Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Hal Toenes

Date and Place of Birth: October 8, 1917 Mobile, Alabama

Died: June 28, 2004 Tampa, Florida

Baseball Experience: Major League
Master Sergeant
Military Unit:

Area Served: United States

William H. “Hal” Toenes was born on October 8, 1917 in Mobile, Alabama. His family moved to Tampa, Florida in 1925 and the 5-foot-11, right-hander graduated from Brandon High School in 1936 and began his professional baseball career with the Leesburg Gondoliers of the Class D Florida State League in 1937. He also pitched for the DeLand Reds and the Palatka Azaleas of the same league that year and finished with a 6-9 record and 4.78 ERA in 29 appearances.

In September 1937, Toenes was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds organization and joined the Rogers Reds of the Class D Arkansas-Missouri League in 1938. The 20-year-old was the ace of the Reds pitching staff and one of the top pitchers in the league. His 19 wins was second best and he finished the year with a 3.83 ERA.

Toenes was back with DeLand in the Florida State League in 1939 and had a tough luck season. Despite a respectable ERA of 3.59 he managed just seven wins against 20 losses for the fourth placed Red Hats. Typical of Toenes’ season was his September 7 outing against the Sanford Lookouts which he lost, 1-0. “Toenes went the route for the Red Hats,” reported the Daytona Beach Morning Journal the following day, “permitting only four Sanford hits, and losing a heartbreaker as his fielders committed four errors.”

Toenes turned things around with the same team the following season. He was 26-13 with a 2.99 ERA and hurled 313 innings in 46 appearances despite the Red Hats fifth place finish. He joined the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Class A1 Southern Association in 1941 but made just a couple of early season appearances before being assigned to the Selma Cloverleafs of the Class B Southeastern League, where he was 15-8 in 30 mound appearances. An interesting event happened on May 24, 1941 with Toenes pitching for the Cloverleafs against Jackson; he had the weird distinction of being the winning pitcher without throwing a single ball toward the plate. Toenes was called in to pitch, Jackson having a runner on first base. Taking his position on the rubber, he delivered the ball to first and not to the plate, retiring the side. Selma came to bat in their halt 'of the eighth behind, four runs, and started a rally which netted six runs and the victory. Toenes was relieved during that inning for a pinch-hitter, and without making a pitch other than to first base, he gained credit for winning the ball game.

Toenes entered military service at Camp Blanding, Florida on October 29, 1941. He served with the Army Air Force and was stationed in Memphis, Tennessee with the 4th Ferrying Group. As part of the Air Transport Command, ferrying groups operated military passenger transport services within the United States and transported aircraft and cargo from manufacturing plants to and between training bases.

Toenes, who attained the rank of master sergeant, played baseball with the 4th Ferrying Group Globetrotters and among his teammates were Culley Rikard of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jimmy Brown of the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1946, Toenes – now 28 – returned to the Chattanooga Lookouts and was 12-8 in 39 games. He was 16-13 in 1947 and was called up by the Washington Senators in September. Toenes made his major league debut on September 17 at Griffith Stadium, as one of six pitchers used in the Senators’ 7-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Toenes, who pitched the eighth inning, faced three batters and did not allow a hit or walk. His next appearance was on September 20 against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Toenes started against the Red Sox and lasted four innings, allowing five runs on nine hits while striking out three. His final appearance was on September 27 - the penultimate day of the season. – relieving Walt Masterson in the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox. Hurling an inning and two-thirds he shutout the Red Sox hitters, allowing two hits and striking out two. It was to be his last appearance in the major leagues.

Toenes was back with Chattanooga in 1948 and was 7-19 on a hapless team. He began the 1949 season with the Lookouts before joining the Minneapolis Millers of the Class AAA American Association where he was 0-4 in 16 appearances.

In December 1949, his contract was purchased by the Memphis Chicks of the Southern Association but he didn’t report to the team and was out of organized baseball in 1950. He returned to the game in 1951 – aged 33 - to make 12 appearances for the Sioux City Soos of the Class A Western League. In 10 minor league seasons spanning three decades, Toenes had a 113-110 record in 340 games.

Hal Toenes passed away on June 28, 2004 in Tampa, Florida. He was 86 years old and is buried at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

Added: November 14, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.