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

The changing plan …

Jim Leeke — AABP

Soldiers and historians will tell you that a battle plan is valid until the first shot is fired. Something similar may apply to commemorations. Our plan to mark the centennial of the great Fourth of July “baseball match” at Stamford Bridge in 1918, during World War I, has changed and morphed and changed again. Now it’s clear that commemorations will extend beyond July 4, 2018, which is fine with us.

Our colleagues at the U.S. Naval War College now plan to hold a simple pregame ceremony before the Newport Gulls game on the Fourth at historic Cardines Field in Newport, Rhode Island. And our friends at Tennessee State Parks are preparing a WWI baseball game in Nashville the following Saturday, July 7. The Naval War College then plans to play another WWI game in Newport in September, as they did last year. We’ll post details here as we receive them.

Yes, this all differs from what AABP envisioned when we began three years ago. And we’re pleased with it all, too. We’re grateful for the unexpected American friends we’ve made since 2015. And we hope to commemorate the WWI Anglo-American alliance with the many baseball friends we’ve made in the United Kingdom. We look forward to Independence Day 2018 … and to the many Fourths to follow.

Thank you, SABR …

Jim Leeke — AABP (updated April 17)

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) recently tabbed From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War for a 2018 SABR Baseball Research Award. The honor was all the more exciting for being completely unexpected. (From the Dugouts also has now received SABR’s 2018 Larry Ritter Book Award).

The baseball community seems to be acknowledging that the sport’s history during WWI has been neglected far too long. I recently presented a paper at the NINE Spring Training Conference in Tempe, Arizona, about the fates of former New York Giants teammates Edward Grant and Harry McCormick in the Great War. You may know that Captain “Harvard Eddie” Grant was killed in action in the Argonne Forest, five weeks before the armistice. You may not know that Lieutenant “Moose” McCormick returned from France suffering from shell shock.

I wasn’t the only speaker to mention Eddie Grant at NINE. Another speaker included him in the conference’s very first presentation. Umpire Perry Barber later coined the phrase “Eddie Grant Lives,” which resonates a century after his death. SABR helps to preserve his memory, and those of other ballplayers who served in the armed forces, by honoring a book about baseball during WWI. Thank you, SABR!

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!

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.

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!

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.