Charity Major League Baseball Games in New York During the Great Depression

While reading through a book on life during the Depression, and the numerous cases of cities setting up funds to aid the unemployed and destitute, it occurred to me that MLB teams probably put on charity baseball games to contribute toward such funds. I started looking, and discovered that it did happen. The New York Times archives turned up four games between MLB teams in New York and Boston in 1931 and 1932. I’m sure there were other charity games during the Depression, but here’s the Times’ coverage of the three games I found involving the New York City teams (you can read about the Boston game in another post).

The Times reported that on September 9, 1931, the Giants and Yankees

met in a charity game for the benefit of the Mayor’s unemployment fund at the Yankee Stadium. . . .

The first meeting of the two New York teams since the 1923 world’s series, linked as it was with the cause of unemployment relief, had an appeal that led 60,549 fans through the Stadium gates in a tidal wave that inundated the stands and bleachers. . .

The curtain in front of the centre-field bleachers was raised for the first time since exactly three years before, Sept. 9, 1928, when the greatest baseball crowd in history saw a Sunday doubleheader between the Yankees and Athletics with first place at stake.

Yesterday’s receipts totaled $59,642.50 but the sentiment of metropolitan fandom, as voted at the Stadium turnstiles, recorded so definite a demand for intra-city baseball battles that the Mayor’s committee, when it meets tomorrow, is expected to prescribe a post-season resumption of charity baseball . . . and devoting half the receipts of all six games to the unemployment cause. . . .

Chapman won the pre-game foot race finishing first in a field of four. Combs, Healy and Parmelee finished in that order.

The game featured a lead-off homer by Babe Ruth in the eighth inning. Here’s the headline:

Here’s the box score: note that the Giants and Yankees fielded their regular squads, which featured 11 Hall of Famers: 7 of the 9 Yankee players would make the HOF (and yet the A’s easily won the 1931 A.L. pennant). The 11 were Earle Combs, Joe Sewell, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty Gomez, Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Freddie Lindstrom, and Travis Jackson. Joe McCarthy and John McGraw, two more Hall of Famers, presumably managed their squads, and the two-league set of four umpires included Bill Klem, another Hall of Famer:

The “intra-city baseball battles” the Times mentioned apparently occurred not after the 1931 season but on September 24, 1931, in a double-header at the Polo Grounds, with the Dodgers and Giants playing in the first game, followed by the Yankees vs. the Dodgers in the second. Here’s some of how the Times reported the games:

New York’s ranking baseball fan, Mayor James J. Walker, and the fans of the five boroughs filled the Polo Grounds almost to capacity yesterday for the second of the two benefit baseball programs conducted to aid the Mayor’s unemployment relief fund.

The attendance of 44,119 paid at the turnstiles $48,135, all of which goes to the fund. . .

Adding this sum to the proceeds of the Sept. 9 game at the Yankee Stadium, when a crowd of 60,549 saw the game, the total contribution of Greater New York’s baseball fans this year to the cause of unemployment relief reached $107,777.50.

[In the seventh inning of the second game] Lou Gehrig, with one on base, thundered the highest and longest homer of the day, a mighty blast which bounced the ball off the eaves of the upper right-field stands far out toward centre.

Between games a program of five field events kept the fans keyed up for more than half an hour. Lefty O’Doul of Brooklyn won the sprint to first base [3.3 seconds]. Ethan Allen of the Giants beat the field of five in circling the bases [13.8 seconds]. Babe Ruth hit the longest fungo drive [“421 feet and 8 inches, breaking Ed Walsh’s record of twenty years standing”] and Ben Chapman, also of the Yankees, made the longest throw [392 feet 10 inches].

In the 100-yard dash no Giant or Robin toed the mark with Chapman, so the Alabama Arrow did an exhibition century, the Olympic timing team announcing 10 3-5 seconds, believed to be the record for a grass track.

The Times’ headline:

The box score for the first game:

And for the second game:

Published in: on July 9, 2011 at 4:03 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] in the early 1930’s during the Great Depression to alleviate poverty.  These charity events were actual baseball games, played in-season, September of 1931, to help fill the coffers of what used to be known as the […]

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