tv Boston Red Sox World War II CSPAN April 26, 2021 2:02pm-3:05pm EDT
gordon edes is the historian of the boston red sox. he led a discussion about the team's home front and battlefield contributions during world war ii. threw the stories of hall of famer ted williams and others 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. >> today we have a great program which we will explore one of the most popular topics in boston which is the boston red sox. specifically this evening we will on looking at the boston red sox and world war ii. he will be joined by a great panel which will be led by a good friends of mhs, gordon edes. this is his fifth program with mhs in the last couple of years. he has been doing a lot of work supporting our organization. gordon is the official historian of the boston red sox, he has
been the team historian since 2015 and before that covered the team for 18 years for the "boston globe" and espn. before we begin, i will let you know about protocols we use with zoom. there will be a program that will run 45 or 50 minutes with our panelists speaking. then we will open it up for q and a, you can use the q and a function at the bottom of your screen and type in your question and we should be be able to read the question and get to most all of them as we possibly can. with over 150 people attending we may not be able to get to all of them. thank you for joining us. without further ado i will toss this off to gordon. hi, gordon. >> thank you so much. and welcome, everyone. catherine told me just before we started that if i do one more presentation at mhs historical,
i will be eligible for health insurance. i am 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 talk from mass historical over to fenway park, which we have done for the past events. we live in hope that 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 is my privilege as we embark on this discussion on the 75th an versary of the ends of world war ii, and the red sox' participation in the great war. it is my pleasure to introduce my panel. i am going to begin with ann keene. anne is a native of north
carolina and texas resident who has offered one of the most unique books about the intersection of baseball and world war ii "cloud buster nine" with the tantalizing subtitle of the untold story of ted williams and the baseball team that went win world war ii. how about that. >> thank you so much. thank you very much. >> it is a story that anne unearthed while preparing the eulogy for her dad. anne has told her story in many places, including the baseball hall of fame and the world war ii museum. anne, we are thrilled that you are joining us this evening. michael connelly is a lifetime resident of the boston neighborhood of west roxbury, where -- there is michael. hello, michael. >> hi. >> where he lives with his wife,
noreen. in addition to phenomenon -- he has written books. 26 miles, which i assume is about the boston marathon, rebound. and the president's team b the great naval academy football team of 1963 which started roger stallback and counted among its biggest fans president john f. kennedy. michael is also one of the four founding members of the non-profit, the boston bullpen project. michael thank you for joining us this even. we want wait the hear your observations. >> it is my pleasure. thank you, gordon. >> you got it. and finally, and this man is no stranger to most of you. he is the most prolific writer ever on red sox history.
and phil, 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 is a board member for the society of boston reference, akasabr. he is an author of countless books on the sox, including "when baseball went to war" also" ted williams at war". bill, who has been a panelist in previous presentations that i have been honored to host, welcome, and thank you for being here. >> i have 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 september 28, 1941, when the
eyes of baseball were on philadelphia's shy park. baseball -- 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 on shy park that afternoon is ted williams n 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 doubleheader 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. he got six hits in eight at-bats in that doubleheader. wound up with 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 to bomb. and two months later the world, and certainly the world of baseball, would be turned upside down. now, the president at the time, franklin delano roosevelt, already had determined that america was woefully unprepared for any possibility of going to war. so in september of 1940, fdr had already implemented the draft, in which all men between the ages of 21 and 30 -- all able-bodied 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. graduate of brighton high school. kid by the name of hum mccully, a pitcher who had the snarky nickname of losing pitcher, mulcahily. the reason he had that nickname is in the span of four seasons he lost 76 games for the phillies who were the door mats of the national league at the time. so mulcahily was the first to go in. i believe he was assigned to fort dechbs, which is 35, 40 miles west of boston. but soon enough, much bigger names would be joining the coming conflict, including hank greenberg, who was called up in may.
hank greenberg, the slugging first baseman for the detroit tigers, future hall of famer, and defending 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 who 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 dyed in combat. but 45 were wounded, including two hall of famers, warren spawn, who at the time pitched for the boston braves and hoyt wilhelm, the great knuckleballer. so that is setting the stage.
the big question macing major league baseball as an institution was to play or not to play? and that led to the commissioner of baseball at the time, keneson "mountain" landsis writing what would be nope as the greenlight letter to fdr seeking some guidance on what baseball should do. michael, can you pick up the story from there? >> sure, gordon. the letter from the commissioner 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 that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going".
and i think they saw that baseball, as part of americana, transcended the arena. it was more important for camaraderie and morale to continue to play. and that played out through the war as men in fox holes would look at box scores and people working double shifts back home would come home to go to games or linen the radio. it was a critical part of the war effort to keep baseball going. >> 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 would get off at 5:00 and go to a ball game? >> not only night games. but they were scheduling games
at 11:00 in the morning. they were working around all of the shifts to make sure as many americans could participate in this 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 says, in essence, you are an essential service and 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 -- i guess we could 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 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 one, as 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 1a, which is ready to serve. he -- someone appealed that on his behalf. i'm sure he knew the appeal was going in but it was more done on his behalf and he was again granted it. there is a little bit of discomfort even in the red sox organization with, say, joe groanan and tom miyake wondering if this was good pr to have their star player granted deferment. and there was a little pressure
that gone to development. but he went around on spring training and got a lot of support from servicemen who came out to games and gave him -- in big numbers, and gave him a big rounds 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 he ends of the season. to become a navy aviator. >> but before he got to that point, i mean, 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 comfortable situation. he was indeed the sole support of his mother. and she was a salvation army worker not bringing in any money on her own. and he had just started to make it. he was getting a good pay day. i of he want to get in that one 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 as 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, but 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 1a to 3a really angered a lot of people. ted lost an endorsement over there 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 ,900 people that attended opening day until he hit the ball ten years over the bullpen and received a standing ovation. >> that doesn't sound like red
sox fans at all, right there. you know. association anne, you pick up ted's story for us. in doing so, as ted winds up going to north carolina to flight instructor school. but, please, you know, share with us your personal story of how this saga ended up just engaging you so completely. >> right. well, i want to tell you, i am a native north carolinian. my grandfather was the commander of a flight school. my father was the batboy. he passed away. my father was a professional player, didn't make it to the major leagues. my presentation is heavy with pictures. this was in chapel hill at a v-5 navy preflight base. it was ground training, one of the toughe military trainings in the world.
on the next screen is my dad with buddy hassett, john sane, the navy hub li cyst and the head survival guide which i will touch on later which is close to ted and johnny. the next slided is the five guys that come down from am hurst. they shipped in to.chael hill together. most of these players, including ted williams played the majority of his military ball in chapel hill. so the next slide will show you a little bit about the culture. i just got a hold this comic book about a month ago. it actually -- these guys, they were really captain marvels. there you go, my dad right there reading the magazine. i know it's amazing how things come together after people pass away and you start digging through trunks and scrap books. the next picture is out of the. couldic book. that's a cartoon for the navy base. the next slide will shoal you a little more.
this was a famous picture. i believe it was in sporting news. my dad was a little kid. the guys still alive sends thing up seconds from the right, he's in his late 80s. the next slide is my dad on the me of johnny -- and of course dad with the baseball coach. next slide -- i am going to rattle through these pretty quickly. that is my father. i don't know if anybody remembers littlejohny morris. the philip morris mascot. he came over from durham. big tobacco, in north carolina. that's in the dugout during one of the games. next slide. there you go. ted, he wormed 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 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 23, 24 games when he was there in chapel hill for about three months. next slide. and there you go. there is johnny, happy johnny. johnny didn't know how to swim when he got there. i found that fascinating but always with a big smile on his face. >> sit also true that johnny washed out in pilot training as well. >> technically, he did. i believe that happened, the next phase of advanced training. i actually got ahold of his training records ask. the instructors who write, you know, he knows how to do it but he just can't do it. too many flaps, not enough flaps. he is a menace to the air field. i think he's a bright guy. he ended up flourishing as a coach. but not a great pilot. >> well, you know what?
if that's the only hole in johnny's dance card we are all fine with that in boston. a beloved figure. we miss him dearly. >> right. right. love him. so i think i have got a couple more slides. i don't want to take up too much of the presentation but this was just another one. i believe that's dom dimaggio. just came down and they had a few many reunions at some of the games. and then, let's see. there you go. now this is a card that i am sure a lot of the viewers have. that's from chapel hill. you have to read the writing on plaque. but that's one of the pieces of memorabilia that i have been collecting over the years. it's amazing. there you go. this is a famous picture. i believe it is the -- property. but that's at fenway park when ted was at chapel hill. he got away on a rare occasion for one of the all-star games. and then this is -- i am going to touch on this later.
this might be a good point to pause. i would like to come back. but i open my book with the famous yank lands game when babe ruth got a chance to manage a roster of indians and yankees against the navy pilots in july of 1943. we will touch on that later. thank you. >> thank you, anne. you know, while we are 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 burke. we could do an entire presentation just on mo burke. they made movie of his life, the catcher was a spy. a dozen languages. he went to princeton, got his law degree. and evidently, as a baseball
player was quite satisfied with his lot in life as a backup catcher. and ultimately, bullpen catcher. but mo, in the early '30s, i believe 1932, and then again in 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, mo 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 onto the roof and took pictures of all kinds of installations in tokyo. as the story was later told, general james doolittle used mo's photos when he bombed tokyo in the great raid on the battle of tokyo.
now, a writer at "the new yorker," the write who are wrote the story, the catcher 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 mo was recruited into the ranks of the office of strategic services, which was the precursor of the cia. and also was involved in a surreptitious trip to europe to take in a lecture by better yard heisenberg, who was a physicist who the americans feared was developing an atomic bomb. and mo said that he had instructions to take out heisenberg. he carried a pistol to the 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. mikele a, you wrote -- michael, you wrote about it? what's your sense? fact based or a little bit -- >> a little bit of both. it was ted's rookie year. he had 145 rbis. mo had five rbis. flash forward to '42. mo is the bullpen coach and approaches red sox officials and said 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. you know, all part of that great generation.
>> excuse me -- >> go ahead, bill. >> i would like to add two things. first of all, when the red sox opened the season in 2008, in japan, i went to the place where mo burke was and took the pictures. it is a university hospital now. i went up to the roof there to see what the view was. the skyline has changed a lot since his day. about the photos that anne showed us, they were all photographs of baseball. these guys actually -- they did baseball as part of their recreation. >> right. >> but johnny possess kyi became -- 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 and taught other people how to use machine guns during fighter aircraft. so they had regular duties. we don't want to give people the impression they were sitting
around playing baseball all the time. >> right. one opponent i want to make is at this particular sports camp, as you saw, frankly in the comic book, they learned to box. they wrufled. they ran track. they spent nights out in the woods. they got dropped out 30 miles away from base and said you have got two days to make it home. it was full-scale, full-on training. and i will show you some images of also some 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 red sox historian was the story of cy rosenthal. a dorchester kid discovered on the sand lots of corps chester by the red sox coach hue duffy. he was actually 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. wounds up playing in the miner -- minors. came back to boston. opened a continue can factory. played in the minor leagues. pearl harbor happens. cy tries to enlist. they reject him. bad teeth, bad something else. they said forget about it. his son buddy lied about his age and said he was a-year-older than he actually was and enlisted in the marines at the age of 16. so cy, in 1943, out of his own pocket, pays to get his knees repaired. pays to get his teeth fixed. is allowed to enlist in the
navy. he's serving in the european theater of operation. his son, buddy, is in with the marines in the pacific. bill, pick up the story from there. >> well, buddy was killed on christmas day, 1943. new britton, in the solomon islands. the marines were trying to capture some japanese air fields. the u.s. marine corps lost 325 soldiers that day. he had just turned 17. and he was killed. and his dad, of course, was already serving. he was on a ship over in europe. and he -- 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 up the ship. and 58 members of that crew were killed.
cy rosenthal survived but he was paraplegic. he lost the use of his legs and 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 here and there. but what a story. >> it is a great story. and i was so taken by the fact that cy turned what was such a tragic event in its own right -- 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. michael, you said he is buried a block or so from where you live? >> yes, he's buried in a cemetery outside of roxbury next to his son, buddy. an amazing chapter in red sox
history, to say the least. 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 underrecognized in our city. hopefully in the future we can recognize him for his great works. >> you know, 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 development of the players and all is that -- in addition to the involvement of the players and all. the red sox had an organization for all of the gis who were serving overseas. michael you tell a story in your book about a dozener so marines who were fighting at god cancel in the pacific who reached out
to tom yonky. >> he gets a letter from god cancel. ten men over there, all potts or greater boston residents. they write to him and ask, when we return, we would like to have opening day tickets. and tom yonky 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 just a great story and talks again about how baseball tran sends the supreme court and how important red sox were and communities were to these men overseas to look forward to something when they got back. >> you also write a story about a fighter pilot who wrote to the manager of the club. >> joe spinner of allenton. he was the first baseman on the high school keep team. he enlists and becomes a fighter pilot. he writes to joe kronen, for every fighter plane i shoot down will you send me a red sox hat.
joe sends ten hats to him and his crew. they are thankful, they put together a bracelet made out of planes they shot down. they send it to the secretary and she wears it to joe pesky's wedding later that year. >> that's a great story. speaking of great stories. i want to turn to the exhibition game. we heard about ted williams legendary eyesight. you take that to another level. tell us that story. >> there is a condition. it is a phenomenal when someone has the ability to see more colors than the average person. and we all know ted had perfect eyesight. in addition to that, he had perfect hand-eye coordination. he was super disciplined. he was focused. he truly had a command of all of his senses of course, as a pilot
you have got to be one with the plane. going back to his vision i started looking at medical records and doing research and i thought props he could see more problems than other people. it is 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. but what does that do to dimension and speed? there were all these rumors that he could see a baseball spinning with the seams as it came at him, 85 miles an hour. think about it, the red seams of a baseball. i don't know. it's just one of the theories that i came up with. looking at his medical records especially through preflight school, he was in fabulous shape. had perfect eyesight. it was something to think about. >> what about the story with the tie? >> that's -- there was a game that they played in chapel hill
called what color is the man's necktie. i heard this from the son of the head baseball coach. he was also the head of the survival school who was also a big game hunt e hunted bears. 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 hanger 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, maybe in a navy plane or a piper cub. to me, that does tell you something. there is 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? >> take us quickly, i guess, july 28th, 1943, yankees stadium, the cloud buster nine against who? >> well, babe ruth was brought
in to manage the team. that was his dream. 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 you know we are going to have this game at the ends of the july. the navy pilots are coming up from chapel hill but ted is not going to be there. i will tell you he ultimately did make to it the game. it was 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 factories shifts. but i look back at this as one of those great all-american
moments where kids came, parents came, players came, the press came, everybody was happy to be alive. they had a brass band there. again it was one of those all-american moments where people volunteered their time. and of course the great ted williams was there with johnny pesky. and really a full major league roster playing for the navy pilots. again you have to read more about the story to get the final score. again, it was a wonderful moment in war. >> you know what is stunning to me, anne is that -- and there is a iconic picture of ted and babe sitting and talking with each other. i believe it was taken at that yankees stadium game. for me what is stunning is that within five years babe ruth was dead. >> right. >> he died so young. >> right. >> gavin, i know when you have got an extensive host here he
tends to eat up some time. let me know if we need to wrap up soon. there is a couple other quick topic i would like to touch on. how are we doing? >> i think we have got five minutes or so. that would be great. >> let's quickly -- i want to turn to this story because i think it is a story that's often overlooked. the story of earl johnson, a red sox pitcher who wound up engaging 199 consecutive days -- i believe i read that in your book, michael, right, of combat. he went over, he actually landed on omaha beach in normandy. michael tell us a little bit about earl johnson's story. >> he was the starting pitcher for the red sox in the early foutz. 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 was never the same. so he enlisted in the army and was part of the 120th infantry.
he landed at normandy just as cy rosenthal was being shipds out. he fought for 199 days, including 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 fought and received on field promotions twice. received the bronze star and the silver star. just a real hero. and he comes back from fighting, his arm is never the same. so he becomes a relief pitcher for the red sox and a very good one in '46. interestingly, fighting in war puts everything in order. he can't help himself, every time he comes out of the bullpen he finds himself giggling. opponents and fans don't understand it. he says after what i saw,
baseball is just so fun. >> i heard a biofraef of him. he was a rifle platoon sergeant. of the 36 men in the platoon, only 11 of them survived the war. >> bill, i thought you were going to tell the story earl used to tell about himself, taking out that tank unit. didn't he make some comment about 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. you know, i mentioned -- i think i mentioned briefly warren spawn, won 363 games and went to the hall of fame after pitching a couple of decades here in boston for the braves. he was actually in a -- he was a
combat engineer serving in germany year the end of the war where he was -- his unit was trying to preserve the lewden dorve bridge over ray maggen. actually my aunt lived in ray maggen. i have been to that site and all. it was the only bridge that the 9th army. patton's 9th rmy could cross the reine and make its final advance on berlin. spawn was wounded. the bridge ultimately collapsed. he was hit by some sflap nell, but lived to tell on it. there were a number of guys, bill and michael you touched on it. who came back suffering from the effects of having served in combat. who were some of those other red sox players that we should note while we are here? >> well, all three batboys and clubhouse boys were wounded in
war. shane o'collins' son, son was killed in war. south worth, manager's son was killed in war. earnest ford was bayonetted in southeast asia. was wounded. returned recovered, reenlisted and died when a parachute gave way when he was trying to land. charlie wagner had malaria, bill buttland came back and he had shrunk an inch from the war. it goes on and on. it went from batboys to superstars. 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 opening day in 1946.
you know, because we are 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 are in a presidential election year for instance, in case you didn't notice where 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 as you
mentioned, but ted williams had a triple crown year in 1 despite all the controversy about his enlistment. johnny pacificy came back and had 2700 hits in 1946. ted came back and had a great year in 1946. michael has a whole book about that year. and another triple crown year in 1947. it's not as though these guy -- two of them, did really well before the war 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? >> they are playing in washington at griffith stadium. ted's got a respiratory deficiency. managers and trainers tell him not to play. he decides to show up at the park and takes batting practice. six swings, hits four home runs,
tells them he's playing. what makes it special, this is the coming out party for the united states, where baseball have come to the parks to celebrate. in this game, harry truman threw out first itch approximate. ted williams hit the longest home run at griffeth park since lou gehrig did. that game was the first mention of ted williams maybe being the greatest hitter of all time. what was special, when ted williams stepped on home plate the picture shows all the wheelchairs, all the wounded veterans who were sitting in the front row of that game. it was symbolic of those times, heroes on the baseball field, heroes in the theater of war. and everyone coming to together to celebrate the sacrifice of this country. >> in your research you have been interviewing the last of the survivors of world war ii. what has that experience been
like? >> it has been wonderful, very rewarding. and bill has been just enormous in this effort. one of my favorites is eddie robinson from texas. he's 99. he will be 100. i interviewed him and dr. bobby brown very early when covid broke out. they are fearless. they are exactly like these guys that we are describing. this is core value in them. they are fearless, they are resilient. they see the other side of this. they know people who died from the spanish flu. people who got polio. they have been lieu the war. i asked eddie robinson, are you worried, you are in your late '90s. he said hell no. we are going to get through this. it is a joy. i come away with this -- if there is anything we can do, we can sped joy and hope for the next generation and the whole country to get through this. bill i know you have comments on
this as well from the guys that you interviewed me. >> i thank anne for introducing me to this whole subject. one of the people that she mentioned to me was al naples. he 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. there were some soldiers that come in from fort devins. he was one of them. he hit the winning hit. it was off the wall at fenway. he said it easily could have been a kubl but he didn't realize it. he thought it might get caught. he didn't round first pace fast enough and pulled up at first. he's glad he did because the first base coach was babe ruth who put his arm around him and said way to go kid.
the way he told me that story just last year, it was like he was a kid again. who on the would be excited by babe ruth after you hit the game winning hit. >> their memories are crystal clear. i knew babe ruth. of course i remember riding on the train it is great. >> panelists, if you will 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 is all yours, gavin. >> thank you, gordon. and just to remind the audience, if you would like to & a question, there is the q and a function. you can type your question in down there. and we will read as many 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 to the teams during the war. the famous one armed pete gray of the browns would be an example of this, how did this
dilution of talent impact the red sox. >> bill, do you want to take a shot at that one? >> the war years were tough years. they had to make due with people coming and going. michael might want to mention 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 looked at just the people that had come in as fill-in so to speak, 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. >> the anonymity of a number of our players. speaking of bobby doerr, he was one of the last of the red sox regulars to actually go into the service in 1944. 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 fenway crowd ser ren naded 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 in the offseason, but lets his anger smooth out and keeps him for the '46 season. >> thank goodness for that. he was a guy to keep around, for sure. what else have you got, gavin? >> did doerr ever open up opportunities for women or african-americans to play that otherwise wouldn't have had the chance.
>> there was the all-american girls professional baseball league. the rockford peaches and kenosha comets, any number of teams had a ve 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 from a boston city councillor that the red sox finally consented to giving a tryout to jackie robinson, sam jethro or
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 royals and the brooklyn dodgers organization and breaks baseball's color line. bill beck, on the philadelphia club or st. louis at the time, you know, 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 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 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, an injury that shortened his career. why have the boston sports writers not voted dom dimaggio in cooperstown where he belongs? >> you know, dominic, and certainly one of the greatest advocates for dom's inclusion into the hall of fame was ted. ted often lobbied for dominic. 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 that determined 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. 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 weren't really 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 did end, i believe, september 1st or 2nd.
the world series was completed on september 11th. there was a very real possibility that had the armistice 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? i think you did touch on that a little bit, and this was prior to the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, but certainly 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. 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. 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 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 american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight, an evening of african-american history. civil rights activist cleveland sellers talks about his work in
s the 1960s as a leader 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. former charles ston, south carolina, 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.
book "ballpark: baseball and the >> 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. >> i want to thank the library for putting on the event, the library board, jonathan kemper and the staff that work with us, steve woolfolk, the library is a fantastic institution and we're lucky to have it. look at this awesome auditorium. speaking of great public spaces, this is one. >> yes. >> all right, paul. >> libraries and ballparks, two most important things in the city. right?