PostHeaderIcon The Double Victory

Old-Gold-Cig-AdThere is a long-standing and often bizarre connection between athletics and vice, as if smoking and drinking and the like are somehow a natural part of viewing and participating in sports. While advertising might seem like a natural source of this connection, I doubt that advertising alone accounts for this long-standing cultural connection.

But given this connection, much of LDS writing and thinking about baseball has focused on showing the problems from disobeying the word of wisdom. Non-fiction articles often cited baseball managers and stars who decried vices like smoke and drink. And even the fiction in LDS magazines that featured baseball frequently tried to persuade readers against these vices. But in doing so they often made other assumptions also, such as what happens in the following story.

Its author, Carter E. Grant, spent much of the last half of his life defending the Church and its doctrines in LDS magazines and books. Born in 1885, he took until 1927 (at age 42) to complete his bachelor’s degree in Western History at the University of Utah. The next year he began teaching at the Jordan Utah LDS Seminary and ten years later he became the seminary’s principal, staying there for another 25 years. While there Grant researched and wrote articles on Western and Mormon history, a single volume history of the Church, The Kingdom of God Restored (1955) and a number of Sunday School manuals that covered Church history. He also wrote hymns, poems and stories, such as the following, published the year after he joined the Jordan Seminary.


The Double Victory

By Carter E. Grant,
Principal, Jordan LDS Seminary

On this particular warm July afternoon of which we are speaking, Salt Lake City lay half resting from the excitement of the big parade, staged by the “United Commercial Travelers of America.” The much-advertised baseball game was now over and the victorious visitors were hurrying jovially back to town with the “U. C. T.” colors floating gloriously. Up to one of the largest restaurants thronged the players, followed by an enthusiastic, noisy bunch of rooters, shouting their newest yells, arousing the town in general. Special tables with a fitting spread were awaiting the “ball tossers” and their immediate friends. As this big day happened some twenty years ago, there was to be added to the eats, all brands of cigars and cigarettes, as well as a “bit to drink” and then some more if desired.

George Standard, the tall, dark-complexioned pitcher, stood as the only “Utahn” on the “Travelers” picked team. His famous work of this day, however, had made him more attractive than all the other players combined. Although his tanned face wore a smile of satisfaction, still it held no trace of arrogance or conceit. He had recently grown rather familiar with approving applause and commendation, for he was fast being recognized as the champion twirler of the West; and as he shook hands so freely and unassumingly with all the travelers not one of them failed to praise him for his part in the day’s big success.

This young man rightly should have been the mound star for the inter-mountain team, but due to his being cleverly tied-up several weeks in advance by the “U. C. T.” he was duty bound to do his very best, which had resulted in the decisive victory for the visitors. But now that the game was over, and his check safely tucked away in his pocket, he wished he could break away and go home to his wife and baby. Such a suggestion, however, he knew would quickly be over-ruled at this time, so he fell in with the fellows, and at the earnest request of the manager, took his seat at the head of the table.

That George was being led more and more into this sort of company caused Mary, his wife, no little disturbance of mind. Just what would be the outcome of her husband’s exceptional successes at pitching, she dared hardly imagine, especially as the papers recently had several times mentioned him as one of the coming “Big Leaguers.” Only this very morning, while George decked himself in the “U. C. T.” colors, Mary, baby in her arms, had poured out her soul to him. Still she wanted him to win, and knowing the value of an encouraging word she bade him good-bye, and then added feelingly, “Success to you, dear—remember your promise—Delbert and I’ll be waiting and watching for you.”

As the twelve or fifteen jolly “men of the world” began feasting, Standard’s eyes glanced quickly from table to table. There wasn’t a person in the room he had known before today. “I am almost glad,” he reasoned to himself; “for when I mix up with an impulsive, emotional crowd like this, I don’t care to have someone jumping at conclusions as to what I partake of. I’ve abstained before, and I guess I’ll get through today all right.”

“Which will you have, tea or coffee?” requested the waiter of the young man who sat at the head of the table.

“Well, I don’t believe I’ll have either,” suggested George, quietly; and not until the other fellows were all served and the meal was half over, did the manager notice no “hot drinks” at Standard’s plate.

“Here, here!” he called to the waiter, “you’ve dropped out one of our crew on the tea and coffee stunt. What’ll you have, George?”

“I’m not drinking either today, thank you. This cold milk just touches the right spot.”

“Well,” inquired the first baseman from toward the other end of the table, “do you never indulge—never?”

“Not very often,” replied George without a falter.

“Say,” exclaimed another with a bit of irony in his voice, “I’ll bet Standard’s a ‘Mormon.'”

Although it was said more as a joke than for any other reason, still George felt that the eyes of the entire crowd were upon him, and for a moment he tried hard to busy himself with eating so that no one would force an answer. The silence continued, however, until he felt himself duty bound to say something.

Finally he remarked as calmly as possible, “Yes, sir, I’m a ‘Mormon.’ My grandfather was one of the first pioneers into this valley. Since you’ve brought up the subject of religion, I am just wondering which church each of you fellows belong to. Let’s hear how many sects helped win that victory today?” and he sent his dark eyes quickly but interrogatively down the line of men on either side of the table.

There was complete silence. Everyone knew it was not George’s turn to speak, but none seemed anxious to announce his church.

Finally to break the silence, which was becoming embarrassing, the manager half shouted, “Great Scott, can’t some of you folks speak up and say which church, if any, you belong to? Now if Standard is a ‘Mormon’ and don’t like tea or coffee, or beans or carrots or anything else, it seems he knows what’s best for that arm of his, and we shouldn’t care!” The crowd laughed whole-heartedly and soon the incident seemed to be forgotten.

As the hot drinks disappeared, cold foaming beer with wine and other liquors, took their place. George’s glass stood at his plate filled to the brim, but untouched. Now followed a regular deluge of cigarettes and cigars. Something within George kept saying, ‘Oh, just take one cigar, light it, fuss around a bit, be one with your group; it will save you further questions. No one will know it. It won’t hurt this once, take one!’ Several of the very best brands of cigars were lying near his plate, but as his hand rested upon one, his wife and baby boy came floating in vision before his eyes. There they were, standing in the doorway looking down the street toward him. How anxious Mary appeared as she hugged the baby boy and then turned half downcast from his view. Immediately her last words rang loudly in his ears. “Success to you, dear—remember your promise—Delbert and I’ll be waiting and watching for you.” With a start George dropped the tobacco. As he looked about him, he felt stronger and wondered how the liquor, tobacco, and these other things could be so attractive, yes, fairly captivating, to all these hardheaded men.

Just then the manager, who was becoming rather jovial, exclaimed, “Now, gentlemen, I’ve been taking notes on things, and I want our friend, Standard here, to tell us how on earth he succeeds in turning down all this ‘forbidden fruit.’ No tea, no coffee nor tobacco, and not a drop to drink stronger than milk. George, you’re a puzzle! Come, tell us about it.”

As all the men voiced assent to this suggestion, George had to give some explanation, at least. Just how to start before these men, he hardly knew, but he finally commenced, “Well, you see I was born a ‘Mormon.’ I guess that’s had the most to do with it. Mother and father at home never drank tea nor coffee, neither did father ever use tobacco or liquor, and they always told me not to. They believed in what we call the ‘Word of Wisdom.'”

“That’s the ‘Mormon’ law I’ve been trying to think of,” put in one salesman. “Don’t you know, I’ve sold cigars to a merchant up in Ogden now these eight or ten years, and do you think I can ever get him to taste one of my very best cigars? No, he wouldn’t do it for my whole trunk full! One day when we were talking, he explained to me his ‘Word of Wisdom.’ And I’ve been trying and trying to think of the name of it ever since George said he was a ‘Mormon.’ This man up there swore on a stack of Bibles that every good member of his Church lived this law strictly. I’ve taken him out to dinners, and he was just like Standard here, he’d never touch any of the ‘forbidden fruit,’ no, not a thing. And now what I’ve seen today almost makes me believe that the ‘Mormons’ are going to run us tobacco fellows plum out of business!” And then they all laughed. “Just the moment I saw George cut out the tea, etc., I said to myself, ‘I’ll just watch him, for I’ll bet he belongs to the same order as my Ogden friend.'”

All eyes were now turned toward George again as he continued, “I lived home for more than twenty years and I never saw a cup of tea or coffee upon my mother’s table, as a result I have never even so much as tasted it, and as for tobacco and liquor, they don’t bother me at all.”

“Well, what do you know about that!” echoed several voices at once.

“No wonder,” exclaimed the manager, “you pitched that ninth inning today as if you were just getting a good start!” And then he turned and faced the group, “Say fellows, if I had ten men that would live like Standard here, I could beat anything in this whole country!” and he swung his fat fist down on the table with emphatic energy.

“I’m surely interested,” came a nasal voice, that as yet had not been heard, “I can’t forget how Standard simply domesticated his Western friends today.”

“Domesticated ’em!” laughed another, “that’s putting it too mildly. Our evening paper back in Chicago would say something like this, ‘Because Standard performed so marvelously for the Travelers the Inter-Mountain Bush Leaguers were swept completely off their feet. The young Wizard of the Rockies wholly subdued his old comrades. With his whirling curves and spinning shoots, Standard kept his opponents at his mercy constantly. He worried ’em with his bursting speed and then teased ’em with his slow faders until the crowd roared with amusement.'”

“This game today,” began another, “reminds me of what happened once over in St. Louis.” And when he had finished, several other men were ready with their favorite stories.

As the time flew by, George, feeling that he now had the good will of the crowd, arose with, “Well fellows, I’ve an appointment with the wife and baby. I’d better be going.”

A moment later, after a final handshake, he walked swiftly toward his street car, and whispered gratefully to himself, “I guess I’ve played a ‘double-header’ today! Who would have imagined that any of that bunch knew anything about our ‘Word of Wisdom?’ I wonder how a fellow is to know when he is being watched?”

Improvement Era, v31 n10
August 1928


It doesn’t appear that Grant was following any particular player in creating the story above. In 1928 just two Mormons (that I know of) had made the majors, and the first Mormon player good enough to make the All Star game wouldn’t start playing in the majors for another five years. There were likely other players who played in minor leagues, but at this point I don’t know who they were or how good they were.

But aside from who, if anyone, might have inspired Grant, the story is interesting for some of the assumptions it makes and conclusions that might be taken from reading it. Thinking about it, I’m not even sure if the story is about the word of wisdom as much as it is about standing up for what you believe. Indeed, George Standard only briefly struggles with a desire to smoke cigars, while he instead spends most of the story struggling with how to explain his refusal to partake of the same vices as his teammates.

Perhaps the issue that might leave readers questioning the story is the idea that Standard’s teammates would care if he drank or smoked or not. Would baseball players care? Even if they knew that Mormons didn’t drink or smoke, would they really watch to see what he did? While I can see how some readers might wonder, in my experience that seems believable — at least today. I don’t have enough knowledge about 1928 to judge how readers then might see it.

Also unusual to today’s readers is the idea that Standard’s family would stay home instead of supporting him at the ballpark.Today I would expect, if a husband is pitching in a single game (as opposed to one game in a whole season of games), his wife and children would likely be at the game to support him. But 1928 was a different time, so maybe that wasn’t as strange as it might seem.

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