Independence Day 1918

4 Jul

In June of 1918 it was announced that King George V would be attending, and throwing out the first pitch, at the July 4 baseball game between the United States army and navy teams.

The Associated Press (AP) said the King was looking for help to prepare for the Independence Day game:

“At the request of the king, Arlie Latham, a former big league player, who will umpire the Fourth of July game, sent the King a regulation baseball a few days ago.  The next day Latham called at the Palace and gave the King a brief lesson as to how the baseball should be handled.

“The proper form in pitching was rather hard for the King to get, as he is used to a different type of throw, as in cricket, but the royal student finally began to get something approaching the right swing.  Since then the King has been practicing in his spare moments on a blank wall in the garden.

“The King has expressed hope that he will be able to throw out the ball in a manner to win the approval of the American Rooters.”

Whether he actually practiced is unknown, but the plan to have the King throw out the first ball was scrapped, and he instead walked the ball out to Umpire Latham and handed it to him.

Regardless of how the ball was delivered, the press in London understood the gravity of the gesture.

The London Daily Telegraph said:

“Nothing will give greater pleasure across the Atlantic than the appearance of the King and Queen at the baseball match at Chelsea.  That mark of understanding and attention will appeal to the heart of America far more than any military pageant or review, and the handing out of the ball by the king to the players—an act which will seem trivial and incomprehensible to the German mind—is likely to do more toward the removal of century-old prejudice in America against the name ‘King George’ than the ablest diplomacy or the most persuasive rhetoric.”

The London Daily Sketch memorialized the event in verse:

“King George III with cannon balls

Did try our brothers to dispatch.

King George V the country calls

To watch with him their baseball match.”

King George shakes hand with Lt. Mims, captain of the army team.  Admiral Sims looks on.

King George shakes hand with Lt. Mims, captain of the army team. Admiral William  Sims looks on.

On July 4 The AP reported:

“King George saw the American Army defeated in a hard-fought baseball game today.  The opponent of the army team was one picked from the American navy, which won by a score of 2 to 1.  Every one of the nine innings had its thrills for the more than 18,000 spectators.

“King George followed the game closely and enjoyed it thoroughly.  At the close he turned to Admiral (William) Sims and General (John) Biddle and expressed the hope that he might be able to see many more games before the summer was over.

“Few sporting events since the war began have aroused so much interest and discussion in London as yesterday’s game.  Independence Day was on everybody’s lips…For several days the newspapers have been explaining baseball and the people of London have been pouring over the mysteries of the American national game, instinctively trying to find in it some parallel to their own cricket.  Many persons went to the game armed with clippings and drawings of a diamond showing the position of the players.

“American soldiers and sailors on their way to the game were heartily cheered.  Outside the entrance to the Chelsea football grounds, where the game was played, the people lined the streets for several blocks and crowded the windows in their homes to watch the crowds.”

Hall of Famer Herb Pennock pitched for the navy team which was captained by his Red Sox teammate Mike McNally.

Most sources reported the the attendance as 18,000.  McNally, in a letter to Red Sox Secretary Larry Graver said in a letter reprinted by The AP:

“There were some 50,000 people present.  King George, Admiral Sims, and a lot of other ‘big guys.'”

The wire service summed up the importance of the day:

“No Country ever celebrated the national anniversary of another country as the people of Great Britain today celebrated the Fourth of July.”

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One Response to “Independence Day 1918”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “If Baseball is really the National Game let the Club Owners go out and prove it” | Baseball History Daily - May 4, 2015

    […] Jimmy Powers quoted Lou Gehrig and Herb Pennock of the Yankees and Frankie Frisch of the Cardinals in The Daily News, all said they were […]

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