Average People Who Goes To The World Cup Baseball’s Golden Years

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Baseball’s Golden Years

In 1940, baseball was known as America’s favorite game and the National Pastime. There were sixteen Major League teams, all in the Northeast and Midwest, each no more than an overnight train ride away from everyone else. The teams existed for two generations; and each had its own traditions, legends, its own loyal fan base, its own pantheon of heroes,

Admission prices were low and average people could afford to go to the games: bleacher seats for fifty cents, grandstands for a dollar, reserved seats for $1.75, and, as I recall, (never sat in one) box seats, 2.25 dollar. When the war started they put in a ten percent amusement tax, and I think I remember a special box office where uniformed soldiers paid thirty-five cents for seats in the grandstand.

Back then, there were no corporate boxes or luxury suites, and artificial turf had yet to be invented. The games were played on the old-fashioned grass by men in baggy flannel uniforms, and if you got hungry during the game, you had your choice of Harry Stevens hot dogs (called “hot dogs” at the Polo Grounds), peanuts in the shell, Crackerjacks, and small cubes of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. If he was thirsty, it was soda, beer and coffee.

There were three teams in New York, the Giants and Dodgers in the National League, the Yankees in the American League. Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis had teams in both leagues, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had National League teams, Cleveland, Detroit and Washington had teams in the American League.

Most New York kids were Yankee fans. Babe Ruth made the Yankees the most popular team in baseball even before they moved into Yankee Stadium in 1923. (John McGraw of the Giants kicked them out of the Polo Grounds because, with Ruth in their lineup, they drew bigger crowds than the Giants did at the Giants’ own ballpark.)

From 1936 to 1943, the Yankees won the American League pennant seven times and the World Series six times. Ten Yankees from those years were inducted into the Hall of Fame: manager Joe McCarthy, general manager Ed Barrow, and players Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto, and Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio, in his first six years had a .340 batting average, over .600 fielding average and hit over 200 home runs. He was paid $43,750 at the time and left the Yankees for three seasons to enlist in the Army Air Force. After the Yankees, the Dodgers were next in popularity, and last came my New York Giants.

The Giants had the richest early history. My father saw Amos Rusie pitch over 500 innings in three seasons and win over 30 games in four seasons. My father remembered John McGraw as a player manager and Frank Bowerman, the first catcher to wear shin guards, watching Roger Bresnahan, “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity, “Dummy” Taylor and Christy Mathewson. Mathewson, along with Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Hans Wagner and Ty Cobb, were considered the five greatest players in baseball history and became the first five to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936.

The Giants lost the World Series to the Yankees in 1936 and ’37 and then went into a slump that lasted until 1950. It was easy to be a Yankee or Dodger fan in the 1940s, but being a Giant fan required strength of character, or maybe just sheer stubbornness .

Baseball was America’s secular religion at the time, and its cathedrals, each different from the others, were ballparks. When you first shuffled through the turnstile as a boy and had half your ticket ripped off, you knew that your grandfather had taken your father there before you were born, and you felt something bordering on the sacramental that your father was taking you now. .

Traditions have grown up around each of the sixteen teams, around each of their fields, and around the game itself. Each new season was unique, but at the same time, each was a link in the chain of everything that had come before and everything that was yet to come as far as the mind could see. Ball players, club owners, fans, sportsmen and radio broadcasters who covered each game pitch by pitch were all part of this tradition and each felt a personal responsibility to help carry it into the future.

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