Another week has come and gone. Last week I mentioned having a stiff neck. That cleared up within a few days. This week, it is something else. A few days ago, my upper back locked up so tight that it nearly doubled me over with pain wrapping around my rib cage. Copious amounts of ice packs are helping somewhat. It’s pretty rough going, though. The story of my life is all too brief periods where I feel semi-normal followed by debilitating episodes of severe pain that come with increasingly frequency and last longer and longer with each flare up. Everybody has their own cross to bear. This one is mine. Though chronic pain won’t, in and of itself, kill you, the strain of eight years of dealing with this has, besides giving me gray hair, put my heart under considerable strain. That’s the unfortunate side effect.
This week I read an interesting book titled War Fever by Randy Roberts. It looks at the final year of World War One through the eyes of three people in Boston; the German born conductor of the Boston Symphony who finds himself accused of being an enemy spy, a graduate of Harvard Law School who becomes a hero serving with the AEF on the Western Front, and the most famous baseball player of all time, who happened to be of German heritage. 1918 would see Boston decimated by the Spanish Influenza. The Red Sox won the World Series that year, their last for the next eighty-six years, and it would be the final season Ruth played for the Sox. These events play out while a deadly virus stalks the city’s inhabitants. All of these separate strands are woven together through the course of the book.
Baseball shortened the season in 1918 to comply with a government order that all able-bodied men had to either find employment in an essential industry by a certain date or become eligible for the draft, though the league was granted an extension so that the World Series could be played. Six weeks after the deadline, the war was over. Eight Major League players died during the military service in World War One. Three were killed in action or died from wounds. Two died in training accidents. One died from pneumonia and two from the Spanish Influenza. Three Negro League Players also died during the war, all from the Spanish Influenza.
In a similar vein, FDR famously declared in January of 1942 that it was important for the country that baseball continue during World War Two. In 2020, though shortened, I saw the same type of idea play out as baseball was eventually able to resume operations during the midst of a pandemic. I would venture to say, however, that baseball was more popular nationally in the 40s than it is now. And thankfully, we are getting a full season this year, baring any complications.
I have long found World War One to be more interesting than World War Two, though I think most people would disagree with me on this point. The Great War as it was known at the time ushered in a new order. It completely swept away the old world. Empires fell. Kings were toppled. Spasmodic violence has wracked the globe ever since. The war made the modern world, for better or worse, and most of the issues the world grapples with today were born out of that war, or the peace that followed. You can trace a straight line from the two bullets fired in Sarajevo in June of 1914 to the events of 9/11, for example. If you want to understand the world today, you really have to look at how World War One ended, how the world map was redrawn in the aftermath, and how those ripples continue to resonate now, over one hundred years later.
Speaking of World War One, today is ANZAC Day which commemorates the Gallipoli landings in 1915. I would be remiss if I did not include a link to one of my favorite songs, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” You can listen to it here. One day, I’ll turn my writing attention to World War One, though there are already too many good novels set on the Western Front. Eventually, I do plan on writing my Russian Revolution epic, or should I say, finishing it.
Until next time, Dear Readers, take care of yourselves. And each other.