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Children play baseball on grass field with view of small structure at back left and shadow of hills or mountains in background at right.
Baseball game during afternoon play period, homestead school. Dailey, West Virginia. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, Dec. 1941. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b16126

Play Ball!

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It’s that time of year – baseball season is upon us, and young ball players everywhere are getting geared up for their first spring games. I was not surprised to find that Prints & Photographs Division collections provide many examples of children enjoying America’s pastime when searching the online catalog.

These students seem to be enjoying a break from their studies at a West Virginia school established as part of a project sponsored by the Farm Security Administration to offer economic support to the community.

Children play baseball, with girl getting ready to swing bat in foreground. Hills or mountains are vislble in background at right.
Baseball game, homestead school. Dailey, West Virginia. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, Dec. 1941. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b16130
Children play baseball on grass field with view of small structure at back left and shadow of hills or mountains in background at right.
Baseball game during afternoon play period, homestead school. Dailey, West Virginia. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, Dec. 1941. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b16126

This game of baseball is situated in a coal mining community, exemplified by the mountain of slag, a mining by-product, in the background.

Children play and watch game of baseball on improvised dirt field in front of pile of debris -- a by-product of coal mining activity.
Baseball diamond for children with slagpile in background. Coaldale, Pennsylvania. Photo by Jack Delano, Aug. 1940. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c02973

Like other forms of recreation, baseball can be a source of solace in difficult circumstances. The children in the image below are playing ball at Manzanar incarceration camp, where they were forcibly relocated as a result of President Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order catalyzing the imprisonment of Americans with Japanese ancestry during World War II.

Children playing baseball on dirt field. Telephone poles are visible in the background, and a few small temporary structures are visible at back right.
Manzanar, Calif., April 1942 – boys starting a ball game soon after their arrival at Manzanar, a War Relocation Authority center for the evacuees of Japanese ancestry from certain West Coast areas. Photo by Clem Albers, Apr. 1942. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.53871

A couple of decades earlier, these boys, workers at a local mill in Fall River, Massachusetts, seize an opportunity to play baseball. The caption indicates there were enough players to staff both a junior and a senior league.

Children playing baseball on grass and dirt field. A five story building is visible at right along with smaller buildings in the background.
Kerr Thread. Young workers on Ball Ground at noon. Two leagues – Junior and Senior. Location: Fall River, Massachusetts. Photo by Lewis Hine, June 1916. https://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/nclc.03023

The girls in the photograph below chose the Washington Monument as the backdrop for their baseball game.

Girls baseball, 10/10/19. Photo by National Photo Company. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.00416

This game, also located in the nation’s capital, features a close-up view of the action, with a line of spectators visible above the fence line in the background.

Playground, baseball, Madison School baseball, 5/20/1914. Photo by National Photo Company. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.28197

The collections provide much more baseball-related imagery, and we encourage you to use the links below to explore further!

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Comments (2)

  1. Are you sure about the December dates on the first : few photos? The attire of the young persons seems more like attire for warm summer months in that West Virginia locale, not December.
    I really enjoyed all the photos however.
    Thanks.
    Janice Law

    • Thanks for your comment! We also thought it seemed a bit surprising that the children in the two Dailey, WV photos were wearing what looks like warm weather clothing in December. However, the captions for the photos by Arthur Rothstein from Dailey in 1941 consistently situate the images in December, and it looks like all the trees in the background of the images are missing their leaves, supporting a winter date. Perhaps even more convincingly, the historical weather data for that area in December of 1941 includes several days with temperatures in the 60s and a few more in the high 50s — mild enough for hardy kids to exercise outdoors in short sleeves!

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