Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

Click here for details

Dick Adams


Date and Place of Birth: April 8, 1920 Tuolumne, California

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: First Base
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Military Unit: USAAF

Area Served: United States

Major League Stats: Dick Adams on Baseball-Almanac


Dick AdamsRichard L “Dick” Adams was born on April 8, 1920 in Tuolumne, California. He came from a musical family and his father wanted him to be a classical musician - although he preferred jazz.


But instead, he signed a professional baseball contract for  Cincinnati Reds along with his brother Bobby and was assigned to the Ogden Reds in the Class C Pioneer League in 1939. In 1940 he played with Tucson Cowboys and the Albuquerque Cardinal, in the Class D Arizona-Texas League.


"In 1941," Dick Adams told baseball historian Bill Swank on July 20, 2007. "I batted .318 for the Fresno Cardinals in the California League and got promoted to Sacramento at the end of the season. I knew I was getting drafted. A friend of mine at Moffet Field [California)] called me and said I should join the Army Air Corps. Because I'd be in the band, I didn't have to go through basic training... no KP... no guard duty. I was assigned to the Santa Ana (California) Air Base and we played for all the dances - enlisted, cadets, officers and the USO shows when they'd come from Hollywood.
"They didn't have a baseball team when I first got there. The guy who was the CO of the enlisted men at the base liked sports and knew I'd been a ballplayer. Actually we had a great football team. Can you believe it? The band had the best football team on the base and we won the championship. That made everybody mad. I was the quarterback and my brothers, Bobby and Wes, were the ends. They even picked an all-star team to play us and we beat 'em three straight.
"When they started the baseball team, we had guys like Jack Jacobs who'd been an All-American football player at Oklahoma and Merle Hapes who played football for the New York Giants and got caught up in gambling accusations. Joe DiMaggio came in 1943. He was assigned to the base as a PE instructor to lead calisthenics. He learned to play handball and became a helluva handball player. I was a good handball player and he got to where he could beat me 50-50. He had those catlike moves and I could move like a cat then, too. [laughter]
"We won a lot of games when Joe was on the team. He was always a nice guy, just a quiet person. My nickname was "Rowdy Richard," because I was so quiet. We only talked during PE and on the ball field. Joe stuck by himself. He spent every weekend in Hollywood. You remember there was rationing during the war, but Joe always had all the gas and tires he needed.
"Was he cheap? No cheaper than any other ballplayer. We'd wait in hotel lobbies for a guy to put his newspaper down and then we'd take it. Newspapers cost a nickel back then and ballplayers didn't like to spend money. Four of us went to a restaurant in Boston once and we all left a quarter tip. A quarter was a lot of money back then. Afterward, the waiter followed us out to the street and said, 'You need this more than I do.' He was insulted by our tip. [laughter]
"Our team at Santa Ana was good. We beat Red Ruffing's Long Beach Ferry Command. He had a lot of big leaguers. Well, Red was in his late thirties by then and went into training for a month. Next time we played them, he beat us, 2-0. Joe and I both struck out twice and my brother Bobby struck out three times. I know we won a lot of games in a row, but don't remember who broke our streak.

"I do remember that the Air Corps flew us around to play other bases to raise morale. Of course, everybody wanted to see Joe play. We flew up to Ogden and Salt Lake City, but I remember Tucson the best. I went four-for-four off Bill Clemensen who pitched for the Pirates. We stayed at the St. Rita Hotel. They had an elevator with an operator. You remember how they used to have elevator operators. She wore a uniform and was a good looking gal. She recognized Joe and stopped the elevator between floors. It was just her, Joe, me and my brother Bobby in the elevator. She said, 'Mr. DiMaggio, I can make you forget your wife.' Joe had just gotten divorced from his wife the actress Dorothy Arnold. Joe shook his head. Bobby and I said, 'What about us?' She said, 'No!'


Santa Ana Army Air Base in 1943. Dick Adams is back row, sixth left. His brother Bobby is front row, fourth left and Joe DiMaggio is front row, seventh left.

"Playing ball in the military helped me because we played against good competition. We faced some good pitchers and had some good crowds. The enlisted men really turned out to see Joe DiMaggio... and the Adams Brothers play." [laughter]


In December 1945 Staff Sergeant Adams was mustered out of service. Adams hit .330 and drove in 155 runs for the Wenatchee Chiefs of the Class B Western International League in 1946 and in November of that year was drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics. On May 20, 1947, Dick Adams made his major league debut with Philadelphia. He remained with the club for the 1947 season, appearing in 37 games and batting .202 with two home runs.


He was back in the minor leagues in 1948 where he continued to play until 1953.  His brother, Bobby, was an infielder with the Reds, White Sox, Orioles and Cubs from 1946 to 1959. His nephew, Mike, Bobby’s son, was an outfielder with the Twins, Cubs and Athletics during the 1970s.


"After I finished playing and managing in pro ball, I was a basketball coach, baseball coach and athletic director in the Whittier Union High School District for 26 years," he told Bill Swank. "I'm 87 years old and still play golf, but had to give up tennis in my early 80s because my knees gave out. I also play Big Band music several times a week with a group for senior dances, but jazz is still my favorite."


Herm Reich, Bill Swank and Dick Adams on July 20, 2007


Thanks to Bill Swank for sharing the transcript of his great interview with Dick Adams. Thanks to Dick Adams for many of the photos.


Created July 17, 2007. Updated July 31, 2007.

Copyright © 2015 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.