Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


Baseball in Wartime Timeline

1940    1941    1942    1943    1944    1945


January 10

Gene Stack, White Sox prospect who won 19 games with Lubbock in 1940, reports to Fort Custer, Michigan.


January 21

Walt Nothe, southpaw pitcher with Reading in the Interstate League enlists in the Army.



Alex Pitko, outfielder who played for the Phillies in 1938 and Senators in 1939, is with the Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey.


Tom Gorman, who pitched for the Giants in 1939 and was with Clinton in the Three-I League in 1940, joins the Army.



Ralph McLeod, who played briefly with the Boston Braves and is an outfielder with the St Paul Saints in the American Association, enters military service with the Army.


Tom Ananicz, a pitcher with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, declares himself a conscientious objector and is classified Class 4-A. He will work in a munitions factory should war be declared.


Larry Steinbeck, first-string catcher of the Ogden Reds in the Pioneer League, withdraws from professional baseball to continue work at an arsenal in Ogden, Utah.


March 4

Forrest “Lefty” Brewer, minor league pitcher who threw a no-hitter with St Augustine in 1938, has to delay his call up to the Washington Senators as he reports for military service with the Army at Camp Blanding, Florida.


March 6

Pete Petropoulos, batting practice pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938, who pitched for Fort Lauderdale in the Florida East Coast League in 1940, volunteers for the Army.


Saginaw of the Michigan State League is the first team to lose a director in the draft as Burrows Marley reports for duty with the Army at Fort Custer, Michigan.


March 8

Hugh Mulcahy of the Phillies is drafted by the Army and becomes the first major league regular in military service.


March 11

Hank Greenberg takes his military physical examination at Lakeland, Florida. He is found to have flat feet but given Class 1-A classification.


March 13

Don Stewart, Western International League umpire, is killed in a German bombing raid on Scotland while serving with the Canadian Army’s Calgary Highlanders.


March 14

W G Bramham, president of the National Association reveals that 41 minor leaguers have been inducted into the armed forces so far.


March 18

Senators’ outfielder Elmer Gedeon reports to the US Army’s Cavalry Replacement Center at Fort Riley, Kansas.


March 20

White Sox pitcher John Rigney is found unfit for military service and classified Class 4-B by a draft board in Pasadena, California. Rigney suffers from a chronic perforation of the right ear drum as a result of a childhood attack of scarlet fever. Rigney is re-examined in April and reclassified Class 1-A. He is then granted a deferment of 60 days on the plea that immediate induction would be an “unusual individual hardship” on him. Rigney then withdraws the request and is inducted in the Army on June 19, as originally scheduled. Shortly afterwards he is again classified 4-F and rejected for military service for the same original reason – a chronically perforated right ear drum.


March 25

Milt Bocek, outfielder with the White Sox in 1933 and 1934, and named as manager of the Gastonia minor league club for 1941, is inducted in the Army.


Lou Briganti, a pitcher who was with the All-America team that toured Japan in 1935, and was with Hot Springs of the Cotton States League in 1940, is inducted in the Army and stationed at Camp Croft, South Carolina.



Lou Thuman of the Washington Senators is inducted by the US Army.


One hundred baseball hopefuls turned out at Fort Dix, New Jersey, for the 44th Division team. Among the candidates were Private Robert Kneth, former Yankees’ organization catcher; Private John Windzigi who pitched for Cambridge in the Eastern Shore League; and Private Walter Singer, former baseball and football star at Syracuse University.


Lou Russo, former shortstop with Kinston in the Coastal Plain League is playing baseball with an Army team at Fort Eustis, Virginia.


Umpire Stephen Dobos, who in July 1940, was rejected by the British Royal Air Force, leaves the Florida East Coast League to become a flying cadet with the Army Air Corps at Camden, South Carolina.



Dan Pavlovic, who left the Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League to join the Army Air Corps, is a private in the 89th School Squadron at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and manager of the Barksdale Field Flyers.


May 1

Right-hander, Oadis Swigart, is the first member of the Pittsburgh Pirates to join the armed forces when he is inducted into the Army.


May 7

Tigers’ outfielder Hank Greenberg reports for duty at 6.30am with the Army at Fort Custer, Michigan.


May 12

Brooklyn Dodgers’ Joe Gallagher is inducted into the US Army at Buffalo, New York.


May 14

Harry “Moose” McCormick, who last played major league baseball with the New York Giants in 1913, is named athletic director of the First Air Force, US Army Air Corps.


May 15

Joe DiMaggio starts his 56-game hitting streak.


May 21

A German U-boot sinks an American merchant ship, the SS Robin Moor, in the South Atlantic, off the coast of Brazil.



Private Kelton Maxfield, who pitched for two seasons with Monroe in the Cotton States League, suffers a broken leg when he steps in a hole while playing baseball at Fort Riley, Kansas.


Hank Greenberg is on maneuvers with the Army in Tennessee.


Bud Doleshal, formerly a catcher with Stockton in the California League, pitched a 5-0 no-hitter at Fort McArthur for Battery C over the Quartermasters.


June 2

Lou Gehrig dies in New York of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at 37.


June 8

Pete Petropoulos, former Florida East Coast league pitcher, throws a 4-0 no-hitter for the 22nd Infantry against the 20th Engineers at Fort Benning, Georgia.


June 20

United States Army Air Corps becomes United States Army Air Force.


June 22

Don Triner, third baseman with Welch Miners in the Mountain State League, received a farewell reception at home plate before a game against Logan. Triner homered in the seventh inning but the Miners lost, 7-5.


June 27

Sam Malvica, second baseman with the Pampa Oilers, receives a billfold of money from fans for his fine playing and sportsmanship with the team before reporting to Fort Bliss, Texas on July 11.



Zeke Bonura is named assistant to the athletic officer at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. In addition to coaching and playing baseball, Bonura looks after basketball, football and track.


July 5

Marcel Serventi, pitcher with the Spokane Indians of the Western International League, is killed in an auto accident while returning to military service at Fort Ord, California.


July 8

Billy Hitchcock, infielder with Kansas City of the American Association, reports to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for induction in the Army.


July 13

W G Bramham, president of the National Association, announces the appointment of a Defense Service Committee, designed to lend any possible assistance to minor league players now serving in the armed forces. “We want all our players who have entered the ranks, to know that we are interested in their welfare,” said Bramham. “This committee is ready to help them in contacting friends or relatives, offering counsel or handling other problems which the boys are unable to look after themselves … We urge any of them who are in need of such help to communicate with the committee member nearest their base.” Tom Fairweather, president of the Three-I League and Western Association is named chairman of the Defense Service Committee.


July 15

Irv Dickens, second baseman with Wilson in the Coastal Plain League, is honored by fans with a Dickens Night because he is leaving to join the Army on July 21. However, Dickens is later given a deferment by an Army surgeon because he has varicose veins. All members of the draft board that originally declared him fit resigned.  Further investigation by a board of officers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, agreed with the rejection.


July 17

The longest hitting streak in baseball history ends at 56 when the Cleveland Indians hold Joe DiMaggio hitless.


July 28

The Fort Riley Cavalry Replacement Training Center team, were beaten, 11-9, by the Wichita Stearman Trainers, before 8,000 at Lawrence Stadium in Wichita, Kansas, to lose the Kansas State semi-pro championship.



W G Bramham releases a report indicating that 193 minor league players have been placed on the National Defense List since October 1, 1940.


Billy Southworth Jr receives his commission as a lieutenant and earns his pilot’s wings this month.


The Armored Force Training Center team at Fort Knox, Kentucky, has won 18 games without a loss this season. Lieutenant Amel F Klsonak, the coach, pitched for Lisbon Falls in the Maine State League. The line-up includes pitcher Felix Pense and outfielder Armand W Gardner who were both with Yakima of the Western International League; pitcher Warren St Clair, who hurled in the Florida West Coast league; John McNamara, third baseman from the Midwestern League; Dan Tobin, outfielder with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League; Lee Reiss, outfielder from New York University; Cliff Johnson, first baseman with Houston of the Texas League; John Powell second baseman from the University of Pennsylvania, and Marvin Turner, Three-I League catcher.


The Reception team at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have won 19 games and lost none.


Lucien Governale, former pitcher with Lafayette in the Evangeline League and former Southwest Louisiana Institute track and baseball star, dominated a track meet at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then hurled a three-hitter immediately afterwards.


A toe broken five years ago caused the Columbus, Ohio, draft board to reject Chuck Gerlach, outfielder with the Tiffin Mud Hens of the Ohio State League.


August 6

Hank Greenberg, serving at Fort Custer, Michigan, is loaned to the State Prison for Southern Michigan baseball team to play first base against the Fort Custer Reception team. Greenberg hits a 390-foot home run, two doubles and a single, as his team wins 16 to 2.


August 7

Playing his last game for the Goldsboro Goldbugs in the Coastal Plain League, outfielder Sam Patton is the recipient of many gifts from the team’s fans. Patton joins the Army August 13.


August 13

John Deetz, a pitcher the Cincinnati Reds bought out of the Army in 1938, struck out 10 for Fort Bragg in a 3-2 loss to Sanford of the Bi-State League, in an exhibition game.


August 15

White Sox pitcher Gene Stack, serving with the Army at Fort Custer, Michigan, is struck on the head by a pitched ball in the second inning of a game between the Reception Center team and the H S Sherman club. Stack is taken to the camp hospital but his condition is not serious. Fort Custer wins the game, 7 to 5.


August 16

Private Albert McCarty, formerly with Jonesboro in the Northeast Arkansas League, pitches a no-hitter for the Reception Center team at Camp Robinson.


August 19

Richard Collins, a pitcher with Bridgeport of the Inter-State League, hurls the Fort Riley Cavalry team to a 15 to 5 win over Talladega, Alabama, in the national semi-pro tournament at Wichita, Kansas.

Jerry Angelich, who had trials with the Sacramento Senators of the Pacific Coast League in 1935 and 1936, and pitched for three seasons with the Provo Timps of the Utah Industrial Independent League, enlists with the Army Air Force. He will be stationed at Hickam Field in Honolulu.



Zeke Bonura, former major league first baseman now leading the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in hitting enters military service with the US Army at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.


September 28

Ted Williams ends the regular season with a batting average of .406.



Bobby Mattick, who played for the Reds in 1941, is rejected for military service because of a skull fracture he received in 1937 while with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.


Art Kenney, who pitched for the Boston Braves in 1938, has appealed to President Roosevelt for deferment after failing to change his classification from 1-A in appeals to both his local and district boards. He was classified 1-A in June 1940 but has since married and is a school teacher in the winter months.


October 6

The New York Yankees clinch the World Series with a 3-1 win at Ebbets Field against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game Five.


October 17

A German U-boot sinks the American destroyer, the USS Reuben James, while on convoy duty in the North Atlantic in a torpedo attack. The warship sinks off the Icelandic coast and over 100 Americans lose their lives.


October 20

Zeke Bonura is discharged from Army after Congress releases men aged 28 years and older from service.


October 22

James Acton, a catcher with the Topeka Owls of the Western Association is rejected by military physicians after one day of Army service because he suffered a broken leg in the final game of the 1940 season and he has not fully recovered.


October 24

Fred Hutchinson, who pitched for the Tigers in 1939 and 1940, receives orders to report for Army duty on November 3, but signs up instead for a four-year hitch with the Navy. He becomes an aid to Lieutenant-Commander Gene Tunney in the Navy’s physical fitness program in December.



The National and American Leagues list the following 14 major league players as being on the National Defense List: Gene Stack, White Sox; Al White, Browns; Hank Greenberg and Bob Uhle, Tigers; Lefty Brewer, Elmer Gedeon and Lou Thuman, Senators; Pat Cooper, Athletics; Mickey Harris and Lawrence Powell, Red Sox; Tom Gorman, Giants; Hugh Mulcahy, Phillies; Oadis Swigart and J Addis Copple, Pirates.


Hal Palmer of Gloversville in the Canadian-American League enlists in the Army Medical Corps at Albany, New York. He will be stationed in Honolulu. The catcher-outfielder is an embalmer by trade.


White Sox outfielder Dave Short is undergoing training with the Army Air Force at Sheppard Field, Texas.


Guy Gauvreau, traveling secretary of the Montreal Royals and son of the vice-president of the club, is a captain with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal in England.


Henry L Gray, former president of the Florida State League, is now a captain in the Army, stationed at Camp Blanding.


November 2

Leo Walker, youngest brother of major leaguers Gerald and Hub Walker, and an outstanding athlete at the University of Mississippi who went on to play in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization, is killed when the B-17 Flying Fortress he is piloting runs into bad weather and crash lands near Georgetown, California.


November 4

Fred Martin, Cardinals’ pitching prospect who won 23 games with Houston in the Texas League in 1941 is inducted in the Army at Poteau, Oklahoma.


November 17

Abandoning his request for re-classification in the draft, Buddy Lewis of the Senators, enlists as a cadet in the Army Air Force. While awaiting the results of tests he is assigned to the Field Artillery Replacement Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


November 27

The Sporting News publishes the National Defense List for the first time, listing 286 professional baseball players in the armed services.


November 29

Whitey Burch, an infielder with the Kanapolis Towelers of the North Carolina State League is killed near Albermarle, North Carolina, when the Army truck he is driving overturns.



Andy Cohen, who last played major league baseball with the New York Giants in 1929, is with the Army at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he officiates Army basketball games.


December 4

Ken Silvestri, catcher with the New York Yankees, reports for duty with the Army after passing his final physical examination the previous day.


Red Sox first baseman, Al Flair, reports to Camp Livingston, Louisiana, with the Army.


Boston Braves’ second baseman Bama Rowell is sworn into the Army at Anniston, Alabama. He is sent to Fort McPherson, Georgia.


December 5

Sergeant Hank Greenberg is discharged from Army after Congress releases men aged 28 years and older from service.


George Archie, first baseman and utility infielder with the St Louis Browns is inducted into the Army at Camp Forrest, Tennessee.


December 6

Wayman Kerksieck, who pitched for the Phillies in 1939, is with the Army at Camp Robinson, Arkansas.


Bob Feller announces at his home in Van Meter, Iowa, that he will enlist either in the Army Air Force or the Navy, rather than wait to be drafted.


December 7

Japanese carrier aircraft launch a surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet, anchored at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Japanese forces simultaneously conduct attacks on US military installations in the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island and Midway Island, as well as attacks on British military bases in Hong Kong and Malaya. Over 2,340 Americans are killed plus another 876 are reported as missing.

Jerry Angelich, who had trials with the Sacramento Senators, is killed during the Japanese attack as he attempts to use a machine gun from a wrecked plane at Hickam Field, Honolulu.


Russell Bailey, minor league pitcher, who joined the Army while at spring training with Trenton of the Interstate League in March 1941, escapes unscathed during the Pearl Harbor attack. Bailey is serving with a coastal artillery regiment in Hawaii.


December 8

Congress declares war against the Japanese in response to the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.


Indians’ Bob Feller enlists with the US Navy. He is sworn in at a Chicago courthouse by Lieutenant-Commander Gene Tunney.


December 11

The German and Italian governments, bound by their Axis treaties, declare war on the United States in support of the Japanese.


December 12

Minor league pitcher Errol Stoner is killed in action at Clark Field in the Philippines. Minor league shortstop Pete Viselli - also at Clark Field - dies the same day when his B-18 bomber is lost on a mission.

Walter “Rabbit” Maranville, 50, takes a physical examination at Springfield, Massachusetts. He plans to enter the Navy and qualify for a commission as a physical instructor. Maranville served in the Navy during the First World War. 

December 18

Rankin Johnson of the Philadelphia Athletics enlists in the Navy at El Paso, Texas. He is the fifth Athletics’ player to join the armed forces.


December 19

The Selective Service and Training Act is amended, extending the term of service to the duration of the war and six months, and requiring the registration of all men eighteen to sixty-four years of age.


December 26

John Loehrke, a semi-pro pitcher from Mayville, Wisconsin, and former star athlete at the University of Wisconsin, is killed in a plane crash at Macon, Georgia, while serving with the Army Air Force.


December 30

Stan Cazen (Kaczynski), outfielder with Topeka of the Western Association in 1939, enlists as a mechanic in the Army Air Force at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

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