Baseball: The Other Season of Giving
Red Barber (right) receives a plaque of appreciation from Chairman Walter Ripperger of the Brooklyn Red Cross Blood Donor Division and Mrs. Frances Gordon for bringing in an estimated 13,500 pints of blood.
As a one-man war effort, Walter Lanier (Red) Barber, "The Voice of Brooklyn," was responsible for large contributions in bonds and blood drives through his appeals to fans during his broadcasts of the Dodgers' games in 1942.
With the encouragement of the makers of Old Gold cigarettes, the sponsors of the Dodgers' play-by-play broadcasts, Barber kept telling his listeners, at opportune times during his accounts of the games, about the things the folks at home could do to further the war effort. Red conducted two war bond sales over the air waves, with Dodger fans buying close to half a million dollars worth of bonds as a result.
In between the news that Dolph Camilli had hit one with three on, or that Whit Wyatt had fanned another opposing batsman, barber would outline the advantage of investing with Uncle Sam. He offered as an inducement a group picture of the Dodgers to all who called his radio station and pledged the purchase of a bond when forms were mailed out. More than $150,000 in bonds were sold on the first broadcast and almost double that amount the second time. Not content with those efforts, Barber, as a Dodger broadcaster, opened a war-aid appeal to get blood donors for the Red Cross blood bank.
"Mr. Barber and the Brooklyn fans kept our blood bank going last summer," said Mrs. Andrew Jackson, volunteer director of the Brooklyn Red Cross Blood Donors Service. "Whenever we needed donors, he got them for us quickly. And I can say that of the 27,000 pints of blood contributed here last year, Mr. Barber is entitled to credit for securing at least half."
The need for blood donors was first mentioned by Barber last year on his opening day broadcast and the enthusiasm with which the Brooklyn fandom met the needs reached a climax the night when Sam Kurtz, who had been injured on the USS Destroyer Kearney, made a plea for blood from his wheelchair at home plate. That was one of the most dramatic episodes during the entire Ebbets Field season. Thousands of donors signed cards signifying their willingness to give blood that night and later appeared when their appointments at the blood bank were mailed to them.
"I cannot begin to tell you the hold Mr. Barber had on the good people of Brooklyn," said Mrs. Jackson. "To me, the greatest proof of that came during on of the most crucial baseball days Brooklyn had ever had last year. The Dodgers were playing a Sunday double-header with the Cardinals, and to my mind it would have been excusable if the Dodgers had pushed other deserving considerations out of the minds of the fans that day. But that week our blood bank was below our plasma quota. We called Red Barber at Ebbets Field and asked him to mention our need.
"Red asked for 100 donors to call up and guarantee they would appear Monday to give their blood. Well, by the fifth inning of the first game, we had 350 calls, and the switchboard lights were blinking like a Christmas tree. Needless to say, we made our quota easily."