From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War

From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War

From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War

From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War

Synopsis

Baseball, like the rest of the country, changed dramatically when the United States entered World War I, and Jim Leeke brings these changes to life in From the Dugouts to the Trenches. He deftly describes how the war obliterated big league clubs and largely dismantled the Minor Leagues, as many prominent players joined the military and went overseas. By the war's end more than 1,250 ballplayers, team owners, and sportswriters would serve, demonstrating that while the war was "over there," it had a considerable impact on the national pastime.


Leeke tells the stories of those who served, as well as organized baseball's response, including its generosity and patriotism. He weaves into his narrative the story of African American players who were barred from the Major Leagues but who nevertheless swapped their jerseys for fatigues, as well as the stories of those who were killed in action--and by diseases or accidents--and what their deaths meant to teammates, fans, and the sport in general.


From the Dugouts to the Trenches illuminates this influential and fascinating period in baseball history, as nineteen months of upheaval and turmoil changed the sport--and the world--forever.

Excerpt

America wasn’t prepared for war in the late winter and early spring of 1917, but it certainly was ready for baseball. the Boston Red Sox were the reigning world champions, the best of sixteen Major League clubs scattered through the Northeast and out to the Midwest as far as the left bank of the Mississippi River. Below the big leagues, twenty-two Minor League clubs were set to play ball in parks across the country, from the biggest in Class aa to the smallest in Class D. Together, these many leagues comprised Organized Baseball— the national pastime, the summer game, employment for thousands, entertainment for millions, a hardscrabble business of sharp elbows, big egos, promise, failure, and reward. What would happen if war came?

Capt. T. L. Huston, co-owner of the New York Yankees, thought he knew. “Perhaps before any teams go to their training camps we will have a chance to see whether the players are as loyal to their country as to their [players] fraternity,” Huston said.

Harry Frazee, who owned the Boston Red Sox, thought he knew, too. “People want to get away from the war topics, and almost any kind of diversion to take their minds from the situation is welcome,” Frazee said. “What can fit this need better than baseball?”

Both men were right, if not at the same time. America entered the war that April and nothing much changed right away, as Frazee expected. Flags flew, rhetoric soared, and the baseball season . . .

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