This Week in 1945 (April 26–May 2)
This week during the last year the Cubs went to the World Series…
World War II Rages On
It was probably the worst week ever for European fascists.
*It begins when the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini is captured. Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, are executed by Italian partisans as they attempt to flee the country. Their bodies are then hung by their heels in the public square of Milan. Meanwhile, the US Forces liberate the city of Genoa (photo). Italy is soundly defeated. Hitler hears about Mussolini’s fate. Even in his delusional state, he now knows that all is lost.
*As the Red Army approaches the Führerbunker in Berlin two days later, Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun commit suicide. Karl Dönitz succeeds Hitler as President of Germany. Joseph Goebbels succeeds Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. Hamburg Radio announces that Hitler has died in battle, “fighting up to his last breath against Bolshevism.”
*The BBC hears the news…and reports it to the rest of the world.
*Goebbels doesn’t remain chancellor for long. Joseph and Magda Goebbels, his wife, commit suicide the very next day, after killing all six of their children. Karl Dönitz appoints Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk as the new Chancellor of Germany.
*The first newsreels of the Nazi death camps are released.
*Mayor Edward Kelly, who has been the mayor of Chicago since Anton Cermak’s assassination in 1933, celebrates his 69th birthday on the day Chicago discovers Hitler is dead. He will remain mayor until 1947.
*Newspaper headlines blare the good news about Hitler’s Death. Among the headlines:
THE BLOODY DOG IS DEAD
CITY TAKES REPORT OF DEATH IN STRIDE
‘Deep Satisfaction’ Is Felt By U.S. Troops at Death
ALL JEWS HOUNDED UNDER HITLER RULE; More Than 3,000,000 Slain…
*The Cubs return home to Wrigley Field and face the Pirates. They win the first two games of the series, 7-3 and 6-0. In that second game Hank Wyse pitches a masterpiece. He gives up only one hit…a single in the eighth inning by Bill Salkeld.
*Their good start is generating nice buzz for the team. The Sunday double-header, always the biggest draw of the week, brings out almost 37,000 paying fans, plus more than a thousand uniformed serviceman, admitted for free. Unfortunately, the Cubs don’t quite live up to the moment. They are swept in the double-header.
*Now they board the train for the longest road trip of the season. They won’t be back to Wrigley Field until May 23rd.
*Though the Cardinals are still the favorites to win the NL, they are reminded this week how difficult that will be when their star slugger Enos Slaughter turns 29. Slaughter will miss the entire season while serving in the military.
In Pop Culture
*”Arthur Godfrey Time” begins a 27 year run on CBS radio. Beginning in 1948, the show also airs on television. Godfrey might have been the biggest radio and television star in America during his heyday.
*Glenn Ford, just released from military in December, is back in Hollywood for his 29th birthday.
*Saddam Hussein turns 8 in Iraq.
*Three baby girls are born. All will become well known in the 60s and 70s: Rita Coolidge, Tammi Terrell, and Bianca Jagger.
Cub of the week
Stan Hack is a 14-year Cub veteran as the 1945 season gets underway. He was a member of the 1932, 1935, and 1938 pennant winners. Hack is extremely close to manager Charlie Grimm, and his leadership (and Phil Cavarretta’s) is invaluable to the Cubs. He also happens to be a great leadoff man. When he retired last season (1944) because he couldn’t get along with former Cubs manager Jimmy Wilson, the team struggled. With Hack back at the top of the lineup in 1945, the Cubs are once again an offensive dynamo. Hack is known as Smilin’ Stan because of his incredibly sunny disposition. Earlier in his career, the young Cubs executive Bill Veeck Jr. even staged a promotion to highlight that sunniness. He called it “Smile with Stan” day, and the Cubs passed out mirrors to fans so that they could see themselves smile. Needless to say, the sight of reflecting sunlight in the stands was slightly distracting to the players…and that promotion was never repeated.