Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Baseball Goes to War, 1941-1945
David Mulligan
US History
Time Frame:
2 and half hours total
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Overview of the war’s impact on both minor league & major league baseball.
  • Overview to include sacrifice of ball players in the service; the Negro League & Women’s League
  • This will include “Inning Six” of Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary ( 1940’s )
  • Groups of 3-4 students will receive a copy of FDR’s “Green Light” letter to Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis supporting the 1942 baseball season going forward, despite the advent of America’s entrance into the conflict. The students will read / discuss the letter, then answer the following:  Why did Mr. Landis write to President Roosevelt? What was FDR’s response & why did he give it?

  • To allow students an opportunity to go back to America’s WW2 Home Front to examine various morale boosters in general ( radio, movies, etc. ), but particularly Major League Baseball. Also, to view first-hand the game of baseball at that time through watching Burns’ Baseball, & by looking at old pictures /photos from the time period.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • Massachusetts US 2, # 17: Explain the importance of domestic events that took place during the war.
  • Massachusetts Concepts & Skills, # 8: Interpret event with in own time period/context , not within present day norms & values.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Baseball, “Inning Six” by Ken Burns.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Students will receive an overview of the WW2 era on our “Home Front”. How Americans entertained themselves, particularly in regard to minor & major league baseball.
  • Students will learn about the importance of baseball in American society, its impact on culture, language, media, in short, overall.
  • Students will study pictures of players, ball parks & spectators from that era.
  • Watch ‘Inning Six” of Ken Burns’ Baseball ( 1940’s ).
  • Students will read & discuss FDR’s “Green Light “letter to Baseball Commissioner Landis, giving the sport the “green light” to play the 1942 season despite WW2.
  • Students will then answer questions about the document as to why Landis asked the President this question, & why FDR responded as he did.

After examining photos of the era, students can discuss & relate how the game has changed ( uniforms & equipment, dress/ clothing worn by spectators, the natural surface of the playing field)

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Students will write a one page explanation of the “Green Light” letter, based on the questions asked.

Students will discuss & write down their thoughts/reflections after viewing the pictures & photos