Play Ball!

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President Theodore Roosevelt dodges “amendments” to the proposed Hepburn Rate Act, by Clifford Berryman, 5/12/1906. (National Archives Identifier 306091)

Opening day of baseball is upon us, and believe it or not, the National Archives is full of records related to America’s favorite pastime.

For instance, within the Records of the United States Senate at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC, there is a large collection of original Clifford K. Berryman cartoons, including cartoons related to baseball.

Berryman, a political cartoonist for the Washington Post (1891–1907), then the Washington Evening Star (1907–1949), lived his entire adult live in Washington, DC.

He was an avid sports fan and loved to draw baseball—especially his hometown baseball team, the Washington Senators (or Nationals depending on the year).

The American League was formed in 1901 as the second major baseball league (the National League had already been established). Washington joined the new league with its team, the Nationals. Berryman celebrated the new baseball season by portraying the three owners of the new club—Harry Rapley, Thomas C. Noyes, and Benjamin Minor.

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“Trio of Washington Magnates,” by Clifford K. Berryman, 4/2/1905. (National Archives Identifier 6010558)

In the background is Berryman’s little teddy bear taking a look at the new club as he peeks over the outfield fence. Below is a small boy peering through a knothole for a free look while his buddy waits for his turn.

During the 1912 season Washington’s baseball team was playing well—and winning—which delighted the city’s residents. On June 18, 1912, the Nationals played one of their rivals—the Philadelphia Athletics. Berryman shows an empty office vacated by “Willie” who used the excuse that his grandmother died so he could go watch the game. 

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Untitled cartoon by Clifford K, Berryman, 6/18/1912. (National Archives Identifier 6010950)

In late summer 1920, the Presidential contest between Democratic nominee James M. Cox and Republican nominee Warren G. Harding was beginning to intensify. The dominant news story, however, was not the Presidential campaign but baseball sensation Babe Ruth’s unstoppable first season with the New York Yankees. Berryman shows both Presidential candidates pondering Ruth’s secret of success with the White House being their “real home plate.” Harding hit a “home run” in the election and beat Cox by a landslide.

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“Ambitious Home Run Hitters,” by Clifford K. Berryman, 8/3/1920. (National Archives Identifier 1691372)

With the 1921 baseball season just under way, the Washington Senators held a slim lead, but that was enough for Berryman’s familiar characters, Mr. District of Columbia and the teddy bear, to begin celebrating. Mr. DC’s comment,”Let’s laugh while we can!” can certainly resonate with any Washington sports fan today!

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“Early Victories for the Washington Senators,” by Clifford K. Berryman, 4/28/1921. (National Archives Identifier 6011664)

In 1924 Mr. District of Columbia offers a hopeful message to a city and nation rocked with scandals. Major league baseball teams were at spring training, and the Washington Senators’ pitching ace, Walter Johnson, declared that he would be better than ever. Mr. DC advises everyone to “Cheer up! There’s always a ray of sunshine!”

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“There’s Always a Ray of Sunshine,” by Clifford K. Berryman, 3/7/1924. (National Archives Identifier 6011842)

Later in 1924, the Washington Senators clung to a narrow lead over the New York Yankees as they headed into the homestretch. Berryman shows the Yankees attempting to slide into the driving seat, but the Washington Senators are unwilling to yield control.

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“Washington Senators Refuse To Be Pushed Out,” by Clifford K. Berryman, 9/16/1924. (National Archives Identifier 6011873)

That year the Senators hung on to win the American League pennant and then defeated the New York Giants four games to three to win the 1924 World Series—the last time a Washington baseball team won that national championship!

Visit the Online Catalog to see all of Berryman’s baseball cartoons, and check out the National Archive website to see more records relating to the game. 

And read Kerri Lawrence’s article on patents taken out by major league players.

Now go Play Ball!

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