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Big league baseball would seem to have been a hard sell in 1942. World War II was not going well for the United States in the Pacific and not much better in Europe. Moreover, the country was in drastically short supply of ships, planes, submarines, torpedoes, and other war materials, and Uncle Sam needed men, millions of them, including those from twenty-one through thirty-five years of age who had been ordered to register for the draft, the age range of most big league baseball players.
But after a “green light” from President Roosevelt, major league baseball played on in 1942 as it would throughout the war. It turned out to be an extraordinary season, too, spiced by a brash, young, and swift St. Louis Cardinal team that stunned the baseball world by winning the World Series. The 1942 season would be overshadowed by war, though, with many people wondering whether it was really all right for four hundred seemingly healthy and athletic men to play a child’s game and earn far more money than the thousands of young Americans whose lives were at risk as they fought the Germans and Japanese abroad.
In Season of ’42, veteran sportswriter Jack Cavanaugh takes a look at this historic baseball season, how it was shaped and affected by the war and what, ultimately, it meant to America.
With his exploration of how the U.S.'s involvement in WWII impacted the 1942 Major League Baseball season, Pulitzer Prize-nominee Cavanaugh (Tunney) executes a winning double play intertwining baseball history with progress reports from the front lines of battle, his newest will please sport fans and military buffs alike. When President Roosevelt notified baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis in January 1942 that "it would be best for the country to keep baseball going," the populace wondered whether it was morally acceptable for healthy young men to play a boys' game while peers risked their lives overseas. Many players, conveniently overlooked by the government's draft early on, knew they were lucky and voiced few complaints about accommodations baseball made to the war effort, which included the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before every game, playing exhibitions against military-base teams, and eliminating night games along the Atlantic Coast. Ultimately, baseball proved a worthy and welcome distraction for both citizens at home and GIs abroad, thanks in part to the St. Louis Cardinals' improbable World Series victory over the New York Yankees. Though Cavanaugh's textbook writing style is a bit stiff for this vibrant American story, the colors, characters, and conflicts of the time nevertheless stand out.