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Why did the Boston Braves have Swastikas on their caps?

Feb 16, 2010, 4:20 PM EDT

If you read only one blog post today that incorporates forensic analysis of baseball photography and an explanation of how swastikas helped the Braves win the World Series, make it this one.  Normally I’d blockquote a bit here or give you my two cents, but this one is worth reading in its entirety.

OK, I will give you one spoiler: Mary Magdalene’s crypt ends up being hidden directly below the rotunda at Citi Field.

  1. Jonny5 - Feb 16, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    Well the Nazi party was founded in 1919, not sure when they adopted and forever ruined the symbol, but this was before then. They researched it very well….. Not sure the symbols were any help to them, i mean look at what happened to Hitler……

  2. JE - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    I admit that the BaseballResearcher told a wonderful story, but an executive summary simply saying that the Nazi Party did not even exist during World War I, would have sufficed.

  3. Old Gator - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    So that was the Panzerlied they were playing on the stadium organ. Now what does that tell you about the “tomahawk chop”? Sieg hay-yay-yay-yay….

  4. Rays fan - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    WW I did not exist yet in April 1914, either. It started in August that year & didn’t directly involve the USA until 1918.

  5. Jeff - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    This was fascinating, if you’re a history nerd like myself. Thanks for the linkage Craig!

  6. John from West L.A. - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    Yes, this is a symbol that WAY predates the Nazis, and even Germany.
    See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika
    Not only that, the name Adolf was also pretty much ruined for boys, even though many good people had that name (ask someone from Kentucky the first name of the guy they named “Rupp Arena” after).

  7. Don Picard - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    Prior to WW2 the Swastika was a symbol that could be found regularly embedded in many homes across the US in their foundations. Believe it or not at that time it was considered a good luck blessing. So yes in essence the Nazis ruined the symbol.

  8. aaron - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    and yet someone was offended enough to make this into a big deal.
    The power of lines…

  9. BillB - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    A high school building in my Pennsylvania hometown had the symbol in decorative work near the top center of the structure, which was finished in 1919. I was told that it was put there because it was a native American good luck symbol, which would make it a fitting emblem for a Braves uniform.

  10. ChrisKol - Feb 16, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Didn’t the Nazis essentially mirror the Swastika (i.e. flip the tips)? Maybe that contributed to the bad luck.

  11. Buster - Feb 16, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    The swastika was used in ancient American Indian etchings and designs.
    Indians… Braves… get the connection?

  12. castillo - Feb 16, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    The Swastika is the Hindi sign that is similar to the Yin/Yang not a bad symbol unless used in a hateful way

  13. JE - Feb 16, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Good point, Rays fan, but we declared war on Germany in April 1917, not 1918.

  14. Ron Howard (don't call me Opie) - Feb 16, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    What the hell? “God the Da Vinci Code was a terrible movie!” You obviously have not seen “Angels & Demons” buster. It is much worse, and – some say – the reason the Angels had to move from Anaheim up to the Godless city of LA.
    I rest my case.

  15. D.A.W. - Feb 16, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    That’s an odd statement that the U.S.A. entered WW I in 1918, considering that the U.S. Congress declared war on the German Empire on April 14, 1917.
    The U.S. Navy was fighting against the German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean quite soon after the declaration of war, and American ground troops and fighter squadrons reached France well-before the end of 1917.
    Organizing a small amount of the Air Corps to fight in France was really quick, since the Lafayette Escadrille (the Lafayette Squadron) of American volunteers was already flying and fighting as part of the French Air Force at the beginning of 1917. This squadron became the 94th Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army, the famous “Hat in the Ring” squadron that still exists in the U.S. Air Force.
    D.A.W.

  16. D.A.W. - Feb 16, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    That’s an odd statement that the U.S.A. entered WW I in 1918, considering that the U.S. Congress declared war on the German Empire on April 14, 1917.
    The U.S. Navy was fighting against the German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean quite soon after the declaration of war, and American ground troops and fighter squadrons reached France well-before the end of 1917.
    Organizing a small amount of the Air Corps to fight in France was really quick, since the Lafayette Escadrille (the Lafayette Squadron) of American volunteers was already flying and fighting as part of the French Air Force at the beginning of 1917. This squadron became the 94th Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army, the famous “Hat in the Ring” squadron that still exists in the U.S. Air Force.
    D.A.W.

  17. David - Feb 16, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    I’ve seen the blog and the photo and I have some news…The swastika that is on Rabbit Maranville’s cap IS NOT a Nazi swastika. The swastika on his cap is the original ancient symbol. If you look closely, you’ll notice that this swastika is shaped in the form of a square. The Nazi swastika, which obviously came AFTER World War I, is TILTED ON AN ANGLE. Check out all those photos of Nazi swastika arm bands if you doubt this.

  18. GMD3d - Feb 16, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    D.A.W.: The Lafayette Escadrille also used the svastika symbol while they were flying as volunteers for France, before the US joined the war. Some of the men who died while flying in the unit were buried with the symbol on their gravestones, including one Jewish member, who had both the svastika and Star of David on his gravestone.
    The svastika was used all over America during the 1900′s-20′s nad wa s apopular art deco symbol used alongside other religious symbols. Its still present in the details of many buildings that survive from that time period.

  19. Jon - Feb 16, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    WWI has nothing to do with the use of the swastika and it’s odd that this article mentions the Germany of WWI as if it were associated with the Nazi party. The swastika wasn’t adopted by the Nazis until 1920 after WWI was over. The party itself was founded only near the very end of WWI.

  20. Mark - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    If the Nazi party hadn’t been created until after this period in time then you need to ask what was the universally accepted meaning of the symbol during that era was. To associate the symbol used in those pictures with the Nazi party (which hadn’t adopted the symbol yet) is callous. Many words and symbols have started out with one meaning only to have events of the day change the publicly excepted meaning of the word or symbol. This is a perfect case in point. This article seams to take a purely inspirational attempt by the team to “change their luck” and dramatize it through using the name swastika instead of what the symbol was universally referred to at that time.

  21. Walter Bishop - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    The Swastika symbol was actually used to ward off evil spirts by the Hindu’s and other religions in India, long before the Nazis turned it into a symbol of hate, evil and dispare.

  22. Dr. Dale - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:48 PM

    Actually, you both are correct about WWI. Wilson got Congress to declare war on April 2 in response to the Germnans’ resumption of unrestricted u-boat attacks. However, our forces were not fully ready to fight–with the exception of a couple of divisions that fought with the Brits in the spring and early summer of 1918–until the American Expeditionary Forces’ First Army fought a short offensive to reduce the St. Mihiel salient on Sept. 12-16, then shifted gears, moved about 40 miles to the Meuse-Argonne sector, and launched an offensive on Sept. 26 that would last until the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11.

  23. The Common Man - Feb 16, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    Craig, thanks for promoting this article. It was a terrific read and the digging over at BaseballResearcher was wonderful to go through. I was enthralled by this look into the culture of the early 20th century major leagues.

  24. Mr. B - Feb 16, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    I toured the national air museum a few years ago and was very surprised to see the original spinner cap from the Spirit of St. Louis had a “Nazi” symbol painted or drawn on the inside. I believe the inscription related to Buster’s view above, but can now see that
    Lindbergh may have believed in the “luck” designator as well.
    It’s amazing to think that the Braves in 1914 would’ve used the symbol for luck and winding up having the season they had. Great story…

  25. Rays fan - Feb 16, 2010 at 10:54 PM

    I was aware that they declared war in 1917 but stand corrected on involvement–I was referring to the bulk opf the ground forces but should have said 1917 due to the U boats and the Lafayette Escadrille as you mentioned. Thanks!

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