The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants Play a Military Fund-Raising Game in 1942

The National League half of the 1942 mission to raise funds for Army Emergency Relief and the Navy Relief Society wound up on August 3, 1942, with a Dodgers-Giants game at the Polo Grounds. The game raised about $80,000, making the N.L. contribution something over $250,000. You might wonder if the story of baseball fund-raising for the military in WWII was simple, selfless charity. As an antidote to that saccharinity, here’s the start of the Times’ game account:

On a note of discord and keen disappointment the Army Emergency Relief game between the Giants and Dodgers at the Polo Grounds last night ended with Brooklyn triumphant by 7 to 4. The contest fell short of nine full innings because of wartime military regulations.

Umpire in Chief George Magerkurth signaled an end to the battle in the midst of a Giant rally in the last half of the ninth inning, and from the greatest crowd that ever saw a single game in the Harlem area (57,305) there came a storm of boos and jeers that drowned out the opening bars of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in a darkened park.

The game went into the records as an eight-inning affair, inasmuch as the Giants, the home team, had not completed their ninth turn at bat. Buried by two home runs. . . the Giants were just launching their fourth and last desperate stand as Bill Werber opened the ninth with a single and Whit Wyatt walked Manager Mel Ott, when the game ended.

The players and fans could not grasp the situation for a moment. When they did, a storm of disapproval echoed from the hollow of Coogan’s Bluff. Not until a spotlight flashed on Old Glory, flying in the breeze atop the office quarters that overlook centerfield, did the outburst subside.

Later it was revived in waves as different sections of the gathering kept up the discord, even while the anthem was being played and sung.

The struggle, however, projected the end of night or twilight baseball at the Polo Grounds. . . There will be no twilight or night ball there for the duration of the war.

There are a couple more notes to add: this was the first regular season game in the history of the Polo Grounds where the fans were allowed to stand in the outfield. Any ball hit into the crowd in the outfield would have been a double. A lot of Army and Navy personnel were on hand. And, the Times said “Owen was up to his world series tricks in the fifth when he dropped the third strike on Young and Ott, who had singled, reached third while Young pulled up safely on the error.” This was a less-than-gentle reference to Dodger catcher Mickey Owen’s passed ball in the 1941 World Series.

By the way, the next day, August 4, 1942, the Dodgers and Giants tried it again at the Polo Grounds, and again the game was halted in the twilight. The Times said “the dimout regulations brought to a halt the game, nullifying a 4-run Brooklyn outburst in the top half of the tenth. So the Dodgers had to be content with a 1-1 nine inning tie. . . Pee-wee Reese hit an inside-the-park home run with the bases filled and none out. The blow routed Fiddler Bill McGee, but it will never appear in the records.”

So fans saw one of the exceptionally rare baseball events, the inside-the-park grand slam, but if you look up the game’s box score today, there’s no sign it ever happened. The Times also added that the game “was the first major league tie under the lights.” Which, if you can somehow convince someone at the bar to ask you “When did the first tie night game in MLB happen?” should get you a free drink.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 3:40 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Strange, but cool, info. Why didn’t they just start the games earlier so they could actually finish them?

  2. Great stuff, those must have been some awesome days in NY with the Dodgers, Giants and also the Yankees. Excellent writing by the way.

  3. Is this the game which Claire L. Chennault received signed balls by both teams?

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