Sunday, February 1, 2015

The World War II Era and MLB

I've recently felt the nostalgia pang for the sport of Baseball with the imminent arrival of the 2015 season. I'm almost finished reading New York City Baseball: The Golden Age 1947–1957 by Harvey Frommer and started re-watching HBO's When It Was a Game when I realized that the best team of the World War II era was the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals finished second to the National League Champion Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941 with a 97-56 record and the arrival of 20-year old rookie and future Hall of Famer Stan Musial a few months before the United States would be attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Before I go into the 1942 Cardinals, I wanted to take a quick look at the dilemma that World War II caused in reference to MLB and the 1942 baseball season.

The landscape of Major League Baseball would be altered with the departure of many a star player such as Bob Feller and Hank Greenberg to name of few in service to their country. It was believed that as time went on during World War II, the talent pool in Major League Baseball would be continue to be depleted to the point that it was debated by many including Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis whether or not play should be suspended in light of the war. Not only was the lack of major league caliber talent an issue, but more importantly it was wondered whether it would be appropriate for the Major Leagues to continue in operation while the war was going on. In came President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to end the debate.

Commissioner Landis wrote the following letter to President Roosevelt on January 14, 1942 voicing his concerns about the upcoming 1942 season. Here is a copy of both the handwritten and typed letters from the OPA - Online Public Access page of the National Archives website:

Responding to the concerns of a letter from Commissioner Landis, President Roosevelt penned what is known as the "Greenlight Letter" dated January 15, 1942. Here is a copy of the letter by President Roosevelt to Commissioner Landis from the article When FDR Said "Play Ball" from Prologue Magazine Spring 2002, Vol. 34, No. 1 located at the National Archives website:

For an in-depth website that covers Baseball in Wartime check out Gary Bedingfield's Baseball in Wartime which has been online since 2001. 

It was in this scenario that the 1942 season would be played and where the National League team from St. Louis would make their mark on the history books of Major League Baseball. I'll cover the 1942-1946 St. Louis Cardinals in my next post. 

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco