Feb 19, 1953: Ted Williams war hero
Submitted by BTGrimes on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 6:00am
No time for games
SEOUL, KOREA - Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams returned from his sixth combat mission into North Korea on this date in 1953, and told the Associated Press (AP) that trying to find a target with a Marine Panther jet "is harder than trying to hit that ball." Williams was on the second military tour of his major league career. He served three years during World War II, and two more in Korea.
Ted Williams was not alone among major league stars to interrupt some of their most productive years when the country was at war. Detroit Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg and Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller were some of the first to enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 ushering the United States into World War II.
Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor if major league baseball should cease operations for the duration of the war and FDR said no, it would be good for morale to keep playing.
While baseball continued, the quality of play diminished significantly as World War II dragged on. If you were able-bodied enough to play baseball you were able-bodied enough to be drafted, and most players who didn't enlisted were.
By 1945, the last year of World War II, teenagers such as Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Reds, and men with conditions which kept them out of the service, such as one-armed Pete Gray of the St. Louis Browns were filling up MLB rosters. After June, 1945 many of the regular players began to return.
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