Stars and Strikes baseball game returns for eighth year

Gavin DeWitt at the plate during last year’s Stars and Strikes game. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. July 4.  - Photo illustration by Pete Saloutos
Gavin DeWitt at the plate during last year’s Stars and Strikes game. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. July 4.
— image credit: Photo illustration by Pete Saloutos

For four hours on the Fourth of July, Bainbridge High School’s baseball diamond will be transformed into a classic pre-war ballpark, complete with wool uniforms and classic bunting.

Now in its eighth year, the annual Stars and Strikes Baseball Game celebrates America’s pastime while benefitting local organizations.

“I love what Bainbridge does as a community on the third and Fourth of July but I thought it was lacking something,” founder Jeffrey Giblin said. “I did some research and learned that there were a ton of teams back in the war era (World War II) on the island. It was a great opportunity to point to some history where baseball is concerned.”

Giblin also launched the event with the goal of benefiting the community. In its debut year, Stars and Strikes donated all its proceeds – player fees, family donations and concession revenue – to the Bainbridge Historical Museum.

“At the time the museum was moving from Strawberry Hill Park to its present location, so that seemed like a good fit,” Giblin said.

The museum was the benefactor for two years, then the funds went to the island’s Metro Park and Recreation District for the next two years. Bainbridge Island Little League and Helpline House have also been recipients. This year, the game has returned to its roots to benefit the museum.

The event has raised $33,000 over eight years.

“It has come full circle,” Giblin said.

The Bainbridge Grays will take on the Peninsula All-Stars in classic replica uniforms from the 1940s.

“We are joined by players not just from Bainbridge anymore but all around the West Sound – the ‘Peninsula’ seemed appropriate,” Giblin said.

With 15 seasoned players on each team, the Grays and All-Stars put on an authentic, competitive game.

“The juices get flowing once the game starts,” said islander Bill Lemon. “We play very seriously and compete very hard, and there are guys who are out there throwing their aging, creaking bodies on the ground like they were 18 again. The umpires come in [wearing] older style dress with the string ties you usually only see in black and white photos.”

Lemon has participated in every Stars and Strikes game,

“A lot of guys who have played ball in the past – almost everyone – played high school baseball,” Lemon said. “The common theme is a great love of the game. The old-time uniforms bring it all home.”

One of Lemon’s favorite memories was when the game benefitted Bainbridge Island Little League.

BILL dads competed, and their children took the opportunity to give a few pointers.

“The stands were full of little leaguers shouting things that their dads have shouted at them all season long,” Lemon said. “People in the stands and the dugouts were laughing ‘til they cried.”

The event, which begins at 9 a.m. and continues until the teams play all nine innings – or 1 p.m., whichever comes first – will also feature coffee and doughnuts for sleepy spectators.

“We have 1940s era music playing; I have a DJ that comes out,” Giblin said. “I just try to create a festive, carnival-like atmosphere that is reminiscent of the games back in the early 1900s through the pre-war era.”

To Lemon, the spirit and nostalgia of Stars and Strikes is best represented through the heavy wool uniforms.

“The first year I played I was on the Reds and I asked if I could be on the team simply because the uniforms were modeled very closely after that of the Portland Beavers,” he said. “That’s the team my father played on. That was very special for me to play in that uniform.”

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