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
by the Houston Astros. It was not
always so. In the late 19th
century, as practically all Minute
Maid Park Texas
towns organized baseball teams, some Methodist preachers denounced baseball. The
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
. 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. America
There is irony in that fact that Jones’s successor as
famous evangelist was Billy Sunday (1862-1935), a former professional baseball
player who used his celebrity status to attract crowds to his revivals.