Two topics that captivate my mind more than almost anything else are baseball and World War II. So then it makes sense that over the weekend I found myself looking through the New York Times archives (sorry DJT) for stories from Opening Day during the war. I eventually narrowed my search to the first Opening Day after the war began: April 14, 1942.
Just a couple months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt encouraged the commissioner of baseball at that time, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, to keep the game going during the war in his famous "green light letter."
"I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before."
JKML obliged and the season started on time. There are three quick nuggets I want to pull from the April 15th edition of The Times. The first is a poll, conducted by Gallup, to gage Americans' views on continuing professional sports during the war.
I wonder if FDR supported the continuation of baseball because of these numbers, or perhaps his support influenced how Americans answered the question. Don't miss the last line from that write-up. Unlike today, the pecking order of sports was baseball, and then football and basketball. Football is obviously king today, with basketball number two and then baseball. The second article looks at Opening Day attendance numbers.
Come on White Sox fans! Less than 10,000 for Opening Day? Attendance figures from Sunday: 49,016 in Arizona, 31,042 in Tampa, and 47,566 in St. Louis. All Monday games had over 35,000. The last article is my favorite.
They don't make headlines like they used to. The article goes on to say;
"One lone spectator was booed vociferously for NOT throwing a ball back on the field, and more than a dozen others were applauded even more loudly for returning foul balls that landed among the spectators... Before the game President Horace Stoneham of the Giants caused it to be announced over the loudspeaker that fans were requested to return all balls hit into the stands and that these baseballs would be placed in a receptacle on the field and forwarded to Army and Navy camps."
If you were curious, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Yankees in the 1942 World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers went 104-50 and didn't make the playoffs. And we thought Pirates fans had it bad. The average game took just over two hours. Ted Williams earned the first Triple Crown of his career, hitting .356 with 36 homers and 137 RBI.