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Most college and professional athletes were in the service. The NFL was nowhere near the big thing it is today, and the major professional sport was Major League Baseball. (The NBA did not start until three years after the war was over). Seasons were not canceled, because it was thought the continuation of "normal" activity to the extent possible would be good for civilian morale. So a lot of guys who were not physically fit to be in the military were playing major league ball, and the quality of play was vastly lower. There was a one-armed pitcher (nowhere near as good as Jim Abbott, who also pitched with one arm about twenty years ago), and the Chicago Cubs put a midget in the lineup, more as a gimmick. He got walked a lot because of his small strike zone.

Some athletes persisted until they got combat assignments in the service. Ted Williams may have been the greatest hitter ever in baseball, but he missed all or part of six seasons flying fighter planes for the Marine Corps (he was called back for Korea). Otherwise he would have broken Babe Ruth's career home run record fifty years ago, even playing his entire career in Boston, as a left hander, where he had to fight the Green Monster in half the games every season.

Boxers Joe Louis and Gene Tunney were in uniform. Their duties were a lot like many athletes. They toured bases, gave exhibitions, helped with morale. The service teams of the war years were fantastic, loaded with great college and pro talent.

There was a guy from my town who graduated in 1942 and was immediately drafted into the Navy. This guy was the star of probably the best high school football team in the southeast. In the fall of 1941 they outscored their opponents 487-7 for the season. His name was "Choo Choo" Charlie Justice, and he was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1948 and 1949, and played pro ball for the Redskins. But in 1942 few outside the area had ever heard of him. He was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Training Camp, which had a football team. He went out for the team. He was a little guy, only about 165 pounds, dwarfed by the college and pro players on the squad. The first day, the trainer would not even give him any football shoes. He went on the field barefoot, got hold of a ball, and punted it seventy yards. The next day, he got shoes. After the war he went to UNC, where his coach was the former coach of that Navy team, and his teammates were grown men, former service players. Every big college across the land was similarly loaded.

The 1942 Rose Bowl was between USC and Duke. It was played less than a month after Pearl Harbor. There was still widespread fear the Japanese might attack the West Coast, so the game was played in Durham, NC, the only time the Rose Bowl has not been played in Pasadena.

The Army football team, the college team from West Point, was National Champions in 1944 and 1945, with the great duo of running backs, Doc Blanchard and Glen Davis. They havent been so hot since, but those were good teams.

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World War 2 affected sport and pro-athletes the same as any man in that day. Some were drafted into the service and many enlisted. Pro-sports games were discontinued during the war time in the Allied nations. Most of the athletes returned to their teams at the end of the war. In that era Baseball was the most popular and well attended sports venture before and after the war. Football was not as popular then as it is today. Baseball and the War made a huge difference for the Blacks in sports. Some team owners began to hire more Black athletes for their white teams.

The lines of demarcation began to fade when the team owners saw what the Blacks could do during the war. Some blacks however, who were on the black teams did not choose to crossover to white teams. Discrimination and racism did not get cured over night because of the war. The few changes made on the all white teams did not cause team owners to hire hundreds of black.

Team salaries were affected by the war indirectly. As the economy improved during the war and after the war and the depression faded away ball players began to make more demands of the team owners and it escalated until today.

Many communities chose to have women play on teams while the war was waged. There is a movie about this. Some of the women who played on the womens' league are still alive and great pictures of their games and teams. This was a spark for all female teams to become semi-pro, in many sports, beyond the college level.

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