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.