Skip to content

The King at a ballgame, 4 July 1918.


George V meets Herb Pennock I.

VERY COMPLETE ARRANGEMENTS HAVE been made to enable the American troops at present in Great Britain to observe their national festival with all the freedom of home. The central feature of to-day’s events will, of course, be the baseball match between teams representing the American Army and the American Navy, at which the King and a Royal party will be present. This event will undoubtedly become historic. Apart from this, however, elaborate programmes have been arranged both in London and in the provinces.

The baseball match, at which the King will be present, begins at 3 o’clock this afternoon at Stamford Bridge, and it is requested that the public will be in their places before that time. His Majesty will be accompanied by the Queen and Princess Mary, and Queen Alexandra and the Princess Victoria are also expected to be present. The Royal party will drive to the Chelsea football ground in open carriages , and on their arrival at 3.15 the captains, umpires, and possibly other representatives of the teams will be presented. The game will be suspended, and the King will hand a ball to a representative of one of the teams, and not “pitch” it, as has been stated. The game will then be resumed. When the President of the United States starts a match, his “pitching” is confined to throwing the ball on to the field for the “pitcher” to deal with, and, as the front of the grand stand at Chelsea is netted, even this limited participation in the game would present difficulties.

The teams are evenly matched, and a very close and hard-fought game is expected. Lieutenant Mims will act as captain and manager of the Army side, and Lieutenant McLintock will coach the Navy side. The following teams have been chosen:—

UNITED STATES ARMY.—Captain Lafitte or Private Montgomery (pitcher), Sergeant Bartholemy (catcher), Private Tober (1st base), Private Dorn (2nd base), Private Blackmore (short stop), Private Dublynn (3rd base), First-Class Sergeant Maender (left field), Lieutenant Mims (centre-field, captain), and Private Rawlings (right field).

UNITED STATES NAVY.—Seaman Pennock (pitcher), played in the World Series in America for the Boston Red Sox; Ensign Fuller (catcher), Harvard University; First-Class Yeoman McNally (1st base, acting captain), played for the Boston Red Sox; Ensign Hayes (2nd base), played with the New York Giants; Shipwright Ferrios (short stop), an American Indian who has played in the Arizona League; First-Class Yeoman Vannetter (3rd base), played in the Southern League in America; Machinist’s Mate Egan (left field), of the New York State League; Machinist’s Mate Maney (centre field), played in the Southern League; Second-Class Yeoman Lee (right field).

At the invitation of the management of the Empire the members of both teams were present at last night’s performance of The Lilac Domino. Private boxes, gaily decorated with flowers and the American and British flags, were placed at their disposal, and at the close the orchestra played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a selection of national airs. [The Times, 4 July 1918]

Sees Navy Defeat Army by 2 to 1—Our Soldiers and Sailors Feast and Parade.

‘He’s all right!’

LONDON CELEBRATED LIBERTY DAY with an enthusiasm and whole-heartedness that surprised herself. She forgot her reserve and threw herself into the commemoration of her great ally’s national holiday with an ardor which she never shows on her own national festivals.

American flags were flown everywhere, American soldiers and sailors were everywhere, and great crowds collected to see the guests who arrived at the Anglo-Saxon fellowship meeting at Westminster, and to cheer the King and Queen as they went to the army and navy baseball game.

THE BASEBALL GAME BETWEEN the army and navy at Stamford Bridge grounds, the score of which was 2 to 1 in favor of the navy, will always be remembered as the first at which royalty was officially present, but it is likely to be remembered by royalty itself as a most welcome variation from the ordinary public function. Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria arrived first, and Captain Turning explained to them what was going on as the teams were practicing.

Then the King, Queen and Princess Mary were ushered quietly into the royal box by Admiral Sims. The King kissed Queen Alexandra and settled himself by her side before some navy rooters, seated a little to the left, realised that he was there. Then their irregular shouts broke into a measured chant of “What’s the matter with King George? He’s all right!” The King heard it, knew it was a true democratic welcome, and flushed with pleasure.

A few minutes later the King, with Admiral Sims, left the royal box and appeared on the diamond. As he did so, from every part of the ground and bleachers there rushed across the green American soldiers and sailors, British and Colonial Tommies, and ladies in fashionable costume, to be near the King. No one attempted to check them. They formed a rough semi-circle around the royal group, and cheered heartily as the King shook hands and chatted with the two Captains and handed the ball to the umpire.

Then the game began, and if one man enjoyed it, it was the King. Sailor himself, he perhaps was pleased that the navy should make the first run, and he laughed as the batter slid for the home plate and a cheer leader called forth a more than usually energetic shout. It was an afternoon hot enough even for New York, and for an hour or two, it is safe to say, the ball game displaced even war in the great gathering’s thoughts. [New York Times, 5 July 1918]

  • A British Pathé film of the event may be viewed at the Pathé site. The baseball story begins approximately two minutes into the reel. To launch the film, click here.


Baseball Propaganda.


Hugh Chisholm

THE UNITED STATES FORCES have crossed the Atlantic to help with the war. They have no secondary object. But if, on their return, with victory enthroned in the colours, they could claim also to have converted Great Britain to baseball, the delight of America would be the more complete. Our visitors dream of a future in which British teams shall go to the States, and American teams come to England, to play for the baseball championship. This ideal, and the zeal with which it is pursued, though from afar, form a curious illustration of the way of the English-speaking races. They leave their sports only to go into battle, and as soon as the fighting is over turn again to bats and balls.

Footballs were desired by our “Contemptibles,” even in the early, most tragic days of the war. We did not imagine then a sports organization as comprehensive as that undertaken by the American Y.M.C.A., which, from a centre in London, dispatches equipment for many kinds of recreation to American camps everywhere “on this side.” Recently it paid a bill of £13,640 for baseball apparatus alone. There were 6,000 bats and 36,000 balls, together with gloves, masks, &c. In some respects baseball is not so expensive as cricket. A good bat costs only from six to eight shillings. But the catcher’s glove runs to 26s., and it must be remembered that all the fielders wear gloves, which, though they cost less than the catcher’s, are sufficiently expensive.

At 26/-, not inexpensive.

Another indication that baseball is not a luxury, but a necessity, to the American may be found in the diligence with which this Y.M.C.A. centre wires to every camp in England, Ireland, and Scotland a daily record of the results of matches in the American and National Leagues, the two combinations which control the best baseball in the United States. The camps are provided with permanent scoring-boards, on which the progress of the daily struggle is marked up.

Missionary Efforts.

Some of the equipment, which arrives in huge loads, goes to the British camps and barracks. It may be called American baseball propaganda. Canadians in about 30 camps have been provided with bats and balls; but they, of course, do not require converting, having performed the operation long ago for themselves. The soldier who is at home in England requires more careful attention; and the Americans are most proud of their success at London barracks, notably Knightsbridge and Regent’s Park. The teachers they have sent to Knightsbridge Barracks have found many apt pupils. “These Englishmen,” says one teacher, “play remarkably well, considering what a little time they have spent at the ball game. They pull off some things that are mighty fine. It is a treat to us to see the way they take to it.” Four baseball teams have been established at Knightsbridge, forming a small league of their own; and now they are looking for games with outside combinations of similar quality.

Near Knightsbridge Barracks lies the piece of Hyde Park on which the Americans play their matches on Wednesday afternoons. It has been a joy to the baseball missionary to see the number of English spectators who gather there. He has a keen eye for the children and young people, but what surprises him most, and gratifies him hardly less, is the grey-haired, elderly men and women who come week after week, and show a very lively interest in the American game. These meetings of players from the American camps have undoubtedly done much to make baseball really familiar in this country. When we are told, however, that the number of American teams now in England reaches 100, we can have no scepticism as to the extent of the propaganda. Not that the main aim is conversion; it is, obviously, to give the American soldier the opportunity he most desires of recreation and exercise.

THE FIRST-CLASS BASEBALL PLAYER, of whose wages and exploits and privileges such astonishing stories are told, is not so well represented in England as in France. Here he can be counted on the fingers; over there he needs figures to compute his numbers. The reason is that, generally speaking, the Americans who remain in England long enough to settle down at baseball are craftsmen of some kind, mechanics or men with technical training. The baseball giant, on the other hand, has been educated to baseball and very little else, and, consequently, when he becomes a soldier, is the ordinary fighting man, and goes with as little delay as possible to the quarter where he is most needed. The American aviation camps in England supply a large proportion of the baseballers we see.

Ed Lafitte.

Nevertheless, a few players of high reputation have shown their abilities before English crowds. Pennock, the pitcher of the United States Navy, was formerly a member of the Boston Americans, otherwise known as the Red Sox, who won the world’s championship several years, and are winning it again this year. Before his connexion with the Boston Americans he was with the Philadelphia Americans, or Athletics, for whom he pitched when they, in their turn, won the world’s championship. Lafitte, the Army pitcher, used to play with the Detroit Americans, and was previously one of the best pitchers in the International League. McNally, of the Navy, great as an in-fielder, was also in the Boston Americans. Many men now in the aviation camps have played in the minor American leagues; while in the various camp teams can be found well-known “college” players, who are a class apart from the professionals. Early in September some good baseball should be seen on the Hyde Park ground, for the championship of England is to be decided there, between the best American team and the best Canadian. It is greatly to be feared that there is no possible chance of an English team carrying off the world’s palm. The Americans would be delighted if there were such a possibility. So would the Canadians, who are quite as keen on our conversion to baseball as the Americans.

The Lesser Games.

THE AMERICAN “COLLEGE MAN” is distinguished for his football prowess, and numbers of good players are looking forward to the winter in the camps. Already the sum of £1,600 has been devoted to footballs and 2,000 suits are being made in England, the English manufacturers being carefully instructed in the mysterious padding of the garments necessitated by the peculiarities of the American game. Whether American football stands any chance of engaging the affections of England remains to be discovered.

Of lesser games for the amusement of soldiers, the Y.M.C.A. supports some 200. They include grouped and massed games, and games that require speed and skill. These also are to be exhibited to England, at a demonstration in September by 100 picked soldiers. A programme of 40 different games is being arranged for an afternoon in Hyde Park. Meanwhile, Americans expert at miscellaneous games have been methodically teaching representatives of the British, Dominions, and Indian Y.M.C.A.’s how to spread a knowledge of these amusements among their own people. [The Times, 30 August 1918; attribution: cited in Janet (Hogarth) Courtney.]

Hugh Chisholm was the editor of the St James’s Gazette, an editor and reporter for The Times and the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopædia Britannica‘s 11th Edition (19101-11). For more on the event reported here: Jim Leeke’s Nine Innings for the King: The Day Wartime London Stopped for Baseball, July 4, 1918

Added: Cricket on Staten Island, 2010.


Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *