The War to End All Wars


Hell” by George LeRoux

Today marks the end of World War I, one hundred years ago. At 11 am in France, the guns fell silent and an armistice took over. Ultimately a peace treaty was worked out and the guns remained silent until a greater, but not more significant, war broke out.

As with everything else, the war touched baseball in a number of ways. Here’s a sampling of how:

1. The 1918 season was shortened to 140 games from the standard 154. It led to some funny statistics as the season was simply chopped down without being reworked. Some teams played more games than others, some played one team a lot of times, other teams not so many.

2. A lot of great and good players were away from the diamond during the season. Many were in the military, others were off at “war work.” The government allowed players to join war-related industries (like ship building or munitions making) in lieu of actually joining the military. Many players took up the offer. Some of them found that “war work” generally consisted of playing exhibition games for the rest of the workers.

3. A handful of owners, notably Charles Comiskey, thought using the “war work” option was “shirking” and held it against their players when they returned to the field after the war. A number of 1919 “Black Sox” were in this category and some scholars feel it further soured the team’s relationship with their owner.

4. The careers of some players were changed. Grover Cleveland Alexander played a handful of games, went off to the war (not to war work) and saw combat. He suffered “shell shock,” which added to his drinking problem, was to plague his pitching for a number of years. The 1918 season was also the first year in which Babe Ruth played more games in the outfield than he did on the mound. Some of that had to do with Ed Barrow noting the Babe’s hitting prowess, but Duffy Lewis was off to war and the Red Sox needed outfield help.

5. Former New York Giants infielder Eddie Grant was killed in action while a training accident drastically shortened the life of Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.

There are more, lots more, effects, but this should give you a short taste of how much this early 20th Century catastrophe changed the world, but also changed American sport.

“The Trench”–Otto Dix

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One Response to “The War to End All Wars”

  1. William Miller Says:

    Very nice, informative post.

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