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US Navy - Chet Hajduk US Navy - Chet Hajduk
Playing before 63,000 Flag-Waving, Rootin-Tootin Fans During World War II

Recalling baseball during the 1940s

By administrator John R. Balazs @ baseballhistorian.com written on Sept 15, 2001 - Recalling the War Years - 1942-45

'When I played, we played for the love of the game,' says all-star Chet Hajduk in recalling baseball in the 1940s. 'When someone asked me if I wanted to play baseball for a living, I jumped at it. I would have done it for three meals a day.'

In Hajduk's day meal allowance was $1.50 a day. But he says money wasn't on his mind when he jumped at a White Sox offer while playing semi-pro ball from 'sunrise to sunset.'

Hajduk just smiles when he hears modern day players complain about playing a day game after a night game. Still in his mind, Hajuk now in his 80s, recalls the times when he would drive the team bus all night after leaving from Madison, Wisconsin and arriving in Evansville, Indiana just in time to eat breakfast and play a doubleheader.

'It certainly wasn't glamorous by today's standards, but it was in many ways wonderful,' Hajduk says. 'We loved the game and would have done anything to play baseball.'

In 1940 Hajduk, then 21-years old signed with the Chicago White Sox and was sent to Lubbock, Texas, Class C League. He immediately became the league's batting star, hitting a robust .329, slugged 25 homers and had 140 RBIs.

After capturing the attention of major league scouts he was brought up to the Sox in '41 and broke his arm while playing first base and after that was sent to Waterloo of the Three I League to regain his strength.

He played in spring training with the Sox in 1942, and then proudly joined the US Navy during World War II and possibly missed four years of a big-league career.

Hajduk played with the Great Lakes Navy Team located north of Chicago and by swinging a power-bat in '42 he was named to the service all-star team. He played against a group of big-name, American League stars who left for active duty during the war, including Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. The game drew a huge response from baseball-loving fans and an estimated 63,000 flag-waving, rootin-tootin fans were in attendance.

'It was one of my greatest thrills in baseball,' Hajduk now says.

In 1945 the All-Star Game was an all-service, seven-game event and this time Ted Williams was on his side along with Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey and power-hitting Johnny Mize. The games were played in Hawaii and featured the American League against the National League. 'Remember, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor about a year before, so we went to Hawaii without knowing whether we'd ever return. I was scared but was eager to help our country,' Hajduk recalls.

After being discharged from the Navy at war's end he once again began spring training with the White Sox. Hajduk recalls, 'Everyone was trying out there that year, including all of the big-time stars. There were so many returning players that there were six people at each position. It was very tough to make any team.'

His bags packed again, Hajduk was sent to Texas Double A League and once again was an all-star, batting clean-up in the game with Hall of Famer Duke Snider batting third and the AL's 1953 Most Valuable Player Al Rosen hitting fifth.

'I don't have any regrets,' says Hajduk a resident of Illinois. 'I'm sorry I had to lose four years during my prime to the war. But, I was proud to serve and assist our country in war-time. When I came out I was 27-years old without much major league experience and my age was against me. I don't complain though, I had a chance to play baseball with and against some of the greatest ever.'

In 1948 he played in the Pacific Coast League and was a minor league all-star two more times before he left baseball at age 32 - without ever having a minor-league season when he batted below .300.



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Yesterday - 1942-1945 - World War II Rages Yesterday - 1942-1945 - World War II Rages
Hundreds of major league players were drafted or enlisted into the military during World War II

The following words from a pamphlet issued during World War II:

Conserve Materials to win the war - Nothing Counts But Victory:

By John Miller... Edited by Albert Perry... Copyright by Consolidated Book Publishers, Inc. Chicago... Printed in the U.S.A.

'On every front troops of the United Nations are fighting the well-armed enemy with less than adequate weapons. They must be supplied. It will mean giving up much, it will mean learning to do without. But better privations than 'Too little and too late.'

Rubber, Aluminum, Cotton

Basically, to the civilian, rubber means tires. Not so to the army. The fastest modern tanks travel on rubber. Rubber seals airplane gas tanks against enemy bullets. Rubber hose fights fires in bombed cities. Signal Corps men crawl into battlefields, trailing behind them long lines of copper telephone wire sheathed with rubber. Without these wires, the generals do not know what is happening.

Submarine mines, connected to the shore by rubber-insulated cables, guard our harbors. Parachute harnesses are padded with rubber to protect the jumper against the devastating jerk when the chute opens. rubber floats pontoons, rubber live jackets protect sailors when they are victims of the treacherous torpedo.

Aluminum - and Your Lights

For every 700 cars we are not making, we are saving enough aluminum to build one fighter plane. Modern airplanes can soar to 30,000 feet because they are made of aluminum, one of the lightest known metals.

Bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made, is procurable. But electricity is used to separate the rest of the ore. Electricity is cheap to the user. It is just as easy to let a light burn as not. Next time, remember first-rate fighter planes use up aluminum. Turn the lights off when you leave the room.

Cotton

More than half the weight of smokeless powder is made of cotton. In the last war, we used almost two and one-half million pounds of cotton in munitions. Right now there is a cotton surplus. But there is no surplus of the machines that make cotton into tent materials, gas-masks bags, guncotton. Even this common plant is vital. Cotton, too, is fighting in the front lines.

======================================

Our list of special guys had their major league career shortened by military duty during World War II and we're proud to call them American Heroes:

* Bill Veeck Jr, Owner of Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, St Louis Browns and two minor league teams - Lost his right leg while serving in the Mariners... had 36 lifetime operations according to medical records. Purchased Indians in 1946 and two years later, led by the Boy-wonder Lou Boudreau, won the World Series - the Indians first since 1920.

* Mickey Vernon, Washington Senators First Baseman - US Mariners 1944-1945 - won the American League batting crown upon his return from the military - hitting .353 in 1946, and won the title again with .337 in 1953. Vernon led the league three times in doubles, including 51 in '46... collected 2,495 career hits, and 490 doubles. Played four decades in majors - Senators 1939-48, 1950-55; Indians 1949-50, 1958; Red Sox 1956-57; Braves 1959; Pirates 1960.

* Gene Woodling, New York Yankees Left Fielder - US Military 1944-45 - an all-around athlete, he spent almost three seasons in military service. Broke into the majors with Cleveland in 1943... from 1949 thru 1954, Woodling helped the Yankees win five straight World Series. In his long 17-year career with various teams, he posted a solid ,284 batting average, hit 257 doubles, 147 homers, had 1585hits in 5587 at bats.

* Bob Lemon, Cleveland Indians Pitcher - 1943-1945 US Navy - a seven-time 20 game winner, he rang-up a golden 207-128 lifetime record (.618 winning pct.) despite joining the Tribe at age 26 due to proudly serving in the Navy. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he played his entire 13 years in Cleveland.

* Fred Hutchinson, Detroit Tigers Pitcher - pitched first two seasons in majors, 1939-40... spent '41 in minors... then, at age 23, after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor spent 1942-45 in Hawaii in the Coast Guard. Returning to the Motor City he was 14-11in 1946, and posted a career-best 18-10 mark in '47. Detroit Tigers Player 1939-40, 1946-53 - a 93-71 W/L record, 3.73 ERA... Manager St Louis Cardinals 1956-58; Cincinnati Reds 1961-1964; Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League 1955, 1959-1960.

* Eugene Siuda Sr., Chicago Park Ball Left Fielder - had middle finger of left hand shot off while serving in the US Army in Belgium - 1943-1945... a well-regarded, power packed slugging outfielder, Siuda might have had a shot for a professional baseball career except for injury. Born and raised in Chicago, he played on the North-West side in Chic-Town until the late '50s.

* Lou Ciola, Philadelphia Athletics Pitcher - went 1-3 W/L in 12 games in 1943 his only big-league season before entering the United States Navy at age 22... Ciola pitched for the military baseball team while stationed in Aiea, Hawaii after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Born in Norfolk, Virginia on 9/6/1922.

* Bobby Bragan, Philadelphia Phillies & Brooklyn Dodgers Shortstop & Catcher - a fine defensive shortstop his first three years with the Phillies - 1940-42.. traded to Dodgers in '43 and switched to catcher position because of injuries and military call-ups to teammates... Bragan served in Military - 1945-46 then returned to Brooklyn for two more seasons as backup catcher... Major League manager Pittsburgh 1956-57... Cleveland 1958... Milwaukee/Atlanta 1963-66... Minor Leagues Manager Fort Worth Cats and Hollywood Stars 1948-56.

* Clint Hartung, New York Giants Pitcher - born in Hondo, Texas... one of the highest rated players in minor league history, the Hondo Hurricane blew past opponents while in Hawaii for military duty after Pearl Harbor was bombed. He chalked up an astonishing 25-0 record, averaging 15 strikeouts (Ks) per game in his two years in the military, and the 6-ft, 4-inch, 210-pounder batted a hefty .567 and muscled out 30 homeruns in just 65 games. As a 25-year-old major league rookie in 1947, Hartung went 9-7. Career stats: 29-29 record, 5.02 ERA in 112 games - NY Giants 1947-1950.




Hustling Shortstop - 1940s - Stan Rojek Hustling Shortstop - 1940s - Stan Rojek
Shortstop & Infielder, RH - Brooklyn Dodgers 1942, 1946-1947; Pittsburgh Pirates 1948-1951; St Louis Cardinals 1951-1952

Played just one game with Brooklyn Dodgers in '42 before entering the armed services... returned to Brooklyn and was used as utility infielder for the next two years, 1946-47, before being shipped to Pittsburgh prior to the 1948 season.

Bucs manager Bill Meyer liked the hustle of Rojek and inserted him into the starting shortstop position. Rojek, a patience batter, led the NL in at bats in 1948 with 641, cracked a career-high 27 doubles, scored career-best 85 runs, batted a solid .290 and walked 61 times while striking out just 41 times all year,

His numbers slipped slightly the next year, and then he suffered a broken bone and played only 76 games in '50. Traded to Cardinals in early-1951, he played 59 games that year, batted .267 with 10 extra base hit, and after 9 games in '52, was out of the majors... Stan Rojek career stats: .266 BA, 67 Doubles, 13 Triples, 4 Hrs, 225 Runs, 122 RBIs, 470 hits in 1764 at-bats, 32 Stolen Bases, 152 Walks 100Ks...baseballhistorian.com - 1949 Pittsburgh Pirates



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1901 Cleveland Indians 1901 Cleveland Indians
One of the original American League teams

Although they were heavily advertised prior to the season opener in the newly formed American League, Cleveland didn’t fare well under first year manager Jimmy McAleer

Lacking a quality pitching staff and plagued by poor fielding, Cleveland finished the 1901 season at 54-82, a full 29 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox. McAleer’s pitching staff was led by Earl Moore, 16-14, Pete Downing, 11-22, Bill Hoffer, 3-8, Ed Scott, 6-6, and an aging Bill Hart, 7-11.

Collectively Cleveland’s pitchers posted the worst earned run average in the new league – 4.12… and the worst on-base-pct – .358. Their batters were paced by Ollie Pickering, - .309 – and- Candy LaChance - .303 and power-hitting Erve Beck - .289, - however the team finished 7th in the then 8-team AL, hitting - just .271 in the then-scheduled 136 games. Second baseman Erve Beck drove in a team-leading 79 runs and hit six of the team’s twelve homeruns.

baseballhistorian.com - Cleveland Indians 1901




Jimmy McAleer Jimmy McAleer
Outfielder, RH - Cleveland Spiders 1889-1898; Manager/Player Cleveland Indians 1901; St Louis Browns 1902-1909; Washington Senators 1910-1911

A hustling defensive outfield ballhawk and an aggressive base runner Jimmy McAleer was one of the big-names among Cleveland fans early baseball during the late 1890s and early 1900s. While batting, he used a heavy, thick bat, and hit the ball where it was pitched – mostly line-drives … and the 6-foot, 175-pounder was also a hard-nosed base stealer.

McAleer played 11 full seasons as an outfielder – drew 365 base-on-balls, struck out only 290 times and stole 262 lifetime bases. He hit over 15 doubles five times, including a career-best 26 in 1892, and a career-high 10 triples in 1891. He managed 11 seasons for various major league teams - his most successful team was the Browns of 1902, who finished in second place in the American League.

In his rookie year with Cleveland in 1899, the native of Youngstown, Ohio, hit .235, stole 37 bases… and swiped a career-high 51 bases two seasons later, 1891.

James McAleer career stats: .255 BA, 112 Ds, 42 Ts, 15 HRs, 1015 hits in 3980 at bats, 619 Runs, 469 RBIs in 1,021 Games




Virginia  Bell Virginia Bell
Pitcher and Outfielder, Right handed Springfield Sallies 1948. US Military 1949-1950

Virginia Bell was a highly regarded power pitcher and an excellent fielding outfielder for the Springield Sallies in the All American Girls Pro Baseball League.

Ginger Bell played one season for the Springfield Illinois team, 1948. And, then proudly served 2 years in the US Military with the WACS in Japan... nicknamed Ginger Bell.




 


Houston Astros 1986
The Houston Astros won the 1986 National League's West Title by going 96-66, .593 and finished 10 games ahead of the second place Cincinnati Reds. Pitcher Mike Scott won the Cy Young Award for the league's top pitcher. Scott with his wicked split-fingered fastball was 18-10, 2.22 ERA, struck out 306 hitters in 275 innings, hurled a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants and won two games in the playoffs against the New York Mets.

Bob Knepper with three speeds, slow, slower and slowest, was outstanding going 17-12, 3.14 Era. The Astros' bullpen ace, Dave Smith saved 33 games, with a 2.73 ERA and Charlie Kerfield, the teams middle reliever, went 11-2 in 61 games, 2.59 ERA.

Starter Jim Deshales finished at 12-5, 3.25 ERA and Nolan Ryan, despite being on the disabled list twice, racked up a 12-8 record, 3.34 ERA, 171 innings with 194 K's.

The 1986 Astros had quality players throughout their infield. Led by first-baseman Glenn Davis, 31 homers, 101 RBI's, and Denny Walling at 3rd hit .312. Dickie Thon and Craig Reynolds played outstanding defensive at the keystone combo. Alan Ashby, rated as a fine defensive catcher, capable at calling "the right pitch, at the right time" was one of the teams' leaders.

The outfield was loaded with defensive stars "who could flat-out rundown and catch balls hit in the power-alleys". Kevin Bass, .311, 20 HR's, 79 RBI's, Billy Hatcher and Terry Puhl provided first-rate defense, and 39-year-old Jose Cruz was still an aggressive hitter, 72 RBI's.

The Astros, second in the National League in pitching, 3.15 ERA and fourth in batting .255, took over first place for good in the NL West on July 21 and clinched the division in spectacular fashion two months later on Mike Scott's no-hitter.

In the league's playoffs against the Mets, the teams split the first four games. The Mets won Game 5 in 12 innings and Game 6 in 16 innings and advanced to the World Series.

Mike Scott, who allowed only one run in winning two games, was named the Series MVP.

baseballhistorian.com - 1986 Houston Astros



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