Stars In Sportlight

Two out. It’s the eleventh inning. The third 99th Recon trooper is at bat. The score is two and two. Yes, the mighty Casey struck out, but Pfc Milton C Hercha remembered that “this is the Army” and swung. He bingled a sweet single. Up to the plate on borrowed time stepped Pfc Floyd E Davidson. Yes, the mighty Casey struck out, but this was a Pfc’s day. The 395th Infantry pitcher winds up and throws. Out across the field rattles a scorching double. The score is 3 - 2. Cpl Pete Brunner comes up to the plate and flies out - too much rank for this ball game. Hold your seats folks . The team that led 2 - 0 at the seventh inning is coming up to bat. The same fighting doughs, who less than six weeks ago trounced the unlucky Cavalrymen 11 - 3, are coming up for their licks and for vengeance. Pitcher Penich winds up and delivers again and then again. The first dough goes down hitting into superior fielding. Not so with the next dough, he bingles a sweet single. One out, two to go. Pitcher Penich, feeling the strain, walks the next man. The old cry “Pitcher is blowin’ up higher than a kite” started in the stands. And well he might. “Iron Man” Penich, he was called. He had pitched thirty-six innings in five days to open the season, now the prognosticators called for the “one man” team to go stale. His delivery is slow and measured. He takes his time. Tense moments as the crowd senses the duel going on at the plate. Strike three - two out, hollers the umpire. Two away goes up the cry and Penich has won a personal battle. But the next dough hits. It’s a healthy wallop and it looks like the ball game as it sails over and out into left field. Two on, three runs coming in. But they never get there. Rank has it’s privileges; pulling a circus catch, Cpl Pete Brunner puts an Infantry Regiments’ hopes safely into his mitt and pays back the Pfc’s.
Thus on a hot summer day in June, the 99th Recon’s Rough Riders ball club won the baseball championship of the 99th Infantry Division. Jack was a giant killer, for one hundred and forty men in a Cavalry Troop had licked the approximately two or three thousand men in each Infantry Regiment or Division Artillery. It wasn’t going to be the last time, for maneuvers brought on many a repeat. Having just come off D series maneuvers and in thirty six hours about to depart for Louisiana Maneuvers, the romping cavalrymen had taken it in their stride. Later they were to get gold baseballs, a steak dinner, and a trophy, have their pitcher acclaimed as tops for his record of ten strikeouts average a game, have their men Hercha, Brunner, Ciszewski, lead the League in batting averages in that order and have Brunner acclaimed the Home Run King. Quite a record.
Behind that glorious day, lay a hard story. From small beginnings great things grow. The tiny Recon Troop a few months before had had no equipment. Under the leadership of 1st Lt Richard E Staley and Pfc Milton C Hercha, they had drummed up enough interest for the boys to chip in and buy a catcher’s mitt at Baton Rouge, La. With that and a few victories under their belt plus an “iron man” pitcher, they became a team to be reckoned with. The choice of their Commanding Officer, Captain Roy C Lueders, to change his softball team, undefeated in fourteen starts, into a hardball nine on the theory that softball could not long contain the capabilities of the hard hitting Rough Riders had proven correct. In one short week they had taken: 324th Medics to the tune of 19 to 6; Div Hq at 7 to 5; Quartermaster at 5 to 3 and split with the Signal Company, 8 to 8 in thirteen innings, the last ten of which pitcher Penich had also pitched, relieving Cpl Ken Miller, his team mate who was knocked out of the box. Then with Smith pitching first, then to Morgan who split his finger, then to, yes you will not believe it - “Iron Man” Penich for the last eight innings, they went on to trounce the Engineers by the tune of 11 to 1, then Ordnance, Division Artillery and 394th Infantry fell in quick succession. In the 6th game, however, the Fifth Infantry, up from Panama Canal Zone, momentarily had turned the tide 4 - 0, but had to drop out of the League later nullifying the game.
Since all good things must come to an end, “Iron Man” Penich later met a temporary nemesis in the also hitherto undefeated 395th Infantry. Leading 3 to 1 at the end of the first frame, he was knocked out of the box and replaced by T/4 Baird who failed to stop the slugging doughs. The game winding up 11 to 3 , the Recon on the short end. So you see it was a vengeful, truly victorious Penich who threw up an eleven inning 3 to 2 Division Championship Victory. So you see it was a real “Iron Man” who saw his teammates come from 2 - 0 behind as in the 8th frame, Stringfellow walked and the same “Pitcher Penich” doubled to bring Stringfellow home. A sad and sorry Penich was put out at third base trying to steal when T/5 Ira C Book popped out to right field - and a happy Penich started the next inning as Hercha and Davidson in quick succession doubled, tying it up, before Pete Brunner could hit out to the field. But to call the team a “one man” team would be to overlook Brunner’s phenomenal fielding, home run record and league leading batting average; would mean overlooking Hercha’s spirit to make the team and lead the League in batting average or Davidson’s rank of 3rd batting and his ability to come through in the “pinches”, it would mean overlooking the services of the Panama Cadre, pitchers Baird and Smith and catcher Morgan who made a one-man battery possible. To call it just a one man-team means forgetting the fact that the entire team represented the 99th Division against the Camp Livingston All Stars, supplemented by two substitutes from each Special Troop. Nor is it to their discredit that as Division All Stars they were stopped 4 to 1 by the dazzling performance of the ex-Chisox twirler, Harry Taylor, who fanned out twenty-two of them. Nor is it a wonder that the next season at Camp Maxey, Texas, with Morgan, Baird, Ciszewski and Smith gone and all the Division gunning for them, they fizzled out. Almost the identical team (except Stringfellow was in from the field for Ciszewski at 1st base, replaced at center field by Bobby Schloerb, and a battery of Bixler, Brunner and Penich was pitching to Frank Minehart and “Pop” Williams) did little or nothing. Yet on past performances Hercha and Brunner made the all-time, all-division team, while Ciszewski and Penich, suffering from time and man’s weak memory, made only honorable mention. The Recons had set the pace, upset the field, Jack had killed the giant. He refused to be a gladiator. There were other battles to win ahead.

1943 Championship Year:

p. Penich, Baird, Miller, Smith
c. Morgan
1b. Ciszewski
2b. Davidson
ss. Hercha
3b. Book
rf. Bubash
cf. Stringfellow
lf. Brunner
Mgr. Lt Staley

1944 POM Year:
p. Penich, Bixler, Brunner
c. Minehart, Williams
1b. Stringfellow
2b. Davidson
ss. Hercha
3b. Book
rf. Bubash
cf. Schloerb
lf. Brunner
Mgr. Lt Lamkin

Batting Average:
Hercha -- 475
Brunner -- 439
Davidson -- 417

All-Time -- All Division Team:

Home Run King -- Pete Brunner

Best Hurler -Bob Penich

Honorable Mention:

To supplement their hard and softball championships at Camp Van Dorn, the Recon GI’s placed runner-up to the 394th Infantry Regiment in the basketball semi-finals, taking the floor with Jim Connelly, Pete Brunner, pitcher Bob Penich, Albert Kopan, George Bubash, Ira C Book and Sam Steele. The 393rd Infantry were crowned champs. Their officers turned on the heat and put on a no slouch performance on the boards that year. Special Troops being the runner-up to the Division Artillery Officers team who were champions, and Lt’s Lamkin, Worley, Von Burg and Staley (the latter two starring) copping off four of the starting five berths. In the Camp Maxey track meet, a relay team of Pete Brunner, Duane Grier, Noval Casteel and Heber Cargile was just nosed into second place. Other intra-troop stars included T/Sgt William O “farmer” Nelson and Cpl Wilbur J “ringer” Osterkamp in horseshoe pitching; and Bert Bentley, Raymond Burton and William H Slama in a “three’s a crowd tie” in ping-pong.
Continuing the athletic tradition set by Lt Staley, in th ETO the 99th Reconnaissance Troop entered into the Gerolzhofen Field Artillery League with the 924th Field Artillery Battalion. While the outcome of this league is still in a mad scramble so early in the season, the Recon boys stand in second place. Members of their team are tied for home run king – Bobby Schloerb and Joseph Scasney; for doubles record – Frank Minehart and Bert Bentley; for runs scored – number one man Scasny and the same Scasny is runner-up in batting averages at .600. Their pitcher, Frank Minehart, has won three and lost none, placing him first among the League pitchers while Pete Brunner ranks third in runs batted in. Lt Von Burg is tied for the most doubles record with the leaders. The officers team has Captain Roy C Lueders at first base, Lt William K Worley in centerfield, Lt Robert H Von Burg as pitcher, Lt Richard E Staley at third base. With the loss of Captain McClure who on D series maneuvers managed to help them snap the Recon’s fourteen game winning streak 5 to 3, they are now floundering in the League cellar.

The softball team is:

p. Julian Newman, Ray Burton, Frank Minehart*
c. Pop Williams, Scasny **
1b. Minehart, Williams
2b. Penich
ss. Milton Hercha
3b. Rabbit Tourney, Shorty Adamek
rf. Albert Kopan, Peter Barry
cf. Pete Brunner (3rd in runs batted in)
lf. Bobby Schloerb (tied for home run king)
sf. John Sigman
* Minehart – 1st in doubles hit, 2nd in pitchers league standing.
** Scasny – tied for home run king, 1st in runs batted in, 2nd in league batting average.

This team is a sort of all-star selection by coach, captain, manager, and athletic director Milton C Hercha from the platoon teams of the intra-troop league which are:

Hq Platoon:
p. Frank Minehart
c. Robert W Casteel
1b. D Hollars, Capt Lueders
2b. Willard Nelson
ss. Milton Hercha
3b. Jos Markowitz, Ralph Tourney
rf. Edward Stampfl
cf. Max Brooks
lf. Raymond Patterson
sf. Lt William K Worley

1st Platoon:
p. Julian Newman
c. Joseph Scansy
1b. Earl Gillette
2b. John Farone
3b.Samuel Steele
ss. Edwin Weber
rf. Marvin Westphal
cf. Peter La Rosa
lf. Jack Pattee
sf. Dayton Lewis

2nd Platoon:
p. Lt Robert H Von Burg, Raymond Burton
c. James Morse
1b. Robert McKinsey
2b. Warren Souders
ss. Bert Beatley
3b. Melvin Bixler
rf. Grover Sirmons
cf. Joseph Giacomin
sf. Albert Kopan
lf. Robert Schloerb

3rd Platoon:
p. Robert Williams, Robert Penich
c. Felbert Neal
1b. Peter Barry
2b Tony Ancona
ss. Arthur Wood
3b. Lt Richard E Staley
rf. Floyd A Clark
cf. Ashby Wallace
rf. Peter Brunner
sf. John Sumner