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Playing for Their Nation

Baseball and the American Military during World War II

Steven R. Bullock

Publication Year: 2004

Just two months after the magical baseball season of 1941, the United States entered World War II, and baseball, like other American institutions, was called upon to sacrifice and serve in the war effort. Utilizing personal accounts, military documents, and newspaper sources, Playing for Their Nation provides the first in-depth analysis of the development of military baseball during the Second World War.

Steven R. Bullock describes how virtually every significant American military installation around the world boasted formal baseball teams and leagues designed to soothe the anxieties of combatants and prepare them physically for battle. Officials also sponsored hundreds of exhibition contests involving military and civilian teams and tours by major league stars to entertain servicemen and elevate their spirits.

Fund-raising by the Major Leagues proved remarkably successful in the encouragement of war bond sales and in donations of equipment for military teams. By the end of the war, more than ninety percent of the players on prewar Major League rosters served in the armed forces, and Bullock relates the wartime experiences of the players, such as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Also provided is the statistical analysis of the negative impact of the war on the careers of Major League players in terms of their reduced productivity and shortened careers.

Proving itself to be much more than a game, baseball offered comfort and pride to a military, and a nation, gripped by war.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page

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Copyright page

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Table of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiii

On October 6, 1941, the New York Yankees concluded the Major League Baseball season by defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 3-1 in the final game of that year's World Series. It was a Fall Classic short on offense—both teams combined for only twenty-eight runs in five games—but certainly not short on drama. ...

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1. Vitalizing Spirit: Baseball in Morale Building and Military Training

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pp. 1-27

America's involvement in World War II and the mobilization that it necessitated provided the impetus for an unprecedented explosion in military baseball. In 1939, before many Americans recognized the gravity of the escalating global conflict, the United States Army employed only...

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2. Your Duty, Our Duty: Raising Funds for the War and Baseball Equipment

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pp. 28-49

Aside from supplementing conventional military training and boosting servicemen's morale, baseball served another purpose for American military leaders: as a means to raise funds for both the war effort and to offset the sizable expenses of military athletic programs. ...

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3. The Game's the Thing: Organizing Military Baseball

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pp. 50-75

Organizing baseball teams and leagues for servicemen became a defining characteristic of military athletics both at home and abroad during World War II. Because many American leaders viewed baseball as an important supplement to the war effort, in almost every location that...

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4. Finest Team Assembled: Exceptional Military Teams [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 76-96

In addition to organizing participatory baseball programs to include as many soldiers and sailors around the world as possible, all of the armed forces attempted to assemble elite squads for reasons of morale, pride, and interbranch rivalry. Many commanding officers of military installations...

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5. Qualified to Serve: Major League Stars': Military Experiences during World War II

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pp. 97-125

By the conclusion of World War II, millions of Americans had served the Allied cause of halting fascism on the battlefields, in the skies, and on the seas. Among these multitudes of gallant servicemen were carpenters, mechanics, farmers, and engineers—as well as the vast majority...

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6. What Might Have Been: The Impact of World War II on the Careers of Major Leaguers

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pp. 126-141

In December 1941, the outbreak of World War II wrought drastic changes in nearly all sectors of American society as the nation mobilized toward global conflict. This was particularly true in the realm of Major League Baseball, where over 90 percent of all players active in 1941 eventually served. ...

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pp. 143-144

By the end of World War II, the United States had endured nearly four years of continual sacrifice and hardship to soundly defeat the Axis Powers. During those years, millions of Americans answered the call, fighting in every corner of the globe to preserve the institutions of the nation. ...


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pp. 145-171

Name Index

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pp. 173-176

Subject Index

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pp. 177-183

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204058
E-ISBN-10: 0803204051

Publication Year: 2004