The U.S. Naval War College will host a baseball game on Friday, May 10th at historic Cardines Field in downtown Newport. The Army-Navy baseball game will be played in period-accurate uniforms, and gates to Cardines Field will open at 10:00 a.m.; first pitch is at 11:30 a.m. All are welcome to attend this free event.
A century ago, U.S. Naval forces remained on battle stations in European waters during the tenuous period of negotiations after the armistice, which silenced the guns in the First World War. Recently promoted to full four star rank in December of 1918, Admiral William S. Sims remained on watch as the Commander U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and senior American representative on the Allied Naval Council.
After the arrival of American sailors and ground troops at the European front in 1917, Sims made history as the first American naval officer to hold "combined" multinational command over foreign naval forces and limited joint command over the naval forces operating with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) ashore, under General John Pershing.
Although Sims and Pershing never actually operated under a unified "joint" headquarters in Europe, Sims championed efforts to organize the Anglo-American Baseball League with teams comprised of sailors, marines and army forces to demonstrate the uniquely American "national pastime" of baseball for the purposes of creating friendly relations with foreign allies.
The novelty of American baseball was very popular in Britain and on the French and Mediterranean fronts. Lacking equipment, the Americans frequently resorted to using British-made cricket balls and French-made baseball bats. The cricket balls often shattered the more fragile French-made baseball bats.
Notably, King George V took great interest in American baseball. He referred to the game as being symbolic of the reconstitution of transatlantic relations. Sims explained in the memoir "Victory at Sea" that George V and the British royal family regularly attended baseball matches “with all the understanding and enthusiasm of an American ‘fan.’”
Given British enthusiasm for American baseball, Sims unleashed his Navy baseball team of major league “ringers” during the Anglo-American Baseball League series against Army in the spring of 1918. Navy dominated the series -- earning gold watches inscribed to mark their victory and a signed baseball from King George V.
Facing the uncertainties of peacekeeping operations after 1919, American forces continued playing baseball to blow off steam, or simply remind themselves of their great American pastime.
Formerly known as "Basin Field" near the Fleet Landing piers in downtown Newport, Cardines Field remains among the oldest, if not the oldest, baseball fields in the United States. In 1936, the ball park was rededicated to remember the sacrifice of U.S. Army Private Bernardo Cardines. Although he remained an Italian citizen, Cardines volunteered for service with American forces in 1917. The following year, in September of 1918, he was last seen alive as he heroically charged a German machine gun nest on the western front. Cardines sacrificed himself to enable his buddies to withdraw from a trench. As a son of Italy, he never returned home to the country he served in war.