Frank Frisch sat
in an old leather armchair in the study of his home in Bradford, R.I., nursing
his arthritis. Outside, the ground was covered by the untidy snows of late
imagine trying to get a ball club in shape in this kind of weather?" Frisch
said. "This is what spring training was like during the war. Muncie,
! Oh, brother!"
Frank managed the
Pittsburgh Pirates (a trial under any circumstances in those days) during World
War II. "Spring training was the worst time," he said. "The
uncertainty—the rumors that the owners would shut down. If we started the
season, how far could we go? Were there going to be enough
In Europe, Africa
and Asia, American fighting men carried on the most desperate war in our
history. Here at home baseball men were engaged in a rather absurd but frantic
little struggle to satisfy a vague directive of the President of the United
States. And men like Frank Frisch, Ford Frick—and, yes, Sig Jakucki—kept a game
As baseball's 16
major league teams prepared for spring training in 1944, they clung to
existence by no very certain tenure. The game's relations with Washington, like
Red China's today, were uneasy and unofficial. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain
Landis, carrying his grudges to the grave, detested Franklin Delano Roosevelt
and would have nothing to do with him. Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington
Senators, and Ford Frick, president of the National League, kept open a
clandestine pipeline to the seats of power.
cast many fearful glances toward Washington in those days, half expecting the
sort of "Work or Fight" order that had come from the War Department
during World War I to curtail the 1918 season. Hoping to dispel the
uncertainty, Griffith and Frick extracted from Roosevelt early in 1942 the
letter that gave baseball a "green light." Its existence during time of
war was justified, Roosevelt wrote, by its healthy effect on civilian
abounded. When, early in 1944, Paul V. McNutt of the War Manpower Commission
expressed some doubt about baseball's place in the war effort, a reporter
rushed to Ed Barrow, the president of the New York Yankees.
"Did you hear
that McNutt said baseball isn't essential?" the reporter asked Barrow.
it was?" Barrow asked in reply.
days recently, Ford Frick said, "Our problem was the same as that faced by
any other nonessential business. We tried to keep our nose clean. We never made
a plea to have exceptions made in our case. I paid several visits to General
Hershey, Director of the Selective Service System, and he assured me that
ballplayers would be treated like anybody else. 'But don't ask for any favors,'