Flashback Friday: 1942 Home Opener

President Franklin Roosevelt's Green Light Letter to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Commissioner of Major League Baseball. (Baseball-Almanac.com)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | December 7, 2012 5:36 AM ET

Today is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese Empire

Today is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese Empire's attack on Pearl Harbor.  The attack took place about three months after the end of the second season of the Appleton Papermakers.

Flashback Friday takes a look back at the 1942 Wisconsin State League home opener for the Papermakers at Spencer Street Field and the first game in wartime for the Papermakers.  Very little mention is made of the war in the sports pages.  Save for a bit about the pregame ceremony that included an appearance by a certain historical figure with ties to Appleton.

Eddie Dancisak's crew was scheduled to have Opening Day at home on May 14, but that game and a home game on May 15 were rained out.  They went on the road for three games before returning to Appleton for a game on May 19 against the La Crosse Blackhawks.

This week, we have the game story and Following Through, a column by Post-Crescent sports writer Dick Davis.  Both articles appeared on the May 20, 1942.

Papers Begin Home Season With Victory
Bonness Winning Hurler in 12-8 Triumph; Meet Hawks Again Tonight

 The Appleton Papermakers got off on the right foot in their home Wisconsin State League debut at Spencer street field last night by trimming the La Crosse Blackhawks, 12 to 8.   Manager Eddie Dancisak's 1942 Class D edition took a big lead early in the game to make it rather uninteresting but still nearly 600 enthusiastic fans stuck it out for 2-3/4 hours in weather more suited to football and got their money's worth by seeing everything in the books.  And a few things that aren't.

The Papermakers drummed out 15 hits off two La Crosse pitchers with every Appleton player getting at least one safety.  Bob Munshower, centerfielder and leadoff man, set the pace with three for five, including a double.  Freddy Turner, shortstop; big Bill Bonnes, winning pitcher; Pete Mish, outfielder, and Russ Adams, first baseman, also smacked doubles.

Bonness was as erratic as he was effective.  The 6-foot 4-inch southpaw gave up five hits, struck out seven, and walked seven before getting into trouble after one out in the sixth and leaving the mound.  Bonness had plenty of steam and a good assortment of slants but gave catcher Jim Squier quite a workout.  Squier looked like a grasshopper as he went after wild ones.  Edwin Opelach turned in an admirable relief job.

Error Is Costly

Howard started on the mound for the invaders and was blasted for 10 safeties in four innings.  He walked one and struck out four.  Vaglin went the rest of the way, giving seven walks and fanning one.  La Crosse presented a team of young but good-sized boys.  Only one error was charged against the Hawks but it was costly.  LaValley muffed a fly which would have meant the third out in the second inning.  Appleton then going on to score five unearned runs.

The Papers were a little shaky at the outset with Adams letting the first hit ball go scooting between his legs and Squier overthrowing second in the first frame.  But after that they settled down to play heads up ball, completing three double plays en route.  In four games played, the Papers have executed seven twin killings.  "Romeo" O'Karski made a hit with the crowd when he stole home in the second.

The only thing the fans didn't see last night was a triple play.  And La Crosse nearly got one of those.  It doesn't show in the box score but Pete Mish hit a triple.  He arrived at third in plenty of time but rolled off the base and was tagged.

Mish chocked off a LaCrosse tally in the first inning with a beautiful throw to the plate after catching a high fly.  But the Blackhawks rang up a run with Ellison scoring as Squier tried to catch Brang at second.

Papers Take Lead

Appleton took a lead which it never relinquished in the last half of the first.  Munshower hit to short, Ken Manarik fanned and Munshower scored on Turner's sharp double to center.  Turner went to third on a passed ball.  O'Karski struck out and Turner scored on Squier's hit through the pitcher's box.

Squier made amends in the second inning by catching Wolden stealing second.  Appleton made it 7 to 1 when Adams was safe at first on a slow grounder and went to second on a dribble along the first base line by Bonness.  Adams came home as Munshower's fly was bobbled.  Munshower gained third on a wild pitch and scored on Manarik's solid single to center.  Munshower plated as Turner shot a hard single to left.  O'Karski drew a walk and then Red Squier hit the first pitch to drive in two runs.  It was here that O'Karski snuck in with a marker, much to the disgust of the La Crosse battery.

Appleton added another marker in the third when Santo Filippo sent a nice blooper into center field.  Filippo went to third as Adams grounded out.  He scored as Bonness doubled down the first base line.  The Papermakers went ahead, 9 to 1, in the fourth when O'Karski was safe at first on a roller, stole second, took third on Squier's grounder and plated on a muffed pitch.

 Hits Home Run

Kowaleski, La Crosse outfielder, enlivened proceedings by smashing a home run directly over the center field fence in the fifth.  The Blackhawks got two more runs in the sixth but these were nullified as the Papers countered with two in the same frame.  Munshower got a double when four men went after his high fly and took a vote as to who was going to catch it, the ball meanwhile dropping with a thud.  Manarik walked and Turner layed down a bunt.  Munshower was ruled out on a close play, giving manager Dancisak his first chance to do a bit of jawing with the umpire.  Squier walked to load the bases and Manarik came in on a wild pitch.  Mish and Filippo walked to force in Turner.  Adams was called out with the third strike being of a questionable nature.

Things went awry for Bonness in the seventh.  He walked the first man, hit the opposing pitcher Vaglin and Erickson was given a hit when two Appleton players couldn't get together on a fly.  Thus loading the bases.  Bonness walked the next two men, forcing in two runs, and then motioned "take me out, coach."  Opelach issued a walk to force in the third run in that fashion and the fourth tally for that inning was registered as Camp grounded out, making the score 11 to 8.  Appleton added another for good measure in the eighth when O'Karski walked and plated on a long pole into wide right field by Mish.  

Dick Davis

It looked like they were going to burn the lights out the first night.  I expected to see the sun rise most any minute as the opening Wisconsin State league game between Appleton and La Crosse at Spencer street field last night dragged along at an average rate of 3 innings per hour.  It was a long, drawn-out affair.  But we won.  And I guess that's what counts.  Next time, though, if it's anything like last night, I'm going to bring my cribbage board.  And a couple of blankets.  'Course, there were 21 hits and 17 time consuming walks in all last night with Appleton getting 15 of the safeties.  Either the Papermakers are terrific at the plate or else the Blackhawk pitching was weak.  It probably was a little of both.

There is general criticism of the Wisconsin State league that games run too darn long.  Last night's 2-3/4 hour affair was an A-No. 1 example.  They're going to have to something about this.  And do it pronto lest they scare off the fans at the outset.  Many's the person I've heard say would go out to the games if he could get home at a reasonable hour.  The players can sleep late the next morning.  But the spectators can't.  Beginning the games at 7 o'clock the balance of this week will get the people home earlier bus still anything over 2 hours is a long ball game and I think the clubs should make every effort to keep within that limit.

I can hear the managers saying, "Don't pay any attention to that stuff, fellas.  Take your time.  You got all night."  Sure, take your time, WHENEVER NECESSARY.  Don't mess things up by hurrying.  But the pitchers don't have to practice every time the teams change sides.  And they don't have to make goo-goo eyes at men on base.  And the boys can snap it up when taking their positions.  And there's no use protesting ball and strike decisions.  And they might's well wave a man to first instead of going through the motions of an intentional pass.  And there are a lot of other ways to save seconds which would shorten the game considerably and make it more enjoyable for the fans.  They like to see good baseball and good baseball means fast baseball.  As official scorer H.J. Weller would say, "They can take a lesson from the Outagamie County League."  P.S. Weller is county league prexy.

All things considered, the Appleton Baseball club was more than pleased at the turnout of about 600 fans last night.  William J. Van Dyck, president, said "What with the threatening, cold weather, we were lucky to have that many."  If the temperature gets over the 45-degree mark, a much larger crowd is expected to be on hand tonight.

The Appleton Junior Chamber of Commerce put on a right nice opening ceremony.  The principal speaker, Judge Joseph R. McCarthy, appropriately read from President Roosevelt's letter to Judge Kenesaw M. Landis, ruler of baseball, which urged the continuance of baseball in wartime.  Van Dyck greeted the fans and Wilmer Kruger, chairman of the program, presented Manager Eddie Dancisal with a blanket emblazoned with a large A and three service stars, representing his years of tenure here.

Lee Rosholt, president of the Jacees, pinch-pitched the first ball in the absence of Mayor Goodland, who was presiding at a council meeting.  It was a perfect strike.  Well, it was a strike, anyway.  The Appleton home guard staged a drill and posted the colors.  The Sons of the American Legion Bugle and Drum corps also was on hand.  Messages from Pat Seerey, Gus Gregory and Jim McDonnell, members of last year's team now with Cedar Rapids, and Lieutenant Gordon R. McIntyre, official scorer last year and former sports editor of the Post-Crescent, were read.  Roy McNeil was master of ceremonies.

Getting to bat first proved profitable for Bob Munshower, outfielder.  He bagged the lion's share of prizes for first this and first that.  Des Schade assisted Mark Almli with umpiring chores and did a good job in his first appearance as a State league arbiter.  Home town talent is being used throughout the circuit because the league has been able to engage six regular umps.  The scoreboard acted up a bit so please bear with operator Al Stoegbauer.

Last night's 12 to 8 win over La Crosse gives Appleton undisputed possession of second place.  The two teams will meet again at 7 o'clock this evening at Spencer street field with Rudy Okleson scheduled to take the mound for the Papermakers for the first time.  Games with Oshkosh Friday and Saturday nights will also start at 7 o'clock.  The team worked out at the field this forenoon.  Monday nights will be Ladies night, it was announced today.

The alternating paragraphs of bolded and unbolded text in Following Through is how the original column was formatted. I left almost everything else the same - Even that odd use of the phrase "Turner layed down a bunt" when it should be "Turner laid down a bunt".   Also, the capitalization of Spencer street field and Wisconsin State league is apparently in the 1942 Style Guide.

The one thing I did change was the spelling for La Crosse that was used in the paper at the time.  It was written as LaCrosse.  It almost broke my spell check.

They complained about a game that took 2-hours and 45-minutes?  They wrote about bringing a cribbage board to the next game?  They used "We won" when writing about a team they were covering?  1942, everybody!

Bill Bonness was 18 years old as the starting pitcher for the Papermakers in their home opener.  He went 2-4 in ten games with Appleton.  He also pitched for the Logan Indians of the Mountain State League and the Charleston Senators of the Middle Atlantic League in 1942.  He would serve in World War II and make a brief appearance in the major leagues in 1944 with the Cleveland Indians.

Here is the Baseball Reference page for the
1942 Appleton Papermakers.

Flashback Friday will revisit the 1942 Papermakers in January with their playoff series against the Green Bay Bluejays.

Yes.  The Judge McCarthy from the ceremony before the game is
THAT McCarthy.

The letter that he read is known as the
Green Light Letter.  It reads as follows:

My dear Judge:

Thank you for yours of January fourteenth. As you will, of course, realize the final decision about the baseball season must rest with you and the Baseball club owners - so what I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.

I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.

And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.

Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half, and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.

As to the players themselves, I know you agree with me that the individual players who are active military or naval age should go, without question, into the services. Even if the actual quality to the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport. Of course, if an individual has some particular aptitude in a trade or profession, he ought to serve the Government. That, however, is a matter which I know you can handle with complete justice.

Here is another way of looking at it - if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of the fellow citizens - and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.

With every best wish,

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Subsidy Saga Part II (1987)

Subsidy Saga Part III (1987)

Subsidy Saga Part IV (1987)

Our Rivals in Beloit (1996)

Chicken & a Ballgame (1985)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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