Wendel: The G.I. World Series of 1945

From SABR member Tim Wendel at The National Pastime Museum on December 11, 2015:

As the ballclubs took the field, the capacity crowd of U.S. military personnel roared its approval, underscoring a remarkable turn of events.

The backdrop on this afternoon in 1945 was Nuremberg, Germany, where the Nazi Party had rallied only years before. But now a ball diamond had been laid out in the old Hitler Youth Stadium and the grounds rechristened Soldiers Field.

On paper, the best-of-five European Theater of Operations Championship, a.k.a. the G.I. World Series, appeared to be a mismatch. The 71st Infantry Division Red Circlers, representing General George Patton’s famed 3rd Army, were the prohibitive favorites. Their roster included several Major Leaguers, including pitcher Ewell “the Whip” Blackwell, a 6-foot, 6-inch sidearmer whom Hall of Famer Monte Irvin later described as “a right-handed Randy Johnson.” Standing in their path was the Overseas Invasion Service Expedition (OISE) All-Stars, an integrated unit with only two Major Leaguers, and marginal ones at that, on the roster.

At this point in time, the U.S. military, even though it had won large-scale wars in Europe and the Pacific, was still largely segregated. Back home in America, the Major Leaguers were still two seasons away from Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. That’s why this exhibition series, which began in Nuremberg of all places, would turn so many heads.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/gi-world-series

Originally published: December 11, 2015. Last Updated: December 11, 2015.