Saturday, April 06, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 7

Methodist Evangelist Denounces Baseball, April 9, 1886

April, of course, means the opening of baseball season.  Methodist churches often sponsor baseball and softball teams.  The Texas Annual Conference is honored at Minute Maid Park by the Houston Astros.   It was not always so.  In the late 19th century, as practically all Texas towns organized baseball teams, some Methodist preachers denounced baseballThe Texas Christian Advocate published editorials and letters to the editor criticizing baseball.  Critics found three things wrong with baseball.  The games were most often played on Sunday afternoons.  Beer was sold at those games, and gambling on the outcome of games or particular at bats was very common. 

Sam Jones, (1847-1906) the most famous Methodist evangelist of his era issued the following statement, published in the San Antonio Light, April 9, 1886.

There is nothing more corrupting thing this side of hell than baseball. Now, put that down.  They had all thought I had forgotten that.  I have never had any use for it.  The idea of a great big young buck twenty-five years old running all over creation for a ball. If your mother wanted you to cut a stick of wood she couldn’t get you to do it to save her life, but you dress up in a fool’s garb and run after a ball, the hottest day, until your tongue lolls out, you fool you.

That ain’t all. It is one of the finest fields for gambling in America.  And that is not all.  I wouldn’t wipe my feet on any crowd that would go out and play baseball on the Sabbath.  Those are my sentiments.  I couldn’t put in any more concise way than that.  I don’t know whether you agree with me or not; but you understand me I reckon, don’t you?  I will let my boy play ball until he is 10 years old, but after he is 15 years old, I believe I will work him off if I catch him at such foolishness as that.

There is irony in that fact that Jones’s successor as America’s most famous evangelist was Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a former professional baseball player who used his celebrity status to attract crowds to his revivals. 


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