Courtesy of the Library of C0ngress, American Memory
Photographic print, copyright by Geo. C. Mages, Chicago, May, 1898.
(Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-26149 (b&w))
This proud but ultimately tragic assemblage of players, coaches, and mascot is the baseball squad from the battleship USS Maine. The team had just won the Navy baseball championship held in Key West, Florida, in December 1897, beating a team from the cruiser USS Marblehead eighteen to three.
The Maine's star was a black pitcher named William Lambert (upper right), and engine stoker from Hampton, Virginia, who was described by one shipmate as "a master of speed, curves, and control."
Two months after this celebratory photograph was taken, on February 15, 1898, all but one of these men died when the Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor, killing 260 of the ship's crew and sparking the Spanish-American War. Other than the goat, which was left behind in Key West when the ship was ordered to Cuba, the lone survivor was John Bloomer (upper left).
Only minutes before this devastating--and still mysterious--explosion, C.H. Newton (middle row, second from left) had sounded taps for the crew at the usual time of 9:10 p.m.
Caption written by Alan Bisbort for the 1997 Library of Congress Baseball Calendar.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, American Memory