It’s been 100 years since the United States became involved in World War I. To mark that centennial, the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., has planned a unique celebration: On Friday, the college will gather Navy sailors and Army soldiers to play a baseball game as if it were 1917, the school announced. That means flannel uniforms, a larger strike zone and, yes, spitballs and some other currently illegal pitch deliveries.
“There’s no way we can understand World War I unless we first consider the history of it in all respects,” David Kohnen, who is organizing the game in conjunction with the Naval History and Heritage Command, told the Associated Press. “Baseball is part of the story of the American experience during the First World War.”
While baseball didn’t have a direct impact on the outcome of the war, it has been credited as a diplomatic tool. For example, on July 4, 1918, Britain officially observed American Independence Day and celebrated by holding a baseball game between Navy sailors and Army soldiers on the grounds of London’s Chelsea soccer team, according to the federally run American Battle Monuments Commission. Around 18,000 spectators, including King George V, came out to watch the game that the Navy sailors won, 2-1.
That game was part of a league created in Ireland by Navy Adm. William S. Sims in 1917, which was meant to dispel tensions between the Irish population, which was already deeply suspicious of British activity, and the U.S. military. The U.S. troops sported an array of confusing last names due to various lines of lineage, Kohnen said.
“Through baseball, Sims attempted to show that our troops…