Naval Station Norfolk Once Had the Best Baseball on Earth

From Rich Radford at The Virginian-Pilot on July 24, in the first of a series with appearances by SABR members John Thorn, Andy McCue, Bill Nowlin and others:

Two dozen sailors and a handful of officers have come to McClure Field on a Tuesday to play softball. Some have their shirts off on this steamy summer day as they toss the ball a few times to warm up before the first pitch.

McClure is a lot of field for such an informal game. It seats 3,500 and is the second-oldest brick baseball stadium in the country. Games have been played here for almost a century. Years ago, the Navy put up a series of markers to tell its history, but these days few stop to read them.


Phil Rizzuto. Pee Wee Reese. Bob Feller. Dom DiMaggio.

In September 1943, the best baseball on Earth was being played on this field, because almost all of the day’s star players had enlisted.

Naval Station Norfolk had two of the best military teams going, the Naval Training Station Bluejackets and the Naval Air Station Airmen. Both teams routinely defeated major league squads in exhibition games – War Bond exhibitions as they were called back then – and each had a future Hall of Famer.

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Originally published: July 27, 2011. Last Updated: July 27, 2011.