Baseball-Reference.com brings us one of the best “Today in Baseball History” entries ever.
Apparently today is the 120th anniversary of the time Cleveland police arrested players from Cleveland Spiders and the visiting Washington Senators for playing baseball on a Sunday.
1897 – Fans assemble for Cleveland’s first Sunday baseball game only to have the police arrest the players after the 1st inning. Players and umpire Tim Hurst are released on bail provided by Cleveland club owner Frank DeHaas Robison. A test case is made of rookie hurler John Powell. On June 10th, he will be found guilty of playing ball on Sunday and fined $5.
Well, it turns out Sunday baseball was quite a controversial subject in the early days of the National Pastime.
Cincinnati was kicked out of the National League for a period of time because of an NL rule against it, and The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball has a whole chapter titled, “Sunday Baseball.”
The book expands on the above-mentioned episode in Cleveland, including the revelation laws against Sunday baseball were championed by both the Ministers Association and the Liquor League, organizations that shared a fear their preferred Sunday activities – worship and drinking, respectively – would not be able to compete with the growing popularity of the stick-and-ball game.