Recently, I ran across this picture tagged the “Gettysburg Reunion.” As you can see, it shows a man in the early 1900’s watching a baseball game. The title suggests that it was taken during the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion, a celebration held in Gettysburg, PA, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Although I’ve found very few references to a baseball game taking place during the 1913 reunion, it makes sense that a baseball game would have been played as part of the commemoration. Even during the Civil War, baseball had an impact on society. While it is generally accepted that baseball developed in the north, it was spread throughout the nation during the war. Baseball was played in both U.S. and Confederate camps as a means of promoting morale and keeping the troops healthy. In fact, it was often played in the prison camps, with northern soldiers playing against southern soldiers (check out the picture below).
Baseball has had an impact on the town of Gettysburg, PA. Well-known Gettysburg native and graduate of Gettysburg College, Eddie Plank, played for the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Terriers and Browns between 1901 and 1917. During the off seasons, Plank worked at Gettysburg National Military Park as a park guide. In 1918, Plank played left field for a local team in an Independence Day baseball game at Camp Colt, near Gettysburg. Today, visitors to Gettysburg can experience the impact of Plank at a restaurant named in his honor.
So, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg this week, and of the Civil War over the next few years, let’s think about the impact of baseball on the war, and, perhaps, vice versa. (And if anyone knows more about the photo, please let me know!)