They are playing the All Star game tonight in San Diego. During the Great War the best individual players of the American League did not yet play their counterparts from the Senior Circuit in the game that traditionally marks the half way point of a season. That is probably because the World Series itself had begun only in 1903 and the game was still institutionalizing itself. Still, even though the United States had not entered the war by 1916, baseball was catching on overseas; it was the war’s second summer and Canadians had brought the game with them when they packed their old kit bags and headed off to fight the Hun. There were even military leagues comprised of Canadians and other men from the colonies playing one another.
Men in uniform brought baseball to many corners of the globe over the course the twentieth century. The U.S. occupations of Latin and South America are what led to the rise of the Dominican, Puerto Rican and other Hispanic stars we see today. Baseball’s popularity expanded in Japan after 1945, though I hasten to add that the baseball was already going strong with the Japanese even in the 1920s and 1930s. William Howard Taft noted in the 1910s, after his presidency, that Filipinos were picking up the game during his years as Governor-General of the Philippines. Americans entered the Great War in 1917 and when they did of course brought their bats, balls, and gloves with them. Even stars like Ty Cobb ended up in uniform.
It is curious why the game did not stick permanently with Europeans after the war. Perhaps it was because the countries were too devastated and the populations of young men too damaged to take up the pastime. Or maybe cricket, soccer, cycling and the like were just too entrenched. Or maybe it was a combination of all these things. Again, I don’t know. We can only wonder might have happened to international baseball had the game not had more a fleeting moment in the sun during the First World War.
(images/Library of Congress)