After news broke that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden on Sunday night, and Phillies fans started celebrating late in their game vs. the Mets in Philadelphia, I wondered what had been organized baseball’s response to V-E Day on May 8, 1945, and then V-J Day, the end of World War II, on August 15, 1945. (Truman announced the end of the war late on August 14 in the U.S.–Hirohito announced the end on midday on August 15 in Japan–and the games on the 15th were the first following that announcement.) I found these notes from the New York Times of August 16: “The Navy cancelled its baseball game with the Glenn Martin Club because of the V-J- holiday.”
“There was a gay and festive spirit in the air at the Polo Grounds yesterday as New York sat down to enjoy its first major league baseball in four years without the shadows of war hanging overhead. But the Giants, unhappily caught nothing of this except two thrashings at the hands of Frankie Frisch’s Pirates, a pair of reverses.”
The Times added that “a 50-year-old man named Joseph L. Fielding died watching the Giants games, at 3 p.m.” Mel Ott hit his 494th homer in the first game for the Giants, topping Lou Gehrig on the all-time home run list.
An AP story on the 16th said that MLB, meeting in Washington, D.C., held “two long sessions by the game’s post-war planning commission. No formal action was taken, but it was learned that returning war veterans probably will be eligible for the world series or any other post-season baseball play.”
The baseball casualties in World War Two had included A.L. players Eugene Stack, Ardys Keller, Forrest Brewer, Elmer Gideon, and Franklin Schulz.
On the 15th, Red Ruffing, making his fourth start for the Yankees “since returning from military service,” got the loss, his first of the year, in a game in St. Louis, and the Yanks were fifth in the AL. The Associated Press noted that the team was slumping badly:
You can look up all the box scores from August 15 on Retrosheet. The Cubs were easily the best team in the majors, at 70-37, vs 66-45 for the Cardinals: the AL leader was Detroit, at 61-44. Cubs’ manager Charlie Grimm exclaimed: “Peace, it’s wonderful! The war’s over! Boy, oh, boy! Is this great? Peace, it’s wonderful! There are a lot of good ball players in the services, and a lot of them are ready to step back immediately. At the world series I saw Enos Slaughter, Lonnie Frey, Terry Moore and Jimmy Brown. Each of them was as fit as a fiddle. The kids will start coming back and we won’t have to arrive at 3 o’clock in the morning any more. The railroad people will be holding up trains for us again, we can train in Florida and California once more, we’ll have the world series as usual and–oh, well, you get the idea.”
On VE-Day, May 8, there were only two MLB games: the Indians beat the White Sox at Comiskey Park, 7-1, and the Browns beat the Senators in St. Louis, 7-1. I have not seen accounts of what the fans were like at either game. You can look up those two box scores on Retrosheet too. Orval Grove, not Lefty Grove, took the loss in the White Sox game. The 16 MLB teams had played only 13 to 17 games thus far in 1945. See where baseball landed in the radio listings for May 9 in New York City: