What is Chevrons and Diamonds?

What is Chevrons and Diamonds? Extracting meaning from the title, one can infer multiple concepts.

  1. Chevron

: a figure, pattern, or object having the shape of a V or an inverted V: such as

a: heraldic charge consisting of two diagonal stripes meeting at an angle usually with the point up

b: a sleeve badge that usually consists of one or more chevron-shaped stripes that indicates the wearer’s rank and service (as in the armed forces)

During World War II, the “V for Victory” slogan propagated throughout American culture and was engrained into every aspect of life. Winning the war through production in factories while taking care to limit waste and ensuring that manufacturing was precise and up to the standards of the armed forces was paramount. At home, Americans saved everything for recycling into war production from paper to metals and even kitchen fat to be repurposed into war-fighting materials. Rationing and purchasing war bonds helped to ensure that resources were prioritized for the troops. Victory was a mindset and a goal of all Americans. Chevrons were worn on the uniform sleeves of enlisted troops (inverted for Army and Marines) including those men who were former ballplayers serving in the war.

  • Diamond(s)

1 a: native crystalline carbon that is the hardest known mineral, that is usually nearly colorless, that when transparent and free from flaws is highly valued as a precious stone, and that is used industrially especially as an abrasive

2: something that resembles a diamond (as in brilliance, value, or fine quality)

5: a baseball infield, also: the entire playing field

Gem: a word that often references a diamond, is part of cultural vernacular in used to describe a spectacular on-field play. It is also used to describe an artifact’s condition or in conjunction with its scarcity. Perhaps the most obvious diamond reference is that of the baseball field infield shape.

Chevrons and Diamonds captures the history of the game as it intertwines with that of the American armed forces from their nearly mutual foundation. Our collection consists of many scarce artifacts ranging from on-field items to ephemera and photographs, each piece telling its own story.

Historians have established that the game’s genesis can be traced to the foundation and development of our nation’s fighting force during the struggle for independence. Researching military journals and correspondence reveals that as far back as 1779, just weeks following George Rogers Clark‘s victory over the British at the frontier at Fort Sackville, Colonel Henry Dearborn was leading an expedition through North Central Pennsylvania in an effort to thwart attacks from the British-allied Iroquois Indians. In April, Colonel Dearborn made two entries in his journal that were not of a military nature:

April 3: “all the Officers of the Brigade turn’d out & Play’d a game at ball the first we have had this yeare.  
April 17: “we are oblige’d to walk 4 miles to day to find a place leavel enough to play ball.”

John Thorn, a baseball historian for the National Baseball Hall of Fame expands upon Dearborn’s mention of the game of “ball” and how this may be more indicative of the game’s beginnings than with the long-standing Abner Doubleday invention of the game in 1839 (see: A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball”: Baseball and Baseball-type Games in the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, and Early American Republic). As the nation was forming and maturing, the armed forces also experienced maturation and solidification in the years following the British surrender at Yorktown.

The game of baseball blossomed in parallel with the military. While there is much debate and disagreement over the actual inventors of the game and its exact origins, we do know that the first published rules were written by the members of the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club (which was established in 1845). By the Civil War, the game was being played within the ranks of both the Union and Confederate armies (see: Baseball in Washington during the Civil War).

Union soldiers play baseball while confined at Salisbury Prison in North Carolina where Captain Otto Boetticher (of the 68th NY Regiment) was held as a prisoner of war in 1862. This print was created in 1863 showing great detail of the game and surrounding camp (source: Reynold House Museum of American Art).

The game’s popularity grew in the decades after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox leading up and through the Great War. The game’s popularity among the nation was reaching an apex before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Throughout both of the global wars in the first half of the 20th Century, the game was integral as both a training device (building dexterity, coordination and agility in concert with team unity and esprit de corps) and a mechanism for troop relief and respite.

The mission of Chevrons and Diamonds is to shed light on the interwoven histories of the game and the armed forces allowing artifacts to tell the stories. Each piece in our collection is carefully curated, preserved and researched. Pursuing details regarding production, location of use or personal connection to specific veterans, we strive to capture as much of the story as possible in order to document the history of the game and its personalities to share with our audiences.

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