74 years later: Navy stages throwback game as part of centennial celebration

As part of the Naval Station's 100 anniversary celebration, they staged a throwback softball game, with current day sailors donning the unifoms and taking the field.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- During World War II, many of the stars of Major League Baseball enlisted in the military.

Many ended up here, at Naval Station Norfolk. And to boost morale, they did what they knew how to do best: play ball.

And, an all-star lineup ended up in the Navy, at the Norfolk Naval Operating Base. The names were the stuff of legends: Bob Feller, Dom DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese.

So the base commanding officer staged a world series of his own: The Naval Training Station Bluejackets versus the Naval Air Station Airmen.

The record shows that in 1943, the New York Yankees beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. But anybody who knows anything about baseball knows, the real action was at tiny McClure Field, built in 1919, which still stands today.

"The Navy enlisted a lot of pro players," said Captain Rich McDaniel, the base's current and 47th commanding officer. "And these guys would go around and raise war bonds and playing to entertain the troops."

As part of the Naval Station's 100th anniversary celebration, they staged a throwback softball game, with current day sailors donning the uniforms and taking the field.

Doing the honors with the ceremonial first pitch: the only living player from that 1943 Navy world series, 95-year-old Eddie Robinson himself, a long-time major leaguer and two-time world champion.

"It's exciting to be back," Rpbinson said. "Brings back a lot of nostalgic memories. I just think of all these guys I played with are gone. I can picture them. We had a lot of fun, but we did a good job for the Navy, too."

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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