IMAGINE LOMBARDI’S AFRAID OF CROWDS! – NEWS OF ATHLETES AND SPORTS DURING WORLD WAR II

By Sgt. Dan Polier

You probably won’t believe it, but Ernie Lombardi, the Giants’ catcher, was rejected for military service because an Army psychiatrist said he was afraid of crowds. Maybe, as somebody has suggested, the psychiatrist ought to go to a psychiatrist.

…Al Schact, the baseball funny man, is back home from his overseas tour with this observation: “All the German prisoners looked alike to me. They all look like umpires.”…Max Baer says his corporal’s pay is only peanuts to him because he draws $1,000 a month from those annuities he bought when he was champ. Baer, by the way, has another son, making a total of two little Baers…The Giants have offered Lefty Gomez a contract for next year…



max baer world war 2

Yep, that’s Maxie Baer. Only now he’s Cpl. Baer, a physical instructor in the Fourth Air Service Command. Here he shows GIs at Tinker Field, Okla., the fine art of wrestling as Brother Buddy (right) looks on.

Babe Dahlgren of the Phillies was probably the most versatile man in the majors this year. He played first, second, third, short and even caught a few games.

This is one of the better stories on Bronko Nagurski, who returns to pro football this year with the Chicago Bears. During the Minnesota-Pittsburgh game, a Pitt lineman collided with The Bronk and suffered a broken collar bone. The next week end, the Pitt team was on the road and the injured lineman was taken along just for the ride. The train made a sudden stop, shaking up all the passengers and tossing luggage all over the car. The injured lineman became panicky and ran up and down the aisle, yelling: “Run for your lives! It’s Nagurski!”

Jumping Joe Savoldi, the former heavy-weight wrestling champion and one of Knute Rockne’s All-Americans at Notre Dame, has turned up in the Mediterranean Theater as commander of a PT boat. Just before the armistice with Italy was signed, his craft sank a 6,000-ton Italian transport…Herman Hickman, Army’s ponderous 300-pound line coach, is another ex-All-American (Tennessee) who was persuaded to go into professional wrestling after leaving college. But he’s proud of one distinction. “I was never forced to become the champion,” he boasts.

…Take it from Dizzy Dean, the Army made “a tremendous boner” when they rejected him because of a punctured eardrum. “If they had only tooken me in,” Dizzy said, “this here war would be over in less time than I ever spent listening to a speech by Branch Rickey.”

The idea of taking two teams of major-league players to entertain the GIs in the South Pacific Theater isn’t new. In fact, it’s as old as the last war. In 1918 John Mcgraw was organizing two all-star teams to tour France when the armistice came along and cancelled his plans. Judge Landis, who is responsible for the current tour, says he doesn’t know who first thought up the idea. “Take the Washington Stadium here,” he told YANK’S Washington correspondent, “fill up the bleachers and seats and put someone on every lap. Then fill up the field and stand someone on every man’s shoulders and then you get an idea of the number of people who say they thought it up first. The only thing I’m sure of is that it wasn’t me.

The Kentucky Derby is still a long way off, but you might paste the name of Ben Jones’ colt Pensive in your cap for future reference. He can fly around other horses just like Whirlaway used to do…Don’t be surprised if the big leagues decide to call it quits after this season. That new pre-Pearl Harbor father-draft law figures to wreck just about every team in the majors…The Navy football team might turn out to be the real stunner in the East. A couple of patriotic congressmen have just appointed Don Whitmire, an All-Southeastern Conference tackle from Alabama and Don Jenkins, another Alabama player, to Annapolis…Col. Gar Davidson, one of the West Point’s best known football coaches, is serving on Gen. Patton’s Seventh Army staff in Sicily.



world war 2 sports news army navy

Maybe somebody can tell the Poster Lameducks, an Aleutian softball team, whether they really hold the worst record of any team in or out of Alaska. “We finished in a tie for last place in our post season, losing 22 straight games, 19 of them shutouts,” they write. “We had the bases loaded 18 times without scoring. While our pitchers limited the opponents to an average of six hits per game, which more than evened things up”…And from Camp Livingston, La., there comes a challenge for any camp to top this record: “Our baseball team ended the season with 39 victories against 9 losses. It won the Louisiana Semi-Professional championship and the championship of the USO Alexandria Military League. The 113th Engineers, representing our camp, copped the Southwest regional softball championship at New Orleans, winning the title without dropping a game in the tournament.

 For Further Reading Check Out:

Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang


Max Baer and Barney Ross: Jewish Heroes of Boxing




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