Home Front Friday: Atta Batter!
Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!
Baseball is known for being America’s pastime. The craze started, reportedly, in the 1850s and it only has grown in popularity since. Because of Jim Crow and the national racism towards African-Americans, the Negro Baseball Leagues formed in 1920. The Negro Leagues paralleled the major leagues and featured some of the highest quality professional baseball in the United States during its existence. During World War II, the Negro Leagues grew in popularity immensely.
Herbert “Briefcase” Simpson played for the Algiers Giants from 1939 to 1941, and then in 1941 he joined the Army. While he was in service, he played baseball with his military attachment in the United Kingdom and in Germany. When he returned in 1946, he played in the Pacific Coast League for the Seattle Steelheads. After the end of that season, he was picked to play for the All-Star Cincinnati Crescents and to play in Hawai’i.
He then played for the Harlem Globetrotters, the Chicago American Giants, the Spokane Indians, the Albuquerque Dukes, and finally ended his career with the Oakland Acorns. While he played with the Dukes, in the 1953 season, he batted .372 with 59 RBI. He semi-retired after he married, playing semi-pro ball with the New Orleans Creoles while he worked at the New Orleans Parish School Board. The Museum was lucky enough to learn Herb’s story and have him attend our conference on baseball during wartime several years ago.
Just last week the Museum opened up the special exhibit “Fighting for the Right to Fight,” which discusses experiences of African-Americans during World War II. Additionally, MLB’s All-Star Weekend is this weekend and the All-Star Game is this Tuesday! If Herbert “Briefcase” Simpson were alive and playing baseball today, he’d almost certainly be playing in the game Tuesday night.
Posted by Catherine Perrone, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.