SARATOGA SPRINGS , N.Y. -- Sports and the New York National Guard us the theme of a new exhibit opening at the New York State Military Museum this week.
"For the Development of First-Class Fighting Men: Sports and the New York National Guard, 1890-1950" chronicles the importance of organized sports to the National Guard during those years.
National Guard units had baseball teams, fencing teams, and boxing teams, and sports became almost as much a part of the Guard's tradition as the military training.
In his opening remarks at the 1899 convention of the National Guard Association of New York, Col. Henry Chauncey lamented "the narrow chest, round shoulders, and trailing feet" of today's soldiers, noting how their jobs in "stores or counting houses . . . have rendered them generally unfit material from which to make soldiers."
However, Chauncey believed that "properly regulated athletic exercises" as part of routine training can "change this material into the active, athletic being, which a twentieth century soldier must be."
The exhibit takes its title from a remark by Maj. Gen. Robert Lee Bullard, the commander of the 1st Infantry Division in World War I.
"Athletics . . . are the best stimulants for enlistment and for the development of first-class fighting men," Bullard wrote.
The exhibit uses photographs, sports trophies and other memorabilia to tell the story of the New York National Guard's organized sports teams.
The New York State Military Museum, located at 61 Lake Ave in Saratoga Springs is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.