July 10, 1945: MLB All-Star Game canceled during World War II
The announcement came as a surprise to the nation’s baseball fans, as the war was clearly nearing its end. American troops under General George S. Patton were advancing on Berlin along a 50-mile front from the West, while Soviet troops were nearing the German capital from the East. In the Pacific, US Marines were fighting on Iwo Jima and getting ever closer to the Japanese mainland.
Looking for ways to keep their full season schedules intact, the owners decided to cancel the All-Star Game, which had been set for July 10 at Boston’s Fenway Park. According to calculations made by National League President Ford Frick, travel by players, press, and various league and club officials to Boston would have totaled approximately 500,000 passenger miles. Canceling the game would allow the teams to apply those miles to regular-season travel.
The decision generated disappointment among the fans, who believed the 25 percent travel cut was an unnecessary limitation. In its 12-year history the All-Star Game had become a fixture. For the fans, it was now one of the components that made up a baseball season. Only the unthinkable, canceling the World Series, would have been worse. (Johnson suggested that they would hold the 1945 Series only if transportation and war conditions at the time permitted.)
Although the managers in both leagues made no official selection of All-Star players in 1945, the Associated Press conducted a poll in which they chose 25-man unofficial teams. Thirteen of the 16 managers participated, with Joe McCarthy of the Yankees, Luke Sewell of the Browns, and Billy Southworth of the Cardinals declining. (Because they piloted the 1944 pennant winners, Sewell and Southworth would have been the opposing managers.)
The Chicago Cubs had the most players chosen, seven, while the Cleveland Indians, with five, had the most in the American League. (The Sporting News also made hypothetical selections, which differed slightly from those selected by the managers.) Following are the managers’ choices.
- First Base: Phil Cavarretta (CHI); Frank McCormick (CIN)
- Second Base: Don Johnson (CHI); Emil Verban (STL)
- Third Base: Bob Elliott (PIT); Whitey Kurowski (STL); Stan Hack (CHI)
- Shortstop: Marty Marion (STL)
- Outfield: Tommy Holmes (BOS); Bill Nicholson (CHI); Mel Ott (NY); Goody Rosen (BKL); Andy Pafko (CHI); Dixie Walker (BKL)
- Catcher: Ernie Lombardi (NY); Phil Masi (BOS); Ken O’Dea (STL)
- Pitcher: Red Barrett (BOS); Mort Cooper (STL); Hal Gregg (BKL); Claude Passeau (CHI); Preacher Roe (PIT); Van Mungo (NY); Rip Sewell (PIT); Hank Wyse (CHI)
- First Base: Nick Etten (NY); George McQuinn (STL)
- Second Base: Eddie Mayo (DET); George Stirnweiss (NY)
- Third Base: Tony Cuccinello (CHI); Oscar Grimes (NY)
- Shortstop: Lou Boudreau (CLE); Vern Stephens (STL)
- Outfield: George Case (WAS); Doc Cramer (DET); Bob Johnson (BOS); Hank Greenberg (DET); Jeff Heath (CLE); Wally Moses (CHI)
- Catcher: Rick Ferrell (WAS); Frank Hayes (CLE); Mike Tresh (CHI)
- Pitcher: Hank Borowy (NY); Russ Christopher (PHI); Dave Ferriss (BOS); Steve Gromek (CLE); Dutch Leonard (WAS); Hal Newhouser (DET); Thornton Lee (CHI); Allie Reynolds (CLE)
A week after Johnson’s “request,” Boston Post baseball writer Jack Malaney proposed that baseball use the All-Star open dates for a series of exhibition games. (The two leagues had left the traditional three-day All-Star break in the schedule, hoping that an improvement in the war situation might allow for the game to be played.) All 16 teams would participate in the exhibition games, which would be between the closest geographical rivals from the two leagues.
The owners adopted the plan on April 24 at a meeting in Cleveland, the major purpose of which was the selection of former Kentucky Governor and Senator A.B. “Happy” Chandler to succeed the late Judge Kenesaw Landis as the new commissioner. The games, scheduled for July 9 and 10, would be between the Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, New York Giants and New York Yankees, Philadelphia Blue Jays and Philadelphia Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, Brooklyn Dodgers and Washington Senators, and Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers. However, the Office of Defense Transportation refused to allow the Detroit team to travel 62 miles to Pittsburgh, and so the Tigers-Pirates game was canceled.
The seven games played raised more than $240,000, which was split between the National War Fund and the American Red Cross. Neither players nor fans thought it a very satisfying replacement for the All-Star Game. For Tresh, O’Dea, Etten, Mayo, Grimes, Rosen, Christopher, Gromek, Barrett, Gregg, and Wyse it would have been their one chance to play in the midsummer classic. None had ever been chosen previously, nor would any be chosen in the future.
The scores of the seven games:
- Chicago White Sox 5, Chicago Cubs 4 (ten innings), at Comiskey Park
- New York Yankees 7, New York Giants 1 (seven innings, shortened by rain), at the Polo Grounds
- Cincinnati Reds 6, Cleveland Indians 0, at Cleveland Stadium
- Boston Red Sox 8, Boston Braves 1, at Fenway Park
- Philadelphia Phillies 7, Philadelphia Athletics 6, at Shibe Park
- St. Louis Browns 3, St. Louis Cardinals 0, at Sportsman’s Park
- Washington Senators 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 3, at Griffith Stadium
Major League Baseball scheduled the 1946 game for Fenway Park, to replace the one canceled in 1945.
This article originally appeared in "Who's on First: Replacement Players in World War II" (SABR, 2015), edited by Marc Z. Aaron and Bill Nowlin.