Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sharing my perspective on baseball in 1945

I've recently returned to my Wisconsin home after a couple of months spent at my Pennsylvania address.

Since I keep my microfilm reader in Pennsylvania, that's where I do my reading of back issues of The Sporting News. from which I glean much of the substance for my posts.

My reading this trip was the year of 1945. Because it pre-dates the resumption of baseball card issue, I had no previous had more than a passing interest the world of baseball at the end of World War II.

As always, I learned a lot by reading contemporary accounts.

While I had known that the war had caused many ballplayers to switch their flannels for Uncle Sam's uniforms. I did not realize the extent of the war efforts claims on manpower. If I recall my reading correctly, some 450+ men on major league rosters were called into service between 1940-45, and the minor leagues contributed more than 4,000 men, so severely limiting resources that many of the lower classification circuits closed their parks for the duration.

What I hadn't fully appreciated was the fine line baseball (and other sports) had to tread to maintain public sympathy and government acquiescence for its officially 4-F players who were performing professionally. Many thought that if a man was able to play for pay, he should be required to serve in some capacity in the military.

I found interesting that shortage of transportation resources -- space on trains, as well as gas and tires for buses and autos -- forced much scrambling by teams to create and maintain schedules. It's widely known that during the war teams were largely restricted to spring training  sites near their home bases. Things got so bad that in 1945, one highly-placed Detroit Tigers official seriously suggested that the team's spring training should consist of the team walking between its spring training camp to a city some 375 miles away, and playing exhibition games along the way over the course of three weeks.

The 1945 TSN provided great first-hand accounts of amputee big leaguers such as Pete Gray and Bert Shepard. One congressional representative suggested that each major league team be required to have on its roster an amputee.

Of course the baseball year 1945 closed with a bombshell when Jackie Robinson was signed to a contract with the Montreal Royals in the Brooklyn Dodgers' system. Many columns were filled with reaction to the news; much of it was fascinating reading from the vantage point of nearly 75 years of perspective.

So I've got 12 or 15 prospective blog posts concerning baseball as it was in 1945 that I'll share with you over the next two or three months, interspersed, of course, with presentations of my newest custom/fantasy card creations.

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