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5 Weeks After Pearl Harbor FDR Tells Baseball Commish, “Play Ball” January 14, 1942

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Baseball Commissioner Writes to Roosevelt, asks if they should keep on playing

On January 14, 1942, five weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Baseball Commission Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He told Roosevelt that under normal circumstances, the teams would soon be going South to start Spring Training. Of course these were not normal circumstances, and Landis asked the president how he felt about the continuation of baseballm in wartime.

Roosevelt’s Green Light to Baseball

Roosevelt wrote back the next day, emphatically telling Landis that “I honestly believe that it would be in the best interest of the country to keep baseball going.” He also told Landis “I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occassionally.” At that time, teams were only permitted to play seven home night games during the entire season.

A week after Roosevelt’s Green Light to baseball, Cincinnatti Reds general manager Warren Giles wrote in a letter to all of his players “I urge every player on the Cincinnati club to take stock of his personal situation, analyze it carefully and ask himself this question: Can I stand at the bar of public opinion in wartime and conscientiously justify good and sufficient reasons for not being in government service?” Giles was an artillery captain and combat veteran in WWI.

Reds GM says he won’t tolerate war slackers

Giles wrote “We are anxious to provide the public with the wholesome recreation the president referred in his letter to Commissioner Landis. We want to put the best club in the National League competition we can place there. We want to win the pennant and finally the World Series (as they did in 1941). We want to do those things however, with players whose absence from government service is thoroughly justifiable. We would rather finish last or not operate at all and have all our players who should be in the service enter it, than win the pennant, world series, and make great profit with even one player who could not justify his reasons for not being in the service.”

Roosevelt Green Light Letter Says Play Ball


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