FDR urged baseball to keep playing for the morale of the country.
It was 81 years ago that the Japanese attacked the United States; Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii and forced the entry of America into World War II. The United States was on the sidelines for 27 months watching the war in Europe unfold. On December 8th, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt requested Congress declare war which it did. The Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, on January 15th, 1942 sent a letter to Roosevelt with a simple question, what do you want us to do? Should we keep playing? Americans were asked to sacrifice and rationing plans along with blackouts were being discussed. Baseball was bigger than life itself with sixteen Major League teams and about 300 Minor League clubs. Roosevelt responded and told Landis to play ball although there was no official mandate.
In “The Green Light Letter” Roosevelt wrote Landis. “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.” Baseball was the king of American sports and with that letter, other sports leagues according to the late owner of the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers Dan Rooney, who was just a boy in 1942, interpreted it to mean sports could go on. The National Hockey League was reeling though. Canada entered World War II in September, 1939 and most NHL players were from Canada and that meant NHL teams had players leave to fight in Europe. One NHL franchise did not make it, the New York or Brooklyn Americans suspended operations in 1942 and never returned. All 16 MLB teams survived the war. The NFL struggled, lost teams but survived.
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