Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things–Sunday Baseball Edition

4 Feb

What type of Sunday Ball? 1863

In 1863, The Brooklyn Eagle—there was no byline on the story, but it was likely written by Henry Chadwick—wanted the police department to make a clarification:

“We see by the police records that a party of forty or fifty persons was arrested for playing ball in Sunday, at the ‘ball alley’ corner of Green Lane and York Street.”

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

The paper’s complaint was that the notice from the police lacked “any description…of the character of ball playing indulged in,” which left a mistaken impression.

“We beg to state, for the benefit of ignorant outsiders, that any base ball club belonging to the National Association is yet to be disgraced by the stigma of playing base ball on the Sabbath.  Not a club in the community can be charged with such a things and this fact should be understood.

“The game the parties were engaged in who were arrested is that known as ‘house ball,’ where the players knock the ball up against the side of a wall with their hands.  No responsible base ball player engages in a game on Sunday, and we trust the police reporters will in future bear this fact in mind and state the kind of game those arrested were engaged in.”

John L. Sullivan and Sunday Baseball, 1885

Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, arrived in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, September 11, 1885.  The Cleveland Press said he would be pitching on Sunday for a local semi-pro club, the Forest Cities—the Western League team of the same name had folded in June–in an exhibition game against a team from Sandusky.  The scheduling of a game on Sunday had raised the ire of the local “Law and Order League,” who the paper said “were up in arms,’ and attempted to get the game canceled.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

Despite the protests, the game, at Cleveland’s Brooklyn Park, went ahead as scheduled.  Sullivan was paid $900 for his appearance and pitched well—he gave up just five hits in nine innings, a fifth inning error allowed Sandusky to score two runs, and Sullivan and the Forest Cities lost 2 to 0.

The Press said as soon as the game ended Sullivan was placed under arrest by “a meek constable” named Jones, who “feared to arrest (him) during the game.”

The move was roundly criticized as simply a publicity stunt, given that the Law and Order League failed to swear out warrants against the other seventeen players or the game’s organizers.

Bond was posted for Sullivan and the fighter left town that evening.  The following day an attorney pleaded guilty on Sullivan’s behalf that he had “engaged in a game of ball on Sunday.”

The attorney for the “Law and Order League” asked the judge to “uphold the sacred day of rest by assessing a fine of such proportions as would teach the law-breakers and Sabbath-desecrators a wholesome lesson.”

The judge fined Sullivan $1 plus costs “amounting in all to $15.90”

Sunday Baseball in Chicago, 1894

During the spring of 1894 a man named William W. Clark met with Chicago Mayor John Patrick Hopkins.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said Clark was “Secretary of the International Sunday Observance League,” The Chicago Eagle called him as “a blue-nosed individual in clerical garb.”

Chicago Mayor John P. Hopkins

Chicago Mayor John P. Hopkins

Clark presented the mayor with a resolution requesting a ban on Sunday games in Chicago.

The Eagle described the meeting:

“He was accorded a courteous hearing, in the course of which the clerical gentleman expatiated upon the enormity of ‘catching men out,’ of making ‘home runs’ on Sunday.  Such practices he said were wrong and highly immoral.  Mayor Hopkins listened in mild surprise.  When the gentleman got through His Honor announced that he used to play ball on Sunday’s himself, and sometimes attended a game even yet, and saw nothing immoral about it.

“The cleric was unable to specify any particular enormities growing out of the game, but proceeded to hold out threats.  Then Mayor Hopkins announced that he had been elected by the liberal-minded people of Chicago, and as they appeared to be in the majority here, he, Mr. Hopkins, intended to be governed by their wishes.”

The Eagle editorialized that the mayor had “made another of his famous home run strikes on the particular occasion.”  And, “As for the clerical visitor, the poor man struck out.”

The International Sunday Observance League abandoned their effort to make Sunday baseball illegal in Chicago.

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