Heller: Magic moments in 1944, when three was a crowd

From Dick Heller at The National Pastime Museum on November 25, 2013:

“And now the final score of tonight’s ball game in New York,” your Crosley or Motorola radio might have blared on the night of June 26, 1944. “Dodgers 4, Yankees 1, Giants 0.”

That’s right — three teams played in the looniest game in major league baseball’s first 138 seasons, which boggled minds and shredded scorecards more than 69 years ago at New York’s Polo Grounds. That meant approximately two-thirds of the 50,000-plus eyewitnesses might have left the ballpark yowling, in the words of legendary fight manager Joe Jacobs, “We wuz robbed!”

This was an exhibition game, of course, and in more ways than one. The wacky scheme was dreamed (or nightmared?) up in the office of Stanley H. Oshan, chairman of the U.S. Treasury Department’s War Finance Committee, and the idea was to sell war bonds. To that end, there were no losers at all.

The timing was perfect. The game was played less than three weeks after D-Day, when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s troops invaded Europe at Normandy and made it clear that World War II was turning in the Allies’ direction. Optimism zoomed, and millions of patriotic citizens were eager to open their pocketbooks and purses on behalf of what was called the Fifth War Loan bond drive.

The three-way contest aided the cause dramatically. Ticket prices were a $25 War Bond for general admission. Reserved seats cost a $100 bond, box seats required a $1,000 bond and the bleachers were free for servicemen.  

Fans contributed $5.5 million, a clothing company paid $1 million for an autographed game program and New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia bought $50 million worth of bonds on behalf of the city. All told, more than $56 million worth of bonds were sold.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/magic-moments-44-game-three-was-crowd

Originally published: November 25, 2013. Last Updated: November 25, 2013.