"In the early days of baseball, it wasn’t about money, it was about ideas", says richard kermas. In his hometown mannheim he got to know this sport after the second world war, which was brought to germany at that time by american soldiers.
"The americans wanted to employ the german youths after the war because they feared that they would become werwolfen." The werwolf organization was a national socialist structure for building up an underground movement at the end of the war. To keep the young germans busy, the 84-year-old recalls, the americans figured out the best way to do it. About the "german youth activities (GYA) they offered volleyball and basketball training as well as baseball for the boys and softball for the girls. Youth baseball teams formed, which also provided an opportunity to learn english. When truth reform came in 1948, the americans no longer automatically supported baseball clubs. Out of twelve teams in germany, only five remained.
The sport was not completely new in germany, continues richard kermas. Even before the war, bats were played in this country with rules similar to those of baseball. In the early days, in the 1950s, he actively played baseball, once he was even allowed to participate as a national player: "germany against belgium – we won 14:13."
The fact that it was an amateur sport was very important to richard kermas. So he not only played baseball actively, but also made himself available in 1964 when the "amateur baseball foderation deutschland" was founded (ABFD) elected a new president.
Four teams were left at the time: mannheim, munich, stuttgart and frankfurt. These teams could continue to use the existing sports fields of the american garrisons: spangdahlem, bitburg, ramstein, landstuhl…
As president, he built an organization to improve the infrastructure for this sport. Through his contacts, he secured the support of politicians and american militaries. In mannheim, he says, "we had a field, but there was no field yet. A senior U.S. Officer helped unburocratically and promised to provide everything that was needed. John deere, the agricultural machinery manufacturer, also became a sponsor for the field equipment.
"With four, five teams, we couldn’t win a pot of money; that’s why we integrated african-americans." Soon, many colored americans were playing in the german teams "because they were systematically blocked in the army".
From 1967 to 1982, richard kermas led the german baseball association as president. He has been doing this work on a voluntary basis for all these years. Because of his worldliness, his many contacts and his knowledge of languages (english and french), he was also elected vice president of the european federation.
From staffelstein (where he moved in 1972) he helped to gather the forces to make baseball an olympic discipline. "In every european country we had to prove the sport to become olympic." We succeeded in establishing baseball in 21 countries – and thus the breakthrough, the participation in olympic games. In this capacity, richard kermas was traveling the world at the time to promote the sport. With a broad smile, he reports: "I have shaken hands with three presidents: lyndon B. Johnson, fidel castro and anastasio somoza."
He takes it in stride that baseball is only a marginal sport in germany today. The game with its complicated rules is popular in asia, south africa and south america as well as in the united states. He is still interested in what is going on in the scene. As the last contemporary witness, he will give a lecture at the bamberger rotary club about the beginnings of baseball in germany. He parted with all the trophies, pictures, documents and utensils he had collected over the decades years ago. These are the things he gave to the baseball museum in mannheim.