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The Last Baseball Game
No More Baseball
Baseball fans in the fall of 1918 would have been familiar with that remark. As the Griffmen prepare to play the Mackmen in a season ending doubleheader the subject was not “wait till next year,” but would the game itself survive.
Unlike World War 2, after the 1918 season there would be no more major league baseball until the Great War was over. While the Allied forces in the west were making progress the uncertainty of the future was evident by President Wilson’s recent call up of thirteen million Americans for military service.
What would baseball be like? Well here is one guess made at the time. “If there are no leagues next season, the game probably will revert to the conditions of 1869. Every city will have a club, a salaried club, of players over the draft age, reinforced by a few semi-pros, under twenty-one. These clubs, without a pennant or World Series in sight will range the country just as the Reds did almost fifty years ago. Such teams may play nearly as many games as the usual 154 game schedule, but they will be catch-as-catch-can games in many places. Baseball cannot, will not die. It will thrive, even under adverse conditions, and the fans will turn out strong to see the old heroes of the diamond. Maybe there won’t be any leagues.”
A great send off was planned, “Two brass bands are to be at the ball park for the great blow off. The musicians from Camp Meigs will match their skill with those from Washington Barracks, providing a concert for an hour before the game and joining at the end in “Aud Lang Syne,” when the fans bid adieu to the national game until Bill Hohenzollern goes down and out and Pershing’s men come marching home again to live in a freer and happier world.”
“Uncle Nick Altrock, prince of baseball comedians, aided and abetted by Ed Masterson, will stage his funny stuff, the same stuff that has made him a big drawing card all over the American League circuit. Seeing as it is the last day, manager Griffith will ask permission of the umpires to allow Nick to “do his darndest,” many of Nick’s stunts have never been seen in Washington, being reserved for those unfortunate bugs around the circuit. And after the flag comes down in center field, and the little ones disappear from the roof of the grandstand, and the fans bid good-bye to the rubber and the plate, and the athletes take their final shower, we’ll all settle down to win the war, to wallop Bill Hohensolern in his right eye and his left, to trample on his feet and sling jolts into his breadbasket, and side by side with us will be the former heroes of the diamond, each doing his part in the greater work of making the world a safe and decent place in which to live.”
Monday 2 September
In the morning game, the Griffmen were quite helpless in the morning against the wild shoots of Roy Johnson, one of Connie Mack’s young men, losing by a score of 6 to 2. Umpires, O’Loughlin, Evans. Time 1:54.
Philadelphia 2 Washington 8
In the afternoon, before some 10,000 fans and fanettes, the Griffs defeated the visitors 8 to 3. Uncle Nick Altrock’s antics in the concluding frames served to keep the fans from dwelling too deeply on the seriousness of the occasion. When the Mackmen came to bat in the eighth they found themselves facing Altrock, and every visiting player solemnly paraded to the plate, bat in hand, and waiting for his chance. But the veteran fork-hander took his duty seriously and disposed of the four without much difficulty. With two gone in the home team’s eighth, up came Altrock, bat on shoulder, marching to the music of the band to the plate. Reaching the batter’s box, he brought down his bat to “order arms” with all the snap of a well-trained soldier, and the applause was deafening.
Wickey McAvoy, who had been playing first base, quickly changed places with Pitcher Watson and fed the veteran flinger the easiest kind of a ball. Bang, Nick had swung, driving a slow one to right field. Mule Watson refused to stir for it. Kid Jameson turned a couple of somersaults before he would touch it. Altrock turned first base and, amid a roar from the big crowd, headed for second. His aged legs were weakening under the strain, but on he went. Did he touch second? Well, he got credit for doing it, anyway, so who cares? Did he touch third” Well, who cared? We were all convulsed with laughter and cared not a whit. The ball arrives at third ahead of him, but Larry Gardner would not tag him, so Nick headed for the plate. Again the ball was ahead of him but with a slide that was heroic, Nick hit the plate and umpire Evans waved him safe.
To satisfy the soldiers present, many of whom had never seen him, Walter Johnson pitched the ninth inning. Jimmy Dykes singled for a starter, but after Dugan had died. Mule Watson hit into a double play and the game was over. A strain of real sadness came with “The Star-Spangled banner,” for among those khaki-clothed lads standing there were some who had braved the Huns bullets. Some had no right hand with which to salute. Some were minus legs. But they joined in the last tribute of baseball in the country’s anthem before returning to Walter Reed Hospital. Professional baseball in the only three leagues still alive came to an end yesterday for the duration of the war, with the exception of the World’s Series, which starts tomorrow at Chicago. The players are ready to take up essential toil. There will be no more professional baseball until we have won the war for humanity. Umpires, Evans, O’Loughlin. Time 1:35.
Altrock was indeed credited with the home run. The players were switched around several times no doubt a headache for those keeping score but it was all in good fun. Walter Johnson even took a turn in center which would have been something to watch. Jimmy Dykes was a 21 year old rookie.