Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


Baseball in Wartime Timeline

1940    1941    1942    1943    1944    1945



Buddy Lewis of the Washington Senators is now stationed at the Armored Force Replacement Training Center, Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he is leader of his platoon’s first squad.


Steve Peek, who pitched for the Yankees in 1941, enlists in the Army at Utica, New York.


Boston Braves second baseman Bama Rowell, is with Company C, 1st Chemical Warfare Service Training Battalion, Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland.


Lefthander Earl Johnson of the Boston Red Sox is inducted in the Army.


Mickey Harris of the Red Sox is now in the Canal Zone with the Army.


Dick Fowler of the Philadelphia Athletics, who lives in Toronto, has applied for enlistment with the Canadian Armed Forces.


Walter “Rabbit” Maranville is accepted into the Navy as an assistant to Lieutenant-Commander Gene Tunney.


Hugh Gustafson, first baseman with Madison of the Wisconsin State League, and a star defensive player on the Rhode Island Reds hockey team is inducted in the Army. Gustafson was honored at Providence, Rhode Island before leaving.


January 3

Les Wirkkala, a pitcher with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association, has enlisted in the Army Air Force. Following the close of the 1941 season, Wirkkala went to work on the construction of the Army Reception Center at Camp Perry, Ohio. He has been assigned to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.


January 5

Bob Feller reports to Norfolk Naval Training Station, Virginia.


Brooklyn Dodgers’ infield prospect Claude Corbitt, who played with Montreal in 1941, enlists in the Navy.


January 7

Cecil Travis of the Washington Senators reports to Fort McPherson, Georgia, for his physical examination. He is sworn in the following day.


Cardinals’ third baseman George Kurowski is rejected for military service because of a deformity of the right arm.


January 8

Ted Williams passes his first physical examination by the military.


Zeke Bonura reports back for duty at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.


January 13

Johnny Sturm, Yankees’ first baseman, enlists with the Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.


Al Brancato, shortstop of the Philadelphia Athletics, enlists in the Navy and is temporarily assigned to the receiving ship at League Island, Philadelphia.


January 14

Kenesaw Mountain Landis writes to President Roosevelt to ask what baseball should do in time of war.

Johnny Berardino, St Louis Browns’ shortstop, applies for admission into the Army Air Force at Los Angeles, California. He is sent to Higley Field, Arizona on January 19 to receive his flying training.


January 15

John “Red” Davis, third baseman with the New York Giants, enlists in the Army Air Force at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is assigned to a base at Savannah, Georgia.


Dick Mulligan of the Senators enlists in the Army Air Force at Trenton, New Jersey.


January 16

President Roosevelt replies to Landis with his "Green Light" letter. "I honestly feel," he wrote, "that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going."

Joe Grace of the St Louis Browns is sworn in by the Navy.


Stan Klores, former minor league first baseman and baseball coach at Northwestern University, joins the Naval Reserves at Chicago, Illinois.


January 19

Bill Posedel, who served two years in the Navy before the war, re-enlists and reports for duty today.


January 26

The first American troops arrive in Europe as over 4,000 men of the 34th Division disembark in Northern Ireland.


January 27

Hank Greenberg returns to military service reporting to Fort Dix, New York. Greenberg will be permanently assigned to the Army Air Force and transferred to Bolling Field, Washington, DC.


January 31

Cookie Lavagetto of the Dodgers relinquishes his Class 3-A status and enlists in the Naval Aviation Reserve. Lavagetto will be stationed at Alameda Air Base.



An initial assignment of 890 kits of baseball equipment, supplied by organized baseball through its Ball and Bat Fund, is shipped to various military camps in the United States. The fund was started with $25,000 contributed by major league baseball and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.


Fred Thon, who pitched for Reading of the Interstate League in 1941, is office manager of the air station of the 10th Naval District at San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thon is pitching for the San Juan Senadores of La Liga Profesional de Pelota de Puerto Rico.


Former National League umpire George “Tiny” Parker enlists in the Army.


Joe Pinder, a pitcher with Fort Myers of the Florida East Coast League, is inducted in the Army at the Reception Center in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, and assigned to the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Wheeler, Georgia.


February 3

Louis “Boze” Berger, former major league infielder, is ordered to report for duty at Washington, DC, from Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. Berger is a reserve infantry officer.


February 5

Athletics’ infielder Benny McCoy is sworn in as a coxswain in the Naval Reserve at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois.


February 7

It is announced today that all major and minor league will display “Hale America” health shields on the sleeves of players and umpires in co-operation with the wartime physical fitness program, directed by John B Kelly, head of the Physical Fitness Division of the Office of Civilian Defense.


Senators’ infielder Hillis Layne is inducted into the Army at Fort Oglethorpe, Tennessee.



February 10

Lieutenant Gordon Houston, an outfielder with the Texarkana Liners in the East Texas League in 1940, is killed when his P-43 Lancer fighter plane, hits a ditch and flips over after landing at McChord Field in Tacoma, Washington.


February 15

The Eastern Shore League disbands for the duration of the war.


February 16

Herb Hunter, 46, former major league infielder who toured Japan, China and the Philippines as a good-will ambassador for baseball enlists in the Navy in St Louis. He had previously been rejected for bad teeth.


February 21

White Sox prospect, Walt Navie (Nawiesniak), enlists in the Naval Air Corps.


February 28

Infielder Emmett “Heinie” Mueller, who played for the Phillies until being sold to Montreal for 1942, volunteers for the Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.



Frank Janik, formerly with Rome of the Canadian-American League is promoted to sergeant at Fort Ord, California.


President W G Bramham of the National Association announces that 581 minor league players are in military service.


March 1

Baseball decides that players in the military can't play for their professional teams when on furlough.


Emerson Dickman of the Red Sox enlists in the Naval Reserve.


March 2

Hank Nowak, pitcher with the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association in 1941, is inducted in the Army at Fort Niagara, New York.


March 5

Morrie Arnovich is inducted into the Army at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.


March 13

Tigers’ outfielder Pat Mullins enlists in the Army at Pittsburgh and is immediately sent to the induction center at New Cumbernauld, Pennsylvania.


March 17

Second Lieutenant Tom Dillant, formerly a catcher on the baseball team at Keene Teachers College in New Hampshire, is killed while attempting an emergency landing in a P-39 Airacobra at Myrtle Beach Army Air Field in South Carolina.


March 20

Dedicating their new ball park, George Earnshaw’s Naval Air Station Fliers at Pensacola, Florida, defeats the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, 3 to 2, in ten innings.


March 27

Mickey Cochrane receives his Naval commission as a lieutenant. Cochrane will coach the baseball team at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in addition to assisting Lieutenant Commander J Russell Cook, athletic officer, in other phases of the year-round physical education program being set up.


April 3

The Jefferson Barracks Reception Center team beats the University of Illinois, 9 to 5, in its inaugural game. Joe Rayne, formerly first baseman with St Joseph of the Michigan State League hits two home runs.


Led by Bob Feller on the mound, Norfolk Naval Training Station defeats Richmond University, 13 to 1.


18,000 servicemen turn out at Camp Wheeler to see the home team beaten by the Brooklyn Dodgers, 7 to 5.


April 9

American and Filipino troops surrender to the Japanese from the last fortified positions on the Bataan Peninsula.


April 11

Chuck Eisenmann, pitcher for the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, re-enlists in the Army after having served two years before the war.


April 25

The first recorded baseball game by American troops in Europe in World War II is played between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Division. A crowd of more than 1,000 locals are treated to a play-by-play account over a public address system, a concert by the regiment band, and an impromptu jitterbug demonstration on the sidelines. Pitching for the winning 3rd Battalion in the 14-4 game is Corporal Robert Lange who had an 8-4 won-loss record with the Flint Arrows of the Michigan State League in 1940. In the sixth inning, Corporal Leo J Robinson, a 24-year-old semi-pro outfielder from Harper's Ferry, Iowa , hits the first home run by an American serviceman in Europe in World War II.



A league exclusively for servicemen is set up in New Orleans with ten teams. Players are from various branches of the Army, Navy and Coast Guard.


Former major league infielder Joe Dugan conducts a baseball instructional school for the 26th Infantry at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. The school is sponsored by the recreation department of the WPA and features other former major league players.


Pitching against a picked Australian team in a game at the Advanced American Training Camp Base in Australia, John Lund, former minor league pitcher, strikes out 16 of the 21 batters he faces in the seven inning game.


A new incentive is offered to all service teams to participate in any one of the 45 state championship semi-pro tournaments. Army teams may qualify through any one of the state tournaments, not necessarily the one in the state where the camp is located.


May 3

Maxie Wilson, former pitcher with Portsmouth in the Piedmont League, throws a no-hitter for Norfolk Naval Training Station against Hampden-Sydney College.


May 5

Norfolk Naval Training Station wins its 21st victory in 23 games, defeating Bridgewater College, 13 to 3.


May 6

The besieged American and Filipino garrison at Corregidor Island in Manila Bay surrenders to the Japanese, giving them control of the Philippine Islands.


May 7

Allied naval and air forces eliminate a Japanese task force in the Coral Sea, sinking 100,000 tons of Japanese shipping between New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The Japanese had planned to land forces either in Australia or the New Hebrides. This battle marks the first serious Japanese setback of the war.


May 10

Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, play a 20-inning game against Whitehall, Wisconsin, winning 5-4.


May 11

Making his farewell appearance at Norfolk Naval Training Station, Bob Feller strikes out 14 and wins, 3 to 0, against Norfolk of the Piedmont League. Feller leaves the next day for Providence, Rhode Island.


May 27

Great Lakes Naval Training Station win the service championship of Northern Illinois by defeating Camp Grant, 4 to 1.


May 29

Senators’ Elmer Gedeon becomes a lieutenant and receives his wings with the Army Air Force at Williams Field, Arizona.


The athletic field at Foster Field, Texas, is renamed “Lou Gehrig Field.”


May 31

$1,638.20 is raised for the Army and Navy Relief Funds when the Naval Reserve Base of Oakland beat the Chico Flyers, 9 to 0.



Dick Skale, a young catcher with Waterloo in the Three-I League, is among those reported missing following the capture of Corregidor in the Philippines. Skale later turns up safe and well, and plays for Shreveport in the Texas League after the war.


The baseball field at Camp Roberts, California, is named “Meyers Field” in honor of Otto Meyers, former outfielder with Durham. Meyers was responsible for building the diamond, complete with sprinkling and drainage systems.


A US Army team in Sydney, Australia, defeats an Australian team from New South Wales in four games out of seven, to win the MacArthur Cup.


June 1

Approximately 160 dozen baseballs have been shipped to various units in the armed forces through the Baseball Equipment Fund, it is revealed by Ford Frick and Clark Griffith, members of the fund committee.


June 7

American air and naval forces win the Battle of Midway as they intercept the Japanese fleet attempting to seize the strategic island, inflicting heavy losses. The American victory checks the Japanese advance across the central Pacific and eliminates the threat to Hawaii.


June 10

The Chanute Field Planesmen register their fifteenth win in 18 games by defeating the Andersons of Bloomington, Illinois, 4 to 3.


June 11 Minor league pitcher/outfielder Ed Tuttle is killed during pilot training when his plane collides head-on with another over Naval Air Station Lee Field in Green Cove Springs, Florida.

June 14

Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Bob Smith, former catcher and captain of the American Legion Montana state champions, Fargo Post No 2, is killed when his PBY-5 Catalina runs into bad weather as crash lands on the Pacific island of Kiska in the Aleutians.


An Army-Navy game at the Polo Grounds attracts 15,000 fans. Bob Feller and the Norfolk Naval Training Station team beat the all-star Army team, 4 to 0.


June 24

Sergeant Bill Gates, formerly of Syracuse in the International League, strikes out 22 batters in a game for the 134th Medical Regiment against the 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Five days earlier Gates had pitched a seven-inning no-hitter. He will pitch another no-hitter next week.


June 26

Corporal Gene Stack, White Sox pitching prospect, who won 19 games with the Lubbock Hubbers in the West Texas-New Mexico League in 1940, suffers a heart attack and dies while returning to Camp Custer after pitching a ball game in Michigan City, Indiana.



Steve Dobos, minor league umpire who tried to join the British Royal Air Force and then washed out in early training as an aviation cadet with the Army Air Force, leaves for Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force.


Major Alfred H Von Kolnitz, who played for the Reds and White Sox before the First World War, is appointed commander of Squadron 1, OTS, Miami Beach, Florida. At 25, Von Kolnitz was one of the youngest majors in the Army during the First World War.


July 4

As part of the Anglo-American Independence Day celebrations, the first officially recognized baseball game in Northern Ireland since 1917, is played between the 34th Division (Midwest Giants) and the 1st Armored Division (Kentucky Wildcats). The Giants win 3-2.


In England, the first official clash between Canadian and American forces takes place at Selhurst Park soccer ground in London. The USAAF beat a Canadian all-star team, 19 to 17.


In Melbourne, Australia, the American All-Stars beat Australia’s Victoria All-Stars, 4-1, before a crowd of 5,000.


July 12 U.S. Navy Ensign Joe Boren, who pitched in the minors in the mid-1930s, is among 10 crew memers killed when their PBY-5A Catalina crashes while trying to land at Naval Air Station Trinidad in the British West Indies.

July 16

Jim Grilk, a catcher with the Sacramento Senators, who was employed as a civilian to help the baseball program at Sacramento Army Air Depot in California, is killed in an auto accident on the way back to base.


July 19

Ensign Gus Bebas, who pitched for Northwestern University, 1937 to 1939, is killed while piloting a Douglas Dauntless dive bomber attacking a target boat off Barber's Point, Hawaiian Islands.


Albert McCarty, minor league pitcher in the Browns’ organization, throws a no-hitter for the Camp Callan Medics of California, against the Naval Air Base.


July 27

As part of a chemical warfare services experiment at Fort Custer, Michigan, the Chemical Corps played baseball against an ordnance battalion, wearing gas masks.


July 30

The Sporting News announces that the publication’s annual subscription rates to servicemen are reduced from $6.00 to $3.75.


The National Defense Service List shows that 937 minor league players are in military service (Class AA 122, Class A-1 72, Class A 42, Class B 244, Class C 205 and Class D 252)



John Lavan, shortstop with the Cardinals in the 1920s, is revealed as the highest ranking former baseball player in the Navy. Lavan is a commander and stationed at the Naval Hospital in Brooklyn. Lavan served as an Army lieutenant in the medical corps during the First World War.


The San Diego Marine Corps Devildogs win the 11th Naval District baseball championship, winning 46 out of 52 games.


Former minor league pitcher, Peter Beaudreau is still pitching for the Air Force Basic Training School Flyers at Gardner Field, California, despite being 50 years old. He has won 13 of 17 games this season.


American troops in Great Britain are now receiving nightly five-minute radio broadcasts, courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation, keeping them up-to-date with the latest baseball news from home.


Hank Greenberg completes a 12-week course at the Officers’ Candidate School at Miami Beach, Florida. He is now an Army Air Force second lieutenant.


Fort Lewis Warriors service team win the Washington state semi-pro tournament.


August 3

At Wembley Stadium in London, England, in front of a crowd of 6,000, the Canadian Army Headquarters baseball team score a shocking defeat over the US Army Headquarters, 5-3. Ed Smith, a renowned amateur-circuit player from Kingston, Ontario, strikes out 12 and scatters six hits.


August 9

Ensign Norman Smith, former minor league pitcher, is killed in the Pacific while serving with the Navy. His body is never recovered.


August 16

Joe Orteig, formerly with Vancouver in the Western International League, throws a no-hitter for the Coast Guard at Seattle, Washington, against the Teamsters.


August 23

Morrison Field captures the City Service League at West Palm Beach, Florida.


August 24

Dom DiMaggio is inducted into the Navy as a coxswain with the Inshore patrol at Boston.



Great Lakes Naval Training Station baseball team finishes with a record of 63 wins and 14 losses.


Norfolk Naval Air Station finishes the season with 92 wins in 100 games.


The baseball team at Norfolk Naval Training Station finishes with a record of 83 wins and eight losses.


Fort Lewis Warriors win the Washington State semi-pro tournament. They finish the year with a record of 39 wins and six losses.


The Pasco Naval Reserve Air Base Flyers of Washington, finish their season with a record of 42 wins and only four losses.


September 1

Tommy Henrich of the New York Yankees reports for duty at the Cleveland, Ohio, District Coast Guard headquarters, receiving a rating of specialist first class.


September 9

Private Pete Rehkamp, who threw a no-hitter for the Lenoir Reds in the South Atlantic League in 1940, is killed when his automobile collides with the eighty-car Grand Trunk Railroad freight train at a railroad intersection in Mount Clemens, Michigan.


September 20

Staff Sergeant George Chandler, who played with the Tyler Trojans in the East Texas League, is killed when his B-26 Marauder crash lands at Plain Dealing, Louisiana.


September 23 Minor league shortstop Frank Haggerty is killed when his P-40 Warhawk fighter plane crashes into the Catawba River near Charlotte, North Carolina.


The Keesler Field Commandos win the Mississippi State semi-pro title, finishing the year with 22 wins and seven losses.


The Lake Charles Army Flying School Fliers finish the year with 18 wins and four losses, clinching the Sabine-Nechos semi-pro league in Louisiana.


October 5

The St Louis Cardinals clinch the World Series with a 2-0 win at Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees in Game Five.


October 6 Minor league pitcher Bill Marzalek is killed in an army training accident at Fort Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, southeast Arizona.

October 7

Second Lieutenant William Marszalek, who pitched for Oil City in the Penn State Association in 1941, dies at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.


October 14

Private Morrie Arnovich suffers painful lacerations on his right arm in a freak accident at Fort Lewis, Washington. He slips in a shower and plunges his arm through a window, inflicting cuts that require 12 stitches.


October 21

Billy Hebert, who played second base with the Merced Bears in the California League in 1941, is killed during the Japanese bombing of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.


October 22 Minor league Buddy Blewster is killed in action at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.

October 31

30,000 fans witness “American Sports Day” in Glasgow, Scotland with exhibitions of baseball, softball and football staged by US servicemen.



2nd Lt Robert J Byrne Jr, minor leaguer and son of the former Cardinals’ third baseman, shoots down a German fighter plane during a mission in North Africa.


November 5

The Sporting News reports that minor league baseball contributed $232,474 to various relief causes. The International League alone contributed more than $103,000.


November 8

Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa, starts today with amphibious landings to seize the key ports and airports of Morocco and Algeria simultaneously, targeting Casablanca, Oran and Algiers.


Second Lieutenant Joe Byrd, former varsity baseball and football player at Baylor University, is shot down and killed by French fighter planes while piloting a Spitfire in Algeria.


December 2 Bill Padar, a second baseman who played for the Mansfield Braves in 1940, is killed in action in Tunisia when his tank is destroyed.

December 3

Warren Spahn enters military service with the Army.


December 5

Bobby Thomson joins the Army Air Force.

December 7 Minor leaue catcher Jack Pinion is killed when his B-24D Liberator crashes into a mountain while attempting to land at Tafarouri Aerodrome in Algeria, North Africa.

Copyright © 2020 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.