Tonawanda News

Features

October 13, 2013

BOOK NOOK: When baseball wasn't allowed on Sundays

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — While he doesn’t belabor the point, the author also suggests the so-called “blue laws” as a means of keeping the workers in line — in church, where most of the clergy would preach a work ethic, as opposed to the ballpark, where they might actually get to exchanging gripes and come to the realization that they were being badly used by their employers.

Not all the faithful lobbied against Sunday baseball. A movement called Muscular Christianity, presaging the likes of Niagara Power sponsor Fellowship of Christian Athletes, preached that the lessons learned in keeping fit for competition were almost as vital as those acquired in the sanctuary.

One “compromise” proposed limiting Sunday baseball to a three-hour time slot. That sure would pinch today’s Yankees. One judge dismissed charges, saying the game in question was so badly played that it didn’t even qualify as baseball. In Buffalo, a priest changed Mass hours so as to accommodate ballgame attendance, declaring that God was in the sunshine as well as the church.

DeMotte fairly compares the debate to such modern issues as, for example, same-sex marriage in which, as he sees it, a minority imposes, through legislation, its will on a more free-thinking majority, with nasty political in-fighting.

While scholarly, with enough footnotes for a novelette, “Bat, Ball & Bible” reads well, grammatically pristine, with such detail that an obsessive editor starts looking for insignificant errors just to prove that he’s paying attention. This nit-picker found only a team missing in a long-ago International League, Washington misplaced to the National League in 1906 and a misspelling of Chautauqua.

By today’s standards, that’s practically a perfect game.

Doug Smith covers baseball, theater and writes book reviews for Greater Niagara Newspapers.

• WHAT: "Bat, Ball and Bible" • BY: Charles DeMotte • PUBLISHER: Potomac Press • GRADE: A-

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