Baseball’s intersection with history is most often focused on World War II. But in marking this year’s centennial of America’s entry into World War I, author Jim Leeke takes the opportunity to review how the so-called Great War was felt across the baseball landscape. The major leagues patriotically supported the war, but the loss in talent all up and down the line was considerable to the nation’s national pastime, virtually dismantling both the major and minor leagues. Besides the loss of hundreds of players, even team owners and sportswriters entered military service.
Here’s an excerpt from From the Dugouts to the Trenches:
“Gunner’s Mate Walter [Rabbit] Maranville was busy on board USS Pennsylvania at Norfolk, Virginia, as the battleship took on stores in preparation for setting to sea. The ex-Braves shortstop told shipmates November 10 to get ready for big news the next day. ‘Everyone kept asking me what the big news was going to be. I said, “Wait until tomorrow; I will tell you then.” At six-thirty the next morning we got word that the armistice had been signed.’ The ship’s captain soon called Maranville into his cabin, a rare and daunting summons for an enlisted sailor. He demanded to know how the Rabbit had come by such sensitive information.
‘I said, “I didn’t know anything about the armistice being signed. The reason I said the big day is tomorrow and they would hear great news is that today is my birthday.” With that the skipper laughed so much he almost fell out of his chair.’