There is a spring-time crispness in the Oxford air, and even though I now live in the United Kingdom, it still reminds me of baseball. My favourite team, the Atlanta Braves are off to a good start and their long-time third-baseman, Chipper Jones is having an incredible season, currently batting .418! This means he gets a hit 41.8% of the time. That may not sound like much, but no player has hit over .400 at the end of a season since 1953, when “The Splendid Splinter” Ted Williams hit .406.
Of course, Ted Williams didn\'t play a full season in 1953 and for a good reason. In 1952, he had had been recalled to active service as a United States Marine Pilot. He flew 38 combat missions in the Korean War as part of VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33 and was awarded the Air Medal.
Ted Williams had also served in World War II as a flight instructor and was just one of many American baseball heroes to serve in the War. Pitcher, Bob Feller, spent most of the war serving as the chief of an anti-aircraft gun crew on the USS Alabama. Third Baseman Gil Hodges went ashore with the Marines at Okinawa and won the Bronze Star for his service. Major Leaguers Elmer Gedeon and Harry O\'Neill were both killed in action.
Despite more than 500 major league players serving in the war effort, baseball continued to be played straight through World War II. In World War I, the US government ordered baseball to finish its season early in 1918, but the war had little other impact.
Of course the war most closely associated with baseball is the United States Civil War. Although there is no clear proof of who invented baseball or where exactly the rules came from, it seems pretty clear that baseball first achieved mass popularity during this war, when thousands of young men were brought together and often had little to do. Although it went by several different names in those days, Baseball was enjoyed by both the Union and Confederacy, although they didn\'t always show much respect for each other\'s games. In this little excerpt from the Baseball Almanac, George Putnam, a Union Soldier explains why one game had to be called early,
“Suddenly there was a scattering of fire, which three outfielders caught the brunt; the centerfield was hit and was captured, left and right field managed to get back to our lines. The attack...was repelled without serious difficulty, but we had lost not only our centerfield, but...the only baseball in Alexandria, Texas.”
These days, baseball is usually only cancelled because of bad weather conditions. As for myself, I\'m hoping that the good weather holds, because on Sunday, the Oxford Kings are taking to the diamond!