Baseball & World War II: New Book Examines the Home Front and the Front Lines
Major changes happened in the world of baseball just after World War II, representing a unique period in the sport's history. Seasons were tenuous during the war. Hundreds of ballplayers left their teams to join the military and were replaced by players who were ineligible to fight, or whose better playing days were behind them.
"I thought that the people who write about baseball don't know about World War II, and the people who write about World War II don't know about baseball. And yet the two have this great connection and have over the generations," writer John Klima says.
His book, The Game Must Go On, follows the stories of Detroit Tigers MVP Hank Greenberg, one of the most popular and powerful athletes in America, and Pete Gray, a one-armed outfielder who overcame incredible odds to become a professional baseball player.
Hank Greenberg decided to join the war effort after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, while Pete Gray stayed to keep the game of baseball going. President Roosevelt himself debated on stopping all professional baseball games for the good of the war, but in doing so, risked losing vital American morale.
"When a country is in a big war...everyone plays a part. Everyone does their own thing that years later you can look back and say, 'well, that guy was a hero.' Well, there were a lot of heroes. You just haven't heard of all of them," Klima says.