Monday 21 September 2015

When FDR Said "Play Ball"

"Here is another way of looking at it -- if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens -- and that in my judgement is thoroughly worthwhile." (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

In the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, America was focussed on battling the Japanese. Few had the time to think about sports.  The 1940 Olympics had been cancelled.  Why not cancel baseball as well?  Spring training was just around the corner.  The baseball commissioner Landis wanted to know if the season would go ahead or not.  It would be up to the President.

As a young lawyer in New York City, Franklin D. Roosevelt used to sneak off to Giants games at the Polo Grounds.  As President, he made a record eight opening day appearances.  So when the rubber hit the road, his love of baseball took precedence.  Roosevelt pointed out that healthy young men were needed for the service.  However, once that need was filled, the remaining players could lace up their cleats once again.

Roosevelt said that the baseball industry could employ many Americans.  He reminded the commissioner that baseball was relatively inexpensive to watch (at the time).

Above all, baseball could serve as a moral booster for Americans during the dark days of the war.  "I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going."  The President announced "Play ball" and the 1942 season went ahead as planned.  Once again, Roosevelt had his pulse on the heart of the American people.  And he gave them what they wanted. 

FDR throws out the opening pitch in Washington DC circa 1934 courtesy

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