This Day in Baseball History: January 15th, 1942

I still think he’s one of the top 3 presidents ever. This just adds on to it.

On January 15, 1942:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent the “Green Light Letter” to Commissioner Kenesaw Landis encouraging baseball to continue.

As World War II raged, the United States began the draft to ensure and build a large army, and it included baseball players. The loss of baseball players and the feeling that baseball should do something more than just play baseball caused Landis pause, so he sent FDR a letter asking what he should do.

FDR responded with several comments in a short letter:

1) This was not a Presidential statement. It was a personal piece of advice.
2) Baseball is needed as a recreation because of its relatively short length and low cost.
3) Recreation was needed to take the long hours and war off people’s minds.
4) Baseball should have more night games so day workers can watch a few games.
5) Even though he is encouraging baseball to continue, in no way should the players refuse to serve in the army.

This was an extraordinary moment in baseball history. First, this was a direct Presidential blessing of the sport (while it may not have been literally “Presidential”, it was in every metaphorical sense). Second, it encouraged night games. Commissioner Landis had just vetoed a proposal that sought to increase night games, but he would have to reconsider (again, while not literally “Presidential”, it still had all the power behind it). This would help pave the way from the mainly day game schedule of the pre-1940 era to the night games of today (granted, ratings and other things cemented it, but this got the ball rolling). Third, while he obviously meant for this to be an encouragement, it was also a reminder that no players were allowed to refuse to serve. Fourth, this was a move for the stability of the sport. The “Work or Fight Order” of 1918 had hurt baseball, and owners were worried that the same would happen. Instead, attendance would go up, and the owners made a lot of money.

It brings up an interesting observation about baseball. On one hand, it’s not all that important in the grand scheme of things. When it comes down to it, we need an army more than baseball. On the other hand, it (and I would add professional sports in general) is still important. Recreation helps the mental sanity of the people, and three hours away from war is a nice vacation.

This letter was a healthy compromise. The army is paramount and gets whoever they want, but baseball is important enough that it is not going to be stopped.

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One Response to “This Day in Baseball History: January 15th, 1942”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    I’m being all that I can be!!!!

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