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WWII Manpower Shortage

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  • WWII Manpower Shortage

    Brought Back

    Catcher Paul Richards left the major leagues after the 1935 season and became a minor league manager. When war broke out, the talent shortage paved the way for the catcher’s return in 1943. After the regulars returned, Richards went back to managing. He became a renowned judge of pitching talent and an acclaimed fundamentals teacher. Taking over the Baltimore Orioles in 1955, one year removed from the woeful St. Louis Browns moniker, Richards guided the team as general and field manager until 1961. He built the team’s minor league system from scratch and in doing so developed a perennial contender. Insightful, Richards was once quoted as saying, “everybody today knows about the same amount of baseball. Some managers just have a little more patience and ambition to expose their ballplayers to it.”

    Sig Jakucki had been out of the majors since 1936. The Browns brought him back in 1944 and he posted 13 wins during their pennant drive. A heavy drinker, the pitcher was suspended the following year and never returned.

    Jimmie Foxx retired after the 1942 season but returned for the Cubs and Phillies during the war. He even pitched in nine games.

    Paul Schrieber was a batting practice pitcher for the Yankees. He was activated in 1945 even though he last pitched in the majors 22 years earlier.

    Pepper Martin played 40 games for the Cardinals in 1944. He had initially retired in 1940.

    Babe Herman donned a Dodger uniform to pinch-hit in 1945 at age 42 despite last appearing in the majors eight years prior.

    Former National League batting champ Debs Garms was recalled from the minors to help support the Cardinals pennant drives during the war.

    Managing in the minors, Ben Chapman returned to the majors after a three-year absence to pitch and pinch-hit while others served.

    Outfielder Joe Vosmik returned with the Senators in 1944. He last appeared in the majors with Brooklyn in 1941.

    Forty six-year-old Hod Lisenbee returned to the majors after a nine-year absence in 1945 to help out pitching-starved Cincinnati.

    Negro leaguer John Paul Berry returned to play first base for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945 after an eight-year layoff.

    Successful scout and minor league manager Clyde Sukeforth caught thirteen games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945. It had been eleven years since he last donned the gear in the majors.

    Last Chance

    The Tigers signed forty-year-old, career minor leaguer Chuck Hostetler in 1944. The oldest rookie in major league history, at that point, was playing for a semi-pro team.

    Given a Chance

    Pete Gray was the 1944 Southern Association MVP while with Memphis. The reigning American League champion Browns brought him up in ‘45 and he played 61 games in the outfield. Gray had lost his right arm in a childhood accident. Though he batted only .218, he did well to whiff a mere eleven times in 234 at bats. Gray continued in the minors through 1949.

    Stayed

    The following players were at the end of their careers but stayed during the manpower shortage:
    Billy Jurges Joe Medwick
    Mel Ott Al Simmons
    Lloyd Waner Paul Waner
    Many aging former big leaguers kicked around the minors for years, as well.

    Too Young

    The following players were brought up at a young age to help fill the depleted rosters:
    Joe Nuxhall 15 years old
    Carl Scheib 16 years old
    Tommy Brown 16 years old
    Putsy Caballero 16 years old
    Rogers McKee 16 years old
    Eddie Yost 17 years old
    Granny Hamner 17 years old
    Eddie Miksis 17 years old
    Erv Palica 17 years old
    Cass Michaels 17 years old
    Charlie Osgood 17 years old
    Art Houtteman 17 years old
    Roy Jarvis 17 years old
    Gene Patton 17 years old
    Chris Haughey one game on his 18th birthday

    Fred Chapman who had a cup of coffee in the American Association on July 22, 1887 with Philadelphia was even younger than Nuxhall. He appeared on a major league diamond at just under 14 years, 8 months old.
    Marvin Price was barely fourteen when he made his debut with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League in 1946. The first baseman eventually found his way into the Baltimore Orioles organization.

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