Ryczek: War and integration: baseball in the 1940s

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on January 19, 2017:

Since it was an even-numbered decade, the 1940s should have been a prosperous period for baseball, following the lean years of the Great Depression. Prosperity would have to wait, however, while America fought a world war and many Major League stars traded flannels for khakis.

During the First World War, baseball was under pressure from politicians, and the 1918 season had come to a premature end. On January 15, 1942, just a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt sent Commissioner Landis a communication that became known as the “Green Light Letter.” Roosevelt said that baseball was good for morale, and he wanted it to continue throughout the war, although he did ask Landis to schedule more night games so that factory workers could attend.

Roosevelt did not say, however, that baseball players would be exempt from military service, and led by Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg, who enlisted right after Pearl Harbor, they flocked (or were drafted) to the colors. By 1943, 219 Major Leaguers were in the service. With many top stars, including Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller and star outfielders Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, out of action, teams struggled to find players who had enough physical ability to play baseball but not enough to serve in the military. A number of old veterans like Pepper Martin came back to the Majors, and 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall pitched for the Reds.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/war-and-integration

Originally published: January 19, 2017. Last Updated: January 19, 2017.