|A Forgotten All-Star Game|
By Stan Grosshandler
During World War II there were a number of special benefit baseball games aimed at war relief, war bond sales, or other fundraising purposes. One of these was as early as March 17, 1940, in Tampa, Florida, and was played for the Finnish Relief Fund following the invasion of that small nation by the Soviet Union. It was the Florida spring training portion of American League vs. National League and the Senior Circuit won 2-1 before 13,180 fans.
Another fund-raising game took place on June 26, 1944, in the Polo Grounds with the primary purpose of selling war bonds. It was a three-dimensional game where the Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees rotated on the field and at bat. The Dodgers won before more than 50,000 fans (see article in 1979 Baseball Research Journal, pp. 138-141).
The biggest service-connected game was one I was fortunate enough to attend in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium on July 7, 1942. This game, attended by 62,094 paid, plus 2,000 servicemen, pitted the American League All-Stars, who had defeated the National League All-Star team the previous evening in New York, against a group of military service all-stars from many different Army and Navy bases around the country.
"I recall going from New York to Cleveland by train for the game," said Ken Keltner, who had played third base in the 3-1 victory over the NL All-Stars and would fill the same role against the Service All-Stars. "While the level of play in the majors during the war was eventually to fall, we still had some real good players available in 1942."
The crowd was entertained prior to the game with a massive military display consisting of servicemen from all branches, military bands, tanks, and other mechanized equipment. It lasted almost two hours. The program brochure which was handed out consisted of 12 pages, mostly advertising. Two pages were devoted to the Service All Stars, and none to the American League All-Stars. Obviously, it was produced before the All-Star game winner was determined.
The program informed us that the Service squad had been organized, trained and managed by Lieutenant Mickey Cochrane, USN, who had brought a large contingent of players with him from Great Lakes Naval Training Station. It further stated that this was the first baseball connection "Black Mike" had since he left the Detroit Tigers in 1938. He was assisted by Lieutenant George Earnshaw of the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.
Cochrane's team lined up with Pat Mullin of Detroit in center. Benny McCoy of the A's was at second. He had been the major figure in the great free agent decision of 1940 when Commissioner Landis freed the Tiger slaves. Benny signed for a handsome bonus with the A's. Don Padgett of the Dodgers was in left, the great Washington shortstop Cecil Travis hit cleanup, and Joe Grace of the Browns was in right field. Yankee John Sturm was on first and Ernie Andres, a star at Louisville, played third. Vinnie Smith, who had played nine games for the 1941 Pirates, was to catch the celebrated Navy Chief from Norfolk, Bob Feller.
The AL Stars went with Lou Boudreau ss, Tommy Henrich rf, Ted Williams lf, Joe DiMaggio cf, Rudy York lb, Bobby Doerr 2b, Kenny Keltner 3b, Buddy Rosar catcher and Jim Bagby pitcher.
The Service Stars made their biggest threat in the first inning when McCoy, second up, walked, Padgett singled and Travis walked. But Grace fanned and Sturm ended the threat by grounding out.
The American League hopped on Feller almost immediately. After Boudreau flied to center, Henrich singled, Ted walked, and DiMag singled scoring Henrich. York flied to right and Williams scored to make it 2-0.
Keltner opened the second by hitting Feller's first pitch for a triple and scored on a single by Rosar, who was then picked off base. This was all for Feller who was to be the losing pitcher. Johnny Rigney replaced him.
"Feller still had good stuff that night," Keitner recalls of his former teammate. "I felt I better jump on his first pitch so he could not get ahead of me. I did and got a good solid hit."
The AL added two more in the seventh as Phil Rizzuto doubled and stole third, and Williams and George McQuinn tripled. The combined efforts of Bagby, Sid Hudson and Tex Hughson had shut the Service team out with six hits, two by Andres, plus doubles by Travis and Emmett Mueller. The final score was 5-0. There were no home runs.
The AL Stars made few substitutions. Rizzuto came in at short, Stan Spence played right field and McQuinn first. All the rest went the route.
All but three Service players listed in the scorecard saw action. Sam Chapman, the great centerfielder and All-American football star, replaced Mullin. Emmett Mueller, a four year Phillie vet, went to second; Chet Hajduk, whose sole big league experience was a single game with the White Sox the previous year, played first; and Frankie Pytlak, a great Cleveland favorite, came in to catch.
Besides Feller and Rigney, the Service team used Mickey Harris and John Grodzicki on the mound and employed Morrie Arnovich and John Lucadello as pinch hitters.
For several of the Service players, this was to be their farewell to the big time. Sturm, Hajduk, McCoy, and Mueller never played another big league contest. Ernie Andres was destined to play only 15 games for Boston in 1946, while Vinnie Smith appeared in only seven more games with the Pirates. He would later become a National League umpire. Outfielder Arnovich played but a solitary game for the Giants in 1946.
Listed on the scorecard but not appearing in the game were Ken Silvestri, Frank Baumholtz and Freddie Hutchinson. A photo in the 1943 Sporting News Guide and Record Book shows Hank Gowdy as a coach, does not show Baumholtz, and includes several minor leaguers who were neither on the scorecard nor in the game. The TSN Guide states that this game brought in over $71,000 which was apportioned out to Army-Navy Relief and to the Ball and Bat fund to supply the servicemen with recreational equipment.
Though long forgotten, this All-Star game received considerable publicity at the time and served a most useful purpose.