On April 1, the 2013 Major League Baseball season begins. The National Air and Space Museum’s hometown Washington Nationals begin their season at home. My beloved Baltimore Orioles, however, begin their season on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida. Like most teams, they will take a chartered airplane to their destination.
The 1934 Cincinnati Reds were the first baseball team to fly a chartered airplane to an away game. On June 8, nineteen members of the Reds boarded two American Airlines Ford Tri-Motors for a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Six players opted to travel via train. General Manager Larry McPhail believed that the quicker air travel would give the players more rest between games. The Reds won two out of the three games in that series.
The first team to make charter arrangements for a full season was the 1946 New York Yankees. On May 13, the Yankees flew a United Airlines chartered Douglas DC-4, dubbed the Yankees Mainliner, from LaGuardia Airport to St. Louis. According to the Associated Press, several hundred fans went to the airport to see their team take off. Joe DiMaggio bumped his head as he entered the plane.
The executive and co-owner of the 1946 Yankees was none other than Larry McPhail. He had chartered flights for spring training trips to Panama and cities in the southern United States. Several players, including future Baseball Hall of Famer Charles “Red” Ruffing, opted for the train. Ruffing claimed to have had enough of flying during his time with the Air Transport Command during World War II. The Yankees would win three out of four games from the St. Louis Browns.
(And because baseball is full of fun connections…the St. Louis Browns became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. The Orioles’ President of Baseball Operations from 2007 to 2011 was Andy McPhail, grandson of Larry, who gave major league baseball the flying bug!)
Whichever team you root for, enjoy opening day! Play ball!
Elizabeth Borja is a museum specialist in the Archives Department of the National Air and Space Museum.