Sailors and soldiers to recreate World War I baseball game USS Remlik's baseball team, who were the 1917-1918 Pennant winners in the Navy Yacht League at Brest, France. (U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph/Matthew McCoy/Rhode Island World War I Centennial Commission via AP)
Sailors and soldiers to recreate World War I baseball game
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Sailors and soldiers will don flannel uniforms and play baseball. They will follow century-old rules to recreate the U.S. Army versus Navy games from World War I.

The U.S. Naval War College will recognize the centennial of America's involvement in the war by planning Friday's game in Newport, Rhode Island. Organizers say it's a way to teach people more about the war. It is also a way to mark the anniversary and have a little fun.

War college students will play seven innings in historically accurate uniforms. Spitballs are allowed.

Navy Adm. William S. Sims organized a baseball league in Ireland in 1917. He wanted to overcome tensions between Americans and the locals. He wanted to foster collaboration among allies and give service members something fun to do during off hours.

Major League Baseball players who were serving participated in the games. Herb Pennock and Casey Stengel played for the Navy. Oscar Charleston, Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson played for the Army. All are in the Hall of Fame.

Sims' grandson, Nathaniel, is throwing the first pitch Friday. He recently donated artifacts from his grandfather's naval career to the college.

Old baseball programs in the collection inspired David Kohnen to organize the game, in collaboration with the Naval History and Heritage Command. It's the first of its kind for the college. Kohnen oversees the college's John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research and the Naval War College Museum.

William Sims commanded U.S. naval forces in Europe. His headquarters initially was in Queenstown, Ireland, which is now Cobh.

When American service members began arriving there, many locals were suspicious of them, Kohnen said. Some of the Americans had Irish last names, but they were there supporting the British, whom the Irish had just rebelled against. The British viewed the same sailors as potential infiltrators for the Irish Republican Army, Kohnen said.

Other Americans had German last names.

"What Admiral Sims was trying to say is, 'We're not Irish, we're not German. We're nothing other than simply American, and baseball is the quintessential American game,'" Kohnen said. "He's trying to demonstrate the unique American identity."

The league grew beyond Ireland. Canadian and Japanese forces fielded teams. Italian and French forces fielded teams too, Kohnen said. King George V watched the Navy triumph in the Army versus Navy World Series on July 4, 1918, in London. He even signed a baseball.

Nathaniel Sims, a Boston physician, said he didn't understand the significance of the games when he donated the materials. He said he thought sailors and soldiers should be "out there at war."

"It's David's contribution to recognize this was part of the diplomatic role of a senior military person, to make sure ethnic, political or any other tensions don't sap the effectiveness of the war effort," he said.

William Sims was president of the war college when he went to Europe.

"There's no way we can understand World War I unless we first consider the history of it in all respects," Kohnen said. "Baseball is part of the story of the American experience during the First World War."

The Rhode Island World War I Centennial Commission plans to rededicate the field where the Friday game is being played, Cardines Field. This is in honor of Bernardo Cardines. He was an Italian immigrant from Newport who fought and died in WWI.
The game is free and open to the public. Gates open at 4:30 p.m.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did old-time baseball players were flannel uniforms?
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COMMENTS (16)
  • kinniel-orv
    10/03/2017 - 03:02 p.m.

    I love how the men recreated the world war 1 baseball game. I see it has respect to the slain soldiers in the war.

  • cheyl-orv
    10/09/2017 - 09:27 p.m.

    i thinks its amazing that they are recreating baseball from world war 1. it can show us the history and all the things we have changed since then.

  • kylel-buh
    10/12/2017 - 10:34 a.m.

    Sailors and soldiers recreate World War I baseball game.Sailors and soldiers will don flannel uniforms and play baseball. They will follow century-old rules to recreate the U.S. Army versus Navy games from World War I.


    MY OPINION IS: That this is really cool. and its so cool because I think it would be fun to see what the old school rules were like.

  • ellyb-orv
    10/13/2017 - 08:02 a.m.

    I like that they wanted to recreate the WW1 game. I wonder why they would want to though

  • MatthewC-bla1
    10/19/2017 - 08:30 a.m.

    It's nice to see people re-create a WWl event. You rarely hear about it, because it is always in the shadow of WWll. I like knowing that people care enough about history to re-create it.

  • Mackenzie-bla
    10/19/2017 - 09:17 a.m.

    I think this is a great and educational way to get kids involved in what it was like back when WWII had broken out. I see this as a way to commemorate all of our fallen soldiers. It is also very cool that the players are going to wear the traditional flannel uniforms so that they can play almost exactly how people did in the 1900's. I find that this is a fantastic idea and feel as though kids would want to learn more about history, if there were more opportunities like this then kids would be more prone to wanting to learn

  • Brady-bla
    10/19/2017 - 02:19 p.m.

    I am very fascinated with this article because I am very interested in both World war I and baseball. I think that this is really neat that they are going back in time to recreate history and how the game of baseball was played during the time of World War I. I learned something new which was why old-time baseball players threw a pitch called spitballs. Spitballs are now banned because of their dangerous movement that heads toward a player, but they are going to make exceptions to make the games as real as it gets and allow these. I wish I could have gone to see this game and see what the history of this game is all about.

  • 24lmmint
    11/13/2017 - 11:01 a.m.

    I like this article is amazing. I really Liked how the article was weird but cool at the same time. And I really liked when they said the were't German. They said that because they had German and Irish last names. And I really really liked how it ended. About Rhode Island.

  • 24jrquin
    11/13/2017 - 11:01 a.m.

    they ware flannel uniform because they looked good.

  • 24zdgill
    11/13/2017 - 11:07 a.m.

    Why did they use baseball to celebrate?
    Why did the gates open at 4:30 p.m.?
    Why did the say they We're not Irish, we're not German?
    Why was William Sims the president of the war college when he went to Europe?
    Why are other Americans had German last names?

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