Dispatch from the Front—March 1918

26 May

“Supply exhausted of first base mitts, masks, catchers’ mitts, protectors, fielders’ gloves and rules supply low.  Spring supplies should be rushed as rapidly as possible on different ships.  Increase of athletic goods essential.  Unexpected needs in front require a large increase.”

The New York Sun said the above cablegram was sent from France to the Y.M.C.A. in New York.

“It calls attention to what our men overseas regard as one great deficiency in the equipment of the United States troops.  Baseball is still our national game, even over there in Flanders, and the basemen object to taking hard throws from across the diamond with their bare hands.”

Baseball game with members of the Twenty-eighth Division, Three Hundred and Second U.S. supply train in France

US troops play baseball in France, 1918

The Sun said the Y.M.C.A. had already provided to “the men of the expeditionary forces in France:  79,680 baseballs and 19,000 bats, 8,000 fielders’ gloves, 2,000 catchers’ mitts,” and more was on the way.

“When the umpire calls ‘play ball!’ American soldiers forget all about the grim business of war.  A baseball game…for the time being is the principal object in life.  The game must be played with all the national enthusiasm.  It must be played right.  That’s why they want more rule books.  The few that went over have been thumbed so much that the replenishing supply is made part of a cable message at so much a word.”

“Play makes the boys who are fighting for democracy forget that they are fighters and recall that they are democratic.  Old-fashioned army officers who were bitterly opposed to the introduction of such fol de rol into the training of the greatest army the United States ever has been called to raise have retracted their strictures against the innovation. “These men know how to play now; at least 70 per cent of them had no idea of where to begin  when they were sent to training camps.  So war has done what the most prominent advocates of physical training and scientific play have failed to do.  It has made the young men of America nearly 100 percent interested in athletics as active participants.”

Dr. George J. Fisher of the Y.M.C.A. said:

“’These boys who are sending for mitts and gloves aren’t going to give up playing ball when they come home and the victory has been won.  They are coming home to make America what many of us have been trying to make her—a play nation.”

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