The Worst Years In American Baseball

Posted

World War II was raging and as America's resources were being diverted overseas, baseball's greatest assets   were no exception. Celebrated sluggers like  Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Hank Greenberg  were just a few of the hundreds of major leaguers who traded their team jerseys for military uniforms.

The effect on the sport was profound as talent-sapped teams filled their rosters with military rejects, quasi-professionals and hopeful amateurs.  In June of 1944, the Cincinnati Reds briefly filled the mound with a 15-year old  ninth grader, Joe Nuxhall, whose left handed fast balls were good enough in a player-depleted year. 

The following season, the St. Louis Browns even signed into contract a one-armed outfielder, Pete Gray,  who scooped balls into the air and then dropped his mitt to catch and throw with remarkable speed.  

Travel restrictions also forced clubs to stay regional for spring training and do with frost on the field, or seek enclosures like aircraft hangars and horse barns for their practice.  For a time, material rations even took the natural rubber out of baseballs and turned them into duds.  Not surprisingly, the profession suffered as the game diminished and fans dropped off in droves. 

But America's favorite pastime returned with a vengeance following the end of the war in 1945.  The game caliber was back, combining with the post-war euphoria for a new and exciting era in American baseball. 

By 1947, the color barrier would also be broken with Jackie Robinson becoming the first black player to join the Majors.  That year, nearly 20 million fans went out to the ballparks to see their favorite teams, double the attendance of prewar levels.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Shop For Our Books & DVD's

WEEKLY SPORTS PUZZLE

View larger Puzzle archive


THIS WEEK

10 years ago

HOCKEY November 22, 2008  The Montreal Canadiens retire Patrick Roy’s #33 jersey. One of the greatest goaltenders of all time, “Saint Patrick” Roy spent his career playing 11 years for the Canadiens and 8 years for the Avalanche between 1984-2003. The Quebec native won 4 Stanley Cups, 2 with each franchise. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.

20 years ago

BASKETBALL November 14, 1998  Chicago Bulls power forward Dennis Rodman weds model and ‘Baywatch’ actress Carmen Electra at Little Chapel of the Flowers in Las Vegas; 6 months later Electra would file for divorce. The eccentric Rodman was a 5x NBA champion, twice with the Pistons and three times with the Bulls. His last stint in the NBA was with the Dallas Mavericks in 2000.

30 years ago

FOOTBALL November 20, 1988  The first NCAA football game to take place in Europe is played at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road Stadium in Ireland. Boston College defeated Army 38-24 in what was billed as the ‘Emerald Isle Classic’. The game was intended as an annual event to attract some of the 40 million Americans of Irish descent back to their ancestral homeland.

40 years ago

MOTOR RACING November 19, 1978  NASCAR driver Cale Yarborough is crowned champion of the Winston Cup Series after winning 12 of the season’s 30 runs. It was the third consecutive Series triumph for the South Carolina native who remains only one of two NASCAR racers to claim three straight victories; the other is Jimmy Johnson with five.