Feller, Paige teamed up for 1946 barnstorming tour
It also changed the face of big league travel.
The year was 1946 and the Second World War had only ended the previous September. While the 16-team major leagues – still a year away from breaking its longstanding color barrier – had stayed afloat during the conflict, many ballplayers who served in the military were heading home hoping the layoff hadn’t affected their game. Hundreds had traded in their baseball togs for military uniforms, maybe none more renowned than Bob Feller.
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Stan Musial, who led the National League with a .365 batting average in 1946, joined Bob Feller’s All-Stars after helping the Cardinals capture the ’46 World Series. He told the Sporting News he didn’t care too much for the tour’s one-night stands.
“Good money in it, though. I sure wouldn’t do it if we couldn’t fly. It must be might rugged making jumps on a plane. At least we get some rest this way.”
The tour was described by Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert author Timothy M. Gay as “the most ambitious baseball undertaking since John McGraw and Charles Comiskey dreamed up their round-the-world junket in 1913.”
The Sporting News, in its tour wrap-up story on Nov. 6, 1946, called Feller the game’s greatest “money” pitcher, estimating he made $80,000 barnstorming from New York to California that year. In the 27 days the tour visited 32 cities in the United States, 17 states and British Columbia.
“Sure, I’m tired,” said Feller, “but who wouldn’t be after travelling 15,000 miles? My arm is in great shape, though, and in a few days I’m going to settle down and relax for a couple of months.
“After all, you know a fellow is only young once and I’m going to make as much money as I can while I can.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum