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tv   Boston Red Sox World War II  CSPAN  April 26, 2021 10:02am-11:05am EDT

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professor. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and watch "american history tv" every weekend on c-span3. gordon eads is the historian of the boston red sox. he led a discussion about the team's homefront and battlefield contributions through world war ii. through the stories, they give insight into the athletes' training, combat experience and reception when they returned home. this discussion was hosted by the massachusetts historical society, which provided the video. so today we have a great program which we'll explore one of the most popular topics in boston, which is the boston red sox. specifically we'll be looking at the boston red sox and world war ii. we will be joined by a great panel, which will be led by a good friend, gordon eads. this is his fifth program in the last few years so he's been doing a lot of work supporting our organization. he's the official historian of
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the boston red sox and has been a team historian since 2015, and before that covered the team for 18 years for the "boston globe" and espn. before we begin, i'll let you know a couple of protocols that we use with zoom. there will be a program that will run about 45, 50 minutes, with our panelist speaking. we will then open it up to the audience for q&a. if you would like to participate in the q&a, you can use the function at the bottom of your screen and type in your question, and we should be able to read the questions and get to as many of them as we possibly can. we'll try to get through as many as are possible, but with over 150 people attending the webinar, we may not be able to get to all of them. so thank you all for joining us. without further, adieu, i will toss this off to gordon. >> thank you so much. welcome, everyone. catherine told me just before we started that if i do one more
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presentation, i will be eligible for health insurance. so i'm hoping to stick around for six next year. needless to say, i wish we were in different circumstances and that i would be leading you all on the short walk from mass historical on the corner over to fenway park, which we have done for past events. we hope that day will come again. but in the meantime, i'm so delighted that so many of you have elected to join us tonight and, as gavin noted, we have a great panel and it's my privilege as we embark on this discussion on the 75th anniversary of the end of world war ii and the red sox participation in the great war, it is my pleasure to introduce my panel. i'm going to begin with ann
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keane. ann is a native of north carolina and a texas resident, who has authored one of the most unique books about the intersection of baseball and world war ii, "cloudbuster nine" with the sub title of "the untold story of ted williams and the baseball team that helped win world war ii". >> thank you very much. >> and it is a story that ann unearthed while preparing the eulogy for her dad. ann has told her story in many places, including the baseball hall of fame and the world war ii museum. we are thrilled that you are joining us this evening. michael connelly is a lifetime resident of the boston neighborhood of west roxbury. there's michael. hello, michael. >> hello. >> he lives with his wife noreen and they raise their son ryan. in addition to "fenway 1946"
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michael has written five other box, including "26 miles to boston" which i presume is about the boston marathon. another book called "rebound, basketball busing, larry byrd", and "the president's team" about the great naval academy football team of 1963, which starred roger starback and had among its biggest fans, president john f. kennedy. michael is also one of the four founding members of the nonprofit, the boston bull pen project. thank you for joining us this evening. we can't wait to hear your observations. >> my pleasure. thank you, gordon. >> you've got it. and, finally, and this man is no stranger to most of you, he is the most prolific writer ever on
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red sox history. don't even bother to protest that designation because no one even comes close. bill has forgotten more red sox history than most of us know. he's a board member of the society for american baseball research, aka sabr. he was a co-founder of rounder records. he's an author of countless books on the sox, including "the baseball went to war" and also "ted williams at war". bill has been a panelist in previous presentations that i've been honored to hold. welcome, and thank you for being here. >> i've forgotten what it was like to have fenway park filled with fans. >> right. so in any event, before we begin our discussion, let me do a little scene setting for you. and i want to take you back to
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september 28th, 1941, when the eyes of baseball were on philadelphia. the red sox, it was the last day of the regular season. as usual, the red sox were hopelessly out of contention, 17 games or so behind the yankees. but the reason baseball was focused that afternoon is ted williams, in his third season as a major leaguer, had a chance to become the first 400 hitter in the american league since 1923. now, ted could have sat out -- the red sox were scheduled to play a double-header that day against the phillies. he could have sat out that doubleheader because his batting average was .3995 plus, which in baseball they would have rounded it up to .400. ted wasn't going to back into it. he insisted on playing and he wound up getting six hits and eight at-bats and wound up with
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a batting average of .406 and remains the last player, going on almost 80 years now, the last player to hit over .400. but on that same day, there were other prying eyes, 5,000 miles away in hawaii, where japanese spies were casing pearl harbor for places, targets÷ék■4■ to bo. and two months later, the world, and certainly the world of baseball, would be turned!1l'cçe down. now, the president at the time, franklin roosevelt, had already determined that america was woefully unprepared for any possibility of going to war. so in september of 1940, fdr are already implemented the draft in which all men between the ages of 21 and 30, all able-bodied
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men, were required to register for the draft. and it would be in march of 1941 that the first major leaguer was called up into the service. a brighton boy, of all things, a graduate of brighton high school. a kid, a pitcher, who had a snarky nickname of losing pitcher. in the span of four seasons, he lost 76 games for the phillies, who were the doormats of the national league at the time. so he was the first to go in. i believe he was assigned to fort evans, which is about 35, 40 miles west of boston. but soon enough, much bigger names would be joining the coming conflict, including hank
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greenberg, who was called up in may. the slugging first baseman for the detroit tigers, future hall of famer and american league most valuable player. he goes into the service, and then within a day or two of the bombing of pearl harbor on december 7th, a number of players immediately enlisted, most notably bob feller, the future hall of fame pitcher. eventually more than 500 big leaguers would ultimately serve in the armed forces during world war ii, including 30 who appeared on the red sox roster, and over 4,000 minor leaguers. somewhat remarkably, no major leaguer died in combat, but over 45 were wounded, including two hall of famers, warren spawn and
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the great knuckle-baller. so that is setting the stage. the big question facing major league baseball as an institution was to play or not to play. and that led to the commissioner of baseball at the time writing what would become known as the green light letter to fdr seeking some guidance on what baseball should do. michael, can you pick up the story from there? >> sure, gordon. so the letter from commissioner landis talked about this not being ordinary times and that the decision to play when such a serious social and military action was going on was very concerning to him, and thought the decision was above his pay grade. so he reached out to the president with a letter in january of 1942 and asked, should we play or not? president roosevelt sat right down and returned that letter with the words, i honestly feel
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that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going, and i think they saw baseball as part of americana that transcended the arena. it was more important for camaraderie and morale to continue to play and that played out as men in fox holes would look at box scores and people working double shifts back home would go to games or listen on the radio. so it was a critical part of the war effort to keep baseball going. >> and, michael, is it also true that it may have actually encouraged the proliferation of night games in major league baseball? isn't fdr make the point to judge landis, hey, you know, for the purposes of morale, like you noted, wouldn't it be great if some of our factory workers could get off work at 5:00 and go to a ball game. how much of a role did that play? >> not only night games, but
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they also were scheduling games at 11:00 in the morning. they were working around all the shifts to make sure as many americans could participate in the sport, and that baseball would play a role in the war effort. >> bill, did that leave the players in kind of a no man's land of whether they should play, because fdr said, in essence, you're an essential service and you're performing an essential role, but yet at the same time, if their brothers and neighbors and uncles are all going into the service, did that create some conflict for them? and i guess we can bring up ted williams in this context as well. >> yeah, it was a difficult decision for everyone. war was anticipated, but then it was suddenly thrust upon america with the bombing of pearl
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harbor. ted williams had applied for a deferment in the spring of 1941 because he was the sole support of his mother in san diego, and he was granted this. almost everybody in baseball was. but then when pearl harbor hit, the whole thing changed, because people started thinking about, hey, here are able-bodied athletes, they ought to be prepared to fight along with everyone else. shortly after pearl harbor, about a month later, his deferment was pulled back and he was reclassified 1-a, which is ready to serve. someone appealed that on his behalf. i'm sure he knew the appeal was going in. but it was actually more done on his behalf, and he was again granted it. it was a little bit of discomfort, even in the red sox organization with, say, joe cronin wondering if this was
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good pr to have their star granted a deferment. there was a little pressure that began to develop, but he went around on spring training and got a lot of support from servicemen who came out to games in big numbers and gave him a big round of applause. so he decided to make his point, stick with it, but then in may he signed up for the navy to take effect at the end of the season, to become a navy aviator. >> before he got to that point, it did become a bit of a -- he took a pretty good beating in the press, correct? >> in some of the press. there were those like dave egan of the boston record who spoke up for him. it was a mixed bag. he was in a very uncomfortable situation. he was, indeed, the sole supporter of his mother, and she was a salvation army worker, not bringing in any money on her own. he had just started to make it. he was getting a good payday. he wanted to get in that one
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season, 1942, and then was prepared to serve. but he knew he was in a difficult situation. >> michael, what about the fans? you wrote that he took -- even at home, at fenway park, some fans, at least, let him know that they weren't terribly pleased with how this was unfolding. >> well, the fans appreciated the fact that baseball was playing. they also had brothers and sons and husbands fighting in the war, on ships and in fox holes. so to see ted williams playing the boys' game and having the opportunity to have his classification changed from 1-a to 3-a angered a lot of people. ted lost an endorsement over this and was expecting to be booed in every park, including fenway. when he stepped up to the plate on opening day in 1942, he heard all the boos from the 9,900 people that attended, until he hit the ball ten rows over the
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bull pen and received a standing ovation. >> that doesn't sound like red sox fans at all right there. so, anne, you pick up ted's story for us. in doing so, as ted winds up going to north carolina, to flight instructor school, please, you know, share with us your personal story of how this saga ended up just engaging him so completely. >> right. well, i want to tell you i'm a native north carolinaen. my dad was the bat boy and base mascot. when he passed away a few years ago, my father had become a professional player. didn't make it to the major leagues, but i got ahold of scrapbooks. and my part of the presentation is going to be heavy with pictures. this was in chapel hill at a v-5 navy pre-flight base. it was ground training and one
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of the toughest military training programs in the world. the next screen is my dad with buddy hasett, the baseball coach and the head survival guide, who was very close to ted and johnny. so the next slide is the five guys that come down from amherst and they shipped into chapel hill together, and most of these players, including ted williams, played the military of his ball in chapel hill. so the next slide, we'll show you a little bit about the culture. i just got ahold of this comic book about a month ago, and these guys really were captain marvels. that's my dad as a little kid reading the magazine. it's amazing how things come together after people pass away and you start digging through scrapbooks. the next picture is a page out of the comic book, and that's actually a cartoon from the navy base. so the next slide, we'll see you
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a little more. this was a famous picture, i believe this was in "sporting news". my dad is the little kid. the guy still alive standing up, the second from the right, he's in his late 80s. the next slide is my dad on the knee of johnny, and of course with the baseball coach. next slide. i'm going to rattle through these pretty quickly. that is my father. i don't know if anybody remembers little johnny morris. he was the philip morris mascot, came over from durham, and of course big tobacco, being in north carolina, that's just in the dugout during one of the games. and next slide. there you go. i mean, ted warmed up. and johnny was always happy. always with a smile on his face. if you look at the condition of the field, it was an old college field. it was really bare bones. they trained about ten hours a
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day physically, hit the classrooms, and then during the week they hit the road on broken down buses on wednesday, and often every saturday, played out of town. and ted played, i don't know, about 23, 24 games when he was there in chapel hill for about three months. so next slide. and there you go. there's johnny, happy johnny. johnny did not know how to swim when he got there. i found that fascinating. always with a big smile on his face. >> is it also true that johnny washed out in pilot training as well? >> well, technically he did. i believe that happened at the next phase of advanced training. i actually got ahold of his training records and the instructors would write, you know, he knows how, but he just can't do it. not enough flaps. he's a menace to the air field. i think he's a bright guy. he ended up flourishing as a
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coach, but not a great pilot. >> you know what? if that's the only hole in johnny's card, we're all fine with that in boston. a beloved figure. we miss him dearly. >> right. love him. so i think i've got a couple more slides. and i don't want to take up too much of the presentation. this is just another one. i believe that's when dimaggio came down and we had reunions at some of the games. there you go. now, this is a card that i'm sure a lot of the viewers have. that's from chapel hill. you have to squint to read the writing, but that is one of the pieces of memorabilia that i've been collecting over the years and it's amazing. this is a famous picture. that's at fenway park when ted was in chapel hill and he got away on a rare occasion for one of the all-star games.
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and then i'm going to touch on this letter. this might be a good point to pause. i would like to come back. but i open my book with the famous yanklands game when babe ruth got a chance to manage a roster of indians and yankees against the navy pilots in july of 1943. we'll touch on that later. thank you. >> thank you, anne. and, you know, while we're focused a great deal on red sox players who were on the active roster at the time world war ii broke out, we would be remiss -- i think you would all agree, if we didn't touch on two stories of guys who were no longer playing at that time. one was mo berg. we could do an entire presentation on mo. they made a movie of his life. mo spoke a dozen languages and he went to princeton and got his
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law degree. and evidently as a baseball player was quite satisfied with his lot in life as a backup catcher, and ultimately bull pen catcher. but mo in the early 30s, i believe 1932 and then 1934, made a couple of trips to japan with a team of major leaguers that played exhibition games against the japanese. and while over there, moe kind of sauntered into -- i believe it was a hospital on the pretext of visiting a patient there, and he took a camera and went up to the roof and took a picture of all kinds of installations in tokyo. and as the story was later told, general james doolittle used moe's photos when he bombed tokyo in the great raid on the
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battle of tokyo. now, the new yorker writer who wrote the story "the catcher who was a spy" which ultimately became a novel, has cast some doubt on just how useful those photos were for doolittle. but it is indisputable that moe was recruited into the ranks of the office of strategic services, which was the precursor of the cia, and also was involved in a trip to europe to take in a lecture by heisenberg, who was a physicist that americans feared was developing an atomic bomb and moe said that he had instructions to take out heisenberg. he carried a pistol to the
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lecture. he was instructed to take him out if he got any kind of affirmation that that was indeed heisenberg's intent. but that didn't happen. it's a great story. i don't know how much of it is rooted in fact. michael, you wrote about it. what's your sense? fact-based or a little bit -- >> maybe a little of both. i found it interesting in '42, they were teammates on the 1939 team together. it was ted's rookie year and he had 145 rbis. moe had 5 rbis. flash forward to '42, moe is the bull pen coach and approaches the officials and says i would like to be let out of my contract so i can join the military. in one way or another, he volunteers to make a difference and all part of that great
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generation. >> go ahead, bill. >> i would like to add two things. first of all, when the red sox opened the season, the 2008 season in japan, i went to the place where moe berg was and took the pictures. it's a university hospital now and i went up to the roof to see what the view was. the skyline has changed a lot since his day. the other thing i wanted to mention. the photos that anne showed us, they were all photographs of baseball. these guys did baseball as part of their recreation, but johnny pesky, he did not receive his wings. but he worked in logistics and supply during the war. ted williams became so adept at gunnery that he was made a gunnery instructor to teach other people how to use machine
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guns. so they had regular duties. we don't want to give people the impression they were playing baseball all the time. >> one point i want to make is at this particular sports camp, as you saw, frankly, in the comic book, they learned to box, they wrestled, they ran track. they spent nights out in the woods. they got dropped out 30 miles away from base and they said you've got two days to make it home. it was full-scale, full-on training. and i will show you some images of other famous cadets who were there as well. but, again, it was a super intense sports camp. many different sports. >> the other story that i'm just so taken with, and it's a story that i was unfamiliar with until i became a red sox historian, was the story of cy rosenthal. he was a local kid, discovered on the sand lots of dortchester by hugh duffy.
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he was the first jewish player the red sox ever had. he played in the '20s. he was an outfielder. one game upstaged the great ruth, he hit two home runs, babe hit only one. he got hurt, wound up playing in the minors. came back to boston, opened a factory to make tin cans and also played in the local boston sand lot leagues. pearl harbor happened, cy tries to enlist. he's rejected. he's got bad teeth, he's got bad knees. they said, forget about it. a couple of years later, and i believe the timing was such that his son, buddy, had lied about his age, said he was a year older than he actually was, and enlisted in the marines at the age of 16. so si, in 1943, out of his own pocket, pays to get his knees repaired, pays to get his teeth
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fixed, and allowed to enlist in the navy. he's serving in the european theatre of operation. his son, buddy, is with the marines in the pacific. bill, pick up the story from there. >> well, buddy was killed on christmas day, 1943. in the solomon islands. the u.s. marine corps lost 325 soldiers that day. he had just turned 17 and he was killed. his dad, of course, was already serving, he was on a ship over in europe, and nine months later he had his own misfortune. he was on a mine sweeper and the mine sweeper didn't do as good a job sweeping this particular mine, i guess, because it blew
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up the ship and 58 members of that crew were killed. si rosenthal survived, but he was paraplegic. he lost the use of his legs and he was wheelchair bound the rest of his life. he spent most of the rest of his life doing a lot of charitable work and being honored, of course, here and there. but what a story. >> it's a great story. and i was so taken by the fact that si turned what was such a tragic event, and he became such a force as an advocate for polio victims, for cerebral palsy victims, for veterans groups. ultimately, i believe in 1960 or 1961 he was given his own day at fenway park. and i believe, michael, you said he's buried, what, a block or so from where you live? >> yes, he's buried in a cemetery just outside of west roxbury right next to his son,
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buddy. an amazing chapter in red sox history, to say the least. and to your point, gordon, he has such tragedy in his life. but finds a way to continue to give and give. and i think someone that's probably under-recognized in our city, and hopefully in the future we can recognize him for his great works. >> yeah, i think he may be a future candidate for the red sox hall of fame. we certainly should give that a close look. you know, one of the aspects that i would like to turn to, in addition to the involvement of the players, is the red sox as an organization heard from a lot of gis who were serving overseas. michael, you tell a couple of great stories in your book about a dozen or so marines, i believe, who were fighting in the pacific who reached out to
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tom. tell us that story. >> he gets a letter from ten men, all greater boston residents. they write to him and ask, when we return, we would like to have opening day tickets. and tom immediately responds to them and says, i know you can't tell me where you are, but i can tell you where you will be opening day when you get back and there will be tickets ready for you. it's a great story. he talks, again, how baseball transcends and the men overseas had something to look forward to to get back. >> you also told a story about a fighter pilot who didn't write to yawkey, but the owner of the club. >> he was a first baseman on his high school team. he enlists and becomes a fighter pilot. he writes to joe cronin and says for every japanese plane i shoot
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down, will you give me a red sox hat. he has his secretary send ten red sox hats to him and his crew. they're so thankful that the crew puts together a bracelet made out of japanese planes they shot down. they send it to joe cronin's secretary and she wears it to john pesky's wedding later that year. >> that's a great story. anne, speaking of great stories, i want to turn to that exhibition game, but you have a great story. we all heard about ted williams' legendry eyesight. you take that to another level. tell us that story. >> there is a condition, or it's a phenomenon that is when someone has the ability to see more colors than the average person. and we all know ted had perfect eyesight, but in addition to that, he had perfect hand-eye coordination. he was disciplined and focused. he truly had command of all of his senses. and so of course as a pilot,
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especially a marine combat pilot, you've got to be one with the plane. going back to his vision, i started looking at some medical records and doing a little search, and i thought perhaps he could see more colors than most people. it wouldn't surprise me. i'm not an optometrist or a physician. it's more common in women, but it does happen with men. let's think of it this way. i see 100 colors, he might see 150 colors. what does that do to dimension and speed? there are all these rumors that he could see a baseball spinning with the seams as it came at him at 85 miles an hour. think bit, the red seams of a baseball? i don't know. it's just one of the theories that i came up with. but, again, looking at his medical records, especially through pre-flight school, he was in fabulous shape, had perfect eyesight. again, it's just something to think about. >> i love the story with the tie. >> yeah, there was a game that
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they played in chapel hill called, what color is the man's necktie. i heard this from the son of the head baseball coach, who was also the head of the survival school, who was also a big game hunter. hunted bear, had excellent vision himself. but they would take ted up in an airplane above the small airport in chapel hill and someone would step out of the hangar wearing a necktie. and they said almost every time he could judge the color of the necktie. and he's up at least 2,000 feet. but to me, that does tell you something. there's something there. >> do you buy it, bill? >> i don't know about that. >> whenever i have a question, i call bill, and say, what do you think of that? >> so take us quickly, i guess, july 28th, 1943. yankee stadium. the cloudbuster nine against
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who? >> well, babe ruth was brought in to manage the team. that was his dream. and they gave him a choice. they said, you can put together your dream roster. so he blended a team of yankees and indians together on that day. and it was interesting with the press, because at the time, you know, as we mentioned earlier, the navy didn't want to portray ted williams out there having a good time, just playing too much baseball. so over the wire it said, we're going to have this game at the end of july, the navy pilots are going to come up from chapel hill, but ted is not going to be there. i will tell you that he did ultimately make it to the game, and it was just one of those special days, from what i understand, the players and the press bought a ticket because they were trying to raise money for war relief and the american red cross. they had hoped to fill the stadium. of course, they didn't. but it was an afternoon game, so people could come after their factory shifts.
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but i look back at this as one of those great all-american games where kids game, players came, the press game. everyone was happy to be alive and they had a brass band there. it was one of those all-american moments where people volunteered their time. ted williams was there with johnny pesky, and reallyfbú5 a major league roster playing for the navy pilots. but, again, you have to read more about the story to get the final score. but, again, it was just a wonderful moment in the war. >> you know what is stunning to me, anne, is that -- and there's an iconic picture of ted and babe sitting and talking with each other. i believe it was taken at that yankee stadium game. for me what was stunning is that within five years babe ruth was dead. >> right, right. >> he died so young.
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gavin, i know when you've got an expansive host here, he tends to eat up some time. let me know if we need to wrap up soon, because there's a couple other quick topics i would like to touch on. how are we doing? >> we've got five minutes or so, i think that would be great. >> then let's quickly -- i want to turn to this story because i think it's a story that's often overlook. it's the story of earl johnson, a red sox pitcher, who wound up engaging in 199 consecutive days. i believe1[oqçj i read that in book, michael, right, of combat? he went over and landed on omaha beach in normandy. tell us about his story. >> he was a pitcher for the red sox in the early '40s. he had some success early in his career, but the red sox pitched him in back-to-back games where he threw over 170 pitches and he
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was never the same. so he enlist in the army and was part of the 120th infantry. he landed normandy. he fought for 999 straight days and that included the battle of the bulge. he was fighting in zero degree temperatures. twice bullets went through his clothing. once his coat and once his pants. he received onfield promotions twice, received a bronze star and the silver star. just a real hero. he comes back from fighting and his arm is never the same, so he becomes a relief pitcher for the red sox, and a very good one in '46. but interestingly, fighting in war puts everything in or. he can't help himself. every time he comes out of the bull pen he finds himself giggling and opponents and teammates don't understand it.
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he said after what i saw, baseball is just supposed to be fun. >> i read a brief biography of him and he was a rifle platoon sergeant of the 36 men in the platoon, only 11 of them survived the war. >> wow. you know, bill, i thought you were going to tell the story that earl used to like to tell about himself in taking out that tank unit. didn't he make some comment about how his aim with grenades was a little less than up to the task? >> he had somebody else in the platoon that threw better than he did, actually, when it came to hand grenades. >> yeah. i think i mentioned briefly warren spawn. warren spawn ended up winning 363 games and going into the hall of fame after pitching a couple of decades here in boston
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for the braves. he was actually -- he was a combat engineer serving in germany near the end of the war, where he was -- his unit was trying to preserve the bridge, and actually my aunt lived there, so i've been to this site. and it was the only bridge that the ninth army could cross the rhine and make its final advance on berlin. and spaun was wounded. the bridge ultimately collapsed and he was hit by shrapnel but lived to tell about it. mike, you touched on some, and, bill, i think you did as well, there were a number of guys who came back suffering from the effects of having served in combat. who were some of those other red sox players that we should know while we are here? >> well, all three bat boys and
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clubhouse boys were wounded in war. the previous red sox manager was killed and the manager of the braves' son was killed in the war. ernest ford was wounded in southeast asia. returned, and instead of just going home to watertown, he re-enlisted and would die when a parachute gave way when he was trying to land. charlie wagner had malaria. bill butler came back from southeast asia and he had shrunk an inch from the war. it goes on and on. it went from bat boys to superstars, but, again, talking about that generation and doing whatever was necessary for this country. >> right. >> you know, and then, of course, the war ends. and the joyous occasion of
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opening day in 1946. you know, because we're running out of time, michael, i may suggest that you include those in your final thoughts. but, bill, i wonder if we can draw any parallels between the role baseball played in world war ii and the role baseball is playing now in this pandemic. >> i don't know. it's hard to get a sense of what following baseball actually has right now. the season was a huge asterisk before it even began. we have so many other sports vying for attention and so many other concerns. we're in a presidential election year, for instance, in case you didn't notice, whereas all of that did not obtain during world war ii. i will throw in one thought. i thought it was really impressive the way some of these guys, charlie wagner suffered,
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as you mentioned, michael. but ted williams had a triple crown year in 1942, despite all the controversy about his enlistment. johnny pesky had 200 hits in 1946. ted came back, had a great year in 1946. michael has a whole book about that year. he had another triple crown year in 1947. it's not as though -- these guys, at least two of them, did really well both before and after the war. >> michael, describe for us, if you would, opening day in '46. the red sox open on the road. ted was supposedly sick as a dog. what happened? >> so they're playing in washington at griffith stadium. ted's got a respiratory deficiency, the manager and trainers tell him not to play. he decides to show up at the park and takes six swings, hits four home runs, tells them he's
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playing. what made this special was this was really the coming-out party for the united states. with baseball, they came to the parks to celebrate. in this game, harry truman threw out the first pitch. after that game was the first mention of ted williams maybe being the greatest hitter of all time. but what was special, when ted williams stepped on home plate, the picture shows all the wheelchairs on the apron on the dirt in front of the backstop. all of the wounded veterans that were sitting in the front row of that game, it was really symbolic of those times. heroes on the baseball field, heroes on the theatre of war, and everyone coming together to celebrate this sacrifice in this great country. >> anne, as part of your research, and i think you mentioned that bill has been doing the same, you've been interviewing the last of the
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survivors of world war ii. >> right. >> what has that experience been like? >> well, it's been wonderful, very rewarding. one of my favorites is eddie robinson from texas. he's 99. he'll be 100. i interviewed him and dr. bobby brown very early when covid broke out. they're fearless. they are exactly like these guys we're describing. there's some core value in them. they're fearless, they're resilient. they see the other side because they say i knew people who died from the flu, i lived through polio. we will get through this. they're very optimistic. i asked eddie robinson, are you worried? you're in your late 90s. he said, hell, no, we're going to get through this. it's a joy. if there's anything we can do, we can spread joy and hope for the next generation and the whole country to get through this. bill, i know you have some
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comments on this as well from the guys that you interviewed. >> i thank anne for introducing me to this whole subject. one of the people that she mentioned to me was al naples, who is from massachusetts. he played in the major leagues later on. but there's a famous time when babe ruth also came to fenway park for an exhibition game and there were some soldiers that came in, and he was one of them. and as it happened, he hit the winning hit and it was off the wall at fenway, and he said it easily could have been a double, but he didn't realize it at the time. he thought it might get caught. he didn't round first base fast enough. he's so glad he did, because the first base coach was babe ruth who put his arm around him and said, way to go, kid.
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he told me that story just last year and it was like he was a kid again. who wouldn't be excited by babe ruth, you know, congratulating you? you won the game, as it turns out. they had to play the bottom of the ninth, but still. >> they're amazing people and their memory is crystal clear. they'll say, sure, i knew babe ruth. of course i remember riding on the train. it's just great. >> those are wonderful stories. panelists, if you'll indulge me and stick around a little bit, i think gavin and maybe sarah have some questions they want to queue us up with. it's all yours, gavin. >> thank you. and just to remind the audience, if you would like to ask a question, there's the q&a function. we'll read as many of them as we can. one question that came in from andrea says, it is often said that players who are not major league talent were elevated during the war. the famous one was pete gray of the browns would be an example
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of this. how did this dilution of talent impact the red sox? >> bill, do you want to take a shot at that one? >> sure. the war years were tough years. they had to make do with people coming years. they had to make due with people coming and going. michael may want to mention something about bobby door. but they had to make due with players that were not the prime talents. but that was true of the other teams, as well. we did a book called "who is on first." it was a study of replacement players in world war ii. and we look at the people that had come in as fill ins. so a lot of them had pretty interesting stories, too. >> some of our fans say you could do a sequel to that "who's on first" book this season. >> that's true. >> speaking of bobby doerr, he was one of the last of the red sox regulars to actually go into the service in 1944.
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as you write, joe got ticked off at him. there were two weeks left in the season. the sox had a shot at winning the pennant, and what happened? >> bobby doerr was an mvp candidate in 1944. the red sox were desperate to win a pennant, as was the manager. when bobby doerr decided it would be his last game, they were four games out. his last at-bat, the entire crowd serenaded him with the song "until we meet again." he goes home to oregon to put all of his items in order. but during that time, the red sox end up losing 13 of the last 20 games and fall 12 1/2 games out. joe kroenen looks to trade him but lets his anger smooth out and keeps him. >> thank goodness for that. he was a guy to keep around, for
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sure. what else have you got, gavin? >> did doerr ever open up opportunities for women or african-americans that otherwise wouldn't have had the chance. >> there was the all-american girls professional baseball league. there was the rockford peaches, the ken osha comets, any number of teams that had a very successful run for a few years there. but sexism and the return of all the veterans who had served in world war ii, and it was men's baseball that took over again. we had a woman from the boston area, mary pratt, who just died within the last year or two, but she would have been in that league. >> gavin, the questioner actually raises an interesting point. you would have thought, given the shortage of available talent at that time, that maybe major league baseball would have tapped into the negro leagues. it was in 1945 under pressure
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from a boston city councillor that the red sox finally consented to giving a tryout to jackie robinson, sam jethro and -- who was williams? >> marvin williams. >> marvin williams, yeah. the three players. jackie had a great day, marvin had a great day, but essentially they said, don't call us, we'll call you. they never did call them, and a year later jackie makes his debut for the montreal orioles in the brooklyn dodgers organization and breaks baseball's color line. bill beck, who was in st. louis at the time, gave some consideration to signing african-american players, but it did not happen, and, of course, jim crow reared its ugly head well into the '60s. >> we also had a question, were there blackout rules for night
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games along the coast? this is sort of an interesting question. the red sox are not that far from boston harbor. >> there were no lights at fenway park at that time. they only came post-war. >> 1947. >> but i believe there were blackout rules on the east coast. >> you mean on the west coast, bill? >> i meant east coast. >> oh, because there were no major league teams on the west coast. >> yeah, yeah. >> there is that. >> there were submarines that came rather close to the coast of the united states, the east coast. >> michael, what did you want to add? >> interestingly, during the war when fans would show up at the stadium before the first pitch was thrown, there would be an announcement made about how to evacuate a stadium. yankee stadium had arrows pointed to hoses and buckets of sand, and the players were
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instructed while the fans evacuated, they were to continue to play and be soldiers during an air raid on their stadium. so they were ready for anything. >> right. the 1943 yanklands game i mentioned earlier, i've actually got that game programmed, too. i have a lot, thanks to ebay, but there is an evacuation plan on the back of that program. >> dom dimaggio spent three of his best years in the navy and injured his eye that shortened his career. why have the boston sports writers not voted dom dimaggio in cooperstown where he belongs? >> certainly one of the greatest advocates for dom's inclusion into the hall of fame was ted. ted often lobbied for dominic.
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but i think -- you know, certainly a number of players lost prime years of their career. i loved dominic dimaggio as a player. i think in any kind of objective analysis of his career numbers, he probably -- he probably belongs in the hall of very good rather than the hall of fame. do any of our panelists agree or disagree? >> i agree with that. it's also not boston writers didn't determine this. it's the national organization of baseball writers who determine who goes in the hall of fame. >> right. >> so we have a simple question. who won the game between babe ruth's all-star team and the navy pilots? >> anne, that's all you, girl. >> pilots. i'm not going to tell you the score. it was a fabulous game, but the pilots. >> you're not going to tell us the score, but give us a highlight moment in the game. >> oh, gosh.
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well, there's -- oh. i know that at the very beginning they said there were 100 photographers and reporters there at the very beginning, and then when ted williams came out of the chute, because people really weren't sure if, in fact, he was going to be there, they all cheered. that was just one of those moments. it's just a great story. but i will tell you that babe ruth, that was his dream, to become a manager, and he was just thrilled to be there. more details in the book. >> so, eric, a question, during the second world war, did anyone look back at the first world war when in 1918 the draft was extended to 45-year-old men? and they also commented although the baseball season was shortened, they went on to a world series here in boston. so i guess they were curious about the draft being extended to 45-year-old men and if there was a reflection on that in the second world war. >> the regular season in 1918
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did end, i believe, september 1st or 2nd. the world series was completed on september 11th. i guess there was a possibility that if the armistice had not been signed in november of 1918, the 1919 season could very well have been jeopardized. as far as extending the age, that i can't address. that's beyond my pay grade. >> okay. and i think we have time for probably one last question, and then if you guys have any concluding comments. one person wrote, can you comment on what might have been an adjustment period for players returning from the war? any documentation of players having a hard time getting back into the game? you did touch on that a little bit, and this was prior to the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, but certainly
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people understood there were adjustments that needed to happen for people. do you have comments on this? >> well, one thing i would interject, i think, is the fact that, you know, certainly baseball and society in general, professional sports, did not pay the same kind of attention to mental health issues that we do in contemporary america. and i'm sure, and perhaps, michael, you can even cite a notable incidence or two where players did -- well, even the story of earl johnson giggling is a little bit of an aberration, behavioral aberration in the context of what guys were dealing with when they came back home. >> well, if you think about harry walker who knocked in enus slaughter in game seven. harry walker of the cardinals had been wounded.
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he was protecting a bridge and killed 20 germans. his son was hit by a car right before game seven, would end up dying. so think about him stepping in the batter's box of game seven and what he had been through over the last 12 to 18 months. and then for baseball to end and for him to go home, bury his son, try to filter and process what had gone on in his life the last four years. it's just a world that -- i don't know how you would even exist and process such information. >> one comment i'll make just based on the major league players who served in world war ii, they say we just did not talk about the war. that's all i can tell you. >> well, i didn't know if you guys had any concluding comments you would like to make. >> well, i won't sign off before i thank this tremendous panel. you guys were absolutely great. thank you for your insights.
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thank you for your stories. thank you for your enthusiasm to share those stories. we're lucky to have you. i trust that the audience appreciated this presentation. and, gavin, you know what a big fan i am of the historical society, you, peter, sara, katherine, you always treat us so well. thank you so much. >> i would like to acknowledge one thing. there was at least one player that came through world war ii, did not see combat, and in a sense wondered if he was up to the task. and when ted williams was recalled by the marine corps at the time of the korean war, he said, i'm not doing any pr work. if you're calling me back, i want to get into a fighter platoon. and he ended up flying 39 combat missions, seven of them with john glenn, who was one of the
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squadron mates there, and he crash-landed on his second mission february 16, 1953. the landing craft -- the wheels wouldn't come down. he had to skid the plane along the runway to -- and jump out just before it burst into flame. he was hit by bullets at least two other times. he definitely had his day as a true hero. >> thank you all very much. katherine, i don't know if you wanted to say a parting message. >> i have to say that i learned more about sports in the past hour than i have in all of my years, so thank you so much. and thank you to everybody out there. thank you to our supporters, and thank you to the people who are going to become our supporters. week nights this month we're featuring a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight, an evening of african-american history.
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civil rights activist cleveland sellers talks about his work in the 1960s with the student nonviolent coordinating committee and recounts the 1968 orangeburg massacre where state troopers fired on students protesting segregation. three students were killed and mr. sellers was among the nearly 30 wounded. mayor joseph riley conducts the interview at the citadel, where he's now a professor. watch tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and watch american history tv every weekend on c-span3. ♪♪ ♪♪
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>> paul goldberger discusses his book "ballpark: baseball and the american city." exploring baseball and the american cities, changes of locations and ballparks over the years and what they reveal about society and culture at large. the kansas city public library hosted this discussion and provided the video. >> look at this awesome auditorium. speaking of great public spaces, this is one. >> yes. >> all right, paul. >> libraries and


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