#Shortstops: Bat for a Cause
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum tells that story of the last 200 years in America through baseball and artifacts such as jerseys, balls, and of course bats. Many of the Museum’s bats were once wielded by players whose names are easily recognizable. Yet perhaps the bat in the Museum’s collection that stitches together the stories of baseball and America better than any is a misshapen, cracked old tree limb used by 130 Americans citizens in the 1940s.
When the United States entered World War II in late 1941, it took less than 10 days for the Nazi SS officers to round up American diplomats and members of the press in Berlin and take them hostage at the Grand Hotel in Bad Nauheim as prisoners of war. With a cloud of uncertainty regarding their future ever looming over them, the detainees decided that baseball might bring a sense of comfort and connection to home.
Plan Your Visit to Cooperstown
During this dark chapter in United States history, Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps back on the home front. No matter the way in which the government at the time wanted to categorize them, these were still most definitely Americans. With their lives stripped away from them by their own government, baseball was the only place where these people felt like they could have control. So they etched fields into the hard southwest soil and formed leagues amongst internment camps.
Americans detained by their own country sought out baseball as the only place where they felt like they could have control the same way their fellow countrymen sought out the game while they were detained by Nazis. Perhaps the mirroring narratives of using baseball to get through imprisonment bridges the gap between the differences we see in America, showing how important to the story of American baseball really is.
Chris Wright was a 2022 public programs intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development