Ryczek: The Ol’ Perfessor meets the chemistry professor at 1943 spring training

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on May 29, 2014:

Boston Braves Manager Casey Stengel and Choate chemistry professor Robert Stengle spelled their last names differently, perhaps the least of many differences between the two men who stood side-by-side in a publicity photo taken at the Choate School in March 1943. Robert was at Choate because he taught there, and Casey was there because Major League Baseball teams had agreed, during this second wartime spring, to minimize travel by training north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The Yankees set up camp in Asbury Park, New Jersey, the Brooklyn Dodgers at Bear Mountain, New York, and a number of clubs worked out in the upper Midwest. The Braves selected Choate, located in Wallingford, Connecticut, just 125 miles from Boston.

Wallingford wasn’t Miami, but ballplayers were instructed not to complain about the cold, the snow, or any other inconveniences, for when American boys were dying in North Africa and the Pacific, such minor grievances would seem petty and selfish. If the players didn’t like Bear Mountain, would they prefer a foxhole in the balmy climate of Guam, being strafed by Japanese fighter planes?

Players were also advised that it was inappropriate to ask for a raise at a time when draftees earned $600 a year. President Franklin Roosevelt, in conjunction with a bill to raise the debt ceiling (debt ceiling debates are not a twenty-first-century phenomenon), wanted to tax all income in excess of $25,000, and while few players made that much, it was clear that he frowned on the prospect of civilians taking advantage of wartime manpower shortages to gain higher salaries. Owners, always looking to keep payroll expense to a minimum, took full advantage of the situation, and while some players held out, most accepted their pay cuts without complaint.

During every war since the Civil War, baseball walked a fine line between guilt at not sharing the sacrifices of the men at the front and a desire to keep the game alive.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/ole-perfessor-meets-chemistry-perfessor

Originally published: May 29, 2014. Last Updated: May 29, 2014.