This article was written by Bill Nowlin
This article was published in the The National Pastime (Volume 26, 2006)
There was no All-Star Game in the summer of 1945. But in late September, the service stars of the American League and those of the National League squared off in what might be called a combination all-star game and world series. It was a scheduled, best-of-seven game series, played at Honolulu’s Furlong Field in the 14th Naval District. Furlong Field had been built in 1943, right near Pearl Harbor where, less than two years previously, Japanese air craft had wreaked such destruction.
World War II had ended with the surrender of Japan on September 2, but few of the ballplayers in the service had yet been demobilized. There was a high caliber of players participating, and the games included Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Billy Herman, Bob Lemon, Johnny Pesky, and Bob Kennedy. The Honolulu Advertiser’s Gayle Hayes wrote that the Navy series would “present more individual stars than even the world series on the mainland… a titanic battle between some of the best known players in baseball” [September 23, 1945]. Herman, Musial, and Dick Wakefield had all been selected for the 1943 All-Star Game.
The first game was set for Wednesday, September 26, at 3:30 P.M. Additional stands had been erected, programs were printed, and all military personnel were “invited to the battle.” The National Leaguers worked out at Peterson Field’s Aiea Barracks, under the leadership of manager Billy Herman. A future Hall of Famer, Herman already had 13 major league seasons under his belt, playing for the Cubs and Dodgers, but his team was up against a squad of American Leaguers skippered by Schoolboy Rowe. Rowe’s men drilled at the Sub Base.
The announced starting lineups give some idea of the quality of play that could be expected. Most of the men were in decent form, having played a number of exhibition ball games during their time in the service. The 14th Naval District baseball league season had ended on the 16th, and Billy Herman had been voted the league’s MVP, with 83 points, with Johnny Pesky of NAS Honolulu coming in second, with 50 points. Charley Gilbert edged out Eddie McGah by just one point for third place. Leading vote getter among the pitchers was the Aiea Hospital (and former Brooklyn Dodgers) star Hugh Casey.
The Naval District’s All-Star team featured three unanimous choices: Herman, Pesky, and Ship Repair Unit’s Stan Musial.
Ted Williams had played in only four games, as had fellow Marine Flyer teammate Bob Kennedy. Both had been stationed in Hawaii later than many of the others. “I’m still a little rusty, but I hope to be ready for this big series,” Williams said. “I think every man on our squad is anxious to win, and every one of our boys will be ready to go Wednesday afternoon. It should be quite a series.” Bill Dickey agreed. Dickey, the athletic officer of the District, declared that the teams were well matched and that he was “look ing forward to seeing seven games of the best base ball you’ll have a chance to see anywhere this year” [Advertiser, September 25].
An overflow crowd of around 26,000 fans watched game one of the ”All-Star Baseball Series.” The match up was a good one. Hutchinson was a key prospect for the Tigers, who had paid the then-enormous sum of $75,000 to purchase him in 1938. Shoun had thrown a no-hitter for Cincinnati against the Boston Braves a year earlier, on May 15, 1944. Ted Williams, incidentally, wore #23 and Musial wore #14.
The first scoring came in the second inning when Stan Musial led off with a line-drive home run over the right-field fence. After two outs, Ray Lamanno “smashed a towering drive over the right-center field stands.” Clyde Shoun surrendered the 2-0 lead he’d been handed, walking Williams in the bottom of the second and giving up a single to Dick Wakefield, and then Bob Kennedy hit the first pitch into the left center field seats for a three-run homer.
Both teams put men on base throughout the middle innings, but the only run scored was when the AL got one in the sixth. Williams singled to lead off and moved up to second on a walk to Wakefield. Ned Harris had not started in center for the Americans; Phillips had, and his single would have meant a run — except that Lamanno’s throw from behind the plate picked off Ted at second. Kennedy walked, to load the bases. Rollie Hemsley’s single to left just scored one, and neither Hutchinson nor Conway could push a run across.
That score held, 4-2 AL, until the eighth inning, though the Advertiser’s Hayes noted a couple of “fancy double plays to halt budding National League rallies.” The NL tied it in the top of the eighth. After Charley Gilbert doubled to left, Jim Carlin doubled to right, but Gilbert had to hold at third. Herman hit a sac fly to Williams in right, and Platt lined a single to center, scoring Carlin. Bob Lemon, who had yet to pitch in the major leagues, came in to relieve, and threw one pitch to shut down the side.
In the ninth, though, Lamanno singled off Lemon’s glove, then took second on a sacrifice by Hank Schenz. Up stepped Hugh Casey, who’d come in to pitch the eighth, and Casey doubled to center, driving in Lamanno. Lemon’s wild pitch allowed Casey to take third, and he scored moments later on Gilbert’s sac fly to Ned Harris, who’d taken over for Phillips in center. It was a close play at the plate, and Casey hurt his leg sliding. Lou Tost replaced Casey on the mound, and nearly gave it back to the American Leaguers.
In the bottom of the ninth, now down 6-4 to the NL, Packy Rogers pinch-hit for Lemon and walked, but was forced at second on an Eddie McGah grounder. McGah was safe, and took second when Herman’s throw to Quinn went wild. Johnny Pesky’s Texas Leaguer moved him to third, and there were runners at the corners with just one out. Another NL error, this time by Carlin, saw McGah score, with Pesky taking second and Hajduk safe at first.
Up stepped Ted Williams, who’d beaten the National League in the 1941 All-Star Game with a dramatic home run. This time he hit the ball sky-high but straight up, and Lamanno camped under it to make the catch. “In disgust, [Williams] hurled his bat 40 feet in the air, and it almost struck a photographer on the way down,” wrote Joe Anzivino for the Star-Bulletin. Dick Wakefield struck out swinging on a pitch out of the strike zone for the last out.
Game Two: September 28
NL 4, AL 0
WP: Wilson, LP: Harris
AL manager Schoolboy Rowe expected more from Harris. Pitching for Barber’s Point in the 14th Naval District regular season, he had twice had no-hitters going until the eighth inning. The left-hander Wilson, though, had run off a string of seven straight victories for NAS Honolulu, and the AL had not fared well against either southpaw Shoun or Tost in the first game. Wilson won, and won handily, holding the AL to just one hit, a third-inning single by Johnny Pesky which barely landed in front of Musial’s glove in right; Musial’s throw cut down Johnny as he tried to stretch it to take two bases. The Nationals scored twice in the fourth, once in the fifth and again once in the ninth. Both The Kid and Stan the Man posted identical 0-for-3’s at the plate.
Game Three (September 29)
NL 6, AL 3
WP: Tost, LP: Feimster
The third game was postponed a day due to heavy rains, but when the two teams played on September 30, it began to look like a National League rout, particularly when they scored four times in the top of the first. The four runs were enough to put the game away, and the AL stars did not score until the bottom of the ninth. Lou Tost threw a complete game for the Nationals, the big blow off him being a Ted Williams two-run homer completely over the right-field bleachers. Hajduk had singled before Ted. “We ain’t whipped yet,” Rowe announced. Even if the Nationals wrapped it up less than the full seven games, the plan was to play all seven contests. Wakefield had missed games two and three with an injured hand.
Game Four: October 3
AL 12, NL 1
WP: Hallett, LP: Shoun
After another rainout, the AL seemed to summon up the bats and knocked out 14 hits, scoring three times in the bottom of the first to take a lead that pitcher Jack Hallett did not let them relinquish. Shoun had walked Conway and Pesky, and then intentionally passed cleanup hitter Ted Williams after Hemsley had moved both runners up with a sacrifice. Bob Kennedy’s single to right-center knocked in two. Leading batter on the day was Boston’s Johnny Pesky, who went 3-for-3, with a single, a double, and a fifth-inning two-run homer into the right-field bleachers. Barney Lutz also hit a two-run homer into right in the same frame. Both home runs were hit off reliever Wes Livengood.
Wakefield was back and went 3-for-4. Musial went 2-for-3, and Williams was 0-for-1. Rowe put himself in the game and knocked a long single off the fence in center. Players in those days cared deeply about their league, so it was perhaps true that “the victory had a slight taint” since Hallett was Pittsburgh Pirates property at the time, despite having broken in with the AL White Sox.
Game Five: October 5
AL 4, NL 1
WP: Harris, LP: Wilson
Now the silent bats were those of the Nationals. Luman Harris went the distance, doling out just three hits and one run, a home runby Carlin in the top of the ninth. He’d had a no-hitter going for 6 2/3 innings. The Americans scored three times in the bottom of the sixth on first baseman Ken Sears’ three-run homer with Pesky on third and Kennedy on second (Pesky had bunted safely and Kennedy had doubled). Musial went hit less in four at-bats. Wiliams did not play and, suffering from a bad cold, had lost his voice. The doctor confined him to quarters. Uncharacteristically quiet, Williams whispered that he hoped to be able to play in the sixth game.
Game Six: October 6
NL 4, AL 1
WP: Tost, LP: Weiland
This was a hard-fought game, with Lou Tost winning his second game of the series (and the series itself) over Ed Weiland. Scoreless through four, the NL scored once in the top of the fifth and once again the next inning. The Americans came back with one in the bottom of the sixth, and tied it with another in the seventh. After eight full, the score stood 2-2. Hamrick led off with an infield single to deep short, and Pesky’s throw to first went astray, letting him take second. Tost sacrifice-bunted him to third. Gilbert took four pitches and walked. Billy Herman had been 0 for his last 11, and after going 0-for-3 on the day, the manager had taken himself out of the game. Hence it wasn’t Herman but Hank Schenz who batted next. Schenz tried to squeeze Hamrick across but fouled off the pitch. The next pitch was a called strike, so he was hitting away on the 0-2 count and banged a two-RBI double into right-center.
The American Leaguers fought back in the bottom of the ninth. Al Lyons, who had homered in the seventh, hit a terrific drive to center, but Gilbert hauled it in at the barrier. Phillips pinch-hit for Bill Marks, and was robbed by Quinn at first. Quinn had made a similar play on Pesky earlier in the game, squelching a rally. Down to their last out, American League manager Schoolboy Rowe put himself in, to hit for Weiland. A decent-hitting pitcher, Rowe connected and drove a home run over the left-field bleachers. Conway, though, whiffed and the game was over.
Game Seven: October 7
AL 5, NL 2
WP: Lemon, LP: Shoun
The Americans left feeling a bit better, scoring a decisive 5-2 win in the anticlimactic final game on October 7. Both Phillips and Joe Glenn homered for the AL. Gil Brack supplied a homer for the Nationals leading off the ninth inning.
Composite batting statistics, minimum 10 at-bats:
BILL NOWLIN is the current Vice President of SABR, and author of more than a dozen books on Ted Williams and the Red Sox. His two books in 2006 are Day By Day with the Boston Red Sox, and The 50 Greatest Red Sox Games, co-authored by SABR member Cecilia Tan.
Thanks to Duff Zwald for researching both the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser at my request.