"Quick! Who won the National League pennant in '48?"

As everyone knows, the only reliable way to distinguish a loathsome Communist infiltrator from a true-blue loyal American is to field-test their knowledge of baseball. It is a scientific, verified fact that Communist brain molecules cannot process information pertaining to the National Pastime-- a phenomenon best exemplified by college southpaw Fidel Castro, whose lamentable Red sympathies resulted in decades of disorientation, mental fugue, tinnitus, and the Presidency of Cuba. Havana insiders have revealed that even today Castro occasionally believes himself to be Marty Pevey, first-base coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Baseball Test has been our most effective means of uncovering Communist spies for many years, but at what point did it first become established in the public consciousness? Was there a specific film or radio show that used this device in a particularly dramatic fashion?

I don’t know if it was the first use of baseball trivia as a means of detecting Americans, but it was used during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. As part of their attack, the Germans had units dress up in American uniforms and try to infiltrate behind the American lines for sabotage.

Wow! No foolin’? Thanks, Little Nemo. It honestly never occurred to me that such a tactic had ever been used in real life; it seemed more like something out of a movie about such things. I’d have thought that there would have been a more formal procedure in place for detecting infiltrators; on the other hand I guess that the Western Front was kind of a mess at that point, and no doubt it was often necessary to improvise. As a screening technique, I suppose they could have done worse. I’d hate to have run into an American regiment composed mostly of theater people. * “Freeze! Who won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play in '39?”*

I don’t know the answer. I guess I’m a commie. I willingly turn myself in.

Well, I can think of at least one Isaac Asimov short-short mystery story where finding the spy hinged on trapping the spy the opposite way: him automatically providing information about American that NO real American would know so quickly, if at all.

The Boston Braves of course who lost to the Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland had a really excellent team that year.

BTW: If Castro’s Fastball had been better, he would have been signed by the Yankees who gave him a tryout.

The Baseball test is of course no longer valid. It has lost much of its universal American appeal that it had back in the days of the World Wars.


This is why I follow sports. You never know when you’ll be shot as a spy for not knowing who the batting champion is.

Operation Greif

IIRC, soldiers were asking each other to say words with “th” diphtongs, and a brigadier general was put in the brig for a bit during the BotB when he couldn’t answer a challenge baseball question. The author I read was of the opinion that the rumors of the infiltrators did more damage than the infiltrators.

Boston Braves, of course.

An interesting tidbit; the Braves are the only franchise who have won a World Series in three different cities. Exactly once each time; they won the Series as the Boston Braves in 1914, as the Milwaukee Braves in 1957, and as the Atlanta Braves in 1995.

“What’s the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner?”

Funnily enough, I was once asked this for a German television program.

I was wandering around Battery Park in New York City and there was a camera crew filming a woman with a microphone under a banner saying “WIN $20”. They were asking people to sing the Star Spangled Banner and everyone was making mistakes. I hung around long enough to memorise the whole thing and volunteered. Having gotten the first verse correct, she then said “And vot about ze second verse?” (apologies for the cod German accent). She then showed me a lyric sheet with two or three extra verses. Ho! Ho!

Despite this they still gave me the 20 bucks. I signed a release but have no idea whether it was ever aired.

In any event, based on what I saw, this would be no good for weeding out infiltrators as there are plenty of Americans who would fail the test on based on the first verse.

In the version I read, they were going to shoot him for insisting that Chicago isn’t the capitol of Illinois.

(a lot of Dopers might understand how he felt)

The US Army knew the future? Or were they looking for fortune tellers? :confused:


It was fixed of course, how else could Cleveland win a World Series?

Well of course, playing the Braves always works well for them, doesn’t it? :wink:


Thank you for bring up those painful memories from 1995, Jim. :wink: (walks away muttering, “The only team Atlanta could win the World Series against happens to me mine”)

If it makes you feel any better, I probably chose '48 as the year in the thread title because I have pitcher Bob Feller’s autograph. That was a pretty good year for him, wasn’t it? Remember, for the purposes of this thread, the Indians are the Series champs. Anything else is Communist propaganda.

Like where Iraq is on a map.

There was a rumor that time-trvelers had infiltrated American lines.

On a slightly related note, the movie 36 Hours, starring James Garner, deals with a wartime US spy drugged and kidnapped by the Germans prior to D-Day, in order to elicit details of the invasion. He is taken to a facility in Germany designed to look like a Allied military hospital. When he awakes he is told that he has been suffering from amnesia and it is now the early 50’s. In a key scene he is asked a number of questions by an “American” doctor which he is told will test whether his memory is alright. They start off innocently enough but then start to probe his knowledge of the impending D-Day operations.

I won’t reveal any more for risk of spoiling it but it’s an interesting film. The amount of preparation put in to create the ruse is impressive, such as giving him grey hair and mocking up newspapers and radio stations.