First Complaint about Organized Baseball

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Awaiting Review
Date Wednesday, December 1, 1858
Location United States

 I came across an editorial in a magazine, The Happy Home and Parlor Magazinecomplaining about modern baseball, and how it isn't played for the right reasons anymore.  It is from the December 1, 1858 edition of "The Happy Home and Parlor Magazine" in a column of "Editorial Paragraphs" and is
titled "Ball Clubs":


Ball-Playing has become an institution. It is no
longer a healthful recreation in which persons of
sedentary habits engage for needful relaxation and
exercise; but it is now an actual institution. Young
men associate for this object, organize themselves
into an association, with constitution and laws to
control them, and then plunge into the amusement with
a sort of "Young America" fanaticism. In almost every
town throughout all this region there is one of these
regularly formed and inaugurated ball-clubs, the
members of which meet frequently to practice the art,
for the sake of being able to worst some neighboring
club whom they challenge, or by whom they are
challenged, to a hot contest. The matter has become a
sort of mania, and on this account we speak of it. In
itself a game at ball is an innocent and excellent
recreation but when the sport is carried so far as it
is at the present time, it becomes a public nuisance. 
Our reasons for this conclusion are the following.
1. It has become a species of gambling. One club
challenges another to a trial of their skill, and
sometimes the victorious party are to be treated by
the vanquished, to a dinner or supper. What would be
the difference if the two parties should institute
cards and ten-pins for the ball?
2. On these occasionS a large collection of people
are usually present. There is no objection to crowds,
provided they meet for a worthy object. But if the
object be evil, or is not an elevated one, the
gathering usually becomes more or less censurable. Is
it a very elevating scene to witness -- the trial of
skill at ball-playing between two parties of young
men? We think not. It is about the same as
rope-dancing, and certain equestrian amusementS, that
some low-bred performers perpetrate through the
country for money. Then there is betting on these
occasions, as there was at one of which we have had a
description, where two thousand people were assembled.
There is much confusion, too, even where intoxicating
drinks are not to be had, and more when they are
carried clandestinely upon the grounds, as they have
been in certain instances. There is eveil in all
this, without any counterbalancing good.
3. Much profanity appears to be incidental to this
way of playing ball. One club played for some weeks
so near our studio, that every oath came right into
the window like black, smoking cinders from the pit. 
A neighboring ball-club met them on their grounds
several times, and then the swearing was awful. How
young men could contrive to use so dexterously the
worst words in the English language was really
surprising. They would not have sworn more lustily if
profanity had been necessary to propel the ball. The
name of the club was "Base Ball Club." We asked a
young man, why they call it "Base" remarking that once
it was called Round Ball. Before he had time to reply
we said, "Is it because they have so much swearing/" 
He saw that the name was rather significant, so that
he had not much to reply. We understand that some
clubs have introduced laws against the use of profane
language, which is well, if the laws can be enforced. 
But we apprehend that they will not avail much for two
reasons. One is, that a large majority of the members
are swearing young men. They are in the habit of
using this language, and it will take more than the
rule of such an association to break them of it. The
second reason is, that, as this amusement is now
sustained, it provokes profanity, so that moderate
swearers in other places will become immoderate on
these exciting occasions.
4. It is a great waste of time and money. Two or
three times a week many young men spend a part of the
afternoon in this sport, and then occasionally a whole
day in trying their skill with a neighboring club. 
Attending this there is the expense of their
organization, the price of dinners and suppers, of
horses and carriages to convey them to adjoining towns
frequently, together with the loss of their time. If
they were compelled to spend as much time and money to
support preaching in the community, they would
pronounce it an onerous tax.
5. It is physically injurious. Playing at ball in
a moderate way for exercise is healthful for sedentary
people. But this long, violent and exciting way of
playing wears and tears the system. It is excessively
wearisome and exhausting, much more so than tilling
the farm, or making boots.
6. It absorbs the mind to the neglect of
imperative duties. We are confident that employers
will bear witness, that those young men, who become
most absorbed in this sport, take less interest in
their daily labor. This is a natural consequence. We
heard an excellent school teacher complain this
summer, that ball-laying had destroyed the interest of
her male pupils in their school. They had caught the
mania, and formed a club after the manner of the older
persons, and all they seemed to think of was getting
out of the school-room to enjoy the sport.
For these reasons we class ball-clubs, as now
existing, with circus exhibitions, military musters,
pugilistic feats, cock-fighting, &c; all of which are
nuisances in no small degree.



19cbb post by Richard Hershberger, Aug. 14, 2005

Submitted by Bob Tholkes
Submission Note 2/14/2015


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