The months leading up to the 1945 World Series were rife with historical ramifications. World War II had raged for the prior six years. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States was forced to join the Allied Forces. Four years later, two atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on September 2, aboard the USS Missouri, the Japanese surrender was received, officially ending the confrontation and setting the stage for the Cold War and Korean War which would follow in its wake.
America’s greatest pastime was greatly affected by players who were drafted or enlisted voluntarily. The formation of the All-American Girls Softball League by Chicago Cubs owner, Phillip K. Wrigley in 1943, helped to maintain the love of the game but American citizens longed for the talented players who had been called to serve their nation in a greater manner. Later, the name of the league was changed to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in an attempt to better emulate the male dominated MLB. Although the basepaths and baserunning rules were the same as they are in baseball, the women still used softballs and pitched underhanded. They also had to join league etiquette clubs and beauty salons so they would look appealing on the diamonds. What a different world it was.
President Franklin Roosevelt knew that baseball was a lifeline for people to grasp while news of the war was announced from their radios. Thank God he realized the importance of baseball’s unifying effects in the face of tragedy and the loss of human life.
The Cubs had defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the National League Pennant with the help of Henry Borowy, a former New York Yankees pitcher who found new life in a Chicago uniform. The current Cubs manager, Charlie Grimm, would start the well-deserving hurler in Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers, who were seeking their second World Series title. He pitched them to a 9-0 romp. In Game 2, the Tigers luckily had two players, recently returned from service; pitcher Virgil Trucks and slugger Hank Greenberg, who smashed a three-run blast in the fifth inning. The Tigers took that game, 4-1. Greenberg would eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956. Historians claim Grimm’s decision to use “newbie” Borowy three more times in games 5, 6 and 7 cost the Cubs the series. After pitching the final four innings of Game 6, his fatigued arm yielded three singles to the first three Tiger batters in Game 7. Even though Grimm finally pulled him, it proved to be too little too late. Detroit captured the Series title by a dominant score of 9-3, riding the arm of their well-rested pitcher, Hal Newhouser.
It was during Game 4 that the Billy Goat Curse came to pass. I’m not going to reiterate that tomfoolery again. Cubs’ fans have, for the most part, dismissed its significance as the team has been building for a return trip to the Fall Classic, albeit at a painstakingly slow pace.
Let’s fast-forward to 2016 and where the Cubs currently stand as we celebrate Memorial Day with friends and families. The Cubs sit atop the National League Central, with a somewhat comfortable lead of 6.5 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fans don’t have to be concerned about the absence of their star players in the service of our armed forces. However, we must not forget the millions of servicemen and women who have, by their dedication and sacrifice, allowed us the privilege to continue to enjoy the sport, knowing that we can do so in relative freedom and safety. There will be many tributes across the nation to commemorate the significance of the holiday. Our nation has come a long way since 1945 but the value of baseball has remained at a peak.
Under the invigorating new management of Joe Maddon and the genius acquisitions of Theo Epstein and the front office, the team is poised to perhaps wind up meeting their former opponent, the Detroit Tigers, once again, in the Fall Classic. The Tigers are only three games behind the Kansas City Royals, and will join other American League teams in an attempt to topple the crown from last year’s World Series champions. Will it be Jake Arrieta matched against Jordan Zimmermann in Game 7? To be playing the same team we lost to 71 years ago and then taking the Series back over a formidable opponent would be absolutely epic! It could very well happen!
On this Memorial Day, let’s take the time to remember those who have served, sacrificed and upheld the values of honor and integrity that this great nation stands for. Fly your flags, thank a veteran and support the greatest reincarnation of a baseball team the world has ever seen. God Bless America and God Bless baseball. Go Cubs!