Baseball between the World Wars
Baseball is one of the most prolific sports in American history. There is much speculation about its origin but it is definitive that the sport has become part of the American culture. It can also be argued that baseball has had a tremendous impact on the history of the country. The history of the country as well has had a major impact on the sport especially the occurrences surrounding the two World Wars.
The country was plunged into war just before the 1917 baseball was set to begin. The minor leagues closed during this war but the major league continued with their entire schedule for 1917. This made the public very bitter even though the major league owners donated large amounts of cash towards the war effort. They also gave the soldiers free baseball gear to use when they were not in active combat. Many people especially in the government saw the game as a non-essential occupation. The major league was given a ‘work or fight’ deadline that saw several notable players having to enlist. Many of these spectacular players ended up losing their lives or developing serious illnesses such as shell shock and tuberculosis. Rumors abounded at the time that if the war were to continue into 1919, the baseball major league would be destroyed. The armistice agreement was the only thing that salvaged the next season.
The Second World War dealt a particularly huge blow on baseball. Every male in the country between the ages of 21 and 36 was required to enlist. This included the baseball players as well as men from both the major league and the minor league were enlisted into the army. The army soon began discharging army men who were older than 28 which meant that the baseball players who had enlisted could go back to their civilian lives that included baseball. However, the situation drastically changed with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Baseball players rushed to enlist once again which meant the end of many baseball careers such as those of Hank Greenberg and Bob Feller who were 30 and 23 years old respectively at that time.
Hitler’s declaration of war against America brought on other changes to the game. This time, industrial giants responded in kind and began to focus their efforts on helping the army defend itself against the Germans overseas. Hillerich and Bradsby, the company known for making the famed Louisville Slugger baseball bats, shifted their energies to building stocks for the carbine rifle.
The question now was whether baseball would survive the Second World War. President Roosevelt supported the sport and saw that it would be great entertainment for the citizens at night. He advocated for more games to be played at night and urged the baseball league to keep the game going.
Despite the support from the president, there was some pubic disdain for some men, who were seemingly fit, who continued playing the game, seemingly absconded their military duties, and let others face the war. Many thought that baseball was a waste of work force during a war and the game should have been abandoned until the war was over. However, the army men disagreed with these sentiments in several letters and beckoned the American people to continue with the sport as it provided them with moral support when they were fighting overseas (Bedingfield, 2014).
The Second World War had an immense impact on baseball especially in terms of work force. The game experienced a huge sense of brain drain with more than 500 major league players enlisting for the war. In addition, more than 4,076 players from the minor league also dropped baseball for military service. The situation was far worse for the minor league, usually described as the oasis for the game’s talent. Only 12 minor league teams survived throughout the war compared to more than 44 circuits that were playing during 1940 before the beginning of the war.
Bedingfield, G. (2014). Baseball in World War II. Retrieved on 12/11/2015 from http://www.baseballinwartime.com/baseball_in_wwii/baseball_in_wwii.htm