Note: A shorter version of this post first appeared in Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com on July 12, 2022. Read the piece on OakPark.com »
By Kheir Fakhreldin, Archivist in Special Collections
Ernest Hemingway was a lifelong baseball fan and wrote memorably about it in In Our Time, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea.
He even kept a memento from a 1918 Yankees-White Sox game with him during his service in World War I and for many years after. This ticket stub is now in the Hemingway Archives in Special Collections at Oak Park Public Library.
Hemingway goes to New York for Red Cross training
Before being sent to Europe for his World War I service as an ambulance driver, Hemingway arrived in New York City on May 13, 1918, for training with the Red Cross.
Although he never mentioned seeing a baseball game, we know a lot about his time in New York from letters he wrote telling about his training and sightseeing (as collected in The Letters of Ernest Hemingway. Vol. 1, 1907-1922).
In a May 14 letter to his parents back in Oak Park, Hemingway recounted seeing Riverside Drive, Grant’s Tomb, the Statue of Liberty, and the Woolworth Tower.
As a joke, the 18-year-old Hemingway also told them he was engaged.
He repeated the joke in a letter of May 18. The same day, he marched with his fellow recruits in the American Red Cross Parade down Fifth Avenue, where he saluted President Wilson—or as Hemingway called him, “Ye Great Woodrow.”
On May 19, he sent his parents a telegram stating “CHEER UP AM NOT ENGAGED MARRIED OR DIVORCED THIS IS AUTHENTIC JUST JOKING HERE TILL WEDNESDAY.”
His father responded in a letter the same day, “Your wire explaining the ‘joke’ which has taken five nights sleep from your mother and father received about half hour ago. So glad to receive it, hope you have written your dear mother, who was broken hearted.”
The 1918 ticket stub Hemingway kept during WWI
Hemingway thought he would ship out Wednesday, May 22, but his departure was delayed until at least the following day. Instead of sailing for Europe, he attended the Yankees game with the ticket marked “Game 20.”
The ticket stub is printed on blue cardboard, and is identifiable as being from the 1918 season because of its reference to the War Tax, which was collected from Americans in 1917-18.
It says, “In the event that 4½ innings of this game are not played this Receipt will be recognized in payment of 8c War Tax and the additional 2c agreed to in acceptance of pass by exchanging same at War Tax Booth on day desired to witness game.”
Also on the ticket is the printed signature of Yankees president Jacob Ruppert.
Yankees win over White Sox
The New York Sun reported that 1,200 soldiers and sailors were present at the Polo Grounds, along with 4,000 civilians. In 14 innings, the Yankees won a remarkable 1-0 victory over the reigning world champion Chicago White Sox.
“Somewhere at some time there may have been a better ball game played,” wrote the Sun the next day. “But we question it.”
Both starting pitchers threw complete games. The Yankees’ Hank Thormahlen threw a 14-inning shutout, while the White Sox’s Eddie Cicotte had his shutout broken up when a Wally Pipp single scored Frank “Home Run” Baker with the winning run in the bottom of the 14th.
Cicotte and several other White Sox players from that day would become known as the Black Sox for allegedly conspiring to throw the World Series the following year.
Pipp would remain the Yankees’ starting first baseman until June 2, 1925, when he had a headache and was replaced in the lineup by Lou Gehrig, who would play the next 2,130 games.
Hemingway wounded in Italy
Shipping out directly from New York, Hemingway went to serve in the war in Europe in May 1918, presumably taking the ticket with him.
On July 8, 1918, Hemingway was badly wounded in both legs when a mortar hit near him in a trench near the Piave River in Italy.
He was taken to the American Red Cross hospital in Milan, where he met the first love of his life, the nurse Agnes Von Kurowsky, who later became the basis for his character Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms.
As part of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park’s archives, the ticket stub is now in Special Collections at Oak Park Public Library, where it may be viewed along with the rest of the Waring Jones Collection.
Kheir is Archivist in Special Collections and a doctoral student in Information Science at Dominican University. He has a Master of Science in Information degree from the University of Michigan. Before joining the library, he worked in the archives at the Newberry Library and WBEZ, and in public service at La Grange Park Public Library. More about Kheir »