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Pearl Harbor Attack in 1941 Changed the World and Changed Sports

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The USS West Virginia, sunken at left, and USS Tennessee are shrouded in smoke Dec. 7, 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo: U.S. Navy

Pearl Harbor was attacked 75 years ago on December 7, 1941. There are not many around today who can clearly recall the words of John Charles Daly as he read about the attack and it was broadcast in the only immediate American media available in those days on CBS radio.

The attack on Pearl Harbor impacted everyone in the world. The United States was finally drawn into a global conflict which started in 1939. Canada was already involved in the war when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Sports owners did not know what to do, but there was a Presidential order from Franklin Roosevelt to baseball owners that said, “keep playing.”

That was in contrast to World War I, which America entered three years after the conflict started in 1914. In 1918, baseball was considered a “non-essential” job and players were told find a war related job or enlist in the military. Baseball cut the schedule to 140 games and struggled to get the World Series played. The war ended on November 11, 1918.

Former baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Photo: http://alchetron.com/
Former baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Photo: http://alchetron.com/

Roosevelt sent baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis a letter which gave baseball the green light to play. “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.”

Other leagues such as the NFL felt the Presidential letter applied to them. The NHL’s Brooklyn Americans never did reform after the war, the team thought too many of the American players would enter the war and it was not worth playing until the war ended. In the NFL, Pittsburgh partnered with Philadelphia in 1943 and the Chicago Cardinals in 1944. The Cleveland Rams suspended operations in 1943. The war ended in 1945, the modern era including desegregation would start in 1946.

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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