concluded.[21] “Lefty” was having some control problems in the early goings of the season.

Seals trainer, Bobby Johnson, works on Lefty Powell’s pitching arm (The Fresno Bee, 3/13/1938)

By late May, Powell was among the Pacific Coast League’s leading pitchers with a 7-1 won-lost record, but sportswriters continued to observe his diminished brilliance from 1939. “Larry Powell’s defections are more mental than physical, amateur analysts contend,” Abe Kemp wrote. “They argue that the focal point of his trouble lies in his mind and not in his left arm, or left shoulder, as is popularly supposed.”[22] Despite speculations, it was becoming clear that Powell was struggling with a physical issue. Through eight innings in a June 15 game against Los Angeles, Powell, having held the Angels to one hit, was lifted by O’Doul due to arm pain. [23] As the summer continued, the pitcher showed signs of recovering from his ailment. Under the watchful eyes of the visiting Director of Minor League Operations, Herb Pennock, the Seals continued to send the hurler to the mound for scheduled starts in early July. While he notched a win in one game, he was shelled in another.

On July 16, Powell was shut down by Dr. Floyd St. Clair, who stated that he could return in ten days. The doctor explained that “muscles in Powell’s left shoulder were sore but would respond to treatment.”[24] The physician’s comments, by contemporary standards of sports medicine, demonstrated the risks that pitchers faced. “Powell has one of the finest arms that I have ever examined,” Dr. St. Clair boasted to Seals trainer Robert Johnson. “It is an arm that any young man should be proud of.” Unfortunately for Powell, the Seals and the Red Sox, the injury was likely to be considerably more serious and a few days’ rest could not possibly heal the hidden structural damage. “The boy has a sore spot in his left shoulder, but it is nothing alarming,” St. Clair insisted. “Time and rest will restore his arm to normal.”[25]

Lefty Powell (The San Francisco Examiner 5/30/1939)

Sportswriters were not convinced of the doctor’s prognosis nor the pitcher’s prospects of remaining on the Seals’ staff. Art Cohn of the Oakland Tribune suggested that Powell was lost for the season, quoting then baseball historian Bob Hunter of the Los Angeles Examiner, “Stupid handling of Powell as a starting pitcher for the past few weeks hasn’t helped his condition, morale or the Seals,” and then chided the Seals manager, “Are ya listening, Mr. O’Doul?”[26] Cohn’s criticism of O’Doul was just the beginning. Curly Grieve of the San Francisco Examiner rang the alarm bell for Boston to get their star pitcher out of San Francisco In a scathing column on July 28.[27]

Calling Powell’s situation one of the “minor tragedies of the current baseball season,” Curly Grieve meted out blame for Powell’s arm troubles to all involved. Almost excusing Powell’s concealing of his pain due to his fears of accusations of shirking his duties and his status as the property of a major league club, Powell pitched through the pain early in the season. By the time that it became obvious to all concerned that there was a problem, he finally conceded to the team that “something gave way” during a series with the Hollywood Stars. However, Grieve then addressed the failure of medical personnel in what he labeled “another series of semi-tragic incidents.” Citing an early diagnosis from Dr. St. Clair, “There’s nothing wrong with that wing that pitching won’t cure,” Grieve then took aim at the Seals’ management for sending Powell out to the mound repeatedly, referring to the diagnosis as an indictment of Powell, asserting that he was then judged as a “quitter, a bellyacher, a traitor to his club.”[28]

Onward Powell pitched and had some success; however, his health continued to deteriorate as the season progressed. “He lost weight, his health was obviously affected,” Grieve noted. “He broke down completely two weeks ago yesterday. Starting against Seattle, he hurled one and one third innings. By that time, it was evident he had nothing at all on the ball and he was removed.” The psychological impact was exacting a toll upon the pitcher. “On the bench, he wept unashamedly. Tears coursed down his face. He was so distressed that Manager O’Doul had to escort him to the clubhouse and console him.”[29] It was during his second visit to Dr. St. Clair on July 16 that other health issues were observed during Powell’s examination. “It was discovered that two teeth were infected, that the left shoulder muscle was sore.” Powell’s teeth were extracted and he developed a fever. He was subsequently hospitalized as his body was fighting an infection. An abscess in his throat was discovered and it required surgical attention.[30]

Dr. St. Clair’s outlook that “Powell’s arm will give him no more trouble. He’ll be able to take his turn on the mound within fifteen days,” raised even greater concern for Curley Grieve. “Personally, I think it will take him a month to recover from the shock of treatment, build up his health, recover his poise, get his arm into shape. But I’m no expert.” Grieve’s closing comments suggested that Powell’s career and Boston’s investment were doomed if the pitcher remained in San Francisco. “The whole affair has been bungled abominably so far,” the columnist wrote. “If I were Joe Cronin of the Red Sox, I’d call Powell to Boston to be sure that his arm is ready before he pitches. Proceed with caution. A kid’s whole future hangs in the balance.”[31]

Forty-three days after being shut down, Powell returned to the mound at San Diego’s Lane Field against the Padres. Powell went the distance in the 5-4 victory, surrendering seven hits while striking out four and walking none. It appeared that the injury and the mishandling of it were behind him, and the Red Sox announced that Powell was being recalled to Boston for the 1941 season. A glimmer of light began to return to the pitcher’s outlook as he beat the Hollywood Stars on September 1 for his twelfth and final win of the season.

Boston sportswriters were far from optimistic despite Powell’s apparent recovery. “Larry Powell, due for 1941 delivery to the Sox in the rest of the Dom DiMaggio deal,” Steve O’Leary of the North Adams (Massachusetts) Transcript reported, “has been under treatment with a sore arm for several weeks.”[32] By December, Powell was cleared for his call up to Boston. “Coast officials gave the Sox good reports today on Larry Powell,” The Boston Globe reported that the young pitcher would be reporting to Sarasota, Florida for Red Sox spring training.

1941, Boston Red Sox
The start of the new year signaled the beginning of contract-signing season. As general managers prepare for spring training, contracts are mailed to players with the terms and compensation for the coming season. It is also the time when players, seeking better terms than being offered by their clubs, hold out rather than simply agree and sign. The Pacific Coast League’s reputation for better compensation than typical first-year major league salaries meant that players like Powell were taking sizeable pay cuts to play at the higher level.

At home in Reedley, California, Powell responded to Fresno Bee beat reporter Ed Orman’s inquiry about the status of his contract. “I had it with me for about a week,” Powell told Orman, “I thought it over, and then just mailed it back last Friday, the pitcher continued. “It seems to be the privilege or rather custom of ball players to fire back contracts they receive when first going to the big leagues.” Powell declined to sign the Red Sox’s contract, “If they get you down in salary, they are likely to keep you there. Maybe they will think more of sending it back. I hope so. Though I do not anticipate any trouble,” Powell stated with confidence.[33] A brief time later, Powell signed with the Red Sox [34] and was ready to report for spring training.

Powell’s prospects with the Red Sox, in all appearances, seemed to be bright. “I know Larry Powell,” Red Sox star Dom DiMaggio told the Boston Globe, speaking about the class of incoming rookies, “They’re all liable to make the grade this spring. Boy, they are all pretty good,” DiMaggio asserted. “I’m only glad these boys are on my team and not against me.”[35]

At camp, “Lefty” Powell, along with other rookie pitchers, began to work with future Hall of Famer, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove in the development of pitching mechanics and strategy.[36] In Boston’s first contest of the spring, an intrasquad game on March 6, Powell hurled the first three innings, surrendering two runs on two hits and a pair of walks. Melville Webb commented, “Possibly the most encouraging feature from the standpoint of the boxwork [pitching] was that left-hander Larry Powell, from the Coast, started away by pitching nine balls off the plate and then settled down to look mighty good.”[37] In another intrasquad game, Powell used his curve and screwball to strike out three, including catching Jimmie Foxx and Tom Carey looking. “Powell looked better than previously, showing a fine curve ball and a ‘screw ball’ pitch over which he had excellent control,” Melville Webb wrote on March 13.[38]

Reports from Red Sox spring training began have a less favorable tone regarding Powell’s efforts. In a March 17 game against the International League’s Newark Bears, Powell pitched the first three innings, surrendering six hits, walking two and fanning five. Melville Web noted that Powell had “good control but not much on the ball.”[39] Newark batters feasted on Powell, plating three of their runs in the first inning, though the Sox prevailed, 6-4. The performance against the Bears showed that he needed more work, or perhaps he was hampered by his shoulder injury. Regardless of the reason, 24-year-old Powell would not be part of the Red Sox opening day roster. He was optioned to the Louisville Colonels of the class “AA” American Association on March 22.[40]

Louisville Colonels
Powell’s struggles continued in Kentucky. By the end of April, his pitching accounted for two wins, but his control problems were showing as he had amassed 17 walks. The club was counting on Powell returning to 1939 form; however, it was not materializing with the Colonels. In his second consecutive victory, he issued nine free passes to Minneapolis Miller batters. His walks-per-game ratio was hovering near 7.5, though Louisville management was convinced he would help the club to a championship.[41]

By mid-May, Powell had lost his starting role and was pitching in relief. In a May 15 game against the Indianapolis Indians, the left-hander entered the game in the fifth inning after starter Bill Sayles was touched for runs in each inning to give the opponent a 6-0 lead. Powell stopped the bleeding, allowing three hits and one run in the 7-2 loss.[42] Four days later, the Colonels cut their losses and dropped Powell from their roster.[43]  He was sent down to class “A” Scranton of the Eastern League on May 19, but he refused to report and was returned to Boston. The Red Sox sent the pitcher back to the West Coast, optioning the former Seal to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League on May 25.[44] The Oroville Mercury Register’s Bill Dolan called Powell’s demotion, “the number one Coast League let down” for former league pitchers in the major leagues.[45]

San Diego Padres
With his major league hopes on hold, Larry Powell signed with the Padres, only to receive his Selective Service draft notice a few weeks later. The pitcher was ordered to report to local draft board 124 on May 24 for his pre-induction physical examination.[46] San Diego seemed to be what the doctor ordered for turning his pitching fortunes around as Powell was showing flashes of his 1939 season. He was 2-0, having appeared in five games for the Padres with three complete games. On July 8, Powell received a call up that he was expecting but not anticipating. Instead of taking the hill for the Red Sox, the pitcher was added to the ranks of the U.S. Army on July 9.[47]

Also read:

Continue to Part II


[1] Slocum, Charles, “ETO Sweeps Series By Defeating MTO in 3rd Game, 13-3,” The Stars and Stripes, September 27, 1945: p7.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “E. T. O. Baseball Champs To Play Mediterranean,” The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), September 14, 1945: p26.

[4] “Third Army Baseball Championship” scorecard (http://bit.ly/3hxPOA9), Chevrons and Diamonds (accessed November 13, 2022).

[5] “Championship Baseball – Third Army vs Seventh Army” scorecard (http://bit.ly/3EtzU2N), Chevrons and Diamonds (accessed November 13, 2022).

[6] “1940s Herb Bremer World War II Third Army Game Used Flannel Baseball Jersey & Period Style Pants: Lot 318 (https://goldinauctions.com/1940s_herb_bremer_world_war_ii_third_army_game_use-lot28705.aspx),” Goldin Auctions (accessed November 13, 2022).

[7] Myers, Meghann, “The 29th Infantry Division gets to keep its Confederacy-themed patch (https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2022/08/01/the-29th-infantry-division-gets-to-keep-its-confederacy-themed-patch),” Military Times, August 1, 2022 (accessed November 13, 2022).

[8] “Larry Powell Pitches Way to Sightseeing Tour,” The Tacoma News Tribune, April 23, 1938: p7.

[9] Orman, Ed, “S.F. Seals And Fresno Tigers Clash To-night,” The Fresno Bee – The Republican, August 17, 1936: p6.

[10] “14 Players Chosen For Tucson Baseball Team,” Tucson Daily Citizen, April 3, 1937: p4.

[11] Kemp, Abe, “Locals Make Good,” The San Francisco Examiner, August 6, 1937: p23.

[12] Walton, Dan, “Sportologue,” The Tacoma News Tribune, November 19, 1937: p16.

[13] Newland, Russ, “Seal Squad In Running,” The Tacoma News Tribune, February 18, 1936: p14.

[14] Orman, Ed W., “Sport Thinks: Praise For Powell,” The Fresno Bee – The Republican, March 10, 1938: p16.

[15] “Tigers Defeat Vancouver For Fifth Straight Win,” The Tacoma News Tribune, September 13, 1938: p12.

[16] “Contract Signed by Larry Powell,” The Tacoma Times, January 8, 1939: p10.

[17] Sullivan, Prescott, “Low Down,” The San Francisco Examiner, May 11, 1939: p27.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Kemp, Abe, “Putnam’s Ballyhoo Missed in Baseball Deal,” The San Francisco Examiner, December 26, 1939: p20

[20] Dom DiMaggio Bought By Sox in Seals’ Deal,” The Boston Globe, November 13, 1939: p6.

[21] Dunbar, Lee, “The Bull Pen,” Oakland Tribune, April 28, 1940: pA11.

[22] Kemp, Abe, “On The Nose,” The San Francisco Examiner, June 9, 1940: p54.

[23] “Angels Outlast San Francisco, 5-4, The Pasadena Post, June 16, 1940: p18.

[24] Kemp, Abe,” Doctor Tells Larry Powell He’ll Be Ready in 10 Days,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 17, 1941: p15.

[25] Kemp, Abe, “On The Nose,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 18, 1940: p26.

[26] Cohn, Art, “Cohn-ing Tower,” Oakland Tribune, July 19, 1940: p27.

[27] Grieve, Curly, “Sports Parade,” The San Francisco Examiner, July 28, 1940: p43.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] O’Leary, “New England Sports,” The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, MA), August 13, 1941: p11.

[33] Orman, Ed, “Sport Thinks, The Fresno Bee The Republican, January 29, 1941: p12.

[34] “Sport Chatter,” Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, MA), February 5, 1941: p11.

[35] “Dom DiMaggio Here for Dinner,” The Boston Globe, January 29, 1941: p19.

[36] “Pitchers! Pitchers! Pitchers!.” The Boston Globe, March 1, 1941: p6.

[37] Webb, Melville, “Red Sox Warm Up With Win Over Their Yannigans, 5 to 3,” The Boston Globe, March 7, 1941: p26.

[38] Webb, Melville, “Sox Given Chance to Develop Flair,” The Boston Globe, March 13, 1941: p20.

[39] Webb, Melville, “Butland Fans Five as Sox Win, 6-4,” The Boston Globe, March 18, 1941: p20.

[40] Fitzgerald, Tommy, “Bosox Option Pair, Third Man Bought,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), March 23, 1941: p46.

[41] Associated Press, “Colonels Expect Lots From Powell,” Muncie Evening Press (Muncie, IN), April 26, 1941: p8.

[42] “Indians Blast Colonels,” The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana), May 16, 1941: p13.

[43] “Larry Powell Dropped From Roster of Colonels,” The Owensboro Messenger (Owensboro, KY), May 21, 1941: p6.

[44] Orman, Ed, “Sport Thinks,” The Fresno Bee The Republican, June 3, 1941: p20.

[45] Dolan, Bill, “Errors Lose 11-9 Game for Oroville,” Mercury Register (Oroville, CA), July 11, 1941: p2.

[46] “Coast Hurler to Army,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) June 22, 1941: p15

[47] Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946, National Archives AAD (accessed November 20, 2022).

Wartime Baseball on Paper: Servicemen’s World Series Programs and Scorecards

For more than a century, the change of the calendar from September to October has truly signaled the actual arrival of autumn for baseball fans across North America, despite the autumnal equinox occurring more than a week earlier. The World Series looms large over the hearts and minds of fans from coast to coast. The marathon 162-game season race has been run, and as they approach the finish line, the leaders are clearly visible.

“By far, the best moment of my big league career was when I caught the last out at the World Series.”

– Cal Ripken, Jr.

October has historically been the month of the year when heroes of the game have been made. Legends are born during the championship games with stellar on-field performances. Dreams of hitting the game-winning or series-clinching home run or striking out the last batter for the final out exist in the minds of thousands of youths throughout their childhood and remain an unspoken desire for those who transition to a professional baseball career. In recent major league baseball seasons, November has become the month of post-season diamond feats as the expanded playoffs extended play beyond October.

“You never forget the feeling of not getting to the World Series. Yes, it sticks with you.”

– Ryne Sandberg

The World Series has always held the attention of baseball fans whether they have a cheering stake in the game or not. Seeing the two best teams facing each other and wondering who among the most unlikely players will rise to the enormity of the occasion and etch their names in the lore of the Fall Classic with a clutch hit or overcoming a pressure-packed situation by striking out the league’s best slugger with the bases loaded hold even the most casual of baseball fans’ attention. For fans, remembering these moments and engaging in discussion about which of them is the greatest always leads to debate. However, for some, it is not enough to savor them just in memory.

“The best possible thing in baseball is winning the World Series. The second-best thing is losing the World Series.”

– Tommy Lasorda

A trip to the Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York is an eye-opening experience for any visitor. For those enamored with the game’s artifacts, a visit can awaken desires to collect game treasures and catapult them into the lifelong and expensive pursuit of building a collection.

Collecting World Series artifacts is cost-prohibitive for average baseball fans. Some of the most expensive objects stem from the participants in the games in the form of uniforms, equipment, and championship awards such as trophies, pendants and rings which can carry price tags of five, six or even seven digits. There are more reasonable items from these games that are within reach of collectors with less available discretionary financial resources.

Baseball programs represent a lower-cost investment alternative to the typical vintage sports collectible. “In many cases, programs cost far less than a trading card of a popular player from the same year,” wrote Sal Barry, “and can give you more enjoyment.[1]

Harry Chadwick is noted as the man who conceived a system of scorekeeping in the 1860s that paved the way for tracking player performance statistics.[2] His system of notation[3] has stood the test of time and provides sportswriters, team managers and fans with the ability to measure player and team performance. It was not until entrepreneur Harry M. Stevens attended a Columbus (Ohio) Senators baseball game in 1887 that one of the best baseball collectibles was born. Though scorecards were already in use throughout baseball at the time, Stevens recognized a financial opportunity for baseball team owners to sell advertising space on the cards. Stevens’ idea was to purchase the rights from the team to sell the scorecards for the games. For the sum of $500, Stevens struck a deal and set out to sell the advertising space and to get the cards printed. After selling his first block of advertising, Stevens had a 140-percent return on his investment before printing or selling a single scorecard. Stevens began expanding his service to other ballparks around the country.[4] He is responsible for what became one of the most figuratively and literally colorful pieces of baseball history and one of the most affordable and available collectibles.

Though not a typical mainstream collectible, baseball scorecards along with game programs have their own niche among collectors. Contemporary scorecards are printed in a more generic fashion as rosters are far too fluid throughout the season. Printing costs and the waste associated with changing rosters are not fiscally sound. The more generic-oriented cards are more challenging to pinpoint to a specific game if left unscored. However, vintage pieces such as from the 1940s tend to be more easily pinpointed to a specific week of the season, depending on the team that produced the scorecard. World Series pieces, however, are far more desirable due to the nature of the games’ importance, historic nature, and roster specificity.[5]

In addition to condition, there are many factors that can impact or drive the collector value of a World Series scorecard including the age, the specific game, outcome, teams involved, and player heroics as well as if the piece is scored. Many World Series scorecards are easily fetching 4-digit values on the collector market, inching several of these items out of reach for everyday collectors. Depending upon the historical magnitude of the game, collector demand increases, driving the values skyward. For example, “a scorecard of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series on October 8, 1956, is worth more than most other programs,” Jeff Figler wrote in 2018. “The same would hold true with the program of Jackie Robinson’s debut on April 15, 1947.[6]

Another niche area of scorecard collecting exists in the realm of military or service team baseball. With the flow of the game’s top-tier, youthful talent into the armed forces and onto service baseball teams, scorecards from these games are quite collectible. Unlike major league games where thousands of cards were produced, the smaller venues and one-off games saw far smaller numbers printed, which leads to greater scarcity.

Wartime baseball in Hawaii was an incredible morale boost for troops stationed on the islands or convalescing from combat wounds sustained in the Pacific Theater. Servicemen fill the stands and cover the roofs of adjacent builds at Furlong Field to watch the mighty 7th AAF (dark uniforms) in action (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Wartime service game scorecards have created a considerable increase in interest in the last few years that is likely attributable to their affordability combined with the presence of Hall of Fame players including Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Stan Musial, and Billy Herman, who all served and played on service teams during the war. By 1944, the largest assemblage of the game’s stars was serving in the Hawaiian Islands and playing for teams such as the Aiea Naval Hospital “Hilltoppers,” Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins,” Aiea Naval Receiving Barracks “Maroons,” Naval Air Station (NAS) Kaneohe Bay “Klippers,” and the 7th Army Air Force “Flyers.” The major leagues were populated with players beyond their prime, others who were brought up the big leagues before gaining the necessary experience and those who were deemed unfit for military service, resulting in a diminished quality of play on the field; but the island of Oahu was the epicenter for baseball star power.

For those attending wartime games on the islands, preprinted scorecards were available. While these pieces tend to be extremely scarce, collector interest is relatively weak due to the lack of knowledge of the leagues, games, teams, and the players on the rosters. However, there were important games that drew substantial crowds due to the caliber of the players on the rosters and the historic nature of the contests themselves.

For decades, Oahu was a hotbed for baseball with several leagues that included civilian and military clubs operating before the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1942, some former professional players who were serving began to trickle onto the island and onto their respective units’ baseball teams. The following year saw a greater increase leading to one club, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins, dominating other service teams and civilian clubs in the various leagues. By 1944, the Army responded in kind and emptied their West Coast bases of talent to build a super club to take the fight to the Navy with the 7th Army Air Force team based at Hickam Field. With major league talent including Mike McCormick, Walt Judnich, Dario Lodigiani, John “Long Tom” Winsett, Joe Gordon, Red Ruffing and Joe DiMaggio, the club was a force to be reckoned with. In addition to the major league stars, the 7th’s minor leaguers truly propelled the Flyers to the top of the standings. Former San Francisco Seals first baseman Ferris Fain led the field, claiming a league batting crown. Former Seal hurler Al Lien was a dominant force on the mound, with future Yankee backstop Charlie Silvera handling the pitchers from behind the plate.

Unlike the Army, who amassed its talent on the 7th AAF squad, the Navy had their share of stars spread throughout multiple bases. Walt Masterson, Jimmy Gleeson, Al Brancato, Joe Grace, Bob Harris, Rankin Johnson, and Mo Mozzali led the Pearl Harbor Sub Base. Johnny Lucadello, Barney McCosky, and Eddie Pellagrini were at Aiea Receiving Barracks. Tom Ferrick, Johnny Mize, Hugh Casey, and Wes Schulmerich were stationed at NAS Kaneohe; and Vern Olsen, George Dickey, and Pee Wee Reese were at the Aiea Naval Hospital.

By the end of regular season play, the 7th captured the championship hardware, with the already-planned inter-service All-Stars championship looming for September and October. It was billed as the Servicemen’s World Series, a seven-game contest that pitted baseball stars from the Army against those of the Navy and was played solely at military facilities for the benefit of service personnel. Planning for the series began late in the summer and speculation began to swirl about prospective players being dispatched to the islands for the series. Three major league stars serving elsewhere in the Navy – Dom DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto, both in Melbourne, Australia and Bob Feller, who was serving aboard the battleship USS Alabama – were the favorite contenders for the Series discussed in the local papers. However, by mid-September, only Rizzuto and DiMaggio were en route to Oahu. The operational necessities of the USS Alabama kept Feller out of contention for the Navy team.[7]

The best-of-seven series was set to commence on September 22 at the Navy’s home, Furlong Field, at Pearl Harbor (for Games 1, 5 and 7) and would extend into October with games hosted at Hickam Field (Games 2 and 6), Redlander Field at the Schofield Barracks (Game 3), and Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay (Game 4) to ensure that service personnel throughout the island had opportunities to experience the excitement in person. Prior to the opening game, all the fields underwent some form of expanded seating construction to increase capacity for the expected crowds.

Meeting of the managers ahead of the start of the Servicemen’s World Series at Furlong Field. Navy’s skipper Bill Dickey poses with John “Long Tom” Winsett near the backstop. This photo was signed by Dickey (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Riding the wave of the 7th AAF’s regular season success in defeating the Oahu Navy clubs, Army leadership built their All-Star roster around 17 players drawn from the Flyers. The remainder of the club consisted of players pulled from other area Army commands including the Schofield Barracks. The Navy, however, pulled out all the stops in loading their lineup. With the arrival of Rizzuto and DiMaggio from Australia, the already stacked Navy All-Stars featured a lengthy list of nearly 40 former major and minor leaguers and semi-pros, outnumbering the Army by 11 players.

Recognizing the need to unify their personnel, the Navy played two warmup games, including an intra-squad tilt, leading up to the opening game of the Series. With three future Hall of Fame enshrinees filling positions on the Navy’s opening day starting lineup, the Navy was hoping to turn the tables on the Army’s dominance. Recognizing the comparatively lopsided Navy advantage, local sportswriters favored the Navy to take the series. “Today is the day of the opening of the Service World Series out at Furlong Field,” Red McQueen wrote in The Honolulu Advertiser. “If for no other reason than to stick out the ol’ neck so that some Army boys can chop it off, we’re going out on the proverbial limb with a call on the outcome of the classic,” McQueen continued. “The Navy in six or less games is our guess. Pitching is 80 to 90 percent of the battle and the Tars have it.”[8]

Further contributing to the Navy’s edge was the absence of one of the Army’s and the game’s greatest stars. Staff Sergeant Joe DiMaggio spent the better part of the 1944 season dealing with ulcers, which limited his availability for the 7th AAF. With the continuation of his health issues, the Yankee Clipper was wholly unavailable for the Servicemen’s World Series.[9]

Game 1 of the Servicemen’s World Series is in the books as the Navy defeated Army, 5-0 (Courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.).

Navy All-Stars:

Rate/Rank#PlayerPositionFormer
12Jim AdairPSemi-Pro
SM3/c26Arnie “Red” AndersonPChattanooga (SOUA)
TM2/c10Norman Gene “Pee Wee” AtkinsonCSemi-Pro
9John “Johnny” BerryRFU of Oregon/Semi-Pro
EM2/c4Tom BishopSSSemi-Pro
SK2/c17Albert (Al) Brancato3BAthletics
16Jim CarlinLFPhillies
Sp(A)1/c27Hugh CaseyPDodgers
LT28Bill DickeyMgr.Yankees
Sp(A) 1/c15George “Skeets” DickeyCWhite Sox
CSp(A)11Dom DiMaggioCFRed Sox
31Gordon EvansLFCharleston (MATL)
Hank FeimsterPDanville-Schoolfield (BIST)
Sp(A) 1/c18Marvin FeldermanCCubs
Sp(A) 1/c31Tom FerrickPIndians
Sp(A) 1/c28Joseph “Joe” GraceRFBrowns
Sp(A) 2/c29Jack HallettPPirates
Sp1/c24Robert A. “Bob” HarrisPAthletics
PhM3/c20John “Hubie” Jeandron2BPort Arthur (EVAN)
YN1/c23A. Rankin JohnsonPAthletics
6Dave LieboldBat Boy
CSp (A)5Johnny Lucadello2BBrowns
CsP(A)26Walt MastersonPSenators
Sp(A) 1/c3Barney McCoskyCFTigers
Sp(A) 2/c32Johnny Mize1BGiants
TM1/c13Maurice “Mo” MozzaliCFSemi-Pro
Sp(A) 1/c30Vern OlsenPCubs
21Sal Recca3BNorfolk (PIED)
CSp (A)34Harold “Pee Wee” ReeseSSDodgers
CSp (A)2Phil RizzutoSSYankees
26Lynwood “Schoolboy” RowePTigers
LT30Wes SchulmerichAsst. Mgr.Twin Falls (PION)
14Ken “Ziggy” SearsCYankees
CEM19Oscar SessionsP
29Eddie Shokes1BSyracuse (AA)
1Vincent SmithCPirates
22Virgil TrucksPTigers
S1/c27Johnny Vander MeerPReds

Army All-Stars:

Rank#PlayerFormer
Rank#PlayerFormer
Corp.13Renaldo “Rugger” ArdizoiaKansas City (AA)
Corp.10James AshworthHelena (CSTL)
Lt.16John “Johnny” BeazleyCardinals
Lt. Col30Joseph D. “Joe” ClarkeSemi-Pro
  Bill DeCarloMinneapolis (AA)
Corp.27Carl DeRoseAmsterdam (CAML)
Cpl.1Bob DillingerToledo (AA)
S/Sgt.4Joe DiMaggioYankees
11Hank EdwardsIndians
19Eddie ErauttHollywood (PCL)
S/Sgt.7Ferris FainSan Francisco (PCL)
Sgt.18Edward FunkFederalsburg (ESHL)
15Sid GautreauxMemphis (SOUA)
Vincent GenegrassoSemi-Pro
Pvt.28Hal HairstonHomestead Grays
Sgt.3Walter “Wally” JudnichBrowns
Corp.22Cornel George “Kearny” KohlmeyerTyler (ETXL)
12Don LangKansas City (AA)
Pfc.9Will LeonardOakland (PCL)
Pfc.25Al LienSan Francisco (PCL)
Sgt.2Dario LodigianiWhite Sox
Corp.5Myron “Mike” McCormickReds
23Dick MolbergSemi-Pro
21Don SchmidtSemi-Pro
Corp.24William “Bill” SchmidtSacramento (PCL)
SSGT29John Shumbres
Corp.8Charlie SilveraWellsville (PONY)
1st Lt.20Tom WinsettDodgers
Note: Due to health issues, Joe DiMaggio was not available for any of the Servicemen’s World Series games.
Admiral Chester Nimitz throws out the first ball of the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series at Furlong Field, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 1
Shortly after 8:00 a.m., servicemen began arriving at the Furlong Field gates more than six hours before the 2:30 p.m. game time[10] in eager anticipation for the start of the Series. With all games set to be played on area military installations, the games were Inaccessible to the civilian population; however, Honolulu radio station KGMB was on site to broadcast the game and the entire Series, with rebroadcasts set for distribution to the Armed Forces Radio Service throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations.[11]

Army bats were silenced from the first pitch through the top of the ninth, stymied by Navy hurler Virgil “Fire” Trucks. Though Trucks pitched a four-hit shutout, the Army managed to reach base seven times. In addition to solid Navy fielding stranding five of the opposition’s runners, Trucks fanned six, winning the opening game, 5-0. The Tars touched Don Schmidt for 10 singles while Trucks helped his own cause with a pair of hits, one of them pushing a run across the plate.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 2
Shifting venues to the more friendly surroundings of Flood Field at Hickam Army Air Field, the Army sought to even the Series, sending former San Francisco Seal Al Lien to the mound. The Navy countered with Johnny “Double-No-Hit” Vander Meer for the second game. The two clubs matched run for run in the first and fifth innings, leaving the score knotted at two heading into the eighth. Vander Meer held the Army scoreless after the Navy plated the go ahead run in the top of the eighth inning, leaving the Navy with a 3-2 advantage. In the top of the ninth, Dom DiMaggio walked with one out followed by a Reese single and was plated on a rocketed comeback through the box off the bat of Vinnie Smith that Lien deflected. As Gordon fielded the ball, DiMaggio sped around and scored while Smith reached first safely. With two on and one out, Lien was lifted for reliever Eddie Funk, but the Navy bats were still hot.

Manager Bill Dickey sent Ken Sears to bat in Vander Meer’s spot. After Sears flied out, Rizzuto walked. Joe Grace came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and promptly dispatched a souvenir to the fans beyond the right field fence for a grand slam. Funk coaxed McCosky to foul out to the catcher to end the inning, but the damage was done. Navy manager Lieutenant Bill Dickey sent Hugh Casey in to lock down the 8-2 victory and put the Navy up two games to none.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 3
After taking Sunday, September 24, off, the teams traveled to the Schofield Barracks to face off at Redlander Field. Don Schmidt hoped to silence the Navy’s guns as he took the mound for the Army in the third game, opposed by Tom Ferrick. After setting down Rizzuto, who struck out looking, any confidence Schmidt may have felt soon vanished with Joe Grace’s one-out double. McCosky singled to right field and Grace scored from second. McCosky scored another run on Mize’s single to center before Schmidt got the final two outs of the frame.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Army cut the lead in half on a Judnich home run. Heading to the top of the fourth, the Army saw an unfamiliar sight on the scoreboard, a 3-2 lead. The Army had pulled ahead after two outs in the bottom of the third. Dillinger singled to left field and swiped second base. Mike McCormick singled and drove Dillinger across the plate to tie the game. Edwards reached first on a Lucadello error. McCormick scored on Judnich’s single, leaving the Navy down by a run. The Army’s lead was short-lived due to a series of Army miscues.

Lucadello grounded to third but reached first as first baseman Fain dropped Lodigiani’s throw. Catcher Sid Gautreaux let one of Schmidt’s pitches get by him, allowing Lucadello to advance to second. After DiMaggio whiffed for the first out and Reese walked, Vinnie Smith singled to left field to drive Lucadello home, tying the game, 3-3.

The score remained knotted until the top of the twelfth. With Schmidt still in for the Army, Ken Sears broke the tie with a 360-foot bomb to right field with one out. In the bottom of the frame, Navy reliever Casey, back on the hill for his third inning, looked to be in trouble after Fain singled off second baseman Lucadello’s glove. Casey hunkered down to get Gordon out swinging for the first out. Lodigiani hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing Fain out at second. Pinch hitter Don Lang grounded to short, giving the Navy a 4-3 victory and a three-game lead.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 4
The Navy juggernaut was seemingly unstoppable as the Series shifted 20 miles northeast of Pearl Harbor to Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station for the fourth game. The Navy was set on putting the series to bed, though discussions were already underway to play the full seven games for the benefit of the serviceman spectators. The Navy went back to the pitching well to bring Game 1 starter Virgil Trucks to the mound in hopes of a repeat performance. Winsett pinned the Army’s hopes upon Johnny Beazley to keep the Navy off the base paths.

Kaneohe Bay’s ball field was engulfed by more than 10,000 sailors as Trucks took the mound and set down the first three in order, fanning one. In the bottom of the opening frame, Beazley did not have the same luck. Rizzuto hit the Army pitcher for a leadoff single, but Grace seemed to swing the momentum in Beazley’s favor by grounding into a double play. McCosky walked on four straight and reached second on wild pitch. With two down and a runner in scoring position, Beazley pitched to slugger Johnny Mize, who took him deep to straight away center field for a two-run shot.

Leading 4-0 after four innings, Navy loaded the bases with no outs. Beazley was lifted for Eddie Erautt, who walked DiMaggio and Reese to force in two runs. Smith singled and drove in another pair before Trucks struck out and Rizzuto grounded into a double play to end the carnage. Navy was ahead, 8-0, and well on its way to securing the series-clinching game. Trucks had a comfortable lead and was dominating Army hitters, allowing just four hits and on his way to another shutout victory.

Dom DiMaggio connects. Furlong Field, 1944 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Not ready to lay down their arms, Army bats came to life in the top of the sixth. Leading off, Judnich singled to right field. The league batting champion, Fain, strode to the plate and drove Trucks’ offering 340 feet on a line shot over the right field wall. Joe Gordon followed Fain’s lead and powered a line drive over the left field wall and suddenly, the Army was back in the game. Trucks walked Lodigiani and uncorked a wild pitch to Army backstop Gautreaux allowing Dario to move to second. The big catcher was called out on strikes for the first out. Hitting for the pitcher Erautt, Don Lang whiffed for the second out and Trucks appeared to be working out his kinks. Bob Dillinger had other ideas and stroked a single to center field, scoring Lodigiani as the pressure on Trucks began to increase once again. McCormick worked the Navy pitcher for a free pass to load the bases with two outs, ending Trucks outing.

With “Schoolboy” Rowe taking over on the mound, Edwards singled and drove in Dillinger from second base. Rowe walked Judnich, filling the sacks with Army runners. With two outs and five runs already scored, Fain grounded to first for the final out, but the Army had narrowed the gap, trailing 8-5.

The Army manager sent former Homestead Grays hurler Hal Hairston to the mound to hold the Navy bats at bay and he promptly fanned Joe Grace to start the bottom of the sixth. McCosky grounded to short. Gordon mishandled the ball, rushed his throw to Fain at first and threw wide of the bag, allowing the runner to reach second. Mize singled next and drove in McCosky before Hairston worked out of the jam, but Navy now led 9-5.

Rowe set down the Army in order in the top of the seventh, but Hairston was unable to do the same in the bottom half. Reese led off with a single and Smith bunted him to second, then Rowe popped out to first. Rizzuto singled to score Reese, extending the Navy’s lead. In the last two frames, Judnich accounted for the Army’s last hit of the game as the Navy locked up their fourth straight win by a score of 10-5, and the Series crown.

With more than 56,000 service personnel attending the first four games, it was clear to leadership that the Servicemen’s World Series was a resounding success and a considerable morale boost to the troops stationed on Oahu. The decision was made to play the remaining three games on the schedule. Returning to the site of the opening game, Vander Meer was called upon to start for the Navy on Furlong Field’s mound for Game 5.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 5
Dickey began to change things with his lineup, insuring other players on the roster saw action in the Series. Rizzuto, who had been manning the hot corner throughout the first four games, was moved to second base, replacing Lucadello, and Al Brancato took over at third, making his initial appearance in the Series.

As Vander Meer continued his dominance over Army batters, the change in the lineup only seemed to improve Navy hitting. Lucadello’s 0-16 bat, now on the bench, was replaced by Brancato, who joined in the Tars’ hit parade. Navy batters touched Lien, Molberg, Hairston and Ardizoia for 12 runs on 10 hits while Vander Meer held Army bats to two runs on five hits. The Army’s defensive woes also continued into the fifth game as they tacked on three to the eleven errors committed over the first four games. The Furlong crowd of 16,000 saw yet another Navy win and the Army fans were left wondering if their boys were entirely outmatched with the 12-2 drubbing.

Pee Wee Reese during pre-game batting practice at Furlong Field, 1944 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).
(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 6
The Series made its return to Hickam’s Flood Field for Game 6 as Winsett sent Don Schmidt back to the mound for his second series start. Former Pittsburgh Pirate hurler Jack Hallett made his rubber-toeing debut for the Navy.

Rizzuto got things going for the Navy in the top of the first as Schmidt could not find the strike zone with his initial four pitches. Gautreaux neutralized the leadoff baserunner when he gunned down “Scooter” as he attempted to steal second. Schmidt walked the next batter but coaxed DiMaggio to whiff and Mize ended the inning with a fly out to center. In the bottom of the inning, the Army took the lead when Dillinger reached on a Pee Wee Reese error. After McCormick’s failed bunt attempt, Dillinger accomplished what Rizzuto could not, swiping second. Hallett walked Edwards and Judnich to load the bases before Fain plated Dillinger on a fielder’s choice. Hallett struck out Gordon to end the inning with the Army out to an early lead.

In the third inning, the Navy finally got to Schmidt for two runs after Rizzuto singled with two outs and then stole second. Joe Grace kept things going, working Schmidt for a free pass. DiMaggio cleared the bases with a drive to right center but was out at third attempting to stretch his double to a triple.

Trailing Navy 2-1 and with two outs in the bottom of the third, Ferris Fain singled off Pee Wee Reese’s glove. Catcher Sears let one of Hallett’s pitches get by, allowing Fain to take second base. Gordon came to the plate with Fain in scoring position and two down, working the count full against Hallett before smashing the next pitch into the left field stands to put Army back on top, 3-2.

From the left are George “Skeets” Dickey, Johnny Vander Meer, Pee Wee Reese, Joe Rose, Johnny Mize, Bill Dickey. Joe “JoJo” Rose, a naval officer turned civilian athletic director and announcer, was a star ballplayer in the 1930s for the Submarine Squadron Four championship team and had a brief trial with his hometown San Francisco Seals in 1932 (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

In the top of the fourth, left fielder Schoolboy Rowe lined a one-out double and was plated when Sears made amends for his third inning miscue by doubling to the right field corner. Brancato flied out to left field before Reese walked ahead of the pitcher’s spot in the order. Manager Bill Dickey called his own number to pinch hit for Hallett. With Reese and Sears on first and second, and perhaps intimidated by the legendary Yankee catcher at bat, Schmidt was called for a balk, moving the base runners up 90 feet. With both runners in scoring position, Schmidt coaxed Dickey into fouling to the third base side as Dillinger made the out to retire the side, leaving the score locked up at three runs each.

Masterson took over for Hallett, pitching one-hit ball through the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, Dickey sent Jim Carlin to pinch hit for Masterson and he promptly singled to lead off the inning. After Rizzuto flied out to Gordon, Gautreaux misplayed a Schmidt pitch, allowing Carlin to move to second. Joe Grace singled and Carlin raced around third and broke for home. The relay from Lodigiani to home went to the backstop as Carlin scored and Grace advanced to second. Schmidt limited the damage to one run by working out of the jam.

Trailing 4-3, the Army answered. Tom Ferrick replaced Masterson on the hill and Don Schmidt greeted the relief pitcher with a single. Bob Dillinger bunted, pushing Schmidt to second. McCormick joined the fray and crushed a triple to deep left center, plating Schmidt to tie the game, 4-4.

In the eighth, Rowe singled and was sacrificed to second by new catcher Vinnie Smith. After a Brancato pop fly to short for the second out, Reese grounded to short and Rowe was caught trying to advance to third. Instead of getting the sure out at first, Gordon tossed to Dillinger, but Rowe scampered back to second, beating the throw. Still with two outs, Ferrick lined a single to left center, allowing Rowe to score and Reese to move to third on the throw home. With runners at the corners, Rizzuto executed a perfect bunt base hit that scored Reese, putting the Navy ahead, 6-4.

This Tai Sing Loo photos captures some of the Navy players. From the left: unidentified, Al Brancato, Vern Olsen, Leo Visintainer, Bob Harris, Rankin Johnson (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

Army hitters managed a hit in each of the last two frames, but Ferrick and the Navy’s defense shut the Army down to extend their Series win streak to six.

Through the previous six games, the Navy held a 45-16 scoring advantage. Navy hurlers were stingy, allowing just 1.78 runs per game, proving Red McQueen’s pitching assessment and prediction to be correct. Meanwhile, their offense was relentless, averaging five runs per game. For the Army fans filing into the stands for Game 7, the outlook was bleak.

(Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Game 7
For the seventh and final game, the Series moved to Furlong Field on Sunday, October 1, for a third visit to the Navy’s premier ballpark on the Island. Trucks made his third start of the series and was opposed by Carl De Rose. In the top of the first, Trucks set down the Army in order. DeRose retired Rizzuto and Grace, walked DiMaggio, then coaxed Rowe to hit a slow roller in front of the plate and be thrown out by catcher DeCarlo.

In the second frame, Don Lang homered off Trucks to right center with two outs. In the bottom half, Brancato led off with a single. With Brancato breaking for second, Reese lined a single into right field that allowed the leadoff man to reach third. Shokes popped out to second base for the first out. Bill Dickey hit a sharp grounder to Dillinger, who promptly threw home to get Brancato at the plate. Dickey lifted himself for Vinnie Smith and Virgil Trucks came to the plate with runners at first and second and two down. The Navy pitcher doubled down the right field line, scoring Reese. Rizzuto followed with a foul out.

After Army was retired in order in the third, Dom DiMaggio hit a one-out single up the middle. The “Little Professor” swiped second before Rowe whiffed for the second out. Brancato sent a line drive to right field that drove in DiMaggio. DeRose walked Reese, pushing Brancato into scoring position. Shokes singled sharply up the middle, allowing Brancato to score and putting the Navy on top, 3-1. Army players and fans could not help but think, “here we go again,” as the Navy was once again pulling away.

Seen here with the 7th AAF in 1944, former San Francisco Seals 1B Ferris Fain developed into a major league all-star caliber player while serving and playing in the Army Air Forces in WWII. As a major leaguer Fain was a five-time all-star during his 1947-1955 career and captured consecutive American League batting crowns in 1950 and ’51 with the Athletics (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)

Trucks was unhittable in the fourth and fifth innings and DeRose only allowed one Navy hit in the fifth. In the top of the sixth, DeCarlo reached on a single to open the frame. With one out, Dillinger crushed a two-run bomb deep over the right field corner fence to even the game, 3-3. Trucks kept the Army hitless in the seventh and eighth innings while Bill Schmidt, who relieved DeRose after the sixth, allowed just two hits in the eighth.

The score was tied heading into the ninth. Gordon was set down on strikes by Trucks for the first out. Judnich worked the Navy pitcher for a walk before Fain strode to the plate. The Army first baseman and future American League batting champ promptly cracked the longest home run of the Series, sending a 390-foot bomb to the right center stands and putting his team ahead, 5-3.

Schmidt kept the Navy’s bats silenced for the bottom of the frame as Army players and fans had their moment to celebrate.

Batting stats for the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1944)

Navy first baseman Johnny Mize, former St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants slugger, led all batters in average for the seven-game series, hitting .450; however, Phil Rizzuto captured the top position in hits with 12. [12] The Navy’s 48-21 scoring advantage would lead one to assume that the sailors crushed Army pitching with a multitude of home runs. However, with a total of 10 four-sackers, it was the Army lumber that sent more balls over the fences, with Ferris Fain and Joe Gordon each hitting a pair followed by Dillinger, Judnich and Lang with one apiece. For the Navy, Grace, Sears, and Mize accounted for all three of the Navy’s long balls.[13]

Champions of the 1944 Servicemen’s World Series, the Navy All-Stars were likely the the best in all of baseball that year (courtesy of Mark Southerland).

The Series was a monumental success as more than 100,500 troops attended the seven games, boosting morale throughout the island. With barely a moment to celebrate the series victory, Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio departed Oahu immediately following the conclusion of Game 7. With plenty of service personnel stationed on other Hawaiian islands, plans were established in August by the military leadership to send two service All-Star squads for morale-boosting exhibition baseball to those islands. By late September, the decision was made to dispatch the Service World Series clubs to Maui, Hawaii and Kauai for Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel to enjoy high caliber baseball on the outer islands.[14]

Kuhului, Maui Baseball Park during wartime (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Three days after the seventh game, the two service All-Star teams packed up and flew to Maui for a two-game series, played at the Kahului Fairgrounds on October 4th and 5th. On October 6, the teams faced off at Hoolulu Park, Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Nine days later, the final game in the four-game exhibition was played at Kukuiolono Park, Kauai on October 15.

Though there are a total of eleven scorecards and programs from the autumn series throughout Hawaii, the Servicemen’s World Series was comprised of Games 1-7 and these are the corresponding ballpark ephemera (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Scorecards
While wartime service game scorecards are largely ignored by collectors, some of the game items do garner interest, with attention being given to the significant players present on the rosters. The Servicemen’s World Series pieces feature a handful of players who would later be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. One name that draws collector interest, Joe DiMaggio, is listed on all seven game programs and scorecards and yet he was on the mainland by September 2, having departed Hawaii indefinitely in late August.[15] Acquiring all seven game pieces is not for the impatient. In more than a dozen years, we have seen only 15-20 total pieces from the entire Oahu series.

There are several factors that contribute to the challenges of locating these game pieces. With each of the games at or near capacity attendance, for every person to have a scorecard would mean that an average of 14,000 pieces were printed per game. In reality, the number for each game was reasonably less than the audience capacity. These estimates, while inexact, are much more scientific than determining the number of surviving copies. In the eight decades that have elapsed since the Series, it is impossible to number the pieces based upon market observation.

Prior to the construction of concrete and steel stadiums beginning in the 1920s, ballparks often held less than 25,000 fans. Only some bought programs. Fewer saved them. Those who did may have passed them down, but others simply were discarded by family members because some of the earliest programs were actually simple scorecards that made no mention of the magnitude of what was taking place. They weren’t exactly considered keepsakes.[16]

How many GIs maintained their scorecards after the game? A few of the pieces in our collection appear to have been sent home by the GIs. Of those that made it home, how many endured through home moves, storage failures or being discarded as “old stuff” by surviving children when estates were liquidated?

As of the writing of this article, Chevrons and Diamonds has acquired six of the seven game scorecards. In viewing our collection online, it appears to readers that we possess all seven pieces as we digitally replicated and altered our scored Game 6 piece in order to display a representation for Game 2. Both of the games played at Hickam Field used the same printing for both games (see Service World Series, 1944 – Hawaiian Islands).

All the Furlong Field games share a common design, with the game date being the only variation. The program and scorecard from Game 4 at NAS Kaneohe Bay is one of the most well-done pieces for a wartime service baseball game. Not only does the piece include the rosters, but the headshot photographs of the star players encompass five of the oversized pages. The final addition comes from the Redlander Field-hosted game and is the only one that includes scoring by the original owner.

Our collection also features two of the four pieces originating from the Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai games. Our hunt continues for the remaining pair as well as another Hickam piece to complete the full set.


[1] Berry, Sal; Lehman, Bert, “Sports programs are becoming an alternative for collectors who crave vintage material (https://sportscollectorsdigest.com/news/sports-programs-collectors),” Sports Collectors Daily, February 8, 2019 (accessed October 25, 2022).

[2] Schiff, Andrew, “Harry Chadwick, (https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/henry-chadwick)” Society of American Baseball Research (accessed October 22, 2022).

[3] “Baseball Basics: How to Keep Score (https://www.mlb.com/official-information/basics/score),” MLB.com, (accessed October 25, 2022)

[4] Cieradkowski, Gary, “218. Harry M. Stevens: The Visionary” (http://infinitecardset.blogspot.com/2016/04/218-harry-m-stevens-visionary.html),” The Infinite Baseball Card Set, April 29, 2015 (accessed October 22, 2022).

[5] Cresi, Frank; McMains, Carol, Baseball Programs and Scorecards (https://www.baseball-almanac.com/treasure/autont006.shtml), Baseball Almanac (accessed October 22, 2022).

[6] Figler, Jeff, “Baseball programs and scorecards (bit.ly/3N6WyRm),” Collectors Journal, April 23, 2018 (accessed October 25, 2022).

[7] “Projected Line-ups for the Service World Series,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 15, 1944: p10.

[8] McQueen, Red, “Hoomalimali,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 22, 1944: p12.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Friday Stars the World Series,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, September 21, 1944: p.13

[11] Fowler, Chas., Ensign, “Yesterday’s Highlights,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 15, 1944: p10.

[12] “Mize Leads Batters in Service World Series,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 2, 1944: p.11.

[13] Bedingfield Gary. “Baseball in Hawaii during World War II,” Baseball in Wartime Publishing 2021.

[14] “Oahu All-Stars to Bring Baseball Headliners,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 30, 1944: p4.

[15] “Late Sports,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, September 30, 1944: p4.

[16] Mueller, Rich, “Vintage World Series Programs Offer Collector Challenges. (https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/hey-get-your-programs-here/),” Sports Collectors Daily, October 24, 2006 (accessed October 25, 2022).

From Storekeeper to Middle Infielder: the Dolphins’ Al Brancato

Note: This is second of a multi-part story. See Part 1: Al Brancato: A Homegrown Athletic Infielder

As Brancato settled into his Boston surroundings, the Philadelphia Athletics were firmly settled into the American League cellar, dropping nearly 100 games as they finished with a 55-99 won-lost record. Continued labor woes befell the Athletics with a considerable number of their players serving in the armed forces and with the war progressing slowly on all fronts, it was clear that all clubs would be losing still more players in the coming months.

As the oft-borrowed line from Alexander Pope states, “Hope springs eternal”[1] for the coming baseball season once Valentine’s Day arrives and players report to their respective training camps. With travel restrictions in place, the A’s, like all the northern major league clubs, were forced to train in their local region in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. On March 28, two weeks before opening day of the 1943 season, SK2/c Brancato paid a visit to the A’s spring camp. “Brancato, on leave for only a few hours from his duties as a second class storekeeper on a cruiser, rushed to Wilmington to see his old mates,” the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Stan Baumgartner wrote of the former A’s shortstop’s visit, “and Connie Mack immediately put him in the game.” Brancato was inserted into an intra-squad game pitting the Athletics starters against the “Yannigans,” a squad of the club’s backup players.[2]

The rusty shortstop was added to the Yannigans roster and his impact was immediate, despite an 18-month hiatus from the game. From his familiar shortstop position, Brancato was back in the saddle turning a double-play. “Gosh, it felt great to get out, feel a bat between my hands and stop a few hot ones” Brancato told Baumgartner after the game. In his two at bats, Brancato rolled out to second base and hit into a double play. “I hope they never stop baseball,” Brancato said, commenting on the potential cessation of the game during the war, “We all want it. We want to read about it.” With three months before his ship was set to enter active fleet service, Brancato reflected upon the unknown future, “As soon as we can finish up this little business, which I guess I will be in up to my ears in a few months, I want to come back and pick up where I left off.” Understanding the considerable boost to troop morale the game provided troops, Brancato concluded, “I hope the men at home keep the ball flying.”[3]

With the June 30, 1943 commissioning of the USS Boston, Brancato was officially transferred from the Receiving Station, Boston to the ship. The Boston crew took notice of their ex-ballplayer-turned-storekeeper, “The sporting world has given to the USS Boston a real big leaguer in the person of Al Brancato, SK,” the ship’s newspaper, The Bean Pot, reported with considerable optimism. “Playing 3rd and SS with the As (sic) for three seasons, he was on his way to the Hall of Fame when he enlisted in the Navy, 1942.” Noting Al’s vice-free living, the July 17, 1943 Bull Pen article stated, “Al’s total abstinence knocks for a loop the crack-pot notion of some people that all the sailors ‘rush in where angels fear to tread,’” while emphasizing Brancato’s avoidance of tobacco and alcohol.[4]

For the next several months, the new cruiser and her crew were put through numerous exercises and evaluations during sea trials in preparation for wartime fleet duties. Every system and component from the propulsion plant, maneuvering equipment, guns, and detection systems along with her crew’s proficiency in operations were evaluated to determine corrective actions that were needed. Once the ship’s sea trials and post-shakedown maintenance were completed, USS Boston set out for the Pacific by way of the Panama Canal. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1943, the ship reported for duty.[5]

USS Boston muster sheet dated January 19, 1944 showing Brancato’s transfer to the Pearl Harbor Sub Base, authorized on January 14 (source: National Archives/Ancestry.com).

Honolulu, a hotbed of both military and civilian baseball for decades, saw an influx of former major and minor leaguers serving in the armed forces. They were assigned to area military installations and added to their respective baseball teams. The 1943 champions of the Hawaii League, the Hawaiian Defense League and the Army-Navy Series, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins consisted largely of former professionals, featuring former major leaguers Jimmy Gleeson, outfielder, Cincinnati Reds; Rankin Johnson, pitcher, Philadelphia Athletics; and Walt Masterson, pitcher, Washington Senators. Al Brancato was ashore at Waikiki Beach on liberty soon after his ship docked at Pearl Harbor. “I ran into Walt Masterson and Jimmy Gleeson at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. They were attached to the submarine base. It was they who told me about the Navy baseball setup on the island.” No doubt with some assistance from Masterson and the local Navy brass, Brancato’s days aboard the Boston were numbered. “I was able to get transferred from the Boston to the sub base where I worked in the spare parts department of the ship’s store.”[6] On January 14, 1944, SK2/c Brancato was transferred from the USS Boston to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base (Base 128).[7]

As the Honolulu League’s playoffs, the Cronin Championship Series (named to honor Red Sox manager, Joe Cronin who was the opening day featured guest[8]), were winding down by early April, 1944, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins were preparing for their upcoming Central Pacific Area Service League (CPASL) season, holding practices as the roster was assembled under Masterson, who had taken over the reins as manager. With many returning veterans, the former Senators pitcher added former Yankee Ken “Ziggy” Sears and Joe Grace from the Browns. Masterson also added three Philadelphia Athletics: pitcher Bob Harris, Al Brancato, and Bruce Konopka, who had played with Al on the Yannigans team in March, 1943.

1944 Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins” Roster

PlayerPositionFormer
Arnie “Red” AndersonPChattanooga (SOUA)
Norman Gene “Pee Wee” AtkinsonCSemi-Pro
Howard BassPRiverside (CALL)
Tom Bishop3B/SSSemi-Pro
Earl J. Brady2B/3B
Al BrancatoSS/3BAthletics
Jim BrennanP
Neil CliffordCSt. Paul (AA)
Bob DurkinRFSemi-Pro
Gordon Evans2B/LFCharleston (MATL)
Andy F. FelonkOF
Joseph “Joe” GraceOF/1BBrowns
Robert A. “Bob” HarrisPAthletics
Frank Hecklinger1BNew Bern (COPL)
George (Nig) HenryP
John “Hubie” Jeandron2B/3BPort Arthur (EVAN)
A. Rankin JohnsonPAthletics
Bruce Konopka1BAthletics
N. J. “Herb” MadiganPAmateur
Walt MastersonP/MGRSenators
Bob “Lee” McCorkleCValdosta (GAFL)
Fred MerhoffOFSpringfield College (MA)
Andy J. MeyersAmateur
Don MeyersOFSemi-Pro
Maurice “Mo” MozzaliLF/1B/CFSemi-Pro
Romie (“Roman”?) Okarski3BAppleton (WISL)
John PowellOF
Norm S. RoosePAmateur
Ken “Ziggy” SearsC/1BYankees
Oscar SessionsPU.S. Navy
Phil S. SimioneSS/OFU.S. Navy
Frank T. (“Floyd”?) SniderRFDothan (GAFL)
Eddie StutzPSan Francisco (PCL)
Russ WardINF
Clovis “Bob” White2BElizabethton (APPY)
While this roster reflects the personnel for the entire season, the team number at any given time was smaller due to personnel movement and changes. The 1944 Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins played in the Central Pacific Area and Hawaii Leagues concurrently. In the Hawaii League, they were referred to simply as “Navy.” Some of the men listed played on the Sub Base club, effectively a split-squad that competed in the 14th Naval District League in 1944.

Oahu continued to see an influx of Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel who possessed resumes with professional, semipro and collegiate experience. The Navy disseminated their talent among the many installations on the island as well as to other island bases. Army leadership, eager to turn the tables on the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base’s 1943 championship, began to amass their incoming talent predominantly on the Hickam Field-based Seventh Army Air Force team and would continue to stack their roster throughout the early weeks of the season.

Al Brancato in his Navy flannels with a bird’s eye view during the 1944 season (courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.).

Anticipating the 1944 CPA Service and Hawaii League seasons, the two Oahu papers carried details of the noteworthy baseball talent Future Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Johnny Mize headlined a group of major leaguers who had arrived since the end of the 1943 baseball season. Eager to showcase the baseball players and to capitalize on their talent for the war effort, administrators planned an exhibition tilt pitting the Major League All-Stars against the local stars for the end of April. In order to prepare the All-Stars for the event, the Pearl Harbor Sub Base Dolphins hosted the big leaguers for an April 19 contest on their home diamond, Weaver Field.

April 19, 1944 Major League All-Stars Line-up:

NamePositionFormer
George “Skeets” DickeyCWhite Sox
Johnny Mize1BGiants
Barney McCosky2BTigers
Johnny LucadelloSSBrowns
Marvin Felderman3BCubs
Tom WinsettLFDodgers
Joseph “Joe” GraceCFBrowns
Vern OlsenRFCubs
Hugh CaseyPDodgers
Tom FerrickPIndians
Bill “Dutch” HollandPPittsfield (CAML)
Pee Wee Reese, suffering from a foot injury, was named to the roster but replaced by Johnny Lucadello

Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins April 19, 1944 Lineup:

NamePositionFormer
Neil CliffordCSt. Paul (AA)
Frank Hecklinger1BNew Bern (COPL)
Clovis “Bob” White2BElizabethton (APPY)
John “Hubie” Jeandron3BPort Arthur (EVAN)
Al BrancatoSSAthletics
Frank T. (“Floyd”?) SniderRFDothan (GAFL)
John PowellCF
Maurice “Mo” MozzaliLFSemi-Pro
Oscar SessionsPU.S. Navy
N. J. “Herb” MadiganPAmateur
The 1943 Dolphins dominated in their leagues. Their loss to the Major League All-Stars on April 19 indicated the uphill battle the team faced as the opposing teams saw an influx of professional talent.
Scorecards from the April 19, 1944 Navy vs All-Stars game (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

The big leaguers got the best of the Dolphins behind the bat of Johnny Mize, who led with a home run, double, and two singles in the 9-3 victory. The Navy managed three hits with Al Brancato accounting for an eighth inning round-tripper.[9]

Chickamauga Park at the Schofield Barracks played host to another all-star competition that saw the Navy face off against the Army before 18,000 GIs.[10] The Navy hit parade was led by second baseman Johnny Lucadello and former Indians pitcher Tom Ferrick, playing in right field, as both went three-for-five at the plate. In the top of the first with Navy runners at every station, third baseman Al Brancato wiped the bases clean as he drove in three runs with a timely base hit, putting the Navy on top. The former Athletics shortstop was two-for-three on offense. Ahead of the May 7 regular season start of the Hawaii Baseball League and May 17 commencement of the CPA Service League and with just three April 1944 exhibition games under his belt, it appeared that Brancato was beginning to establish himself as a formidable offensive force in the Hawaiian tropics.

Ten days after the game at Weaver Field, the Major League All-Star squad, which this time included Pee Wee Reese, Al Brancato and Eddie Pellagrini as starting position players, faced the Honolulu League All-Stars for a game that benefited War Bond sales. The April 29 War Bond Game was played at Honolulu Stadium.

1944 – April 29 – Major League All Stars – War Bond Game – Honolulu Stadium. Front Row : Johnny Lucadello (SP “A” 1/c), Leo Visintainer BM1/c), Pee Wee Reese (CSP “A”), Eddie Pellagrini (SP “A” 1/c), Al Brancato (SK2/c), Marvin Felderman (SP “A” 1/c) Middle: J. W. Falkenstine (LTjg), Wyman (batboy), Hugh Casey (SP “A” 1/c), Walter Masterson (CSP “A”), Tom Winsett (Lt. Army), Jack Hallett (SP “A” 2/c) Back: Barney McCosky (SP “A” 1/c), Johnny Mize (SP “A” 2/c), James “Art” Lilly (“BSM2”), George “Skeets” Dickey (SP “A” 2/c), Joe Grace (SP “A” 1/c), Bob Harris (SP “A” 1/c), Tom Ferrick (SP “A” 1/c), Wes Schulmerich (LT), Vern Olsen (SP “A” 1/c), Joe Rose (announcer) (Photo courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.)

CPA Service League

  • Aiea Naval Hospital “Hilltoppers”
  • Aiea Naval Receiving Station/Barracks “Maroons”
  • Kaneohe Naval Air Station “Klippers”
  • Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins”
  • Seventh Army Air Force (7th AAF) “Flyers”
  • Wheeler Army Air Field “Wingmen”
  • *Schofield Barracks “Redlanders”
  • *South Sector “Commandos”

*Played only in the second half of the season.

Hawaii League

  • Athletics
  • Braves
  • Hawaiis
  • Navy/ Pearl Harbor Submarine Base “Dolphins”
  • Seventh Army Air Force (7th AAF) “Flyers”
  • Tigers
  • Wanderers

Based upon their 1943 success and a bolstered 1944 roster, the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins were the early-season favorites to repeat as champions in their respective leagues. However, out of the gate, the Sub Base opened with a loss in the CPASL but claimed a 3-0 victory over the Braves in the Hawaii League. On May 25, the Dolphins’ Bob Harris pitched a two-hit, 4-0 shutout over Wheeler Field as Brancato went two-for three with an RBI and a run-scored.[11] By the end of May, the Dolphins were in third place behind Kaneohe (4-0) and Aiea Hospital (3-1) in the CPASL with one win and two losses.[12]

To start June, the Dolphins were 1-3 in the CPA Service League but were out in front in the Hawaii League’s standings at 6-1. Al Brancato was hitting for power and leading the Hawaii League with a .400 slugging percentage as his team was likewise leading in team batting with a .267 average. Brancato’s .400 batting average had him second in the Hawaii League’s standings behind the Braves shortstop Ernest “Sparky” Neves.[13]

This page from the 1944 Williams Sportlight roster lists and schedule for the third round of the Hawaii Baseball League came from Brancato’s personal collection (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

As the Dolphins’ CPA woes continued with mounting losses parking the Subs firmly at the bottom of the standings, the situation was made bleaker as Joe DiMaggio, Ferris Fain, Dario Lodigiani, and a host of other former major leaguers arrived on the island on June 3 and were promptly assigned to the 7th AAF squad. However, on June 5 as DiMaggio and company made their debut at Honolulu Stadium in front of 21,000 attendees against the seemingly hapless Dolphins in a Hawaii League matchup, the Sub Base prevailed 6-2, despite the “Yankee Clipper’s” ninth-inning, 435-foot bomb over the venue’s left field wall. Navy bats accounted for 8-hits with Mozzali, Snider and Brancato each garnering two. Brancato, playing at short, recorded two putouts and four assists in support of Bob Harris’ mound duties. Stroking a single and a double, Brancato also accounted for the game’s only stolen base and tallied a run.[14]

7th Army Air Force Fliers:

PlayerPositionFormer
John AndrePHonolulu League
Renaldo “Rugger” ArdizoiaPKansas City (AA)
James AshworthCHelena (CSTL)
John (Murphy) Bialowarczuk3BPerth-Amboy (Semi-Pro)
Alfonso “Al” CerielloIFSemi-Pro
Joseph ClarkCoach
Carl DeRosePAmsterdam (CAML)
Bob Dillinger3BToledo (AA)
Joe DiMaggioCF/1BYankees
Ferris Fain1BSan Francisco (PCL)
Edward FunkPFederalsburg  (ESHL)
Joseph “Joe” GedziusSSSpokane (WINT)
Vincent GenegrassoTrainer
Joe Gordon2B/SSYankees
Hal HairstonPHomestead Grays
James HillCPensacola, FL
Ed JaabOFMoline
Walter “Wally” JudnichCF/1BBrowns
Cornel George “Kearny” KohlmeyerSS/1BTyler (ETXL)
Don Lang1BKansas City (AA)
Will LeonardCOakland (PCL)
Al LienPSan Francisco (PCL)
Dario Lodigiani2B/3BWhite Sox
Myron “Mike” McCormickOF/3BReds
Gerald “Jerry” Priddy2BSenators
Arthur RawlinsonIFSemi-Pro
Charles “Red” RuffingPYankees
Frank “Pep” SaulPSeton Hall College
Bill SchmidtPSacramento Solons (PCL)
Don SchmidtSeton Hall College
John ShumbresCoach
Charlie SilveraCWellsville (PONY)
Tom WinsettOF/Mgr.Dodgers
The 7th’s opening day roster differed greatly by June with the arrival of the major leaguers from the west coast.

By the middle of June, it was apparent that the Sub Base was deeply submerged beneath an insurmountable deficit in the CPA Service League with Pee Wee Reese’s Aiea Naval Hospital Hilltoppers seated at the top with the 7th AAF a game behind.[15] Meanwhile, the Dolphins held a 2.5 game advantage over the 7th AAF in the Hawaii League with an 11-2 record.

The Hawaiian sun and beaches had an incredibly positive effect on Al Brancato’s bat. By June 20, the Philadelphian’s batting average not only climbed to the top of Hawaii League standings but also was nearly 10 points over .400 as he helped to push his league-leading team’s .271 average higher. With 44 at-bats, Brancato was leading the league in hits and runs scored. Brancato’s 23 total bases were also second only to Joe DiMaggio’s 24.[16]

The CPA League wound down the first half of the season with the Aiea Naval Hospital and the 7th AAF tied for first. Aiea defeated the 7th to claim the first-half crown, which guaranteed the squad a berth in the late summer championships. While the CPA League enjoyed a break, the Hawaii League continued play, heading into the Independence Day holiday. On July 2, a rematch between the Sub Base and 7th AAF took place at Honolulu Stadium in front of the venue’s largest crowd on record. The fans were treated to a pitching duel that saw the Army’s Eddie Funk match Eddie Stutz inning-for-inning through 11 scoreless innings. The Navy’s Stutz allowed a single to Jerry Priddy of the 7th AAF in the top of the first. Stutz allowed one additional baserunner via a walk through eleven innings. The Seventh’s Funk surrendered safeties in the bottom half of the first (2), second (1), eighth (1), and tenth (1) innings. Stutz’s tank running on empty in the bottom of the 12th led to the 7thAAF bats to capitalize, touching him for a walk and four hits to break the scoreless tie and take a 4-0 lead. The Navy bats were shut down by Funk in the bottom of the 12th to ice the 4-0 victory, shaving the Dolphins’ Hawaii League lead to 1.5 games. Brancato was 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base in the loss.[17]

Four different wartime newsletters with articles mentioning Brancato including the USS Boston’s “Bean Pot,” Pearl Harbor Submarine Base’s “Patrol,” and Aiea Naval Hospital’s “Hospital Hi Lites” (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Mid-July saw the 3-3 Dolphins sitting in the middle of the pack in the CPA Service League[18] but they were maintaining their 1-1/2 game lead over the 7th AAF in the Hawaii League standings with a record of 15-4.[19] Two weeks after falling to the 7th AAF, the Navy looked to avenge their 4-0 loss but faced an uphill battle. As if seeing a refreshed Joe DiMaggio was not enough of a challenge, the 7th was further bolstered with the arrival of the Yankee Clipper’s former teammate, Joe Gordon. Twenty-six thousand spectators witnessed the Navy’s shellacking at the hand of the Fliers. While Gordon and DiMaggio batted a combined 2-for-8 from the middle of the order, it was the bottom of the Seventh’s lineup that raked Navy pitching for the lion’s share of offense. First baseman Ferris Fain was 2-3 with   two runs scored, a double and a home run. Will Leonard and pitcher Al Lien were both 2-4. Of the 8 runs scored, Dario Lodigiani matched Fain’s tallies while Mike McCormick, DiMaggio, Priddy and Leonard accounted for the balance with one run each. For the Navy, Brancato was 1-3 with a walk, accounting for a fourth of the Sub Base’s hit total in the 8-1 loss.[20]

In a July 23 Hawaii circuit matchup against the Tigers, Brancato set the league mark with 11 assists in a nine-inning game. Brancato also had one putout and committed one error.[21]

Trailing the 7th AAF by one game in the Hawaii League, the Sub Base nine was still very much in the race as July came to a close.[22] In the CPA league standings, it was a three-way race between the Aiea Hilltoppers, the 7th AAF and the Kaneohe Klippers, with the Dolphins trailing the lead pack by three games. Following an offensive slump with a zero-for-15 hitless streak,[23] Brancato slipped to second in the Hawaii League’s batting race with a .366 average behind Jerry Priddy’s .390. Brancato still held on to the top spots in hits (30), runs scored (21), total bases (37), and walks (22) and was fourth in RBI.[24]

With the three-way race atop the CPA Service League standings between Aiea Naval Hospital (10-4), 7th AAF (10-4) and NAS Kaneohe (10-5), the Pearl Harbor Sub Base was jockeying for position behind the leaders as they defeated the Aiea Navy Barracks on August 4. Brancato, Joe Grace and Mo Mozzali led the Dolphins’ offensive output. Brancato opened the Sub Base’s scoring with a solo home run in the fourth inning. In the eighth, with Mozzali on base, Neil Clifford singled Mo home for the second tally. Trailing 5-2 in the ninth, Mozzali stroked a four-bagger with Merhoff on base to pull the Dolphins within a run. Joe Grace followed with a solo shot to tie the game. Gordon Evans singled and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Neil Clifford singled and plated Evans for the go-ahead score. The Sub Base victory closed their gap in the standings to 2.5 games.[25]

Over in the Hawaii League, the 7th AAF extended their 17-game win streak after defeating the Braves, 5-2 on August 4. The Sub Base squad kept pace but were 2.5 games off the lead.[26]

Halfway through August as the seasons were inching towards the close, the Dolphins were chipping away at their deficits in both leagues’ standings. In the CPA, they were two games out of second place while in the Hawaii loop, they trailed the 7th by one in the win column.[27]  As of August 18, in the CPA league, Brancato’s offensive production had him situated in the ninth position with an average of .268 while his Hawaii League numbers kept him atop the heap at .373, with 33 hits in 98 at-bats. While Joe DiMaggio (16-for-38, .421) and Bob Dillinger (16-for-65, .382) carried better averages, they had significantly fewer appearances at the plate.[28]

Honolulu Advertiser’s artist Art Winburg spotlighted Brancato’s Hawaii League performance in this 1944 cartoon (Honolulu Advertiser/Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

With 110 or more at-bats, Brancato’s .295 average placed him 6th in the CPA batting title race with five days remaining in August. In 34 CPA service league games, he had 36 hits in 132 at bats and 50 total bases. With Pee Wee Reese voted in at shortstop, Brancato’s fantastic glove and bat work made him fan-favorite selection at third base on the Navy All-Star team.[29] The Pearl Harbor nine continued to win in the CPA circuit but as powerful as the Dolphins were down the stretch, it was a two-horse race between the Aiea Naval Hospital Hilltoppers and the 7th AAF. The Subs trailed the 7th by 4.5 games and were 1.5 games behind the Aiea Hospital nine by August 27.

The 7th AAF secured the second-half CPA Service League crown by defeating the Aiea Hilltoppers, 3-2, on August 30. With a record of 21 wins and five losses and two remaining games to be played in the league’s season, the Fliers secured the opportunity to face the Hilltoppers in the three-game CPA Service League championship series.[30]

In a meaningless CPA league game, the Sub Base Dolphins hosted the 7th AAF at Weaver Field and were blanked on the pitching of Don Schmidt. Flier bats accounted for all the offense as the Subs dropped their final game in the loop, 7-0. Finishing in third place behind the 22-5 first-place Seventh Army Air Force (22-5) and Aiea Naval Hospital (19-8), the Sub Base nine concluded the season with a respectable 16-11 record.[31] Brancato’s batting production tailed off in the final week of the season as he finished out of the top ten at .274.[32]

The Sub Base club closed out the Hawaii League regular season with a 9-5 loss at the hands of the 7th Army Air Force. The Fliers claimed their 28th consecutive circuit win while clinching the championship. The Dolphins fell victim to four Flier home runs at the hands of Ferris Fain, Walt Judnich, Joe Gordon and Don Lang, Brancato and Grace were each one-for-three and accounted for two runs apiece. The Navy finished the season in second place with a 27-9 record behind the Seventh’s won-loss record of 31-4. Both teams qualified for the League’s championship playoffs known as the Cartwright Series (named to recognize longtime Hawaii resident and baseball pioneer, Alexander Cartwright[33]), along with the Braves and Hawaiis, respectively the number three and four Hawaii League finishers.

After leading all Hawaii League batters throughout the season, Al Brancato’s reduced offensive production opened the door for others to surpass him in the batting average rankings in the first week of September. At the season’s end, Brancato (.339) was firmly in third place behind the 7th’s Bob Dillinger (.400) and Joe Grace (.372) while topping the league in hits (43), runs (32), and walks (35). He finished tied with Joe Gordon and John Jeandron for the lead in doubles (11).[34] Al Brancato was an easy pick at shortstop for the Hawaii League season-end All-Star honors.

Radio personality Joe Rose interviewing (left to right) Walt Masterson, Rankin Johnson, Al Brancato and Bob Harris (courtesy of Harrington E. Crissey, Jr.). Walt Masterson being inteviewed – Dick Keller, Joe Rose, Masterson, Rankin Johnson, Brancato, Bob Harris

After winning their first game in the Cartwright Series, defeating the Braves 5-4, the Navy nine dropped their next game to the Hawaiis, 4-1. [35] The Series finale fittingly pitted two top teams, the Fliers and Dolphins, against each other. However the Navy looked to gain an advantage by adding the newly arrived Phil Rizzuto and Dom DiMaggio to the lineup. The 7th AAF jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the third before the Navy began to claw their way back into the game. Scoring a run in the fourth and fifth innings, the Navy trailed 6-4 after seven innings. The Fliers went up by three, tallying another run in the top of the eighth which the Navy matched in the bottom half of the frame. Pitching a complete game, the Navy’s Walt Masterson held the Fliers scoreless in the top of the ninth. However, the opposing pitcher, Al Lien, did the same to close out the 7-5 victory and secure the Cartwright flag. Of the 11 Navy hits and five runs, Phil Rizzuto’s four-for-five at the plate and two runs scored added considerable pop to the offense. Ken “Ziggy” Sears accounted for two of the Navy’s tallies with a pair of solo home runs. In the three games, Brancato was two-for-fourteen combined.[36]

Despite Al Brancato’s end of season slump, he feasted on outstanding pitching from a mix of major, minor, and semi-professional-experienced hurlers. He continued to refine his defensive skills and to live up to Connie Mack’s (then recent) claim, stating that Brancato had one of the greatest throwing arms in baseball.[37] In a July Hawaii League tilt against the Wanderers, Brancato’s strength caught sportswriter Carl Machado’s attention. “Al Brancato showed his shotgun arm after muffing Iwa Mamiya’s grounder, retrieving the ball to make the play at first in time.”[38]

The stacked 7th Army Air Force squad dominated in both the CPA Service and Hawaii Leagues with three future Hall of Fame players anchoring the offensive juggernaut. While the faces of the Army’s senior leaders were alight with smiles, the Navy had plans of their own for the next few weeks. Though the monsoon season would arrive in November, the Navy was planning to “reign” on the Army’s parade.

Stay tuned for part 3.


[1] Pope, Alexander, “An Essay on Man,” 1734.

[2] Baumgartner, Stan, “A’s Regulars Trounce Yannigans, 4-2,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 29, 1943: p22.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Sportlight,” The Bean Pot/USS Boston shipboard newspaper, July 17, 1943: p2.

[5] “Boston VI (CA-69),” Naval History and Heritage Commandhttps://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/b/boston-vi.html, Accessed July 22, 2022.

[6] Crissey, Harrington E., Jr., Teenagers, Graybeards and 4-Fs – Vol. 2: The American League, 1982: p100.

[7] U.S. Navy Muster Sheet, USS Boston, January 19, 1944, Ancestry.com.

[8] Bedingfield, Gary, Baseball in Hawaii During WWII, 2021: p60.

[9] “Big League Stars Defeat Navy, 9 To 3,” The Honolulu Advertiser, April 20, 1944: p8.

[10] Vandergrift, K.S. Capt., “Major League Stars Blank Army Team 9-0,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 1 1944: p8.

[11] Fowler (“Chief”), “Sub Base Wins on Harris 2-hitter,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 26, 1944: p12.

[12] Fowler (“Chief”), “Aiea Hospital Plays Wheeler,” The Honolulu Advertiser, May 30, 1944: p11.

[13] “Hawaii League Notes,” Al Karasick’s Spotlite on Sports, June 4, 1944; p14.

[14] Kim, Bill, “Joe DiMaggio Thrills Record Baseball Mob,” The Honolulu Advertiser, June 5, 1944: p8-9.

[15] Fowler, Chas., Masterson Pitches Sub Base to Victory,” The Honolulu Advertiser, June 16, 1942: p12-13.

[16] “Brancato Pacing Hawaii League Batters with Average of .409,” The Honolulu Advertiser, June 20, 1944: p10-11.

[17] Kim, Bill, “7th AAF Triumphs in 12 Innings,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 3, 1944: p10-11.

[18] “CPA League standings,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 18, 1944: p8.

[19] “The Williams Sportlight Standings of the League,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 16, 1944: p16.

[20] Machado, Carl, “Fliers Now Leading In Hawaii League,“ Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 17, 1944: p8.

[21] “Hawaii Loop Chatter..,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 1, 1944: p9.

[22] “The Williams Sportlight Standings of the League,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 30, 1944: p18.

[23] “Hawaii Loop Chatter..,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 15, 1944: p15.

[24] “Jerry Priddy Paces Hawaii Loop Batters,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 4, 1944: p6.

[25] Fowler, Chas (“Chief”), “K-Bay Edges Hilltoppers, 3-2 In 10 Innings,” Sub Base Wins 6-5,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 5, 1944: p6.

[26] “The Williams Sportlight Standings of the League,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 6, 1944: p18.

[27] “Baseball Standings,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 14, 1944: p8.

[28] “Leading Batters,” Al Karasick’s Spotlite on Sports, August 19, 1944; p9.

[29] “Diamond Dust,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 28, 144: p8.

[30] Fowler (“Chief”), “7th AAF Captures CPA 2nd Half Title with 3-2 Win Over Aiea,” The Honolulu Advertiser, August 30, 1944: p10.

[31] Fowler (“Chief”), “7th AAF and Hilltoppers Score Wins,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 2, 1944: p8.

[32] “Ferris Fain is Bat Champ,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 4, 1944: p8.

[33] Bedingfield, Gary, Baseball in Hawaii During WWII, 2021: p8.

[34] “Bob Dillinger Cops ’44 Batting Crown,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 14, 1944: p8.

[35] “Sub Base Bows to Hawaiis, 4-1,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 14, 1944: p10.

[36] “Judnich Clouts Two Homers as Fliers Cop Cartwright Title,” The Honolulu Advertiser, September 18, 1944: p8.

[37] “Shadows,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 7, 1944: p8.

[38] Machado, Carl, “Hawaii Loop Chatter..,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 15, 1944: p15.

From the Ashes: Rizal Stadium and the Manila Dodgers

In the weeks following the September 2, 1945, signing of the Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay, the armed forces commenced the drawdown of forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) as combat troops transitioned into an occupation force. Baseball remained an activity as part of the morale-boosting functions for the troops stationed throughout the Western Pacific. Participating in the countless leagues were former professional baseball players serving among the troops in all branches of the armed forces.

Despite a large percentage of former major and minor leaguers having been returned to the United States for discharge, several did not yet qualify for separation and continued serving overseas. Baseball remained a central activity among troops in tropical climates including the Marianas and Guam. As Manila continued to address reconstruction and recovery from the heavy fighting in the city that had taken place throughout February, baseball was once again played at Rizal Stadium starting in April following extensive repair efforts.

“American soldiers have brought baseball back to the ruins of Rizal Stadium. Garrison troops are playing regular games before thousands of fans in what was once Manila’s most elaborate sports establishment,” Associate Press war correspondent Russell Brines wrote. “There are no uniforms, no hot dogs, but the playing is enthusiastic. It crowds the shell-ripped stands regularly with soldiers, sailors and Filipino citizens.”[1]

Brines, a recently liberated prisoner of war, had been taken prisoner in early 1942 and held in Manila’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp until he was freed following General MacArthur’s return to the Philippines and the ensuing victory over Japanese forces occupying the city. The battle that raged in the city from February 3 to March 3 was fierce. Facing 35,000 American troops and 3,000 Filipino guerrillas, the enemy suffered tremendous losses but not without murdering Filipino civilians and allied prisoners.

This snapshot of Rizal Stadium (ca. 1945-46) shows the home plate entrance of the ballpark with a Jeep parked in front (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

The Rizal sports complex, consisting of both football and baseball stadiums, was the scene of heavy fighting. “The current battle in South Manila roared around the vicinity of Harrison Park after First Division cavalrymen seized the ground and grandstands of Rizal Stadium, where the enemy had set up heavy defenses, and the buildings of La Salle College.”[2] The battle within the ballpark resulted in extensive damage to the facility. “Rizal Stadium was a Japanese entrenchment during the bitter fight for Manila and the marks of war are still on it. Mortar holes yawn between the feet of the spectators, sitting on concrete tiers, because benches are stripped away. The sun peaks through the roof of the stands perforated by machine gun bullets.”[3]  Wherever one looked, the damage from the wartime occupation and battle was extensive. “The dugouts are black from flame throwers and chipped by shells. Outfields are foreshortened by crumbled walls and Japanese bunkers.”[4] Once the city was wrested from the enemy occupiers, work led by former Philadelphia Philly pitcher Hugh Mulcahy commenced to prepare the facility for baseball once more.

By the end of April, the facility was repaired enough to host baseball for the first time since 1941. “The former turf diamond is now dirt, carefully rolled by the doughboys.”[5] Regardless of the preparation, the ballpark was still in need of considerable work as baseball play commenced, “the occasional stench of dead entombed deep within the concrete stadium. But baseball lives again in the Philippines.”[6]

Former Jeddo Stars slugging catcher, Sergeant Joe Batcha swings at a pitch for the 145th Infantry Barracudas as they face Eddie Waitkus’ 544th Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment. The caption slug on the reverse reads, “April 1, 1945 – Manila, Philippines: Having captured the ballpark (Rizal Stadium) during battle for Manila, troops of the 37th Division put on first game of organized baseball since re-capture of the city. Catcher Batcha, former Los Angeles diamond star, now with the 145th Infantry of the 37th Division, connects with a fast one. The 544th Engineers opposed the 145th in the game which featured many former ball stars now in service.” (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection)
Packed with servicemen, the grandstand at Rizal has had some rudimentary repairs to accommodate seating with slightly improved comfort. This photo was captured later in 1945 or early 1946 (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Indeed, baseball was alive again within the battered confines of Rizal with the inaugural tilt between the 145th Infantry Barracudas and the 544th Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment, led by former Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels first baseman Eddie Waitkus.[7]

With more than 6,000 GIs filling the stands, the “Horsehide Inaugural” also included a game between the Eighth Army Base Force and the Signal Corps. Former Cardinals outfielder, Erv Dusak drove in two runs on two hits in the 11-4 victory for the Eighth. Despite Dusak’s plate performance, he was outpaced by former Louisville Colonels first baseman  George Byam’s four-for-five batting performance. In addition, Byam tallied four of his squad’s 11 runs.[8]

On the other side of the globe, former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Private Kirby Higbe, a member of the 342nd Infantry Regiment of the 86th Infantry Division, had just crossed the Isar and reached the Mittel Isar Canal by the end of the April before moving on to Salzburg. By the end of May, the entire division was headed back to the States to resume preparations for service in the Pacific Theater. From late winter through May, the 86th Division, previously preparing for the Pacific, had been in Europe as a back-up division and ended up participating in the Allied push into the German homeland. “We cleaned out the Ruhr Pocket, then cut southeast,” said Higbe. “We went through Berchtesgaden and were in Austria when the war ended. From February 1 right up to the finish, we were fighting without a letup. The day was rare when we were not under fire.”[9]

Once the combat-decorated Dodgers pitcher returned home, he was looking forward to decompressing for a month, “I’m going to rest,” Higbe told the Columbia (South Carolina) Record.[10]  Following his return to the states, PFC Higbe visited with the Dodgers while on furlough[11] before he was reassigned to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma in preparation for assignment in the Pacific.[12]

Higbe was assigned to occupation duties on Luzon in the Philippines with the Base-30 command in Manila and was tasked with building a baseball team to compete against other unit ball clubs for the purpose of boosting troop morale. Pulling together a roster that included former minor leaguers, semiprofessionals and collegiate athletes, Higbe’s Manila Dodgers were a tough squad to beat. By the end of November, the Manila Dodgers secured a championship, defeating a Navy team that featured Dom DiMaggio and Benny McCoy. Writing to his hometown newspaper, Sergeant George Goodall told of the Base 30 ball club’s exploits, “The Manila Dodgers, managed by Kirby Higbe, Brooklyn pitcher, are champions of the Far East, having beaten the Navy in a five-game series.”[13]

PlayerPositionFormer Club
Vernon BickfordPWelch (MTNS)
Wally BordenCFLSU
Hal “Zig” Emery2B(Property of Phillies)
Joe GaragiolaCColumbus (AA)
Joe GinsbergCJamestown (PONY)
Jim HearnPColumbus (SALL)
Kirby HigbeP/Mgr.Dodgers
Joe Janet3BTulsa (TL)
Frank LaMannaP/CFBraves
Max Macon1BBraves
Johnny NewmanRF
Kent “Lefty” PetersonPReds
Minor Scott3BChattanooga (SOUA)
Gerry StaleyPBoise (PION)
John StoweLFKnoxville/Mobile (SOUA)
Early WynnSSSenators
Led by former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Kirby Higbe, the Manila Dodgers claimed multiple titles in the Western Pacific and Far East service leagues in 1945 and 1946.

While Higbe certainly drew attention due to his successful 1941 campaign with Brooklyn, leading the National League with 22 victories and helping to propel his club to the World Series, Goodall wrote of Manila’s young catcher. “Best of all [the Manila Dodgers], a 19-year-old catcher, Joe Garagiola, who will be with the Cardinals in ’46. In my opinion, Garagiola has everything. He is and excellent receiver, has a good arm, is fast and a guy who will hit any pitching.”[14]

Eight players on the Manila roster had pre-war minor league experience. Pitcher Vernon Bickford pitched in the Mountain State League from 1939 to 1942 before entering the Army and would post a 66-57 major league record with the Braves and Orioles in the years following WWII. Joe Ginsburg, a 17-year-old catcher for the PONY League’s Jamestown Falcons, spent the 1944 season learning the ropes with teammate Nellie Fox before being drafted into the Army in September. Like Bickford, Ginsburg developed into a solid major leaguer with the Tigers, Indians, Athletics, Orioles, White Sox, and Red Sox before finishing with the expansion New York Mets in 1962. Jim Hearn and Gerry Staley also parlayed their minor league and wartime baseball experience into success in the big leagues. Hearn posted a 109-89 13-year career record with a 3.81 ERA and two World Series games while Staley had a decade-and-a-half career with the Cardinals, Reds, Yankees, White Sox, Athletics and Tigers and amassed a 134-111 won-loss record with a 3.70 ERA and four World Series appearances. John Stowe, Minor Scott, and Joe Janet were career minor leaguers.

Filling in the roster gaps were a Louisiana State University alumnus, center fielder Wally Borden; a Philadelphia Phillies prospect, second baseman Hal “Zig” Emery and a soldier with no professional or collegiate experience, right fielder Johnny Newman.

The Base-30 squad featured former Boston Braves pitcher and outfielder Frank “Hank” LaManna and pitcher Max Macon along with Reds pitcher Kent Peterson, Cardinals catching prospect Joe Garagiola and future Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn.

As the Manila Dodgers dominated service baseball in the Philippines, the United Services Organization (USO) was coordinating with team owners and officials in the National League, putting the finishing touches on arraignments to dispatch a contingent of 12 players from seven of league’s eight clubs to tour selected Pacific Theater bases for exhibition games. Assembled in Washington, DC, the team, led by Dodgers coach Charley Dressen, boarded a B-29 bomber en route to Honolulu on December 13.[15]

PlayerPositionNational League Club
Tom SeatsP/LFDodgers
Mike Sandlock2BDodgers
Tommy BrownSSDodgers
Al GerheauserRFPirates
Frank McCormick1BReds
Whitey Kurowski3BCardinals
Al LakemanCFReds
Mike UlisneyCBraves
Clyde KingLFDodgers
Red BarrettP/LFCardinals
Bill VoiselleP/2BGiants
Ralph BrancaPDodgers
Charley DressenMgr.Dodgers
The National League Stars on the 1945-46 USO Tour.

Of the twelve selected National Leaguers on the roster, six were Brooklyn Dodgers including coach Charley Dressen. Catcher Mike Sandlock was the only Dodger position player who, with just 80 games in 1945, was a starter before being added to the USO tour. Ralph Branca, a 19-year-old in his second season with the club, was 5-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts. Tom Seats appeared in 31 games of which he started 18 and posted a 10-7 record and a 4.36 ERA in his second and final major league season. Clyde King saw action in 31 games as a 21-year-old relief pitcher as the Dodgers finished third in their 1945 campaign.

Third baseman Whitey Kurowski was the regular Cardinals third baseman with some pop in his bat, hitting .323 with 21 home runs and a .521 slugging percentage. Kurowski’s “Red Bird” teammate, pitcher Red Barrett, was 21-9 and a 2.72 ERA in 1945 and the Cardinal’s number one starter. The Cincinnati Reds also provided the USO squad with two players: starters Al Lakeman, catcher; and eight-time All-Star first baseman Frank McCormick. The New York Giants supplied 1944 All-Star pitcher Bill Voiselle and the Braves backup catcher Mike Ulisney.

The National Leaguers arrived in Honolulu on December 18 and were scheduled for five contests against area All-Stars before departing for the Western Pacific. Just hours after stepping off the aircraft onto Hawaiian soil, the National League stars faced a Navy All-Star squad that included Ken Keltner, Sal Recca, and Stan Musial. With a disappointing, nominal-sized crowd in attendance, the Navy clobbered the major leaguers. Facing the Army’s “Olympics” the following day, the National Leaguers bounced back from their loss to the Navy with a 10-5 win over former Hollywood Stars pitcher, Ed Erautt.

USO National League Games on Oahu

  • Wednesday, December 19: versus Navy at Furlong Field. Navy defeated the NL stars, 5-3. Attendance: 5,000.
  • Thursday, December 20: versus Army Olympics at Schofield Barracks. The National League defeated the Army, 10-5. Attendance: 3,500.
  • Friday, December 21: The National League defeated the Army Olympics at Hickam Field, 9-1.
  • Saturday, December 22: The Army Olympics defeated the National League at Furlong Field, 5-3.
  • Sunday, December 23: Navy defeated the National League at Furlong Field. Attendance: 10,000.

Likely suffering from travel fatigue during their Oahu series, which may have been a contributor to their 2-3 performance, the USO’s NL Stars club departed Hawaii, licking their wounds, bound for the Western Pacific. With stops in the Marshall Islands and Guam, the NL Stars faced local service clubs. On Saturday, December 29 on Kwajalein, the USO men defeated a service team, 4-2, as Voiselle surrendered nine hits while striking out 11. On Guam, the team faced an Army Air Force team at Harmon Field on Sunday, December 30, with Red Barrett on the mound. Barrett was less than sharp in his 7-2 victory, allowing 12 hits and striking out 4. The rigorous travel schedule took the NL Stars to the Philippines for a faceoff against Kirby Higbe’s red-hot Manila club, which had recently claimed the Philippine Olympics championship by defeating the Leyte Base-K team.[16]

Manila’s Rizal sports complex with the baseball stadium in the foreground. The grandstand’s roof is still undergoing repairs as the 1945 baseball season progresses (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

With repairs to the Rizal baseball stadium continuing throughout 1945, the battle damage was becoming less visible. The grandstand roof was undergoing restoration while rudimentary bleacher seating was installed onto the concrete risers. The once pristine outfield grass remained a sandlot-like dirt surface into 1946, when the USO’s National League Stars arrived.

Scheduled for a three-game series at Rizal, officials anticipated crowds between 25,000 and 30,000 for each contest. Whitey Kurowski took over at the NL helm as Dressen was hospitalized in Manila with bronchitis, leaving the team in capable hands.[17]

On New Year’s Day, Bill Voiselle squared off against Kirby Higbe in a classic New York vs Brooklyn-style rivalry tilt. The two hurlers kept the game close into the late innings. With the score knotted at four runs apiece, National Leaguer Frank McCormick crushed a solo shot off Higbe, his second of the game, for the go-ahead-run in front of 25,000 GIs. Despite fanning 11 NL batters, Higbe took the loss, having surrendered five runs on eight hits.[18]

Though the design is rudimentary, the hand illustrated scorecard cover for the January 3, 1946 game, the second in the three-game series, between the visiting USO Stars from the National League and the Manila Dodgers scorecard is very appealing. Scorecard details (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

After a day off, the series resumed on Thursday, January 3, with Jim Hearn taking the mound for Manila. Whitey Kurowski sent Brooklyn pitcher Tom Seats to the hill for the National Leaguers. The score was tied after nine when Kurowski replaced Seats with another Brooklynite hurler, Clyde King. King continued to keep Manila batters from reaching pay dirt as he mirrored Hearn, who continued through the 14th frame. With a runner aboard, Hal “Zig” Emery singled, allowing the game winning run to score in the 2-1 victory for the Army squad.[19] McCormick was once again the big bat of the game, reaching four times with a single, two doubles and a triple, thus falling a four-bagger short of the cycle.[20]

Click Image to read the full letter
This typewritten letter from an unknown GI, named “Norman,” describes the USO National League Stars’ visit to Luzon to face the Manila Dodgers (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Friday evening, January 4, the third game in the series saw Manila’s Early Wynn face Tom Seats. With 30,000 in attendance, the Army’s Dodgers clung to a 3-2 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning, when the National Leaguers touched Wynn for a game-tying run. The Manila Dodgers failed to score in the bottom of the frame as Higbe sent the future Cooperstown enshrinee out for the 10th frame. Despite holding the USO squad to a single tally, Wynn was anything but sharp as he had already been touched for 17 hits in the first nine innings. The NL batters touched Wynn for four runs to pull ahead, 7-3, while closing out the game without allowing another Manila score. Red Barrett and Frank McCormick accounted for two doubles and two singles each in the melee.[21]

After the game with the Manila Dodgers, the National Leaguers boarded their aircraft to begin their return to the United States. Following a stopover in Guam, the team’s aircraft experienced an engine casualty, forcing an emergency return to the airfield after having been airborne for three hours. On January 22, the NL Stars arrived back in the States, having traveled 18,000 miles and having entertained more than 225,000 GIs in the Pacific Theater.[22]

July 6, 1946: Pitcher Kirby Higbe looks at the “collar” cast around the neck of Pee Wee Reese who has a chipped cervical vertebrae (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

Additional Reading:

Notes:


[1] American Soldiers Bring Baseball Back to Manila, The Bee, Danville, Virginia, April 18, 1945.

[2] Nips Plans Upset by M’Arthur, by Lee Van Atta, International News Service, Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, February 16, 1945.

[3] American Soldiers Bring Baseball Back to Manila, The Bee, Danville, Virginia, April 18, 1945.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] A Combat and Baseball Story Uncovered: Discovery From a Lone Name on a Photo, Chevrons and Diamonds, December 22, 2020.

[8] 6000 GI’s Watch First Baseball Game on Leyte, Tampa Tribune, May 5, 1945.

[9] A Complete Report From Kirby Higbe, Tommy Holmes, The Brooklyn Eagle, June 29, 1945.

[10] Kirby Higbe: ‘Why Did They Fight?, The Columbia Record, June 30, 1945.

[11] Diamond Dust, New York Daily News, June 28, 1945.

[12] The Morning Call (Patterson, NJ), July 9, 1945.

[13] Sports Forum, Sgt. George Goodall, The Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, November 27, 1945.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ball Players Start For Pacific Today, Daily News (New York), December 13, 1945.

[16] Kirby Higbe Hurls Manila into Finals, The Belleville (Illinois) News Democrat, December 28, 1945.

[17] Dressen’s Squad Won 17 and Lost Only Five Games on Tour, Gus Steiger, The Sporting News, January 31, 1946.

[18] All-Stars Beat Army, The Pittsburgh Press, January 2, 1946.

[19] Touring Ball Players Lose to Manila Team, Springfield (Missouri) Leader and Press, January 4, 1946.

[20] Soldier’s personal correspondence, Unknown, January 5, 1946.

[21] National Stars Win in 10th, 7-3, The Des Moines Register, January 5, 1946.

[22] Dressen’s Squad Won 17 and Lost Only Five Games on Tour, Gus Steiger, The Sporting News, January 31, 1946.

Legends of the Western Pacific: An “Ink-less” WWII Autographed Treasure

Team autographed baseballs, especially those signed by wartime service players, are invaluable treasures to add to a collection of baseball militaria. Our collection includes several balls with signatures penned by teams including the 1943 and 1944 Norfolk Naval Training Station Bluejackets, the 1943 Pearl Harbor Submarine Base Dolphins,  the 1945 Hickam Bombers, and even a wartime armed forces softball signed by Hall of Famers Bill Dickey and Billy Herman. Most of these examples showcase dark and crisp pen strokes that are legible and easy to identify. A recent addition to our collection is one that is decidedly unique due to what we suspect to be detrimental environmental exposure.  

Devoid of all manufacturers’ markings and absent signs to properly date the ball, coupled with its condition, we faced no competition in pursuit of the item as it was listed. The auction listing’s photographs provided several perspectives showing many familiar names; however, nearly every autograph was seemingly inverted in its appearance. It was difficult to ascertain what happened to the ball, but it was quite obvious that some sort of decay had impacted each of the signatures encircling the horsehide.  

Due to the condition, the listing had a reasonably low price. Understanding that the risk was commensurate with our offer, the acquisition seemed to be worth the price if only to get the opportunity to examine the autographed baseball more closely. Recognizing most of the visible signatures in the photos, there was a good chance that this ball was signed in the weeks before the Japanese surrender.  

More than 500 ballplayers with major league experience served in the armed forces during World War II and nearly ten times that number of minor leaguers handed in their flannels to join the rank and file of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard during the national emergency. By the summer of 1945, the Japanese forces were pushed back towards the homeland and off the islands they held in the previous years. The Army and Navy had significant bases of operations established on Guam, Saipan and Tinian and were using these locations to bring the fight to the enemy’s homeland. To boost troop morale, many of the game’s biggest names were serving and playing baseball on the islands. The Navy’s Pacific Tour in the spring sent teams representing the Third and Fifth Fleets from island to island, playing before massive crowds of airman, soldiers, Marines, and sailors. At the conclusion of the Navy’s baseball tour, the players were dispersed to commands throughout the Marianas. 

Following the Navy’s lead, the Army assembled three teams representing the major Army Air Forces commands – the 313th, 58th and 73rd bombardment wings of the 20th and 21st Bomber Commands, headquartered on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. The rosters of the three squads were filled with men who, prior to their entry into the Army, were stars of the game in the major and minor leagues. They were led by managers Lew Riggs (313th “Flyers), George “Birdie” Tebbetts (58th “Wingmen) and Colonel “Buster” Mills (73rd “Bombers”).

Our odd, autographed baseball arrived and upon closer examination, it was clear that some sort of reaction between the ink in the signatures and the horsehide resulted in a weakening of the surface and subsequent erosion, which in turn resulted in ghost indentations of the original autographs. In some areas, faded ink remained intact but overall, the autographs had the appearance of impressions. Regardless of the deterioration, the autographs were still legible and we were able to identify all but one of the 23 names encircling the ball.  

Of the 50-plus players distributed among the three U.S. Army Air Forces ball teams, Joe Gordon and Enos Slaughter were future Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinees while several more were All-Stars. Unlike today’s inherent wall of separation between players and fans, the armed forces ballplayers made efforts to be among their comrades, working alongside them, dining with them and even sleeping in the same quarters with them. They were readily available for GIs seeking autographs. It is common to find signed programs, scorecards, photos, bats and baseballs among GIs’ medals, uniforms, and other wartime artifacts. While not as valuable as a World Series team-signed baseball or a major league game program autographed by a legend, service team-signed artifacts provide a unique prospective on baseball and World War II history. 

The principal islands of the Marianas were home to the 20th Air Force’s long-range bombers that conducted incessant air strikes on the Japanese homeland. Countless Boeing B-29 Super Fortresses sortied from the islands to Japanese military targets some 1,500 miles away, encountering flak and enemy fighter resistance and suffering losses or returning to their bases with heavy damage and wounded or killed crewmen. The operational pace and the casualties exacted a heavy toll on the morale of airmen and ground support personnel. Watching their heroes playing a baseball game during downtime gave the men respite from the horrors and losses of continuous combat and support operations. 

 As stated earlier, the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific (USASTAF), based on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian, consisted of the 20th and 21st Bomber Commands with three bombardment wings – the 58th and 73rd (in the 20th) and the 313th (in the 21st). Each wing was comprised of multiple bombardment groups (40th, 444th, 462nd and 468th in the 58th; the 497th, 498th, 499th and 500th in the 73rd; 6th, 9th, 504th, 505th, 509th and 383rd in the 313th) with roughly four bombardment squadrons in each group. For these two bomber commands, there were approximately 30,000 men, not to mention the additional Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel also stationed on the islands. Each of the baseball teams represented more than 10,000 Air Forces personnel when they took the field. 

313th Bombardment Wing “Flyers” 

Rank Name Position Former 
 Rinaldo “Rugger”  Ardizoia Kansas City (AA) 
 Eddie  Chandler P Pocatello 
 Carl DeRose Amsterdam 
Corp. Froilan “Nanny” Fernandez SS Braves 
 Stan  Goletz White Sox 
 Johnny “Swede” Jensen LF San Diego (PCL) 
 Walter “Wally” Judnich RF Browns 
 Bill Leonard CF  
 Don Looser  
 Al Olsen P San Diego (PCL) 
 Lewis S. Riggs 3B/Mgr. Dodgers 
 Bull Storie CF  
 Johnny Sturm 1B Yankees 
 Max West CF Braves 
Italicized names are present on our baseball.

58th Bombardment Wing “Wingmen” 

Rank Name Position Former 
 Bob “Bobby” Adams 2B Syracuse (IL) 
 Al “Chubby” Dean P Indians 
 Tom Gabrielli Pirates 
Corp. George Gill P Tigers/Browns 
 Joe Gordon SS Yankees 
Capt. Billy Hitchcock 3B Tigers 
 Edwin “Ed” Kowalski Appleton (WISL) 
 Al Lang LF Reds 
 Don Lang OF Kansas City (AA) 
 Pete Layden OF collegiate 
 Arthur “Art” Lilly IF Hollywood (PCL) 
 Joe Marty OF Phillies 
 Roy Pitter P Binghamton (EL) 
 Howie Pollet P Cardinals 
T/Sgt. Enos “Country” Slaughter OF Cardinals 
 Chuck Stevens 1B Browns 
 Johnny Sturm 1B Yankees 
Capt. George “Birdie” Tebbetts C/Mgr. Tigers 
 Vic Wertz CF Tigers 
Bold indicates election to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Italicized names are present on our baseball.

73rd Bombardment Wing “Bombers” 

Rank Name Position Former 
 Bob Dillinger 3B Toledo (AA) 
 Bill Dudley Utility collegiate 
S/Sgt. Ferris Fain 1B San Francisco (PCL) 
 Sid Hudson P Senators 
 Tex Hughson P Red Sox 
 Frank Kahn Dodgers prospect 
 Ralph Lamson IF Milwaukee (AA) 
 Al Lein San Francisco (PCL) 
Sgt. Dario Lodigiani IF White Sox 
 John “Johnny” Mazur Texarkana (EXTL) 
 Myron “Mike” McCormick OF Reds 
 Colonel “Buster” Mills OF/Mgr. Indians 
Sgt. Stan Rojek SS Dodgers 
 Bill Schmidt Sacramento (PCL) 
 Charlie Silvera Wellsville (PONY) 
 Taft Wright OF White Sox 
Italicized names are present on our baseball.
Safely returning to base after a mission was not a guarantee despite reaching the airstrip. This B-29 broke apart on Saipan’s Isley Field (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

The USAAF Marianas baseball competition was held in a three-team round-robin fashion with the tournament commencing on July 27, 1945. Birdie Tebbetts’ 58th Wingmen took on Buster Mills’ 73rd Bombers. The 1944 Hawaiian League batting champ from the 7th AAF team, Ferris Fain, secured the win for Tebbetts’ Bombers by hitting a game-winning solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. As the tournament progressed throughout August and into September, the operational pace of the B-29 missions over Japan with the low-level bombing runs continued. It was not uncommon for a game to be played while the aircraft were away on a mission. The ball game offered a few hours of relief from the tension and stress as the men on the ground awaited the return of squadron aircraft during the 15+-hour missions, hoping that all planes would return safely. Hours after the final out of a game, as the very heavy bombers were returning, ground personnel would count the number of aircraft and hope that those that did make it back had safely landed despite any damage sustained. The landings were anything but guaranteed as some B-29s overshot runways and ditched into the sea, crashed, or burst into flames on the Guam, Saipan, and Tinian airstrips. 

The three teams played 27 games with their total cumulative spectators numbering more than 180,000. There were plenty of opportunities for GIs serving on the islands to obtain autographs. With 24 signatures from players on the 58th (9), 73rd (4) and 313th (9) Wings, it is apparent that the GI was working diligently to get the ball covered with ink from as many of the 50 players as possible.  

Of the two future Cooperstown enshrinees, Joe Gordon and Enos Slaughter, the latter’s name graces our ball, joined by his former Cardinals teammate, pitcher Howie Pollet. Unfortunately, both of their autographs, like most of the others on the ball, have oddly deteriorated. Regardless of the condition, the signatures are still recognizable and the ball is decidedly a conversation piece. To prevent continued decay, the ball is stored away from the environmental elements that likely contributed to the demise of the signatures. 

Former Yankee and future Hall of Famer Joe Gordon spends time signing autographs for his brothers-in-arms following a game on Guam (Chevrons and Diamonds Collection).

It is not difficult to imagine the USAAF ballplayers encircled by GI autograph seekers after a game. Following a long day of performing bomber engine maintenance and refueling and rearming aircraft or the emotionally draining task of cleaning blood from wounded or killed airmen, the simple pleasure of obtaining signatures from star baseball players at a game helped to take the men’s minds off the hardships of their jobs. Considering the arduous duty conditions in the Marianas and despite the degradation of the autographs, this ball is a welcome addition to the Chevrons and Diamonds Collection. 

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