On December 7th of 1941, the Japanese Navy carried out a devastating attack on the U.S.’s naval base at Pearl Harbor, and ultimately sealed the Americans’ participation in World War II. Just a month later, Kenesaw Landis — then-Commissioner of Baseball in the U.S. — asked President Roosevelt whether the upcoming baseball season should be called off in light of current events.
Roosevelt replied with the letter seen below. Needless to say, baseball continued.
The White House
January 15, 1942.
My dear Judge:-
Thank you for yours of January fourteenth. As you will, of course, realize the final decision about the baseball season must rest with you and the Baseball Club owners — so what I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.
I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.
And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.
Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.
As to the players themselves I know you agree with me that individual players who are of active military or naval age should go, without question, into the services. Even if the actual quality of the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport. Of course, if any individual has some particular aptitude in a trade or profession, he ought to serve the Government. That, however, is a matter which I know you can handle with complete justice.
Here is another way of looking at it — if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens — and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.
With every best wish,
Very sincerely yours,
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Hon. Kenesaw M. Landis,
333 North Michigan Avenue,