How badly did the WWII manpower drain threaten major league baseball?

Fans of the women who played professional baseball during the 1940s and 50s know that P. K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, developed women’s pro ball in 1943 because he feared the manpower demands of the war in Europe and the South Pacific would shut down major league baseball for the duration. That didn’t happen. President Roosevelt declared that professional baseball was an important morale-booster for the home front and major league baseball continued with everyone’s blessing.

The war, however, did affect the major leagues because of the draft instituted in September 1940 and because many players, both in the major leagues and their farm system, the minor leagues, enlisted voluntarily.

Although Wrigley handed women’s baseball off to Arthur Meyerhoff, an advertising executive, after just two seasons, he kept his eye on how the war was draining baseball talent.

In March 1945, with another 10 months of fighting ahead, United Press International wire service reported on stats compiled by the Chicago Cubs vice-president, James Gallagher.

Since the United States went to war in December 1941, the staggering total of 4,254 major and minor league baseball players have gone into the armed services.

That number includes 525 major league players and 3, 729 minor leaguers who have been in uniform during the past three years, according to figures up to January 1945, compiled by Vice-President James Gallagher of the Chicago Cubs… .

The grand old American game listed 5,298 active players in 1941, but had only 1,753 available at the start of this year which is a cut of approximately 65 per cent due to service duty…

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About Lois Browne

I'm a mystery writer, blogger and traveller.
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