The Pittsburgh Press (October 8, 1943)
I DARE SAY —
Mort and Walker
By Florence Fisher Parry
If you don’t know who Mort and Walker are, ask any one of the seven or eight million boys in our Armed Forces. Ask any of their dads or kid brothers. They’ll tell you.
The people of Great Britain may not know what all the excitement’s about, and we can’t expect the Aussies to share our boys’ excitement down there in the South Pacific; but by the time the World Series is over, there’ll hardly be a native of any country the world over who has had even the briefest contact with any of our boys who won’t know who Mort and Walker are, and why they had, just had, to have the Redbirds win in the second game of the World Series.
Now, anyone who gripes about the money that’s spent, and the time that’s taken out, and the cockeyed delirium that eats us up during the World Series, even in a war is just plain out of tune with everything that’s American. Just get hold of him and give him a good shaking-up, I say. He just doesn’t know what this country’s about, he just isn’t our breed.
Baseball is as much as part of our makeup as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
No cosmic thinking
Now they tell us that the largest part of a soldier’s life is spent in just waiting with a capital W. He waits to be inducted; he waits to be called; he waits at this camp and that. He waits, and how he waits, to be sent overseas; and he waits, how he waits, to be sent into combat! His life is just one long, griping wait up until that galvanized moment when IT happens – IT, the enemy at last, face to face – and death raining down like hail.
Now what do you suppose our kids are doing through all that waiting? Are they thinking of infinity? Are they discussing the economic consequences of war?
They are not.
They are just sitting around chewing and jibing about the World Series and betting their all on the Cards or the Yanks.
And if any statistician wants to compute all this in terms of strict morale, let him go to it. I am satisfied to accept the fact that our national sport offers a more simple therapy to the minds of our sacred and homesick boys in this war than everything else combined except letters.
Just this morning, for example, came a letter, and this is a paragraph of it:
We are spending the morning in the barracks, grouped around our little coal stoves, talking football scores, and I am astounded again, as I always am, by the sheer mnemonic genius of these men who can recall the name of every player on every team, virtually every score, and almost every play from the 1920s on. Beside this accomplishment, such minor feats as memorizing the complete works of Shakespeare, or learning 27 languages, pale into insignificance.
The sentimental incident of Mort and Walker playing their hearts out for the Cards so that they wouldn’t let their dad down, who had just died a few hours before, brings to mind again that inimitable quality of the American heart, for which we have yet to find an adequate name.
It’s deeper than sentimentality. What shall we call it – heart? Compared with our breed, other people hide their heartbeats better. It isn’t exactly that we wear our hearts on our sleeves – we are just more unabashed about acknowledging them.
For a while, before this war, we had got to think ourselves pretty cynical. We thought it was smart to be amused at all that which we called “corn.” “Corn” had become one of the most popular words of the day. Anything that had a sob in it, or a hunt if sentimentality, was “corny.”
Well, something has happened lately. We are all of us, getting to be more and more “Corny,” and we are not ashamed of it.
Corn is of the very essence of America. It derives from the most hardy native nutriment grown in our soil, and like the corn from which it takes the name, it is proving to be the very staff of life – the corn of parades and bands and grandstand speeches, of the flag and the national anthem we are glad to rise to; that bleacher mood, that gust, that wave of compassion and prayer that went to these two boys, Mort and Walker, in the Yankee Stadium Wednesday!
Yes, that’s corn; that’s American corn at its highest flavor. That’s what makes us incomparable. That’s what keeps us clean as a people.
Pray God we may never lose this attribute. Pray God we may never cease to care who wins the World Series or grow callous to the forlorn bereavement of two boys, two brothers, trying to make good for the sake of their dead pal and father.