Happy July 4th ...

The months pass quickly, and it’s now the Fourth of July. Exactly one year from today, we expect to play our Great War baseball match at beautiful Farnham Park near London. Planning continues, and we hope to announce an exciting international match-up before the end of the summer.

Meanwhile, my baseball history of WWI is now available in bookstores and online. The title is From the Dugouts to the Trenches, from the University of Nebraska Press. Of course, this new book includes an account of the great 1918 Army-Navy baseball game at Stamford Bridge. We’ve posted links to reviews, podcasts and radio interviews on our News page. I hope you’ll check them out.

Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all the news, photos and shared information from the Anglo-American Baseball Project and our many WWI sports friends. There’s a lot happening out there … in the US, UK and across Europe.

Come on, Spring ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

It’s been gratifying over these past few months to see the enthusiasm for Great War baseball. It’s not only here in the United States, but in the UK, Canada and Europe, too. We’ve heard from history and baseball fans from all over, especially through our Twitter account.

Our plans for the AABP Fourth of July “baseball match” in 2018 are progressing. We expect to make announcements soon about the two teams that will play at Farnham Park outside London. Many people are working hard on both sides of the Atlantic to make the game a reality.

We also know of two other programs planning to stage World War I baseball games here in America. We’re in touch with the organizers, and will pass along news as these events develop. Each should generate a good deal of excitement.

Meanwhile, spring training is almost here. And don't forget the World Baseball Classic!

 

Happy New Year …

Jim Leeke — AABP

We’ve spent an eventful year here at AABP, planning our Great War baseball match outside London on July 4, 2018. We’ve met many wonderful people in our travels in the US and the UK—really, too many to cite them all individually. So we’d like simply to say thank you and Happy New Year to the following groups and institutions:

We look forward to working with them all in 2017. Please check back regularly during the year for news and announcements.

Veterans Day ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

I was high above the Atlantic a month ago, North America somewhere over the horizon. My week in London as a baseball entrepreneur had ended. Or, rather, things were only then seriously beginning.

In my carry-on bag was a watercolor print of ballplayer Michael J. McNally of the Boston Red Sox, a gift from a new friend, historian and illustrator Tim Fox-Godden. “Minooka Mike” was the captain of the U.S. Navy HQ baseball team in 1918. He shook hands with King George V at the Stamford Bridge game and remembered it all his life.

What would Mike and the other army and navy boys on the field that day have made of our plans to replay their historic Great War game exactly 100 years later, on the 4th of July, 2018? What would they all have said?

Here’s what I would say to each of them, on this Veterans Day in America:

Attaboy.

Farnham Park ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

I caught a fast train from Paddington one morning last month and sixteen minutes later stepped down in Slough (sounds like “plow”) in London’s western suburbs. Then I hopped into a big black British taxi and in a few minutes more reached Farnham Park, the best baseball diamond in England.

It had a beautiful grass infield. Dugouts. A pitcher’s mound. Major league dimensions to the outfield fences — 330 feet to left, 340 to right, 400 to straightaway center. Even a small manual scoreboard. True, it presented a few challenges to hosting a holiday crowd, but none that couldn’t be met by 2018.

Should we then book Farnham Park as the venue for our Great War “baseball match” on the Fourth of July, 2018? 

If you plan it, they will come. 

Batter up!

Ariel House ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

Ariel House, the headquarters of British baseball and softball, rises almost in the shadow of London’s iconic BT Tower. The taxi driver easily found the address earlier this month, although he’d never been there before. A guard asked me to sign in and handed me a badge.

Upstairs, bobbleheads danced everywhere, amid posters and autographed balls and framed jerseys. Two British baseball officials met me. Id seen their national team play well in September at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Brooklyn. MLB Network had broadcast Great Britain’s final game with Israel and everybody was happy.

I shared AABPs plans for a WWI “baseball match” in 2018.

They smiled and asked how they might help.

There will always be an England. 

Flight to Heathrow ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

I was at 38,000 feet over the Atlantic, headed to London on October 4 to make our Great War “baseball match” a reality. After months of planning, whiteboards, email and interviews, it was time to determine whether our plan was feasible, or one of those big, ill-fated ideas that never quite get off the ground.

Yes, right, at the moment, not to sound too Monty Python-ish, I was literally off the ground. My head in the clouds—or well above them, actually. But what would happen in the days ahead, once in England? Would the Anglo-American Baseball Project fly, like my American Airlines plane? Or was it only a dead parrot? 

I imagined the UK customs officer:

“Business or pleasure?”

“Baseball.”

“Right, sir. Best of British luck.”

Coney Island ...

By Jim Leeke — AABP

It’s Labor Day weekend in the United States, and we’re already looking forward to the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Brooklyn later this month. We’ll be on hand to cheer Great Britain in their game with Israel on September 22, and again the next night versus an opponent still to be determined. All games are slated for MCU Park at Coney Island, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

You might have read that Trevor Hoffman, the great Padres closer, has joined the British staff as the bullpen coach. (His mother, Mikki, is British.) Hall of Famer Barry Larkin will manage Brazil in the same qualifier.

We wonder if British players say “baseball match,” as their ancestors did a century ago during the Great War. We’ll let you know. Meanwhile, here’s a short video of Hoffman talking about the games at Coney Island.

Happy July 4th ...

By Jim Leeke — AABP

Greetings to our supporters on Independence Day — or Interdependence Day, as our friends in the UK dubbed the holiday in 1918 during World War One. Two years from today, we plan to present our “baseball match” in England. We’ve had several productive meetings and calls in recent weeks, and plans are evolving. We’ll keep you posted when we have more details.

Meanwhile, our thanks go to Dean Karayanis of the History Author Show for his fine interview about Nine Innings for the King, the book that inspired us to create the AABP. Dean’s passion for history shines in every episode of his podcast. I enjoyed talking with him. Listen to the interview HERE or on the show’s various other outlets.

Also, congratulations to Major League Baseball for the Fort Bragg game yesterday between the Braves and Marlins. We really enjoyed it, and look forward to more in coming years.

Happy Fourth to everyone!

Both sides of the pond …

By Jane C. Clark — AABP

The Anglo-American Baseball Project is making good progress toward making our 2018 baseball match in England a reality. More and more people in the US and the UK are learning about our plans, and we’ve made several good new contacts recently. Here is some of what’s been happening:

We’re very pleased to announce that our 2018 event will help support Wings for Warriors. You can learn more about former US Navy corpsman Anthony "Doc" Ameen and his fine group on our Veterans page and at wingsforwarriors.org. We hope to announce support for a second US veterans group soon. We’re also seeking partnerships with similar groups in the UK. Please get in touch with us if you have suggestions.

AABP cofounder and author Jim Leeke recently had a lively discussion with Dean Karayanis of the History Author Show. The episode will go live on July 4 on the show’s website, and will be available on iHeartRadio, iTunes and other digital outlets. We also expect to share a local print and video interview later in July. Follow us on social media (via the icons at the lower right of this page) for links to every new story and interview.

Our UK followers might like to know that we’re planning to see the national team from Great Britain play in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Brooklyn in September. Let us know if you're going, too. We’d love to meet you there and cheer on British baseball.

Thank you, Harry ...

By Jim Leeke — AABP

Did you know that department-store magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge helped to form the military Anglo-American Baseball League during World War I? You probably know him best from the PBS program Mr Selfridge. During the war, he certainly lived up to his maxim: Develop imagination, throw away routine.

Here’s more about the founding of the league from “Baseball Follows the Flag to War Zone of Europe” by Patrick O’Flaherty, Atlanta Constitution, October 13, 1918:

Originally the Anglo-American league was the work of Wilson Cross, formerly of Cincinnati, but for the last sixteen years with the Vacuum Oil company in London. … He got together thirty Americans in London and induced them to form a limited company to be called the Anglo-American Baseball league, and to be underwritten for $30,000. He did this simply and solely as a baseball fan. He secured no help from the states, except that one of his stockholders is W. A. Parsons, of New York City, who owns about all of Coney island, and whose former London manager, H. E. Booker, has become managing director of the league. …

Others whom Cross secured to underwrite the league are: F. E. Powell, of the Anglo-American Oil company; H. Gordon Selfridge, of Selfridge’s, pioneer American department store in London; Robert Grant, Jr., of Lee Higginson & Co., Boston bankers; J. D. McAfee, of McAfee and Co., bankers; W. E. Burlock, of the Griffith pictures; W. E. Mandelick, of the London General Omnibus company; H. H. Lukens, of the DuPont Powder company; R. Newton Crane, barrister; Clarence Graff, of Raymond Pinchon & Co., New York bankers; G. A. Mower, of the Sturdevant Engineering company; S. A. Wallace, of the Associated Equipment company; George W. McKinley, of the Vacuum Oil company; F. R. Green, of the Electric Hose and Rubber company; C. F. Lippincott, C. S. Colton, Montague Battling, C. S. Cox, of Spalding’s; Dr. R. N. LeCran, D. D. S; R. B. Foster, of the O-Cedar Mop company; W. D. Morgan of the Royal Typewriter company; C. F. Lumb and J. M. Armel, of the Vacuum Oil company. …

They began by taking the big Chelsea football grounds under lease, with an option for a 1919 lease. These are the foremost football grounds in the metropolitan area. The grandstand seats 5,000 and there is bleacher space for 35,000 more.

Next they leased the arsenal football grounds at Highbury, London, with a grand stand seating capacity of 3,000 and bleacher capacity for 21,000 more.

Learn more about the Anglo-American Baseball League and the historic Fourth of July game in my book Nine Innings for the King.

Book news from SABR …

By Jane C. Clark — AABP

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has announced that Jim Leeke’s book Nine Innings for the King has been nominated for the 2016 Larry Ritter Book Award. SABR’s Deadball Era Committee presents the award annually to recognize the best new baseball book primarily set in the Deadball Era.

Among SABR’s biggest and most diverse groups, the Deadball Era Committee has over 400 members. Books nominated this year include many outstanding works, among them The Colonel and Hug by Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz, Charles C. Alexander’s The Miracle Braves, 1914-1916 and Charles Leerhsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. Congratulations, Jim, for being in such fine company!

Order your copy of Nine Innings for the King on the AABP book page.

Thank you, Commissioners …

By Jim Leeke — AABP

We are grateful to the United States World War One Centennial Commission for endorsing our project to recreate the historic WWI baseball game in England on the Fourth of July, 2018. Created by an act of Congress, the commission plans, develops and executes programs, projects and activities to commemorate the WWI centennial. You’ll notice the commission’s logo now on our Home page.

You may know that the commission recently announced the design for the planned World War One memorial in Washington, D.C. This memorial will be built on the edge of Pershing Park, near the White House. See more on the winning design in this article from the Washington Post.

We look forward to learning about the commission’s many other activities in 2017 and 2018.

Tea and baseball …

By Jim Leeke — AABP

Have you spotted tea Baron Sir Thomas Lipton in our YouTube video? That’s him at the 0:43 mark. Sir Thomas was among many VIPS who attended the historic U.S. Army versus U.S. Navy baseball game at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, on July 4, 1918.

George Earle Raiguel, a YMCA official from Philadelphia, later wrote a rollicking account of the game for an American magazine. Seven chorus girls in his box were selling souvenir programs for two shillings apiece to raise money for war charities. They delighted in targeting Sir Thomas and other important people in the crowd.

“Ah, Sir Thomas, won’t you buy a program?”

“I have several, thank you,” he would reply.

“Yes, but you haven’t bought one from me,” would be the rejoinder. And the Sweet Thing was all allurement.

“And I don’t think that I shall,” would come rather testily from his lordship or his grace.

But resistance was futile.

Ladies of the chorus do not attain the front row by meekness and mildness. So the Sweet Thing would be persistent and make things so uncomfortable for the personage that in desperation the personage would buy from her—only to be tackled immediately by another Sweet Thing. When the stock was depleted the programs were collected from those with an excess supply, only to be resold to the same people. Obviously, there was more than one game.

Read more about the great Fourth of July “baseball match” in Nine Innings for the King. Or head to your local library and look up Raiguel’s article, The Fourth of July That Rang Round the World: The Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played, in the July 1919 edition of The Ladies’ Home Journal.

Happy holidays from AABP …

By Jim Leeke — AABP

Boston Red Sox pitcher Herb Pennock joined the navy after the 1917 season to get away from baseball for a while. Naturally, the elegant southpaw from rural Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, wound up pitching for U.S. Navy versus U.S. Army on the Fourth of July, 1918, in front of King George V and tens of thousands of Allied troops and Londoners.

The “Squire of Kennett Square” felt differently about baseball by the time of the Armistice that November. Here’s what Pennock wired to the Boston Post shortly before Christmas:

I am proud of my present uniform, but it sure will feel good to get those old togs on again. It will be one big day when we head for home and the Statue of Liberty. Tell the fans my fast one is faster than I ever thought it could be and wish them a merry Christmas. — HERB PENNOCK, Red Sox.

‘Remarkable Scenes at Chelsea’ ...

By Jim Leeke — AABP

The great Fourth of July “baseball match” at Stamford Bridge in 1918 helped solidify the Anglo-American military alliance during the First World War. We’ve read many fine accounts of the event. Perhaps the most moving ran in The Times of London on July 5. Here’s how it began:

The baseball match on the Chelsea Football Ground yesterday was an awakener for London. It was a revelation of America at play; and the afternoon was as strenuous as a pillow-fight in a boys’ dormitory. It took us completely away to those distant times when we could rejoice under a blue sky, without looking for Zeppelins and Gothas. The afternoon was crammed full of extraordinary moments. It passed in such a pandemonium as was perhaps never heard before on an English playing-field; not even on a football ground. The United States seemed to be shouting in chorus, and Great Britain joined in, a little breathless, but determined to make a good show of lung power. Never, moreover, was a football ground so arrayed. The rather dingy surroundings were shut out by a square mile or two of flags, “Old Glory” and the Union Jack predominating, but the rest of the Allies not being forgotten. The grand stand was gloriously draped, and the King and Queen went to their seats by a flowery way. ...

Top of the first ...

By Jim Leeke — AABP

Welcome to the first post of the new Anglo-American Baseball Project blog. It replaces another blog that ran for several years elsewhere. This is where we’ll share news and comments about the AABP and our planned “baseball match” in London on July 4, 2018. 

You might have noticed the new video on our Home page. We think you’ll enjoy it. You’ll see actual newsreel footage of King George V at the US Army versus US Navy game at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, in 1918. You’ll also learn more about the 2018 game.

We’ll post here again when we have something exciting to share with you. Check back soon.