The Ball Game ...


   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. ...

The Times, London, July 5, 1918

Thank you, Google ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

You might have noticed our new Gallery page. It links to a digital collection that we created with help from Google Arts & Culture. Follow the link and you’ll find dozens of images and videos from the Fourth of July “baseball match” in London during World War I.

That historic US Army – US Navy game in 1918, of course, inspired us to found this group, the Anglo-American Baseball Project. King George V went to the game at Stamford Bridge to show his support for his American allies, and took much of the royal family with him. They might not all have understood what they were watching, but they had a marvelous time nonetheless.

“I don’t know what he did, but I’m for him!” the king’s mother, Queen Alexandra, exclaimed when a navy player slid across the plate to score. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, we think you’ll enjoy learning about the big game, too. So, thank you, Google … and batter up!

Change of venue …

Jim Leeke — AABP

In partnership with the U.S. Naval War College, we’re pleased to announce the new site of our World War I centennial baseball game. We’ll play on July 4, 2018, at Cardines Field in Newport, Rhode Island, home of the Newport Gulls. Learn more about this historic ballpark here.

We’ll celebrate the US-UK alliance that baseball helped to secure in London in 1918. And we’ll honor the soldiers, sailors and marines who fought in the war (and played a little ball along the way) exactly 100 years ago.

Cardines Field is accessible for many American fans, especially those in the Northeast. And we hope that some of our British baseball friends also will visit us and take in the game. It wouldn’t be the same without them.

We’ll let you know on this website once we've determined the time of the first pitch and other last details. Meanwhile, we’re looking forward to an amazing Fourth in Newport!

Lights, camera, action ...

Today's guest blogger is Emily Tait, UK filmmaker ...

Ten years ago, my Dad was signed off work sick. During a restless night, unable to sleep, he discovered a love for a sport he had never before appreciated. I wish I could tell you about the thrilling game he experienced that night. Unfortunately, the only recollection he has of this game is that he had found himself rooting for the Mets. It has stuck ever since.

So that was it, my Dad was a New York Mets fan. Losing hope and faith in British football, he swapped his Arsenal shirts for Mets jerseys—and, incidentally, so did we.

Over the next few years, his dedication to baseball grew and he took a real interest in following the American pastime. His Twitter feed was flooded with baseball updates, his family announcements updating us on the previous night’s game became a daily ritual, parcels containing all sorts of baseball-related merchandise and clothing turned up at the door, and even dinner-table chat steered toward the week’s trades or the latest home run.

One day, he told us about a book he had heard about on Twitter. Written by a former sports journalist and baseball historian (none other than Jim Leeke), it told the story of how, during the heart of World War I, a ball game between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army played out on Independence Day for King George V himself at Stamford Bridge.

Skip forward to the 4th of July, 2017, the 99th anniversary of the King’s game, when my tweet at the MLB Battlegrounds in Hyde Park, London, caught Jim’s attention, leading to the first of many conversations about making his book into a documentary.

So here we are, in pre-production of a film about a game that showed unity between the U.S and the U.K, bringing joy and colour to a country draped in suffering and loss. We have a trailer on its way, and are deeply into the research. You’ll find us on our website, Twitter and Facebook. We’re looking for interview subjects, so please get in touch if you have information, stories, names, contacts or suggestions. … Let's get this ball rolling!

Happy July 4th ...

Jim Leeke — AABP

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.

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.

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?”


“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.

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.