It is not everyday you see an image that captures a precise moment in the history of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Governors Island, and the beginning of American involvement in the First World War all rolled into one These two images however do just that. The two photographs you see here were taken at the Polo Grounds on April 11, 1917, ninety-eight years ago today. The occasion was Opening Day for the Yankees at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan. Congress had declared war on Germany five days earlier.
What is so dramatic about these images is lost on us today. In contrast, the 16,000 in attendance would have grasped the significance of Wood’s very public appearance quite clearly. President Wilson had notified Major General Wood that he was being relieved of command of the Department of the East on Governors Island three weeks previously, on March 24 to be exact. Wood had annoyed the Wilson Administration for much of the past three years with his calls for preparedness; by one estimate he had given as many as one hundred speeches advocating that cause since the war began in 1914. Finally Wilson had enough. To get rid of Wood, the War Department split the Department of the East into three jurisdictions. They gave Wood a choice of where he wanted to go, and he surprised them by choosing Charleston, South Carolina. His final day on Governors Island would be April 30, when he would turn command over to J. Franklin Bell.
Wood’s demotion was unpopular in many circles. Supporters invited him to speak or appear at numerous venues between the demotion (March 24) and his departure from New York City (April 30). In what can only be interpreted as a dig at Wilson, Wood was invited to toss out the first pitch that season. The Yankee players even put on a military drill before the game. Babe Ruth was the starting pitcher for the Red Sox. He won the game 10-3, going the full nine innings and scoring a run.
(images/Library of Congress)