Clair: A century ago, baseball before the King of England

From SABR member Michael Clair at MLB’s Cut4 on May 8, 2018, with mention of SABR member Jim Leeke:

There’s a long history of America and England sharing baseball. Major League teams toured the country in 1874, 1888-89 and 1912-13. Red Sox and Mets Minor Leaguers played at the Oval cricket ground in 1993, and next season, the Red Sox and Yankees will be playing a series in London

At the announcement of the series, Red Sox owner John Henry mentioned one of the biggest ballgames to ever take place in London — one in which King George V and Winston Churchill were in attendance.

Taking a break from the fighting of World War I on July 4, 1918, the US Army and US Navy met up for a baseball game at Stamford Bridge — the home of Chelsea Football Club, though all English league soccer was suspended during the war.

Originally, the game was supposed to be a small holiday affair to mark the date of America’s independence, played between the Army and Navy. The two forces actually fielded baseball teams that participated in the Anglo-American Baseball League, started that year by 30 ex-pat American businessmen in the London area. The league consisted of eight teams — four American and four Canadian, including the US Army, US Navy, Canadian Pay Office, Canadian Records Office and others — which played mostly to provide entertainment to the troops stationed there. 

That’s according to Jim Leeke, the co-founder of the Anglo-American Baseball Project and author of two books set in the period  — including “Nine Innings for the King,” which is entirely about the July 4 game.

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Originally published: May 8, 2018. Last Updated: May 8, 2018.