Sports during the Great War

Since going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, I can’t help but think of something entirely different when I read about dugouts in All Quiet On The Western Front. So I thought I would share some brief musings about sports during the war.

In his article “On Account of War” Matt Kelly speaks about how different the American attitude was towards baseball during WWI then how the game was seen during WWII. In the second war it was more a morale booster due to President Roosevelt’s “Green Light” letter. However, by the spring of 1918 many minor leagues had already closed down as American lives were now engaged in the fight. A lot of Americans were upset that major league players were exempt for the time-being from serving overseas. So, by the end of July 1918 the “work or fight” order issued to all “non-essential” activities applied to major league baseball players as well. This of course speed up the season, and put a temporary halt on the game being played in the States.

The picture of the baseball below is from one the last games before both the American and National Leagues had to quit playing. The game was between the Detroit Tigers and the White Sox.

However, I know in this class we are mainly focused on Europe’s involvement in the Great War. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert that came out in 2014. I just posted a picture of it here, but there is also a full video on Youtube that I enjoyed watching and you might too.

Now the advert is definitely a nicer depiction of the Christmas Truce that happened in 1914 which we discussed briefly in class on Tuesday. I won’t go into too much detail because hopefully we will get into this subject more when we get closer to Christmas (103 days people!) The commercial however, is accurate in portraying the soccer matches that went on between the opposing forces (in some places, the said “truce” was not ubiquitous by any means as certain sectors were still entrenched in combat.) I would also like to highlight that the year this advertisement came out was the 100th anniversary of the truce. Additionally, ┬áthe advertisement was made in partnership with the Royal British Legion, who can be distinguished by the red poppy, as they work with the United Kingdom’s active military and veterans.

Thank you for putting up with my indulgent side as sports is one of my favorite subjects to talk about. Please feel free to contribute if there are any other sports buffs that see where the lines of history and sports often collide.

3 thoughts on “Sports during the Great War

  1. Here is the ad:

    It was controversial when it aired, since some people thought war was a tasteless thing for an advert. But it’s also kind of lovely.

    Interesting fact: a few years ago I was shown grenades from WWI. The American grenades mimicked a baseball in size and weight because the young men already knew how to throw them; some of the British grenades mimicked a discus for the same reason.

  2. Watching the commercial left me with chills. Also, it makes me question how people can recognize each other’s humanity, have an intercession from war, and then resume such graphic fighting. It must be so confusing to experience such brief friendship and then return to violence.

  3. I’ve talked about this before in other classes with Dr. Scanlon, but if you even come face-to-face with an active shooter, you’re supposed to start rapidly saying as many facts about yourself as you can. In this way, you humanize yourself and have a better chance at survival. It’s interesting to me here how, just like kbrown28 said, these people can come face to face with one another and “recognize each other’s humanity…and then resume such graphic fighting.” I wonder how these men were able to cope with the aftermath of killing people they just enjoyed the company of

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