Tag Archives: World War II

Connie Mack Calls “Bunk”

19 Apr

In the month leading up to the 1944 season there were concerns about there being a season.

Ty Cobb told an Associated Press (AP) reporter that “the baseball men have a mission to perform” by keeping the game alive during the war, even if “it is played by old men.”

Cobb said:

“If worst comes to worst, I’d get back into the harness myself to help preserve it.”

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Cobb

The thought took hold in some circles.

Nearly fifty-year-old Howard Ehmke, whose business making canvas tarpaulins was now making protective covering for naval warship guns, told The AP:

“I’ll be 50 in April and I’m pretty busy around here, but if baseball needs me, I’ll come running. I won’t say much about my arm, but I ought to be able to do something. The game was good to me when I was in it, and I feel I owe it something.”

The idea was shot down by baseball’s oldest manager.

Connie Mack said the idea was “all bunk.”

He told The Philadelphia Record:

“We don’t need them; we don’t want them; I doubt if any of them wants to come back, and they can’t play anymore anyway. I’d much rather keep the game going with 14 and 15-year-olds.”

Mack said he felt there were enough men classified as 4-F combined with those not yet drafted and those too young to serve to carry on.

And he didn’t spare any of the former greats who suggested they might be willing to come back:

“It’s a joke to talk about such men as Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, and Al Simmons making comebacks.

“We appreciate the fine spirit they have shown to help baseball, but they can’t play now. Once a man has passed 35 or 40 and then gives up the game for a year or so, he can’t come back.”

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Mack

Mack said he “pitied” the old-timers he watched play in a war bond game the previous summer.

“Great outfielders like Speaker—one of the finest flycatchers of all time—looked pitiable. I was afraid he would get hit on the head.”

Besides, said Mack, all fans cared about baseball, not the caliber of the game, and kids and 4-F’s could carry the load:

“They don’t look for super-excellence these days.”

“It is Against the Best Interests of Baseball”

13 Feb

Wendell Smith spent most of his tenure at The Pittsburgh Courier making the case for the integration of professional baseball—he spent an equal amount of time decrying the way the Negro American and National Leagues operated.

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Wendell Smith

With the owners preparing to  convene at New York’s Theresa Hotel in December of 1944, Smith made the case he had made on many occasions in the past: the need for a Negro League Commissioner:

Smith said:

“If any group of businessmen ever needed a boss, a guy with a big stick, it’s negro baseball.”

But, he said:

“I don’t know what the magnates are going to do, and what I gather, they don’t know either. “

Of most concern to Smith was that the two league presidents—Tom Wilson, the Nashville businessman who was president of the American League, and John B. Martin, the Memphis dentist who was president of the National, both were team owners; Wilson of the Baltimore Elite Giants and Martin of the Chicago American Giants:

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Wilson

“This dual role is against the best interests of baseball.”

Smith chided Martin for agreeing that a commissioner was needed, but at the same time claiming there would be no qualified candidates until after the end of World War II:

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Martin

“Mr. Martin says that Negro baseball should continue in the same rut it is in until after the war.”

Smith said of Martin’s claim:

“To keep insisting that there isn’t a man capable of serving as commissioner is, of course, a lot of tommy-rot—and is simply a way of evading the issue. There are many capable men and I’m sure one of them would accept the job if the owners put enough financial support behind such a position.  The man appointed to such a job must be well known, courageous and unswerving.  He must be a man who has been successful in other fields and one who has had administrative experience.”

While Smith might have been the best candidate, he did not advance himself for the position, instead offering three viable candidates.

The first, was recently retired three-term Illinois Congressman Arthur Mitchell—Mitchell was the first Democratic African American elected to Congress.

His second recommendation was John Warren Davis, who as president of West Virginia State College took the school—as The New York Times said, “an unaccredited land grant school,” when he arrived in 1919, into an accredited college which “became the first black school to seek integration in the South.”

Smith’s third choice was Judge William Hastle, a former and future federal judge who, the previous year, had resigned his position as a civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry Stimson over segregated training facilities and the inequity of assignments between white and non-white military personnel.

Smith said all three would “do an excellent job,” but that they would “demand decent salaries and full and complete authority,” and therefore none would be appointed.

Smith said:

“It is indeed tragic that Negro baseball must continue to operate on the slip-shod basis it has existed on for so long.  It has grown to the point where it is now a two to three-million-dollar business.  It is one of the largest businesses operated by Negroes in this country and is a means of livelihood, directly and indirectly, for at least two thousand people.  Negro baseball is no longer a novelty.  It is a major business and I’m afraid that someday it is going to be killed by the very people who are thriving off of it now.”

Smith’s prediction was correct.  No commissioner was selected at the Theresa Hotel meeting, the subject appears to have never been addressed.  Reporters were barred from the first day of meetings, but as Smith said, “the scribes gave vent to their feelings so forcefully,” they were allowed in the second day.

Martin and Wilson were easily reelected as presidents of their respective leagues.

As Smith had assumed, the issue was shelved again, and the 1944 winter meeting turned out to be:

“(J)ust another one of those get togethers where everyone has a hell of a nice time,”

Gaines and Raines

12 Feb

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Two of the early foreign players—or gaijin—and the third and fourth African-Americans to sign to play baseball in Japan pose with the man who negotiated their contracts in 1953: Jonas Gaines, left and Larry Raines with Abe Saperstein of Harlem Globetrotters fame.

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Jonas Gaines

Gaines, born in either 1914 or ’15 depending on the source, was nearing the end of a long career; a graduate of Southern University, he played semi-pro ball in North Dakota then began his professional career with the Newark Eagles in 1937, went to the Baltimore  Elite giants in 1938 and appeared in five East-West All-Star games.  Gaines served in the US Army in WWII and  finished his Negro League career with the Philadelphia Stars in 1950.  He spent 1951 and ’52 with the Minot Mallards in the Manitoba-Dakota (Man-Dak) League.

He spent one season in Japan with the Hankyu Braves in the Pacific League, where he was teammates with Raines.  The Braves third gaijin was another former Negro League player, John Britton.  Britton and Jimmy Newberry were the first two African-American players in Japan, having signed together in 1952.  Newberry, like Gaines, left after one season.

Gaines returned to the states in 1954 and led the Pampa Oilers, champions of the West Texas-New Mexico League, with 18 wins.  He finished his career with the Carlsbad Potashes in the Southwestern League in 1957. He died in his native Louisiana in 1998.

Larry Raines, Japanese baseball card

Larry Raines, Japanese baseball card

Raines was a twenty-two-year-old infielder for the Chicago American Giants and hit .298 in 1952.  Saperstein, who helped engineer the deal that brought Britton and Newberry to Japan, negotiated the contracts for Gaines and Raines, who according to Jet Magazine were paid $1000 a month by the Braves.

Raines quickly became a star in Japan, leading the Pacific League with 61 stolen bases in 1953; he led the league with a .337 batting average, 96 runs and 184 hits, he also finished second in RBI’s in 1954.

Raines returned to the states and signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1955.  After two seasons in the minor leagues, he played in 96 games for the Indians in 1957.  He appeared in nine games with Cleveland in 1958 and played in the minor leagues until 1961.  Raines returned to Japan in 1962, playing one more season with the Braves.  He died in Michigan in 1978.

Lost Advertisements—Louisville Slugger, World War II—Sports Aid Preparedness

7 Feb

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1942 Louisville Slugger Advertisement featuring Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Johnny Mize.

“The President of the U.S. has given baseball the GO signal for ’42.  American boys and men must be fit—healthy—strong—industrious.  To work hard and get results, Americans must have time to relax, and baseball, the All-American game, provides the outlet for relaxation and at the same time builds strong, healthy bodies.”

“Choose your bats as the champions do and insist on the autograph of your favorite player and the Famous Louisville Slugger trademark on the bat you buy.”

Filling in the Blanks-J Palatas

8 Aug

Baseball Reference lists J Palatas as an outfielder for the 1942 Washington Red Birds in the Pennsylvania State Association, hitting .278 in 107 games.

Joseph M. Palatas, a Cleveland native, born in 1921, entered the service in September of 1942 and served as a Flight Officer with the 325th Bomb Squadron.

Joseph Palatas, standing third from left

On April 11, 1944 Palatas was wounded when his plane was shot down over Germany.  He managed to bail out with the rest of his crew despite being badly injured.  Palatas was captured and died of his injuries the same day.