The Worst Years In American Baseball
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.
BOXING September 12, 2009 Russia tops the AIBA World Boxing Championships with a total of 8 medals. The highest level of amateur boxing next to the Olympics, the AIBA was first held in 1974 and is today a biennial competition of 10 different weight classes. Cuban heavyweight Felix Savon holds the record for most gold medals (6) at the AIBA.
BASEBALL September 9, 1999 Baseball pitcher Catfish Hunter dies at the age of 53 from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Throwing from 1965 -1979, the North Carolina native spent his career playing for the Royals, Athletics and Yankees. A 5x World Series champ and 8x All-Star, Hunter was also known as baseball’s first big-money free agent.
FOOTBALL September 10, 1989 Five days after hitting a home run with the New York Yankees against the Seattle Mariners, Deion Sanders scores his first NFL touchdown in a return punt with the Atlanta Falcons. Sanders played 14 seasons in the NFL during the period 1989-2005, but he also put in 9 seasons as a part-timer with MLB in 1989-2001.
TENNIS September 5, 1979 At 16 years and 9 months, Tracy Austin becomes the youngest singles champion at the US Open following her defeat of Chris Evert at the final. Over the next several years, the talented prodigy from California reached the quarterfinals & semifinals at the other three Grand Slams but chronic injuries forced her retirement in 1984.