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The Impace of World War I on American Baseball

America's wars have had a major effect on the development of America's national pastime: baseball, which can trace its origins in America all the way to 1744. The Civil War helped transform the game from one of the Eastern privileged class to a game accessible by all across a wide geographical area. During World War II (1941-45), Major League Baseball sent almost all of its players (5,400 of its 5,800 men on 1941 rosters served) into the military (Thorn, et. al, 2513). Though little noticed, World War I (1914-18, with American involvement beginning in 1917) also played an important role in the development of baseball. This paper will examine the impact of the Great War on America's national pastime.

For baseball, the decade before the war began by clearing up the game's paternity. In the process of ôdiscoveringö its origins, however, baseball created a myth that lingers to this day. A.G. Spalding, a former player and head of a sporting goods company that bore his name, discovered that baseball's origins could be traced to an English game called ôrounders.ö The first organized rules, enacted in 1845, clearly were based on rounders (Thorn, et. al, 2513).

An outraged Spalding would not accept that America's pastime had foreign roots, so in 1904 he assembled a commission to determine who founded baseball. Spalding enlisted a U.S. Senator to help, so the commission carried the imprimatur of government. The commission, not surprisingly, found that baseball had American roots. Their report, issued in 1907, declared that Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in 1839, basing it on a children's game played solely in America. Doubleday, who would later make his claim to fame as a general in the Civil War, supposedly did this at Cooperstown, New York (Wallace 89).

Doubleday, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with baseball (nor did Cooperstown). The commission needed a mid-level American hero, and Doubleday suffice...

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