Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

 

The Little World Series (1943 ETO World Series)

by Gary Bedingfield

The 1943 ETO (European Theater of Operations) World Series was held in England over a four-day period at the Eighth Air Force Headquarters, Bushy Park, London. Starting on Monday, September 27 and concluding on Thursday, September 30. The event featured 20 teams from all across England and Northern Ireland, and was arranged by Major Donald Martin (ETO Special Service athletic officer). Each team was permitted a roster of 15 enlisted men and one officer.

The 1943 ETO World Series Lineup
Team Region
CBS Clowns US Army (Central Base Section)
Buccaneers US Army (Eastern Base Section)
116th Infantry Regiment Yankees US Army (Field Force)
Agitators US Army (Northern Ireland)
Yanks US Army (Service of Supply)
American School Center Angels US Army (Southern Base Section)
General Hospital Medics US Army (Southern Base Section)
Signal Company Dodgers US Army (Southern Base Section)
Americans US Army (Western Base Section)
Military Police Nitesticks US Army (Western Base Section)
Port Ramblers US Army (Western Base Section)
Signal Hounds US Army (Western Base Section)
Derry Marines US Marine Corps (Northern Ireland)
Creevaghs US Navy (Northern Ireland)
901st Engineers USAAF (Eighth Air Force HQ)
Air Support Command Eagles USAAF (Eighth Air Force)
Bomber Command Moles USAAF (Eighth Air Force)
Fighter Command Thunderbolts USAAF (Eighth Air Force)
Service Command Red Devils USAAF (Eighth Air Force)
Composite Command Mustangs USAAF (Northern Ireland)

Favorites to win the tournament were the CBS Clowns, led by Second Lieutenant Charles “Chuck” Eisenmann, formerly of the San Diego Padres.

In the preliminary round on September 27, the games went as anticipated. The CBS Clowns beat the Signal Hounds with Eisenmann striking out 19; Mauro Duca hurled a three-hitter for the Fighter Command Thunderbolts over the Port Ramblers; Fran Hecker of the ASC Angels beat the Yanks, 7-5, and Carl Smith of the Agitators beat the Signal Company Dodgers, 2 to 1, in 10 innings, striking out 21 along the way.

There was, however, one surprise. A previously unheard of team called the 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees beat the Bomb Group Moles, 4 to 1, in 11 innings, with Elmer Wright outdueling Joe Rundus. The Moles had been tipped to be semi-finalists at least and were shocked to be out of the tournament at such an early stage.

The second round of preliminary games on September 28, saw the CBS Clowns trounce the Air Support Command Eagles, 7 to 1; the Fighter Command Thunderbolts overcome the Agitators, 2 to 1, and the darkhorse 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees cruise past the Derry Marines, 9 to 1.

CBS Clowns
Chuck Eisenmann's CBS Clowns

In quarter final games on September 29, it took 13 innings for the 901st Engineers to defeat the ASC Angels, 3 to 2, while the 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees disposed of the Service Command Red Devils, 5 to 3.

Later the same day, Doug Gillette hurled the 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees into the finals by defeating the 901st Engineers, 7 to 3. But the real upset of the afternoon was the 3-2 defeat of the CBS Clowns by the Fighter Command Thunderbolts. Mauro Duca scattered six hits with nine strike outs while Chuck Eisenmann struck out 15 in a losing cause.

The final on September 30, proved to be a thrilling affair between the 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees and the Fighter Command Thunderbolts. Elmer Wright - formerly with Jackson of the Southeastern League was the starter for the Yankees, while the Thunderbolts went with Mauro Duca, who had previously pitched for Twin Falls of the Pioneer League.

The game was scoreless for three innings. The Thunderbolts managed singles off Wright in the second and third innings, but without success. However, they scored a run in the fourth on a walk, a single and a double and Doug Gillette - who was catching for the 116th and had pitched in the minors for the Greensburg of the Penn State Association in the mid-30s - came to the mound and let in two more runs on wild pitches.

The Yankees were quick to respond in the bottom half of the inning, tying up the game by scoring on two doubles, a single and a base on balls.

With the score tied, 3-3, the Yankees took the lead  in the sixth when two men were safe on errors and scored when a batted ball got past the second baseman and went into right field. They tallied again in the seventh, Frank Draper of Bedford, Virginia, getting his second triple of the game, but was out at the plate trying to score when Joe Gubernot of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, hit to second. In the seventh inning, Gubernot came home on an error at first for the final tally of the game and Gillette pitched shutout ball for five innings to give the Yankees a memorable win and the ETO World Series crown.

116th Infantry Regiment
116th Infantry Regiment Yankees

Epilogue

Eight months after the 1943 ETO World Series was played the 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees were in a different kind of battle.  They were among the first troops to land at Omaha Beach, Normandy, on June 6, 1944.

Frank Draper, who hit two triples in the series final; Elmer Wright, who pitched so effectively throughout the tournament; and Louis Alberigo, who played third base and had two hits in the final, all lost their lives on the beach.

Catcher Robert Marsico and first baseman Carl Proffitt (who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry) were wounded and evacuated to military hospitals in England. 

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