July4 WWI Baseball 2 1536x1056By late 1917, well-known major leaguers were entering the armed forces and many continued to play ball. The YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, and other war charities often supplied playing equipment to American doughboys. Pictured are Americans playing baseball in France in 1918. Photo courtesy of the Anglo-American Baseball Project Inc. 

The World War I Army-Navy Baseball Game Played for the King of England 

By Matt Fratus
via the Coffee or Die web site

On July 4, 1918, the biggest sports competition in Europe wasn’t soccer, rugby, or cricket. Rather, two teams of “Yanks” — one from the Army and another of Navy personnel, drawn from soldiers and sailors sent to England for World War I — squared off in what British newspapers called the “extraordinary baseball match” pairing teenagers off hometown sandlots with major leaguers. The game brought a stoppage to wartime London and was watched from the stands by no less than King George V and Winston Churchill.

The game was the brainchild of Rear Adm. William Sims. The president of the Naval War College had sailed to London on a secret mission in April 1917. It was the first time the United States had entered a coalition force, and Sims was the first senior American commander to arrive on the European front. In order to improve morale among the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, Sims established the Anglo-American Baseball League and informed all inbound ships from America to Europe to carry baseball teams.

The arrival of the foreign pastime brought forth American culture and identity and Allied cohesion the Europeans hadn’t seen before. Early on, 30 expatriate American businessmen in the London area had formed the new league, and by the summer of 1918 eight teams were entertaining Allied troops stationed in the area. The four American and four Canadian teams played routine games throughout the year, but Sims prepared to make the day of America’s national independence one not to soon forget.

King George and Queen Mary reviewing American troops marching past Buckingham Palace, 1918. King George V welcomed US troops to England and to the war effort. When the Anglo-American Baseball League planned an Army-versus-Navy baseball game to celebrate the Fourth of July, the monarch accepted an invitation to attend. What London newspapers called the “baseball match” became important news on both sides of the Atlantic. Photo courtesy of the Anglo-American Baseball Project Inc.

Ahead of the special planned baseball game held at Stamford Bridge, home to the Chelsea football club, umpire Arlie Latham visited the gardens of Buckingham Palace to teach King George V how to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. “He had a middling fair arm but it was hard to break him of the habit of his stiff arm way from playing cricket,” Latham said, who had played for the New York Giants and was known as a brawler and jokester. He told the monarch the key to woo the crowd was “More speed!”

Although a protective netting canceled the king’s honorary pitch, he still took the field before the game to shake hands with the team’s captains. He even used a fountain pen to sign and date the game ball, which would be presented to the game’s winner, and ultimately to President Woodrow Wilson. Also in attendance was a young Winston Churchill, who made a speech. 

Read the entire article on the Coffee or Die web site web site here:

 

External Web Site Notice: This page contains information directly presented from an external source. The terms and conditions of this page may not be the same as those of this website. Click here to read the full disclaimer notice for external web sites. Thank you.