If you have spent the 4th of July and any other number of Holidays in a forward deployed area of the world, you appreciate them all the more when you are home. I have always counted myself lucky in that I have never spent anymore than a year away at one time away from home. My thoughts are often drawn to my dad and the years he spent away from Cincinnati in Europe during the Second World War in places like Normandy and “the Bulge”. To those how have never served, things like patches and flags on uniforms may seem neat or just provide another variation for a collection…but to me they have always been something I have relished seeing as part of our national game and the better part of our national fabric.
Harkening back to the time of World War II, people will often site that President Roosevelt informed the Commissioner Judge Landis that “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” The country embraced this and so did the major league clubs. Years ago a purchased a large run of Cincinnati Team Newsletters titled “News of the Reds” and later the “Red Leg News”. The collection spanned the late 1930s through the late 1950s. The editions that are from the “War Years” have long been a favorite of mine.
April 14th 1942: Reds announce that Service Men will be admitted free to ball games at Crosley Field and their will be no limit on tickets during the weekday. Weekends are limited to 500 tickets that can be picked up at the U.S.O Centers at 426 East Street and Broadway as well as at the Union Terminal and Bus Station.
May 25th 1942: Reds announce that the proceeds, including concessions will go the Army-Navy Relief Organization for two games. The Reds and Cubs will bear the expenses of running these two games.
July 11th 1942: Reds announce that donation to the Army-Navy Relief from the June 30th game against the Cubs totals $39,196.36.
April 25th 1943: Reds announce that the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates scheduled for Monday, 3 May will begin at will begin at 11:30 a.m. as a means of giving war workers an opportunity to attend a game at a time convenient to them. The Reds also announce that they have scheduled six exhibition games at:
Lambert Field, St. Louis
Ft. Monmouth, NJ
Camp Atterbury, IN
Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Harrison, IN
Great Lakes Naval Air Station, Great Lakes, IL
Ft. Sheridan, IL
9 May 1943: Reds print a thank you letter from LT. J.M. Crowley from the U.S. Naval Air Station, Glenview Illinois thanking them for the 12 uniforms that arrived on April 30th. LT. Crowley went to say that “our boys, two of whom ever played professional baseball, got a big kick out of looking over uniforms worn in the 1940 World Series by such world champions as Walters, McCormick, Frey, Derringer, etc…”
30 May 1943: Reds announce poll from fans showing 31% favor morning games with 60% of Defense Workers asking for game between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
21 June 1943: Fans are reminded and urged to return balls hit into the stand to the nearest usher as the balls are collected and sent over seas to servicemen for their use.
22 July 1943: Reds announce that a long distance hitting contest will be part of the Reds game vs the Great Lakes Naval team. The Great Lakes team will be represented by Johnny Mize and the Reds own Frank McCormick.
28 July 1943: Reds publish a thank you letter to Reds President Warren Giles from Major William E. Millikin, Port Special Service Officer, San Francisco Port of Embarkation Headquarters for the “30,000 tax free Camel Cigarettes” donated by the Cincinnati Reds Ball Club.
1 October 1943: Reds announce that Ray Mueller, Eddie Miller and Johnny Vander Meer have been selected to take part in an exhibition tour of the Pacific Battle areas following the completion of the World Series.
Besides these documents which I find myself re-reading all the time, I also enjoy looking at a couple of uniforms in my collection that also seem to recall the period in a patriotic fashion with a brilliant display of the old Red, White and Blue.
Equipment collectors from this period will notice a number of period bats and gloves marked as either Special Service or simply emblazoned with the letters US. These items represent donated equipment to the war effort. The Hillerich and Bradsby Company was also involved in the role of Defense Industry Supplier using their wood turning ability to produce stocks for rifles and carbines.
All of this was not lost on Hollywood either. There is great scene from the movie Battleground staring Van Johnson, James, Whitmore and Ricardo Montalban as members of the beleaguered 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. While looking for Germans thought to be dressed as Americans, they resort to asking baseball trivia questions of soldiers they didn’t recognize in order to have them prove they where “real Americans. This scene was captured in the series Baseball, A Documentary by Ken Burns. At no time in our nation’s history were our National Pastime and National Interests more closely aligned.
Tomorrow, as you enjoy a cookout or the evening fireworks celebration, politics aside, remember that this day was and remains possible because of the sacrifices made by men and women of the same age as our “ball playing heroes…” For in the defense of liberty and freedom, there are truly no off days or off season.
MEARS Auth, LLC