The National Museum of the American Sailor opened a new exhibit, When Baseball Went to War, June 1.

When entering the baseball exhibit at the National Museum of the American Sailor, you see an old blue banner listing the Atlantic Fleet champions as early as 1907 and a few subsequent years.

On loan from Naval History and Heritage Command, the banner is more than 100 years old and the oldest piece in the exhibit, called “When Baseball Went to War.” The museum held an exhibit ribbon-cutting ceremony for about 50 Navy and community leaders June 1.

While modest in size with just over 20 pieces, it is an impressive collection that includes a photo of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller during his days as a chief petty officer and one of Larry Doby’s Cleveland Indians baseball cards. Both spent time and played at Naval Station Great Lakes as did Johnny Mize, Mickey Cochrane and Billy Herman. Now all are enshrined members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Museum specialist Markus Dohner said, “I wanted something from a visual standpoint that people can immerse themselves in. I want people to walk into something where they feel the spirit of walking into a baseball game.”

Contracted curator, Dan Smaczny, who interned at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, began curating the exhibit in February from a model that Dohner built in late 2016. Smaczny believes the exhibit reflects the importance of the game to Navy morale during the World Wars and to the American public.

“I wanted this to show that Sailors from all walks of life play baseball in the Navy,” he said. “It is a representation of American society.”

Naval Station Great Lakes Commanding Officer Capt. James Hawkins seconded that sentiment.

“Baseball has a lot in common with the Navy,” Hawkins said. “The values of teamwork and success are important to baseball, and those values are parallel to the Navy.”

More information about the exhibit is available at

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