Date: June 6, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

Fir the 80th anniversary we talk about D-Day veteran Yogi Berra and the 38 other Major League Baseball Hall of Famers who served in World War II.

That’s right: 39 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown served in the military during World War II.

It’s a sign of how the war effort took precedence over everything in American life between 1941-1945, including the national pastime. ,

One of the most notable players who joined the military was Ted Williams, a star outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Williams enlisted in the Navy and became a fighter pilot. His absence from baseball lasted nearly three years, from 1943 to 1945. He served with distinction, earning several commendations.

Joe DiMaggio, the celebrated center fielder for the New York Yankees, also left MLB to serve in the Army Air Forces. DiMaggio’s enlistment came in 1943, and he spent three years in the military, where he primarily took on a role in physical education and morale-boosting duties, playing on military baseball teams.

Hank Greenberg, a powerful hitter for the Detroit Tigers, was another significant player who served during the war. Greenberg was among the first major leaguers to enlist, joining the Army Air Forces in 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was discharged in 1944 but was called back to service, ultimately spending nearly four years in the military.

Stan Musial, an outfielder and first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, enlisted in the Navy in early 1945. Although he joined later in the war, Musial still missed the entire season.

The departure of these stars, along with many others, led to a noticeable decline in the overall quality of play in MLB. Teams had to fill their rosters with older players, young prospects, and those classified as 4-F, meaning they were deemed unfit for military service due to physical, mental, or moral reasons.

Despite these challenges, baseball continued throughout the war, providing a source of entertainment and morale for both the public and the troops. The league also made adjustments to accommodate the war effort, such as implementing “victory games” to raise money for the military and other war-related causes.

The war’s end in 1945 saw the gradual return of players from military service, rejuvenating the league. Their service and sacrifice added a layer of respect and admiration from fans, highlighting the deep connection between baseball and American society during this tumultuous period.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!