When & Where: Weintraub did a slide presentation for his new book, The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball's Golden Age at the Decatur Public Library on April 15, 2013, which was also Jackie Robinson Day and sadly, the day of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Attendence: ~ 75 people which included the final appearance of Director of the Georgia Center for the Book's Bill Starr who is stepping down as director.
Why I Went. I am currently finishing up Weintraub's book about the history of the game, which focuses specifically on the 1946 season. It was the year, many future Hall of Fame stars (Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial ) returned to the game after service in the Armed Forces. It was also the year that Jackie Robinson played for the Montreal Royals in the Triple A International League on the brink of breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947. The season ends with a thrilling seven game World Series between the Musial's St. Louis Cardinals and Williams' Boston Red Sox. (Even though I was to find out neither Musial or Williams had a particularly good Series at the plate.)
By checking the baseball link on the side of this blog, you will know that I read a lot of baseball books especially historical ones (Stengel, The Bill James Historical Abstract, essays by Wilfred Sheed) and I will admit is that there is a lot I didn't know, which speaks well of Weintraub's thorough research. (He even interviewed Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson). For example, I had no idea that after the defeat of Germany, the Nuremburg Hitler Youth Stadium was converted to the 50,000 seat Soldier's Field where a kind of Armed Forces World Series was held in September, 1945. In a five game series, the Overseas Invasion Service Expedition (OISE) Allstars led by Negro Leaguers Leon Day and Home Run Brown (yes, the team was integrated) defeated the all-white 71st Division Red Circlers, representing General George Patton's Third Army, in a five game series.
Q & A. Weintraub's slide presentation lasted about 40 minutes and he covered a lot of territory, except in the book you get the complete back story of equally important figures like New York Yankees owner Larry MacPhail, Dodgers manager Leo Durocher and the millionaire Mexican magnate Jorge Pasquel who competed for American stars with his upstart Mexican League. During the Q & A, I asked Weintraub about Braves Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. Weintraub mentioned in his presentation and wrote his book that only two active major leaguers died in action during World War II – Elmer Gedeon and Harry O'Neill. A kind of amazing number, but many of the players were not at the front. One exception was Warren Spahn who was in an engineering battalion in Germany and barely avoided being killed during the bridge collapse at Remagen. Spahn attributes his war experiences to his success as the winning-est left-hander of all time. Spahn said, “After what I went through overseas, I never thought of anything I was told to do in baseball as hard work. You get over feeling like that when you spend days on end sleeping in frozen tire tracks in enemy threatened territory.”