Yesterday's decision by Major League Baseball to postpone games represents a break from an often criticized tradition among sports leagues to keep playing through national tragedies.
The most famous example is the then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle's decision to go ahead with the full schedule of games on the Sunday following the Friday assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Years later, Rozelle said it was one of his biggest mistakes.
"Clearly it was the wrong thing to do, it was incredibly self-serving. This was the NFL's way of saying it could do it and also portray itself as able to pull us together," said Charles Korr, a history professor at the University of Missouri.
Baseball's record has not been much better. Yesterday's postponements represented the first time since D-Day in 1944 that the league suspended a whole day's regular-season schedule in response to a national emergency. Before that, regular-season games were called off after the 1923 death of President Warren G. Harding, and preseason games were canceled after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The season was also cut short after America entered World War I, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The World Series was delayed after an earthquake rattled Candlestick Park and devastated the Bay area just as a game got under way in 1989.
"There is a terrible temptation of sports people to view themselves as operating in a separate world," said Korr, who has written extensively on sports history.
Horse races, tennis matches and other sports have tended to lumber through all but the most severe crisis - even wars in some cases. The Rose Bowl was played a month after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, but it was moved from Pasadena, Calif., to an eastern city thought to be better defended: Durham, N.C.
The attack prompted an offer by then-baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to Roosevelt to cancel spring training and the season. Roosevelt urged the games to go on, reasoning that it would be good for the nation's morale. Teams were depleted of stars, however, as players such as Ted Williams reported for military duty.
The U.S. Open played through both World Wars. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes went on as planned. The Indianapolis 500, however, was suspended from 1942 to 1945, when wartime rationing left rubber and fuel in short supply.
Some NFL games were underway when news of Pearl Harbor reached the mainland. Public address announcements at some stadiums urged military personnel to report to base, but the games continued, and the championship was held a few weeks later, according to C. Robert Barnett, a professor at Marshall University and expert on football history.
The fledgling league had a hard time filling its rosters during the war and temporarily merged a number of teams.
But it was the decision to play after Kennedy's death that is most vividly recalled by historians. Ravens owner Art Modell said he called Rozelle and urged him to cancel the games as soon as he learned of the shooting.
Rozelle disagreed, and, at the advice of Bud Wilkinson, chairman of the president's youth fitness program and retired coach of the University of Oklahoma, decided that Kennedy would have preferred the league to continue.
"We played under strong protest from me," Modell said, whose Cleveland Browns faced the Dallas Cowboys that Sunday.
Current baseball commissioner Bud Selig was among those who disagreed with that decision. "I was stunned by the JFK assassination and it took me a long time to get over that," said Selig, who made the decision to postpone yesterday.
Assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. was buried on Opening Day in 1968, and baseball left it up to individual clubs whether to play. Most did. African-American baseball players, including home run king Hank Aaron, complained bitterly.
"People were upset that people didn't go out of the way to show respect," Korr said. "Some of the players did not want to show up."
The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association delayed their playoffs.