“One of the Signs of Insanity”

17 Sep

Louis Gemmett engaged in a bizarre more than 20-year crusade. It culminated the day the 71-year-old cigar maker from Davenport, Iowa appeared in court in Chicago in front of Cook County probate Judge Henry Horner—who would later serve two terms as governor of Illinois.

 The Chicago Daily News said:

“(Gemmett) who has been a fan for 60 years, presented several arguments which he thought were prima facie evidence that ball players are not quite right… (and should be) adjudged insane.”

Horner, apparently to avoid a spectacle, adjourned court and heard Gemmett’s arguments in chambers.

Henry Horner

The Daily News obtained a transcript:

“One of the signs of insanity,’ said Gemmett, ‘is in the method of scoring. A batter makes a one base hit, after which he proceeds at high speed to first base, ignoring the fact apparently that his effort is useless to his team unless his mates are successful in their efforts to make additional hits in order that he continue on around the bases and register a score. That’s crazy isn’t it.

It got weirder

“There should be two pitchers, one right and one left-handed, in the box at the same time, and the batter wouldn’t know which one was going to pitch. The purpose of the pitcher is to deceive the batsman, and baseball players are crazy to think one pitcher alone could fool batters.”

Perhaps to sway the judge, Gemmett suggested rather than an umpire making a “final ruling,” there should instead be a “judicial committee to act upon” any decisions under dispute.

He also kind of saw the future:

“And it’s crazy to call a game on account of rain. There ought to be a canopy over the field, suspended by balloons, so that play could go right on, no matter what the weather.”

said in 1909It was notable that Gemmett’s day in court received national coverage, The Associated Press said it was the 18th time Gemmett had appeared in front a judge in various jurisdictions throughout the country, but until then his notoriety was limited to a handful of papers in Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald said in 1909:

“(He) annually squanders a small-sized fortune away in trying to advance a weird baseball system he calls the ‘Reality.'”

Gemmett’s system called for many of the same changes he argued for in court 21-years later.

Perhaps exercising the political skills that sent him to the governor’s mansion within three years, Horner declined to issue a ruling until Mr. Gemmett could get an audience with Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, to first make his case to the baseball commissioner.

There is no record of Gemmett meeting with Landis or appearing in court again.

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