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Baseball, FDR, Military and Veterans

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American flags at the National Mall. Photo: By Lipton sale (talk) - self-made, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17183143

It is Veteran’s Day and it is a time to reflect and honor all of those who served in the military. It is also a reminder that sports is not to be taken all that seriously and is an outlet for entertainment and an escape. At least that is what President Franklin Roosevelt thought during World War II.

It was President Roosevelt who suggested that baseball’s American and National Leagues not shut down during the war. On January 15, 1942, President Roosevelt answered a letter from Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis who was looking for guidance after the United States got into the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Roosevelt responded. “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 provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half, and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.”

That letter went to baseball but long time Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said it also applied to other sports who followed baseball lead including the National Football League. Rooney’s team ended up partnering with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1943 and the Chicago Cardinals in 1944 because many NFL players were in the service and teams near military bases would have players available. Pittsburgh was not near a military base and needed a partner. President Roosevelt had it right, watching games is really recreation not the end all and those words from 1942 should ring true today.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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