Baseball and the struggle to keep the game going at home during the war; the pivotal role played by President Roosevelt; and the divergent career paths of Detroit Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg and St. Louis Browns outfielder Pete Gray. Greenberg was the top slugger in the game when he joined the Army in 1941 and did not return to the majors until mid-1945. He represented the star player gone to war – players such as Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn and other legends who sacrificed large parts of their careers for the war effort. Many other lesser-known but courageous ballplayers saw combat on land, sea and air – in fighting against the Germans and the Japanese.
Taking their place were replacement players who didn't belong in the majors in the first place, but whose resolve to see the game go on helped push the country to victory. Pete Gray was the most extreme replacement player of them all – a one-armed outfielder who played the 1945 season with the Browns. He overcame the odds to fulfill his dream and in doing so became a shining example of baseball on the home front.
Together, everyone pulled together for victory, and Greenberg and Gray played each other in the last pennant race of World War II, because as FDR said before he died…The Game Must Go On.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, it appeared as though baseball might be doomed, as established players and up-and-comers alike enlisted with the armed services. Klima's chronicle of the survival of the great American pastime during WWII zips along and offers great depictions of the players who made baseball history. He enthusiastically brings to life Hank Greenberg, the Detroit Tigers slugger who was the first Major League player to enter the Army; Pete Gray, the astonishing one-armed center fielder who played one season in the majors for the St. Louis Browns; and Billy Southworth Jr., whose father managed the St. Louis Cardinals, and who later died flying a B-17 during the war. He hits all the big names along the way as well: Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, and Satchel Paige. Klima (Bushville Wins!) clearly illustrates that much of baseball as we know it today the amateur draft, free agency, and the integration of African-American and Latino players, among other elements took shape between 1941 and 1945.