International League baseball games teach sports fans about WWI
By Alyssa Carter
Recently, the WW1CC put together a series of “World War I Night at the Park” f baseball games with The International League of Minor League Baseball (MiLB). The series ran for three weeks, and was a big success. The Commission’s head of the baseball program, Roger Fisk, spoke to us about this series of games, and how they helped to tell the World War I story.
The series was focused on commemorating baseball’s part in raising money and awareness for the war effort 100 years ago. Baseball was already popular by the time the war began, and now it provides a way for people to remember the veterans that served in World War I.
The connection between World War I and baseball was displayed most prominently during the events of the 1918 World Series. Officials had thought to cancel the series that year out of respect for the troops serving in France, but when they found out that the soldiers were eager to know the results of the games, they decided to continue. This series is where the Star-Spangled Banner gained its popularity when it was played during the seventh inning stretch and the crowd excitedly joined in.
Mr. Fisk detailed the Commission’s efforts at each game. These included providing each team with packets of poppy seeds to distribute, information about the entwined histories of World War I and baseball, and research on players from their respective state who served in World War I before returning to playing baseball.
The games honored World War I heritage in the cities where they were played with giveaways, special presentations, and other World War I history incorporated into the game.
In Virginia, “Living History” came with their van and were able to do research and teach baseball fans more about World War I. Some of the patrons even had research done on ancestors who served in the war, and these people were able to leave the game with a greater connection to World War I.
In Kentucky, the Commissioner of their state level Centennial Commission, Heather French Henry, appeared on a Louisville morning show to inform the community about the special event at the baseball game.
The Gwinnett Braves in Georgia held a flag giveaway and an exhibition of World War I-era vehicles to commemorate the centennial anniversary.
The event at the Pawtucket Red Sox game on May 27th was attended by two WW1CC Commissioners, Ambassador Tod Sedgwick and Commissioner John Monahan. The team invited Nat Sims, a direct descendant of World War I Admiral William Sims, throw the first pitch. This event also featured fireworks after the game concluded.
The baseball program will continue with 6-8 games between July 4th and August 5th with the Pacific Coast and Southern Leagues. These games will also include events centered on the history of World War I and baseball, and they will show the connection between World War I and our national anthem. Mr. Fisk hopes that these will go just as well as our events with the International League.
The games came together to serve as one long World War I-centered experience that taught sports fans about their history. Each game held something special for the city in which it was played, and the commemoration serves well the memory of troops who served in the war, and these special events will continue to educate and entertain patrons.
Alyssa Carter is a 2017 Summer Intern at the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission