Revisiting that game from 1944

December 1, 2020

I hadn’t intended to make a running series out of my long-ago article on my friend Joe Stern, but I’ve just been sent a followup on that article https://www.billjamesonline.com/my_newest_friend/?AuthorId=23&Year=2016&pg=2 that I’d like to share.

The followup was sent to me by a Minnesotan who’s been researching pilots like Joe who flew fighter planes in World War II, in the course of restoring one of these planes and writing a book about the restoration. This guy, by the name of Jordan Deters, had been doing some preliminary research into the planes and the pilots, and came across my article in the early stages of his research—he wrote to me in 2018, asking if Joe was still alive  (he was, and is) and if I could put him in touch with him, which I did immediately, and they’ve spoken since then any number of times.

Recently, Mr. Deters sent me two articles he had come across on the specific game that my article was about, articles which answer several questions I had raised, and which cast some light on Joe’s then 72-year-old memory of the game in question. The articles were published in the Tyndall Target, the newspaper of the Army Air Force base at which Joe was stationed, in the May 27, 1944 (Joe’s 22nd birthday) and June 3, 1944 issues, the first one announcing and previewing the game that Tyndall Field was going to play against Ted Williams and other major leaguers, and the second giving an account of that game.

So, 72 years after the game (and 76 years ago in 2020), Joe’s memory was close in some places and a little off in other places: for one thing, he remembered the game as taking place in March of 1944 and we now know that it was played in early June of 1944. From the May 27 issue, I now have the obscure names of the two major leaguers, aside from Williams and Bob Kennedy, whom Joe remembered on the visiting team when I spoke to him in 2016: Nick Tremark and Ray Stoviak, formerly outfielders for the Dodgers and the Phillies, respectively. Tremark was a lefty who had gotten 18 hits over three partial NL seasons in the mid-1930s, and Stoviak, also a lefthanded batter and thrower, had gotten 10 hitless at-bats in 1938.

I also answered one of the open questions from my previous account: who was the pitcher whom Joe saw striking out Ted Williams in one of his at-bats? I suggested that this fellow must have gone through life remembering that accomplishment proudly, but Joe did not recall the fellow’s name, nor his professional record, or even whether he had one at all. Now I have it: Norman Southard "compiled a career record of 15 wins and 17 losses and a 3.97 ERA in his 37-game pitching career with the Hickory Rebels, Salisbury Giants, Mayfield Browns, Jackson Generals, Galax Leafs, Miami Beach Flamingos and Reidsville Luckies. He began playing during the 1940 season and last took the field during the 1947 campaign," according to https://www.statscrew.com/minorbaseball/stats/p-11365540 , never rising above Class-B ball before the war or after it. Southard’s hometown is listed as Inwood, NY, which might have a rural sort of sound to it, but unless I’m mistaken (and Inwood NY is some upstate village I’ve never heard of) Inwood is the northern-most section of Manhattan Island, a fairly rural section, as these things go, but still a neighborhood in the country’s least rural county.

Looking at the game-day issue of the Tyndall Target, I was able to compare Joe’s seven-decade-old memory with the recorded facts, and can report that Joe did pretty well. He remembered the score as 8-6, with Williams’ team victorious, getting the margin of victory, two runs, right on the head, though the final score was actually 5-3, and he remembered Williams hitting two triples, while the game-day story records only one. Joe’s memory of Williams’ "triples" had them both hit over the centerfielder’s head, which is exactly where his one actual triple went: "the three-bagger came in the second inning with none on, and was a tremendous smash into center field which sent deep-playing Eddie Matonak, Tornado fielder, scurrying back almost to the turret sheds before he caught up with the ball."

Although the story devoted the first two paragraphs to the phenomenon of Williams starring in the game, the remaining ten lengthy paragraphs mention Williams’ name only twice in passing, noting his fanning by Southard. It’s rather a detailed article, and not at all badly written.

The whole paper, in fact, looks very impressive, the war news particularly so. The servicemen were kept well informed, to judge by this product, with the latest news of the European and Pacific theaters of operations, replete with detailed maps of the Nazi armies’ attempt to invade the Soviet Union. You may find it entertaining and informative to look through these two links. I did.

https://digital.lib.usf.edu/?t34.109 

https://digital.lib.usf.edu/?t34.110

 
 

COMMENTS (4 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
....I ought to add, 'for the record'....
My post below probably makes it look like the common thing for people in Manhattan to indicate as the name of their town, and what appears in the address, as "Manhattan." It's not; it's "New York." The borough gets to use the name of the whole city; the other boroughs don't.
If Southard were from the Inwood section of Manhattan, his hometown likely would have been indicated as New York.
12:09 AM Dec 4th
 
MarisFan61
I went to a summer camp that catered almost completely to families living in those "Five Towns." I was one of the relatively poor kids -- not poor in any usual sense, but poor compared to them, and got teased for it. It didn't leave me with any wonderful feeling about the Five Towns.

It wasn't only the 'poor' kids that got teased; the town of Inwood did too.
Nobody in the camp was from Inwood, literally totally nobody. As I was led to understand, it was far less well-to-do than the others.


I would guess strongly that this Southard guy was from that Inwood, not the neighborhood in Manhattan, because you never see anyone from that area of Manhattan listing their town or address as Inwood, nor anyone from the neighboring Washington Heights or from Chelsea or Greenwich Village or Soho (etc.) stating those as their town or address.

The borough of Queens is the only one in which people do typically list the 'sub-town' as their town: there's Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills.... a lot of us could probably list a dozen others too. People in Queens rarely if ever list their town as "Queens." There are other occasional exceptions in New York City, like, people in the Riverdale section of the Bronx usually or often indicate Riverdale, not Bronx; and I can imagine that some people in Brooklyn Heights and possibly some other areas of Brooklyn state those rather than Brooklyn. But in Manhattan (as well as Staten Island), I think not at all.
11:33 PM Dec 3rd
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks, W.T.Mons10. I should have known that--I can probably name the other four towns off the top of my head for you, so I don't know why that didn't register. Of course, it's also a neighborhood of Manhattan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inwood,_Manhattan Who knows which one Southard was from?
2:57 AM Dec 2nd
 
W.T.Mons10
Inwood, NY is in southwestern Nassau County, just outside NYC, part of the Five Towns.
9:17 PM Dec 1st
 
 
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