To Play, or Not to Play It's Not the First Time Baseball Has Wrestled with the Decision of If and When the Games Should Go On

Article excerpt

Byline: Bruce Miles Daily Herald Sports Writer

America, much less Major League Baseball, had never come face to face with large-scale terrorism on its own soil before Tuesday's deadly attacks in New York and Washington.

World wars are something different. Twice in the 20th Century the United States joined world wars after they were under way. Both times, baseball played its games.

That's not the case this week, as Commissioner Bud Selig canceled full slates of games in both the American and National Leagues for Tuesday, Wednesday and today.

Other than four labor disagreements, the only other times entire one-day schedules of regular-season games were canceled were Aug. 2, 1923, when President Warren G. Harding died, and June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded France in World War II. Exhibition games were called off on April 14, 1945, two days after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"The greatest country in the history in the world is being attacked," Selig said. "So all of this (baseball) doesn't mean very much."

For the second straight day on Wednesday, Selig called off games "in the interest of security and out of a sense of deep mourning."

"Given the continuing national horror and the many significant challenges faced by our government, our cities and our citizens, I believe it is appropriate to postpone all major-league baseball games" for Wednesday and Thursday, Selig said in a statement. "I will continue to monitor the situation daily as to all remaining games."

During World War I and World War II, baseball wrestled with what to do. The games went on, even though the decisions weren't universally hailed.

"With an astonishing disregard for the new proprieties and new decencies, the so-called magnates of baseball have proclaimed in both leagues their unswerving adherence to the wretched fallacy of 'business as usual,'" wrote the New York Times during World War I. "That policy is not calculated to make us proud of baseball as an American institution."

Baseball thought differently, in part cloaking its economic self-interest in patriotism and selling itself as a necessary diversion during trying times.

"This is a war of democracy against bureaucracy," said John K. Tener, NL president during World War I. "And I tell you that baseball is the very watchword of democracy. There is no other sport or business or anything under heaven which exerts the leveling influence that baseball does. Neither the public school nor the church can approach it. Baseball is unique. England is a democratic country, but it lacks the finishing touch of baseball."

Baseball "mobilized" its forces in some interesting ways.

White Sox owner Charles Comiskey put his team through a series of "preparedness" drills, with players marching on the field with bats perched on their shoulders in much the same way as rifles would be, according to books written by historian Richard Lindberg, a Northwest suburban author. …