Playing for Their Nation: Baseball and the American Military during World War II

By Steven R. Bullock | Go to book overview

Introduction

On October 6, 1941, the New York Yankees concluded the Major League Baseball season by defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 3 —1 in the final game of that year's World Series. It was a Fall Classic short on offense — both teams combined for only twenty-eight runs in five games — but certainly not short on drama. With the Dodgers trailing in the series two games to one, Brooklyn catcher Mickey Owen committed one of the most infamous gaffes in big league history during the pivotal fourth game. Owen dropped what should have been the third strike and final out of the game in the ninth inning with the Dodgers leading 4 — 3. The Yankees proceeded to take advantage of their good fortune, scoring four runs and eventually winning the game for an insurmountable three games to one lead in the series. Just two months later, with the World Series a distant memory, the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States directly into a war that had been raging around the globe for several years.

The 1941 World Series capped what had been a truly amazing baseball season filled with outstanding individual performances and records that stand even today. Most notably, Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio embarked on a hitting spree that spanned more than a third of the season and eventually reached an astonishing fifty-six games. Across the nation, Americans became captivated by the feats of the Yankee Clipper as the number of consecutive contests in which he hit safely rose above thirty, forty, and eventually fifty. Even individuals not normally interested in the sport of baseball asked, “Did DiMaggio get a hit today?” While baseball fans focused on DiMaggio during the heart of the summer, by the final weeks of the season attention had turned to Boston, where arguably the best pure hitter to ever play the game was flirting with the magical .400 barrier. In a tale that has become part of baseball lore, before the final day of the 1941 season Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams had compiled an average that rounded

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