Archive for the ‘History’ Category
[Originally posted on Juvenile Instructor. Reposted here with permission.]
I make it out to the US most summers, but when I don’t, there is one thing I miss more than absolutely anything: a baseball game. I have many fond memories of exciting baseball games in the heat of summer, cheering on my beloved Oakland A’s or San Francisco Giants (we’re equal opportunity Bay Area supporters at my house). And since April is the month of Opening Day, I thought I’d round up something about Mormons and baseball.
I don’t have a very definitive answer to this question yet, but thought I’d raise it in case readers have information I don’t. To me, it seems likely that the first groups of pioneers included those who knew how to play baseball. If, as I’ve already demonstrated, baseball was played in Nauvoo, then those who played baseball there were likely those who brought it to Utah.
But while I haven’t yet found evidence of early games, I did come across some early mentions of baseball in Utah that I thought I would share.
The time for preparation was drawing to a close. It was mid-July, 1917, and on August 5, the young men – most of them Mormons – who would be members of the 145 Field Artillery – were due to leave their homes and formally enter the U.S. Army. They would train at Fort Kearney, near Linda Vista, California, then months later they would sail to France, prepared for war. With them would be B.H. Roberts, their chaplain.
“A chaplain in the army,” Roberts wrote, “as I understand it, is the fellow who, in addition to the praying and preaching and helping every fellow who gets into trouble and shares everybody’s troubles, may also look after their amusements and guide their sports.” One of the best activities, Roberts decided, would be baseball – not only would the men enjoy the friendly competition and the exercise the game provided, directing their play would increase his opportunities to mingle with them and minister to them. “Providing this means of wholesome amusement for the men of the Utah batteries will make one of many approaches for me to their hearts.”
It is a simple journal entry by Mormon Battalion member Azariah Smith. After spending most of 1846 struggling along the long, 1,900 mile road from Council Bluffs, near what is now Omaha, Nebraska, through the territory we know as Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and after arriving in southern California, near San Diego, Smith recorded in his diary early in 1847 how he and some fellow soldiers chose to entertain themselves:
Sunday March the 6th. We drilled as before and through the day we play ball and amuse ourselves the best way we can. It is very cool weather and clothing scarce.
“In the 1830s, on the western frontier of Missouri, ball was the favorite sport of Joseph Smith, founder of a new religious sect called the Mormons1.”
A couple of years ago I received as a Christmas present the Baseball documentary by Ken Burns, the PBS series that as much as anything has driven my current fascination with the game and led to this blog. Early in the first of the documentary’s 10 parts, the narrator makes the above claim, something that even today I don’t hear from Mormon historians. Could it be that Joseph Smith played and loved baseball?
- Burns, Ken, and Lynn Novick. Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns. PBS, 2010. ↩
So far I haven’t hears of any Mormons playing in Japanese baseball, at least not on a professional or serious amateur level. And before I came across the article below, I wasn’t even aware that the Japanese had begun to play baseball as early as they had. It turns out that baseball in Japan dates to the late 1860s or early 1870s. And the Mormon presence in Japanese games dates , according to this, to 1912.
The Deseret News covered the event:
I know that these events have happened at a number of stadiums around the country, and I’d love to hear where they are happening currently and where they have happened in the past.
The 25-year-long record at Dodger Stadium is impressive, isn’t it?
Should we be encouraging these events elsewhere?
Perhaps we need a guide for how to put on these events elsewhere?