Yank Weekly: Sports During the War? - 1945-04-27

Sports During the War means absolutely nothing in combat. Only actual combat training matters. He quotes a high-ranking general as saying, “Athletes don’t make better soldiers or pilots than wall- paperers or anyone else.”


Back in the days when you used to hear something on the radio besides The Voice, The Build and other assorted characters, the "Town Hall Meeting of the Air” was known as a sedate, scholarly progcam. One week recently, this sedate, scholarly program sounded like a rifle squad mopping up the wine cellar of a German castle.. Ex-Col. Larry MacPhail, new boss of the Yankees, spluttered and fumed at Stanley Frank, former New York Post sports columnist turned war correspondent. Ted Husing came close to throwing John Tunis through the glass partition of the engineer's control" booth. A couple of times the program was nearly cut off the air because the gentlemen were using naughty words.

The subject: “Should organized sports be abolished for the duration?”

Now this subject is an ancient one which has been argued back and forth a million times'since Pearl Harbor. The only thing that made it different was what Stanley Frank had to say. Brother Frank’s pronouncements almost turned the thing into a national controversy.

Frank makes two principal points. He says:

a) The sports world is acting in a rather disgusting manner by yelling loudly for its own self-perpetuation and continuation of its huge profits, on the platform that it is all for the morale of “the boys” overseas, who demand it. Frank says that most GIs overseas aren’t anywhere near as interested in home sports as the athletic people say they are and, in fact, the actual combat troops are interested in nothing beyond the preservation of their own lives.

b) Events have proved that, despite all the claims made for it, previous athletic training
Ted Husing answered this latter argument on the radio program by pronouncing, “Just as the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, so were the present battles of Europe and the Pacific won on the college gridirons of America.”

Stanley Frank and his colleague Tunis, another sportswriter, thereupon jumped on Husing with all four feet. “Army figures show that only 3.6 percent of its personnel ever completed college. Your statement is a terrible snub to 96.4 percent of the men who are fighting the war. The educational level of the Army is second year of high school, which means that most men never had any organ-ized athletics at all.”

Later Husing came up with another example—Tom Harmon surviving the jungle after the crash of his B-24. “Tom Harmon’s life was saved in the jungle by his football training,” Husing said. “A jungle problem is just like a football problem.”

“If the truth were known,” said Tunis, “I’ll bet Tommy Harmon survived because he used to be a Boy Scout.”

“Harmon,” admitted Husing’s partner MacPhail, “was an Eagle Scout.”

But the major part of Frank’s argument was devoted to the attitude of the troops overseas. He spent seven months with them as a war correspondent in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, and he says the only time he ever heard GIs discussing sports and athletes was when they pointed to their own punctured eardrums and flat feet and asked, “How come?”
Asked why the War Department gives GIs touring baseball shows and so much sports news, Frank said: “The guys overseas and in the hospitals are so bored and fed up that they’ll listen to anything. They’ll listen to the Cherry Sisters singing grand opera, and they’ll even listen to Ted Husing. But they resent the claims that sports make in their name. The good will of sports is being endangered by the silly claims made for them.” Frank concluded with oratory.

“You are asked to believe,” he said, “that the men overseas are fighting for the privilege of calling the umpire a blind bum. This is precisely the sort of romantic, unrealistic thinking that infuriates the soldier and convinces him that civilians have no concept of the enormous sacrifices he is making. The soldier is not fighting to see a ball game, to taste Mom’s cooking or to hear the latest juke-box recording. He is fighting for his life. He is fighting to win the war and end the misery and the monotony and the loneliness he is suffering. Anyone who tells you differently speaks with no authority or knowledge.” Later Frank said privately, “The rasping sound you just heard was produced as I slit my own throat as a sportswriter.”
t. Bill Dickey, who recently returned to the i States after a tour of the Pacific bases, named Ted Williams of the Red Sox, now a Navy aviation instructor, as the greatest hitter he ever saw. “In saying that,” he said. “I know how good Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio were. Williams was something out of this world. If we hadn’t run into this war I believe he would have finished as the leading hitter of all time.”. . .

John P. Carmichael, sports editor of the Chicago Daily News, reports that as soon as It. Gen. George Patton finishes his job on Hitler there’s a little financial matter for him to straighten out in Chicago; a matter of 32 cents he owes Publicitor Joe Farrell of the Blackhawks hockey team. “It seems,” writes Carmichael, “that some years ago Patton, who was a great friend of Maj. McLaughlin, late owner of the Hawks, was visiting at the McLaughlin home and decided to see one of the games. Pub- licitor Farrell left two tickets, on which he • personally paid the> tax of 32 cents, at the Madison Street reservation window of the Stadium. They were never, picked up. “I don’t know what happened,” says Farrell, “but I’m out 32 cents. I haven’t bothered Gen. Patton about it because he’s been pretty busy, but the minute he sets foot in this country again, he’P hear from me.”

Killed in Action: Lt. Jack Chevigny, former Notre Dame and U of Texas coach, at Iwo Jima. . . . Wounded: Lt. Bert Stiff, USMC, former U of Pennsylvania fullback, at Iwo Jima. .. . Missing in Action: Lt. Francis (Frank) Cusick, ex-Notre Dame end, over Germany. . . . Inducted: Stanley Spence, Washington outfielder, into the Navy at Bainbridge, Md.; Michael Francis (Pinky) Higgins, Detroit third baseman, into the Navy at Great Lakes, 111.

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