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On This Date in Cardinals History: Jan. 15, 1942

On Jan. 15, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote his famous "Green Light Letter" to Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. 

The United States, which was drug into conflict five weeks earlier by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was gearing up for the war effort by eliminating all non-essential industry to focus American industrial might on building tanks, ships and planes.

Major league players and owners waited anxiously to find out during the winter if there would even be a baseball season come the spring. On this day 72 years ago they got their answer.

Roosevelt deemed baseball to be an essential industry because he said it gave Americans a much needed distraction from war as well as giving them something to boost their morale. So he gave the thumbs up to allow major and minor-league players to keep play ball.

"I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going," Roosevelt wrote to Landis. "There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off 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 for the day shift to see a game occasionally," Roosevelt said.

While he said that players of service age should fulfill their duty, Roosevelt said it was better to use older or lesser quality players than to shut down baseball altogether.

"Of course, if an individual has some particular aptitude in a trade or profession, he ought to serve the government," Roosevelt said. "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 million of the fellow citizens. And that, in my judgement, is thoroughly worthwhile."

The green light allowed the Cardinals, who lost all three of their star outfielders -- Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial and Terry Moore -- for a portion of the war, to show off the wares of a deep farm system and win the World Series in 1942 and 1944 and the National League pennant in 1943 and the club became a footnote to history for its role in the Battle of the Bulge that started in December 1944.

German soldiers dressed in American uniforms to infiltrate the Allied battle lines. Since some of them spoke perfect English, GIs would question them with trivia only a true American would know. One of the most popular questions was "Who won the World Series last year?" If the soldiers didn't answer "The St. Louis Cardinals" they were in deep trouble.

The Cardinals continued their winning ways after World War Two ended, winning the 1946 crown with its servicemen back in the fold.

While Moore was never quite the same after his service, Slaughter went on to have a productive career and Musial was a changed man. Prior to missing the 1945 season in the Navy, Stan the Man never hit more than 13 homers in a season. Musial, who played ball to entertain the military boys when he wasn't working to ferry injured sailors from their ships to the hospital, altered his swing to hit for more power while he was in the service. He said sailors and soldiers seemed to get a kick out of seeing home runs, so that's what he gave them.

After the war Musial hit 27 or more homers nine times.