Break out the peanuts and Cracker Jack—it’s time for the World Series! While Fold3 might not be the first place you’d think to find interesting bits of baseball history, in reality it has many quality photos and anecdotes about America’s favorite pastime, especially in the World War II collection.
The World War II collection may strike you as an unusual resource for finding stories and photos about baseball, but in the 1940s, baseball was America’s most popular sport, and the hardships of World War II didn’t change that enthusiasm very much, especially among the nation’s servicemen.
If anything, America’s fighting men—and women—seemed to embrace the sport all the more during the war, as it reminded them of home and gave them a sense of continuity in a new life that was nothing like their civilian one. Baseball also served as a mutual interest for servicemen from widely different backgrounds and situations. In fact, baseball was such a common denominator in the military that answers to questions like “Who won the World Series?” became the basis for various passwords and authenticity tests.
The military saw baseball as an important morale booster for the men in its ranks. It supplied equipment for pickup games and set up many servicemen’s baseball leagues, particularly stateside but also overseas. The European Theater of Operations even had its own World Series.
The quality of some military baseball teams was helped by the addition of thousands of minor- and major-league baseball players who had either enlisted or been drafted. The most famous of them, players like Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial, were largely kept from the frontlines and instead served in more of an entertainment capacity, playing in exhibition games that were attended by tens of thousands of servicemen.
For the men overseas (or on the sea) who couldn’t get to a game or play in one themselves, the military provided delayed broadcasts of the World Series and other major league games, as well as scores and statistics, to help the men maintain their connection to the game they loved. (Although, at least one sailor didn’t let the lack of a field stop him from setting up a game of softball on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.)
In addition to the World War II collection, you can also find particularly good baseball photos on Fold3 in the Boston Public Library’s McGreevey Collection. This collection has dozens of images of players and games from the early 20th century, including various World Series.