NORFOLK, Va. — Naval Station (NAVSTA) Norfolk hosted the Navy World Series Throwback Softball game at the installations historic McClure Field on Friday, June 17.
On June 12, 1920, Naval Training Station Norfolk opened the Athletic Stadium which later became known as McClure Stadium after Captain Henry McClure. For the next 20 years, due to World War II and the draft, many MLB players came through the stadium playing for Navy baseball teams, including Dominic DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Yogi Berra, Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Robinson and more. The first Navy World Series was held in 1943 between the Naval Training Station (NTS) and Naval Air Station (NAS) teams to determine which team was the best after a very successful season for both.
“I grew up in the Navy and I’m also a baseball fanatic so to be able to bring those two things together is great,” said Anthony Benning, Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Fitness Director for NAVSTA Norfolk. “It’s a piece of baseball history and Navy history that most people don’t know is there. We’re happy to bring exposure to this historical field and host something like this.”
This year, Sailors from sea and shore commands around Hampton Roads attended tryouts to be on the NAS or NTS team, each of which had 13-15 players. The game began with a home run derby followed by a live performance of the National Anthem. The two teams played 9 innings, with NAS winning 15-9.
“This base has incredible history and heritage and when we forget about that we lose part of who we are,” said Commanding Officer Naval Station Norfolk, Captain David Dees. “Letting these teams come together and play on the same field that Major League baseball players played on with Sailors just like them is important.”
The team members wore traditional uniforms identical to those worn in the ‘40s and used wooden bats. The Commanding Officer (CO) and Executive Officer (XO) took part in the game with the CO being on the NAS team and XO on the NTS team.
“We had pro ball players enlist in the Navy and they were the first version of what we do now,” said Benning. “They were putting on recreation activities for their fellow shipmates. There was no MWR then. They created an environment of morale for the Sailors on this base.”
Norfolk’s Morale Welfare (MWR) and Recreation Department set up a “walk through history of baseball at Naval Station Norfolk” outdoor museum. Along with the display, MWR also held a raffle and provided traditional baseball stadium style food for “throwback prices”, all being $1 each. Many family members and Sailors came out to show their support for the players and see a game at the historical location.
“It’s important for us to look back and see that as much as the Navy has changed, it’s still the same,” said Dees.
This year’s game was the 3rd annual Throwback Softball game and the first since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Naval Station Norfolk and McClure Stadium hope to see you next year!