A correspondent and fellow devotee of the game asks if Sir Winston had anything to say about American baseball. Out of fifteen million words over ninety years? Of course he did!
It may seem odd, since baseball is not an English sport, and its closest counterpart over there is rounders. But—ever obedient to the whims of Churchillians—I offer what he had to say on the matter.
The interesting photo above accompanied a nice article, “Churchill on Baseball,” by Christopher Schwarz, which I published a few years ago in Finest Hour 163. I supplied the following Churchill quotes as a sidebar to Mr. Schwarz’s article.
Baseball by Churchill
“Millions of men and women are in the market, all eager to supplement the rewards of energetic toil by ‘easy money.’ From every part of its enormous territories the American public follows the game. Horseracing, baseball, football, every form of sport or gambling cedes its place to a casino whose amplitude and splendours make Monte Carlo the meanest midget in Lilliput.”
—WSC, “What I Saw and Heard in America,” Part IV: “Fever of Speculation in America,” Daily Telegraph, 9 December 1929; reprinted in The Collected Essays of Sir Winston Churchill, 4 vols. (London: Library of Imperial History, 1975), IV 42.
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“Broadly speaking, human beings may be divided into three classes: those who are toiled to death, those who are worried to death, and those who are bored to death. It is no use offering the manual labourer, tired out with a hard week’s sweat and effort, the chance of playing a game of football or baseball on Saturday afternoon. It is no use inviting the politician or the professional or business man, who has been working or worrying about serious things for six days, to work or worry about trifling things at the week-end.”
—WSC, “Hobbies,” in Thoughts and Adventures, 1932. (The best current edition is by ISI, thoroughly edited and re-footnoted by James W. Muller and Paul Courtenay.)
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“‘The written word remains.’ The spoken word dies upon the air. The news bulletin is coming through on the broadcast. The telephone bell rings – your wife asks you if you remembered to post that letter—and by the time you can again give your attention to the announcer, he has passed to another item. Without the newspaper you will never know the result of that baseball match, or the President’s latest message to Congress.”
—WSC, “You Get It in Black and White,” Colliers, 28 December 1935; reprinted in Collected Essays IV, 317. (Churchill should have said “game” not “match.” Baseball is not cricket!)
Prime Minister’s Questions, 21 July 1952:
Mr. Fenner Brockway (Lab.): “Is [the Prime Minister] aware that…the Iver Heath Conservative Party Association held a fete to raise money for party purposes to which it invited American Service baseball teams to participate for a ‘Winston Churchill’ trophy…and had a note from him saying he was honoured that his name was linked to the trophy?”
WSC: “I read in the Daily Worker some account of this. I had not, I agree, fully realized the political implications that might attach to the matter, and in so far as I have erred I express my regret.” [Laughter.]
Mr. John H. Hynd (Lab.): “While Hon. Gentlemen opposite may try to laugh this one off, may I ask whether the Prime Minister would contemplate the attitude of his Hon. Friends if this incident had happened in connection with a Labour Party fete?”
WSC: “I hope we should all show an equal spirit of tolerance and good humour”
Mr. Brockway (Lab.): “Can the Prime Minister estimate what would be the reaction of Mr. Eisenhower if British Forces participated in a Democratic Party celebration?”
WSC: “I certainly should not attempt to add to the many difficult questions which are pending at the present time by bending my mind to the solution of that question.”