Archive for the ‘History’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Salt Lake LDS Softball Competition, 1935

Brigham City, Utah 2nd Ward Baseball ChampsWhile the first All Church Softball Tournament was apparently held in 1938, competition among LDS wards started earlier than that. Wards, such as the Brigham City 2nd Ward pictured here, often had baseball teams (and softball teams later, as that sport developed) that played in stake and local leagues. But competitions involving LDS wards competing with other LDS wards took a while to develop. It wasn’t until after the Amateur Softball Associaltion standardized the rules for softball in 1933 that softball became widespread among LDS wards, and competition across stake boundaries became institutionalized.

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PostHeaderIcon Jackie Robinson in the Improvement Era

jackie-robinson-no-42Politics is said to make strange bedfellows. While that is certainly true in a sense, I’m not sure what the following excerpt from the LDS Church’s Improvement Era of 1949 is exactly. Its not politics, but it certainly is somewhat strange. Often today our perception of Mormonism before 1978 is that African-Americans were ignored or dismissed because of the priesthood ban and the minuscule representation of African-Americans in Utah.

However, when the Improvement Era wanted to make a point, they apparently weren’t above using Jackie Robinson’s fame to help. And in this case, Robinson had said what the LDS Church wanted to hear.

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PostHeaderIcon A Baseball Team in Every Ward

Second Ward baseball teamIn the late 16th century Henry IV of France expressed a desire that everyone in his realm would “have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” That idea showed up again in Herbert Hoover’s promise of a “chicken in every pot”—the politician’s promise of prosperity.

I’m not sure whether “a baseball team in every ward” is a promise of prosperity or programming gone awry, but that is essentially what leaders of the MIA suggested in 1922—some years before Hoover made his ill-fated promise. They wrote: “Each ward should have an organized baseball club, and each stake should have an organized baseball league…”

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PostHeaderIcon Can You Name the 17 Mormon All-Stars?

In the history of the MLB All Star Game, seventeen Mormons have been selected, including four current players who have been on a MLB roster this year.

As I watched the game this evening, I did the research and put together a list of those Mormons who have been selected in some year. I was surprised to discover that the first Mormon appeared in 1936! And this is only the 3rd year since 1997 that no Mormon player has been selected.

Can you name the four current players who have been all stars? How about the other 13 Mormons who have been selected?

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PostHeaderIcon Which Mormon Hit Most Home Runs in Home Run Derby History?

business man shrugUnfortunately, none of the active Mormons in baseball’s major leagues will appear in tonight’s Home Run Derby — nor will any appear in tomorrow’s All Star Game. Its an off year for Mormons, I suppose. But as you are watching the Derby, ask your friends the following trivia question:

Which Mormon hit the most home runs in Home Run Derby history?

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PostHeaderIcon Walter “Big Train” Johnson in the Improvement Era

Walter JohnsonIf Mariano Rivera wrote an article for the Ensign, would you be surprised? Would you read the article?

The idea seems crazy—the Ensign doesn’t publish articles like that, does it? I suppose not. But its predecessor, the Improvement Era, published from 1897 to 1970, did publish articles by non-Mormons occasionally, and those articles even included some without a religious message.

And for baseball fans, he best of these articles might be the following article by Walter “Big Train” Johnson, published just two years before he was inducted into the inaugural class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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PostHeaderIcon Bam Bam and the Bambino

BryceHarper-bandaidBryce Harper (known as Bam Bam) is perhaps the last person you would expect to be a baseball historian. But Harper started Spring Training drawing a historical analogy to his injury running into a wall last year. He was, it seems, just like Babe Ruth.

On July 5, 1924, Harper recounted, Babe Ruth ran into the wall in Washington DC’s Griffith Stadium, knocking himself out cold for 5 minutes. Despite that, the Bambino refused to leave the game and went 3 for 3. That is the kind of all-out play that Harper is known for, so maybe there is something to the analogy.

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PostHeaderIcon Missionaries and Baseball in Britain, 1935

LDS Baseball Team West London League 1935As I’ve explored the history of Mormons in baseball and baseball among Mormons, I’ve been somewhat surprised at the number of times that Mormon missionaries have been involved in playing baseball in different countries around the world, often as the sport is just starting there. I’ve found information that shows this involvement in Japan, Australia, South Africa and in Britain.

In this latter case, baseball was first introduced in 1890, when a small league was formed in Derby. But that attempt failed, and a later, much more successful attempt, came in 1933 with the founding of the National Baseball Association. And according to the following excerpts of an article from the Improvement Era, LDS missionaries were at the meeting that founded the organization, and a year later provided a league-winning team in the West London League.

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PostHeaderIcon Did Heber J. Grant suggest Sunday Baseball?

Heber J. Grant and Salt Lake Red Stockings, August 1877Mormon sports fans are likely tired of the all to frequent arguments over who should play baseball on Sunday and under what circumstances. Anyone who is an active member of the Church and who pays attention to lessons on how to keep the sabbath day already knows all the arguments. This post isn’t about those arguments. Instead, it is about history: specifically rumors about Sunday baseball and members’ reactions to that rumor.

Apparently, in 1913 at least, there was just such a rumor going around, claiming that Heber J. Grant, then an apostle, had told a group of church members that they could play baseball on Sunday.

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PostHeaderIcon Spalding? No, Browning!

ImprovementEra 1912 Baseball adMost of us today, when we think of the baseball equipment of years ago (and even today), think of Spalding, the manufacturer founded by Albert Spalding Jr. in 1876. But he wasn’t the only manufacturer, and the Mormon population in Utah apparently had their own local company: Browning. Read the rest of this entry »