This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Fiorello H. La Guardia talks to the people. He talks about war conditions in Germany and Japan; techniques used to stop overpricing of poultry; retail fish prices; restaurant food shortage; egg grading; fuel crisis; salutes Harold Ickes; donation of aged people on Welfare Island to City hospitals; Red Cross donations; basketball scandal at Brooklyn College; basketball games at Madison Square Garden; New Jersey phone numbers of gamblers; history of baseball; importance of good public habits of baseball players. La Guardia also recalls Lou Gehrigs work on Parole Board; "Tin Horn" gamblers; Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919, gambling activities of two New York Giants; calls for end to rigged sports; public attitude toward baseball; his own family's reaction to game between Yankees and Dodgers; salutes baseball club owners, offers warning to gamblers at baseball games.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71004
Municipal archives id: LT2513
The original text of the WNYC radio broadcasts are the property of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives. This digital edition is made available for research purposes only. The text may not be duplicated or reproduced without the written permission of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives 31 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 1945
CITY OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
TEXT OF MAYOR F. H. LA GUARDIA'S SUNDAY BROADCAST TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW YORK FROM HIS OFFICE AT CITY HALL, MARCH 11, 1945, BROADCAST OVER WNYC AT 1:00 P.M. FOLLOWS:
Patience and fortitude:
Every American must be rejoicing this morning, as he reads the morning papers, and sees the advance in Europe on all fronts, and remembers that we pasted the heart right out of Tokyo only a few days ago. That means that we have the enemy on the jump in this great citadel of Germany that was supposed to be impregnable - our troops are advancing on the Western Front. Say, where is all this defense of the Rhine we have been hearing about? Our Armies have crossed the Rhine now at two or three points, and they are continuing forward, while the Russians have crossed the Oder River. The Russians are now at the very outskirts of Stettin and Kuestrin. We have taken the great city of Cologne and Bonn and are right on the way to Coblenz. I would not be surprised if we go through Arnhem this time. So we see the Nazis retreating from the Rhine and the Nazis retreating from the Oder and soon they will be doing a dos-a-dos in the middle of Germany, while our victorious troops will be grasping the hands of their victorious comrades of Russia. That does not mean that we must let-down; that does not mean that we have to go out on a bender tonight; it means that we must work harder to be sure that we have all of the necessary materials and supplies. You realize, I am sure, now that it has been told, that when the war ends in Europe there is still fighting to do in the Pacific.
MEAT & POULTRY PRICE CHISELING
We have had a tough week on meat and poultry. Food is scarce and overcharging is brazen. I am talking about poultry. Price chiselers are getting chiseling wise. It will not do you any good chiselers. Listen to me, Judges are getting wise, too. Group buying or groups of consumers are also getting wise. Last week something new was started, women clubbed together to go marketing, then they telephoned the Department of Markets and we sent an inspector with these clubs of women, then all of the women went together to the store to do their marketing. That is going to help, that is very clever.
Look here, stores, it is not wise to say that you have not got anything when these clubs of women come in with a marketing inspector. We will continue to help in this way to the very limit of our personnel. Some of the chiseling is really encouraged by the consumers themselves. We found for instance, in the buying of poultry, that the nod is given and the bird is put in the bag and paid for, and then the dealer says, "Don't you remember, you owe me $1.10 from last week." "Oh, yes, yes." Or he will hand over the bird and say "This is $3 or $2.75 or $4." Now do not do that consumers. You are only injuring yourselves.
The Department of Markets supervision is working very well. We are placing an inspector in a retail store that has overcharged, and he stands right there with his badge on and everybody knows that he is an Inspector of Markets. We have had this experience, that during the time he is there, of course, they sell at ceiling price. Many stores, when closing in the evening, say, "Well I have sold at 46 cents a pound but the poultry costs me 60 cents a pound." Well you have nobody to blame but yourself, Mr. Retailer. If you will tell us to whom you pay 60 cents a pound we will go after them.
Just as we help the consumers by sending an inspector to go to the store and do their marketing, so are we ready to help the retailer and send one of our inspectors with you when you do your buying. That is fair enough, isn't it? It cannot be any fairer than that, so please do not complain if you are hailed into court and get into trouble.
WFA POULTRY PRIORITIES FOR HOSPITALS
I have received some inquiries concerning poultry for hospitals. Well next week we are going to have more poultry than we have had at any time during the last three months. The WFA has issued priorities for poultry for hospitals and it is up to the Regional Director. The Regional Director has informed me that he has appealed to the trade and has asked them to volunteer to give the hospitals the poultry so as not to make it necessary to invoke the priorities here. Well, I wish you luck, I do not think it is going to work.
Now, Mr. Wholesale Poultry Dealer, why don't you fool me, why don't you say, "See the Mayor was wrong, he said it would not work, and it is going to work." The WFA allows six tenths of a pound of dressed weight chicken each week for each hospital bed. If the hospitals do not get this poultry during the week, then I am going to ask Washington to direct the Regional Director of WFA to issue the priorities here.
FISH & NEED FOR RELAXATION OF MEATLESS DAY RULES
Although the supply of fish is good, the distribution and the retailing still is unsatisfactory to me. Retail prices are too high - I mean the prices on non-ceiling price fish are too far above the wholesale price. Look here dealers, you are just cutting your own throats. I want to say to the fish industry, you are injuring yourselves. I have made a survey and am watching the fish retailing very carefully and I may have to start announcing wholesale prices. Now because of this, I have been compelled to relax rules in hotels, restaurants and public eating places by permitting the use of liver, oxtails, tripe and sweetbreads on meatless days - that is only liver, oxtails, tripe and sweetbreads on meatless days, no other meats. This was made necessary because of the shortage of food and the lack of cooperation on the part of the fish industry.
We still are having trouble with eggs. You know there are too many grades of eggs and the involved dozen price and weight price is very difficult for the consumer to understand. Then, too, the cost of grading the eggs into so many grades is very large and, of course, the consumers pay for it. I am going to appear on Tuesday before a Senate Committee, weather permitting, and urge that eggs be sold by weight. They now vary according to size from 31.4 cents to 38.2 cents a pound. I would recommend an average of this, around 32 1/2 cents or 33 cents a pound and all eggs to be sold by weight. You see what this would do - when you asked for a carton of eggs, which is generally a dozen eggs, your dealer would put them on the scale and would weigh them. If they are little eggs, you get more eggs, and if they are big eggs, you get less eggs. But you would get what you paid for and that would reduce the cost of handling eggs and would give the consumers value for their money.
I think it is fair to say that we have bridged the fuel crisis for this winter. Knock on wood, and I have my fingers crossed. However you cannot tell, you know. March may bring us some bad weather. During the last week I have not been required to sign any disapproval of coal deliveries. That is the first complete week that I was not required to sign any disapproval. Complaints to the Health Department have been the lowest during the entire winter, down to less than 600 complaints a day. That is very good because you know we are a pretty big town.
The Emergency coal stations will continue to operate as long as they have any supply on hand - the supply for the Emergency stations will not be replenished. You would be interested to hear that we disposed of 1,800 tons of coal during the winter from those Emergency stations and supplied 35,000 consumers. So it was worth its while and was worth the expense and the effort. I want to take this opportunity to express the thanks of the Mayor and of the people of the City of New York to Commissioner Edwin Salmon, who did his work and administered this very difficult problem efficiently and unemotionally and without any sensational headlines. A good job, Commissioner Salmon. Thanks and thanks to the staff and personnel of the Department of Health and the Department of Markets and to the Borough Presidents. Thanks also to Mr. Walter Dockerill, the Federal Solid Fuel Administrator and to good old Harold Ickes. By jove, he does a good job. I wish we had more of departments of this kind, we would not get into so many conflicts and have so many confusing orders. While we are on the discussion of coal, I want to tell you that we are going to have a very bad fuel problem all through 1945. This year, we were allowed 87% of our normal consumption of fuel. Next winter I think we will be allowed only 80%. Rules and regulations for the year will be announced by Mr. Ickes around April 1st. So, take my advice and get your next winter's supply as soon as you can. If you can mix your coal with bituminous do so, because even if we have no unforeseen emergency, such as strikes, break downs in transportation or other unpreventable causes, fuel will be very short. So build up your stock pile as soon as you can after April 1st
The dobros I talked about last week have not been going very good because retailers say there is not enough margin between the wholesale price and 10 cents a pound. Well, I am very sorry, but if it costs more than 10 cents a pound as it used to sell, you know, 25 cents and 30 cents, then it is a luxury and I cannot be wasting my time on luxuries. Ten cents a pound is reasonable and the retail dealer can make a profit. I want to say to the wholesaler, you must arrange deliveries, because, at your wholesale price, if the retailers must pay for the deliveries, then the margin is indeed small.
Well, this is still Red Cross week, and I do not think it is necessary to make an appeal. If you have not sent in your contribution, send it in real soon.
CITY HOME RED CROSS CONTRIBUTION
I have seen, received and heard of many touching contributions, but I think that this one, reported by Commissioner Edward M. Bernecker of the Department of Hospitals, just about grips you. $122.26 was contributed by the inmates of the City Home on Welfare Island. That is the home for the Aged and this money was contributed in pennies and out of a 50 cent gift they received from some fund for Christmas. Out of these pennies and of this 50 cent Christmas allowance, $122.26 was donated. I want to extend my thanks to the ladies and gentlemen of the City Home on Welfare Island, you have set an example to the rest of the City. By the way, you can still send your Red Cross contributions in honor of any member of the armed forces, here to me at City Hall, and I will inform the soldier and sailor of your contribution. Start in sending them, please.
Say, Sanford, that was a very nice letter you wrote me about the Red Cross, and it was well written, but I cannot understand, you did not put the address on your letter and yet you ask for a reply.
BROOKLYN COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Here is something very unpleasant, two weeks ago, I gave you the substance of a report submitted to me by Commissioner of Investigations, Edgar Bromberger concerning the basketball team of Brooklyn College. The report indicated that no derelictions or irregularities had been found in the management of the team on the part of the College.
I now regretfully and painfully must tell you that the Commissioner has, on new evidence obtained, found it necessary to amend that statement. It has been discovered, and I have a supplemental report before me now from the Commissioner, that one of the players on that basketball team, recently involved, had never been registered at Brooklyn College as a student. At no time during his college athletic activities at that institution was he a duly accredited and matriculated student. There is no excuse for this. It indicates a laxity and indifference and negligence on the part of the college faculty responsible, that borders on the unpardonable.
Something was said the other day about basketball games at Madison Square Garden. I noticed that a great deal of activity was observed. Well if you think there was a lot of activity the other day you wait until next Saturday, the next basketball day, and you will see some activity. We are right on the job. Incidentally, take your pencils, here are some of the tinhorn telephone numbers in New Jersey, where bets were phoned to on the games at Madison Square Garden. Are you listening, New Jersey? Are you listening, Mr. Attorney General of New Jersey? All right, here you go: Passaic 3 - 2590, Passaic 3-1043, Passaic 2-9333, Linden 2 - 3763. There must be some tinhorns hanging around those numbers, because bets were phoned to these numbers. I hope the telephone company will rip them out.
We are not going to permit these thieving tinhorn gamblers to spoil American sports, that is part of our life - good, clean sport. You know this is the time of the year when one thinks about it. So if you hear a sudden crash at your window, do not be surprised, it is just a baseball. They did not mean it - you know Spring is almost here. Yes, we will be going out to that ball game real soon. So, get ready kids, there is plenty of room for you there.
Baseball is an American game. I do not know of anything that is more thoroughly and typically American than
baseball. It was started a little over 100 years ago by Colonel Abner Doubleday. He devised the diagram of the bases and positions for players and named the game "baseball." His first baseball diamond was laid out in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York. He was twenty years old at the time. In 1845, the first baseball club was organized in New York City and was known as the Knickerbocker Club. This club drafted the first code of rules for baseball. The first game of record played under these rules between the Knickerbocker Club and a picked team, which called itself The New York Club, was played in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1846.
In 1854, there was a revision of the rules which provided specification for the size and the weight of the ball. In 1858, the first attempt at organization of the clubs was made as clubs were spreading to many Eastern cities. This National Association of Baseball Players embraced 16 clubs in New York City and a well known New Yorker, W. H. Van Cott, was its first president.
In 1865 a convention was held in New York City at which 91 clubs were represented, from Cities of St. Louis, Chattanooga, Louisville, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia. It was strictly an amateur organization.
In 1865 and 1866 professional baseball began to make its appearance and a conflict between amateurs and professionals developed. At that time, players did not derive their livelihood from baseball, but the more expert players accepted money from clubs to play on their teams. In 1866 we find the first open pool selling and gambling and bribery by gamblers. This outraged the good element among the ballplayers and organizers of clubs and a drive was immediately started and it was nipped in the bud.
In 1868 the Cincinnati team was organized on what was known as semi-professional lines, but in 1869, the team was hired as an outright professional organization and made a successful tour of the United States, winning every game. Chicago next went professional and by 1870, the Amateur National Association of Baseball players, was abandoned. In 1871, the National Association of Professional Baseball players was organized in New York. It dissolved in 1876 when the National League came into existence on February 2, 1876, with 8 cities as member teams. Its first president was Morgan G. Bulkeley, rather colorless, but he was succeeded the next year by William A. Hulbert, who started baseball history. He was admired by everyone for he was the first to expel for life four baseball players found guilty of dishonesty. From this time in 1877, confidence was established in professional baseball and Hulbert remained president until 1882.
In 1882 the American Association was forced in cities, not members of the National League, but by 1891 the American was merged with the National League into a 12-club organization, having a monopoly of major league baseball. It continued this way until 1900 when its membership was reduced to 8 members; Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati, and has so remained.
In 1900 Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the St. Paul Club of the Western League obtained permission to put a club in Chicago. He wanted to expand to Baltimore and Washington, which had been abandoned by the National League, so gradually a new American League was formed and became a rival with a following equally as great as that of the National. B. B. Johnston was its first president and served until 1927. The two major leagues now have eight clubs each.
In 1903 an agreement between the two major leagues established the National Commission, a final court of resort for all organized baseball and a now system of government in the baseball world. The Commission was composed of three members, the President of the two leagues and a third, selected by the two, who became chairman. Decisions rendered by this National Commission, after a few years, provoked another controversy in baseball. After a scandal involving players who were charged with dishonest practises the Commission was abolished in November, 1920 and in place of it there came into existence a one-man authority who every American knows, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge who was elected Commissioner of baseball with jurisdiction over all clubs and leagues. At first, to act in consultation with him was an Advisory Council composed of Landis and two major league presidents. However, Landis refused to call the Council and it was later abolished.
It is estimated that 10 million Americans, men, women .and boys and girls, attend professional baseball games each year. That would mean an attendance of 5 million and a half perhaps, different men, women and children,
for many of us go to morethan one game. But you know that is only a small fraction of the baseball fans of this country.
Professional ball players regard their occupation highly. Men who win honors on the "diamond" are trained and disciplined. I would say that they have as great a responsibility to the public and to the children of our country as public officials. Temperance and clean habits are expected of all ball players, and late hours, over-eating, drinking, gambling and other forms of dissipation are strictly forbidden.
For several weeks before the opening of the season, the men are put through severe courses in physical training, that they may enter upon the serious work of the year in First Class condition. The manager of a team who hopes to defeat all other clubs in his league must see to it that his team is kept in fighting condition throughout the season. It takes work, work, work, as much as being a concert pianist.
These men who acquire fame on the diamond have the confidence of the people. You all remember our Lou Gehrig. When he was stricken and could not play, you may recall I appointed him a Commissioner on the Parole Board. It is the duty of the Commissioners to get information from men who have slipped and have been sentenced to the penitentiary. Sometimes it is very hard to get the truth. Well, you know, Lou Gehrig never had any trouble at all. When there was doubt as to the truth of the statements of any of the prisoners seeking parole, they would refer the case to Lou and Lou would question the prisoner. He would say, "Are you telling the truth?" Invariably the answer would be, "Oh, I would not lie to you, Lou, Mr. Gehrig, I would not lie to you." And they would not, because he represented something clean, something decent. That is why baseball is very important to us and very important to the children of our country. I told you of the scandal of 1865. There was another in 1876 that resulted in the expulsion of the four by President Hulbert. In 1879 and 1883 there were again some scandals caused by gamblers. And mark you, the gamblers of those days, the tinhorns, they were really gamblers. They were not as thieving as our tinhorn-gambler is today because in those days, and I remember where I was raised, it was no crime to shoot a gambler caught cheating, of course, you had to catch him cheating, otherwise it did not count. But if you caught him cheating, it was all right to whip out your gun and pull the trigger. That was all right, there was no loss. So the trouble is those years were caused by gamblers and resulted in the formation of the National Commission in 1903 that I told you about.
It is interesting to note that before Judge Landis was appointed, the Ex-President of the United States, William Howard Taft, had been consulted and considered whether or not he would take the Commissionership - he was quite a baseball fan you know. Under Commissioner Landis, strict rules have been laid down and rigidly enforced. Numbers of instances might be cited where betting syndicates have been fined and ordered away from cities where World Series were being played.
The last scandal, which resulted in the appointment of Judge Landis, was rather sensational. Here is a touching editorial from the New York Times of October 3rd, 1924 which is entitled "The Baseball Scandal," and reads as follows:
"We should all like to believe that professional baseball is a clean sport. Patrons of the game are sensitive about its integrity. When the scandal in connection with the championship series between the Cincinnati's and the Chicago's came like a bolt out of a clear sky in 1919 nothing was more pathetic than the appeal of a little boy to one of the players involved. 'Joe, you didn't do it, say it is not true!' Unhappily it was only too true. And now on the eve of the annual struggle between the champions of the big leagues Commissioner Landis is obliged to announce the guilt of two members of the New York National team, against whom charges of attempted bribery has been proved, and to cast them into the outer darkness of ineligibility.
"It required a high degree of moral courage on the part of Commissioner Landis to expose the offenders with the first game only two days away. Again has he vindicated the wisdom of his appointment as arbiter of the National Game. A word of commendation should also be said of Heinie Sand, the shortstop of the Philadelphia National League Club, who disdained a bribe, and who honestly and bravely exposed the would-be briber."
Don't you see how it is repeating itself in basketball. We had a case, but we are not going to let it happen again, not in this town, and not if I can help it. You heard about the 10 million Americans who attended the game, I said that was but a small percentage of the real baseball fans of our country. Oh, I would say that at the twilight hour, after sundown in the summertime, and before dark, 40, 50, or maybe 60 million Americans are playing ball - that is, they are playing over again the games that were played that afternoon - yes, perhaps, the gentleman in his study and in his comfortable leather chair, or the farmer on the back porch in Iowa or Nebraska, with his suspenders hanging down, his chair tilted back; or the gentleman on the veranda of the country club; or the gentleman on the fire-escapes of an East Side tenement, or in the city drug stores or out in the forest or in the mines, are listening to the radio. They have been listening for 20 years and they check up with their evening papers too. They want to be sure, these 40, 50 or 60 million Americans who are playing the game. At every supper table and in the family life of our country, the game is played over again. Every family divides, each has his favorite. There is always someone in the family for one club, another boosting another club. We have a Dodger fan right in our own family. I remember when the Yanks were playing the Dodgers, I told my children, "Now listen, remember both teams are New York teams, so please behave and be natural and quiet. We must be neutral, they are both New York City teams." "You promise?" "Yes." "You promise?" "Yes." So we went out to Brooklyn and sure enough something happened, when the Dodgers were up, it was a two bagger I think, and Eric goes Whee””. I said, "Eric, didn't I tell you to be neutral?" He said, "Yes, I am neutral for the Bums." Well, that is typical of every American family. We are not going to spoil this by just a few, a handful of thieves, of degenerates, of racketeering, tinhorn gamblers. They hang around and we know it. Both the owners of the clubs and I are very much worried about it. You know, the owners of the professional baseball clubs are really public-spirited men, they are more interested in the game than they are in profits. They would sooner give up the game than see their game discredited. I want to assure the three New York City Clubs of my full and complete cooperation. Known gamblers will not be permitted within the ball park. They will be kept out through the cooperation of the clubs and the New York City Police Department. Certain boxes around third base in one club and another box that I know of will be thoroughly disinfected. You tinhorns, watch out, we are not fooling, we are not going to spoil the confidence and the hope of the American children and we will not let you do so.
I expect to see President Frick tomorrow. I have had a talk with Branch Rickey of the Dodgers and I had a talk with Mr. Stoneham after the last baseball season. The Yankee Club is under new ownership. Larry, you are a good friend of mine. Listen, Larry, when you moved out of Brooklyn, they tell me they found a lot of racing forms around the club house. Of course they were not yours, but do not let anybody bring any racing forms around the Yankee Club because it will not be good. I am telling you this Larry because I like you, I always did like you, and I want to continue to like you, but no racing forms are to be found anytime around that clubhouse.
I hope that the managers of the teams will not announce their pitchers the day before the game. In fact, it would be good to switch them, and kind of confuse the gamblers. I want to try to arrange for exchange of identification and information with other cities where the big leagues play so that Philadelphia will know the New York thugs and thieves and we will know the Philadelphia thugs and thieves, and likewise all of the cities on the circuit. There will be constant vigilance and I am going to recommend that provision be made at the ball clubs for emergency telephone calls, but that everything be in the open. We will watch it, we will watch it very carefully. So New York fans, I want to assure you that we are going to keep baseball clean, we are not going to let it be destroyed by a bunch of thieving racketeers. We are going to be very rough with these racketeers, very, very rough. I ask the press for its cooperation. Of course, if these tinhorns get encouragement about the methods if the police, about the sanctity and the constitutional right of these thieving tinhorns, it will make it more difficult for us, but it will not stop us. So now, let us get ready. Start to clear your throats for your favorite team, because pretty soon, the whole country will hear, "Play Ball."
Patience and Fortitude.