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1918: Illustrious Turnout for Baseball in Britain
SABR UK Examiner - Examiner #11 - July 1999
Written by SABR UK Chapter   

 

Ed: This is the first of hopefully many stories to come out of the Wilson Cross Scrapbook, which was graciously loaned to SABR UK by Jim Montgomery, a baseball collector living in Miami. The scrapbook covers baseball in Britain during the First World War and the following decade, and contains a wealth of information. We are greatly indebted to Stephen Green, who is the Curator for the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord's, for his analysis of articles and photographs relating to a match held on US Independence Day in 1918.
 
The Weekly Dispatch for July 7, 1918 made the confident assertion that a recent event 'was the most momentous day in Anglo-American history'. In similar vein the paper said that by going on 4 July to the playing fields of Chelsea in South West London 'George V wiped out the blunder of George III.' This may be pitching it a bit high but it is clear that tremendous efforts were made that day to promote the wartime alliance. This culminated in a baseball match at Stamford Bridge in which the US Navy defeated the US Army in front of 38,000 people.
 

King George V at the ballgame.
King George V was there as with his wife (Queen Mary), his mother (Queen Alexandra), his daughter (Princess Mary, later the Princess Royal) and his aunt (Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll).
 
The Prime Minister attended - he was the 'Welsh Wizard', David Lloyd George. In addition to his wife, two of his predecessors were there. They were AJ Balfour and HH Asquith. The latter was also accompanied by his wife. Equally important was the presence of two future Prime Ministers, Arthur Bonar Law and Winston Churchill. The latter was to lead his country in an even more significant wartime alliance with the United States, his mother's native land.
 
Many of the Cabinet attended including Sir Eric Geddes (the First Lord of the Admiralty), ES Montagu (the Secretary of State for India), Walter Long (the Colonial Secretary) and the prominent politician, Austen Chamberlain. GN Barnes, a leading Labour Member of Parliament, was also in the Royal Box. Two former Viceroys of India (Lord Curzon and Lord Hardinge) were present as well as that country's leading statesman, the Hon Sir SP Sinha. They were accompanied by the cricketer, the Maharaja of Patiala.
 
Leading figures from the Dominions included Sir Robert Borden and WF Lloyd from Canada, WM Hughes of Australia and WF Massey, the New Zealand leader. South Africa was represented by their great statesman, General Smuts, in addition to Lord Milner, the former British High Commissioner in that country.
 
One of the most famous present was Lord Grey of Falloden. He was the Foreign Secretary in 1914 who said 'the lights are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.' Possibly the most knowledgeable British spectator would have been Lord Desborough, the great sportsman and public figure.
 
Three high ranking military figures were present. Sir William Robertson was the only Field Marshal in the British Army to have started his career as a private. Sir Henry Wilson was later to be murdered by Irish extremists. Major General Sir Francis and Lady Lloyd also were in the Royal Box. Cricket was represented by Lord Hawke, the famous former Yorkshire captain. He is said to have prayed that no professional would ever captain England. One wonders what he thought of the match.
 
The present writer is not competent to judge whether it was a great baseball game. In one respect, however, it was possibly the most distinguished sporting event ever held in England. The Royal Box was full of the most eminent representatives of the allied nations - the great and the good, in fact.
 
One hopes that the VIPs were enlightened and entertained. For a few moments the leaders of the allied nations could forget the conflict. Thanks to the new Anglo-American alliance, the war mercifully had only four months more to run.
Last Updated on Monday, 06 April 2009 19:55