Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Minor League BaseballRay Champagne

 

Date and Place of Birth: July 4, 1921 Woonsocket, Rhode Island

Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Third Base
Rank: Corporal
Military Unit: HQ Battalion, 21st Marines, Third Marine Division, US Marine Corps

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

 

Ray ChampagneThird baseman Ray Champagne was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on July 4, 1921. At the age of 15 he played for the Kornstein Juniors who won the Junior Twilight League. He also played high school baseball at Franklin High and American Legion ball in Providence, Rhode Island.

After leaving high school, Champagne played for the Model Dairy team that won the Twilight League title.

Champagne went to Albany, Georgia in 1941 for a tryout with the St Louis Cardinals. He played in an exhibition game against the major league club which was coming up from spring training and remained in Albany for three weeks before returning to Rhode Island to play with American Wringer in a semi-pro league.

In 1942, Champagne played for Marquette in the New England League. He joined the Marines in July 1942 and served in the Pacific with the Third Marine Division.

Following the Guadalcanal campaign in 1943, Corporal Champagne helped guide the HQ Battalion baseball team to the Third Marine Division pennant. The team’s line-up included Art Manush (nephew of Hall of Famer Heinie Manusch and a minor league player before the war), James Trimble (an outstanding high school pitcher signed by the Senators before enlisting) and Bobby Schang (a minor league player and son of former major league catcher Wally Schang). Champagne - along with Manush, Trimble and Schang -  were selected to play for the Third Marine Division all-star team that lost to the Army all-stars, 4-3, in 12 innings, in the Pacific World Series.

Champagne left Guadalcanal for Guam in July 1944. After the Guam campaign ended in August 1944, the Third Marine Division baseball team was back in action on the ballfield. They played a series of exhibition games, and even traveled by air to neighboring islands for games against the Second Marine Division.

Third Marine Division All-Stars 1944

 

Pfc Robert J Schang

HQ Battalion

Catcher

Pfc Stanley R Bazan

21st Marines

Catcher

Cpl James E Hedgecock

HQ Battalion

Pitcher

Pfc Edmond J Beaumier

3rd Marines

Pitcher

HA1c William W Connelly

3rd Medical Battalion

Pitcher

Pvt James Trimble

HQ Battalion

Pitcher

GySgt Edwin Burgess

12th Marines

First Base

Cpl Louis J Griener

3rd Marines

Second Base

Cpl Chester Pietras

HQ Battalion

Shortstop

Cpl Raymond H Champagne

HQ Battalion

Third Base

Sgt Edward Ellavsky

HQ Battalion

Utility Infielder

Cpl George B Cooper

12th Marines

Left Field

Sgt Steve Johnson

3rd Eng Battalion

Center Field

PhM2c Billy R Parish

21st Marines

Center Field

Cpl Henry C Meyer

9th Marines

Right Field

Pfc James Turner

HQ Battalion

Trainer

Col Lyman Passmore

Div Paymaster

Manager

Capt Arthur Manush

Asst A&M Officer

Coach

Capt Edward Gorman

12th Marines

Coach

 

Third Marine Division All-Stars on Guam in 1944

Ray Champagne is front row, fourth from left

In February 1945 it was back to business as the Third Marine Division were involved in the invasion of Iwo Jima. During this battle, pitcher Jimmy Trimble was killed in action.

When the Marines returned to Guam after securing Iwo Jima, the Third Marine Division baseball field was renamed Trimble Field in honor of Jimmy Trimble. 

 

 

Ray Champagne returned to the United States in 1945. The Marines wanted him to play for their team in San Diego, but he chose to play at Quonset Point, Rhode Island which was much nearer home. He played in the 1st Naval District League and helped defeat the Portland (Maine) Navy team for the championship.

 

During his time at Quonset Point in 1945, Champagne – along with about 30 other players - was invited to Ebbets Field by the Dodgers, where he met Brooklyn general manager Buzzy Bavasi.

 

During the summer of 1945, Champagne also played for the Worcester Nortons in the semi-pro New England League, and was signed by Red Sox scout Jack Egan, receiving a $200 bonus. He was also offered a contract by Torchy Torrance – vice-president of the Seattle Rainiers – who had managed the Third Marine Division team in the Pacific.

 

Champagne chose to join the Red Sox and went to spring training in 1946. His wife, Violette, was expecting their first child at the time, and the Red Sox wanted to send Champagne to Scranton, Pennsylvania, but he wanted to stay close to home and requested to play for the Lynn Red Sox in the New England League which was a Class B status league in organized baseball for 1946. The Red Sox would not allow this and Champagne chose instead to play for a local semi-pro club.

 

Between 1947 and 1950, Champagne played baseball with the PQ team in the Suburban League and Jennie’s Ice Cream in the Providence Amateur League. In his last time at bat at Roosevelt Park, Blackstone (Massachusetts), Ray hit a home run!

Ray worked as a salesman for 32 years for the International Supply Company in Cranston, Rhode Island. He and Violette have been married for 62 years and still live in Woonsocket. They have two sons (Robert and Gerald) and two daughters (Janice and Denise).

 

Thanks to Ray Champagne and his daughter Janice Pelletier for sharing this information.

 

Created January 8, 2007. Updated November 20, 2007.

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.