Monday, November 5, 2007

No Baseball For You!

In September of 1910, the All-Church baseball league of Massachusetts sought a permit from the Mayor of Boston to play a fund-raising benefit game for the House of the Angel Guardian (an orphanage and school). A permit was needed because Sabbath laws prevented the playing of games on Sunday. Apparently, the mayor did not see fit to grant the permit. The field mentioned below was at the corner of Washington and Williams street, diagonally across from Doyle's pub. Across Williams street, boys now play Pop Warner football every autumn Sunday.

Boston Daily Globe September 19, 1910

Sunday Ball Game Stopped

Eugene J. O'Connor Jr Arrested.

Had Been Scheduled to Be on Foss Field, Jamaica Plain.

Defended as Being a Work of Charity.

The first attempt to play an advertised game of baseball in this city on Sunday was nipped in the bud by Capt Joseph Harriman of Jamaica Plain police division yesterday, when Eugene J. O'Connor Jr, 38 years old, of 23 Homestead st, Roxbury, was arrested at Foss athletic park. The arrest was witnessed by 3000, who cheered O'Connor when he was taken to the station house in the patrol wagon.

Announcement had been made that a game would be played between the fort Banks team and the All-Church team of the All-Church league for the benefit of a church institution and that the Mission church band would play. The band was not present.

Mr O'Connor holds a lease of a portion of the grounds included in Foss athletic park, which is part owned by Congressman Eugene N. Foss. A portion of the field is owned by the gas company and a fence is being erected by that company that divides the field which is inclosed with a high board fence.

When announcement of the game was made Capt Harriman received a number of protests from citizens and from a representative of the Sabbath protective league. He got in communication with Mr O'Connor and his attorney, telling them Saturday that he would not allow the game to be played without a permit from Mayor Fitzgerald and Chief Whitney of the district police. Mr O'Connor proceeded to carry out his play of playing the game yesterday on the advice of his attorney.

Mr O'Connor arrived at the park at about 1:55 with a crowd of 30 or more boys, with bags and bundles containing uniforms. They belonged to a 15 year old boys league. Mr O'Connor opened the small gate to the park, but Sergt Hennessey and patrolman O'Brien prevented the crowd from entering. There was perhaps 200 in the crowd, who offered no resistance to the police and silently awaited developments.

Sergt Hennessey learned of Mr O'Connor what he proposed to do and told him he would not allow it. Mr O'Connor then read from the report of Police Commissioner O'Meara quoting the following paragraph: "That works of necessity and charity may be performed on the Lord's day, but the individual policeman is not allowed to decide whether or not a particular work is not covered by chapter (?) is one of necessity or charity. That is a question for the courts."

Mr O'Connor contended that the game to be played was a work of charity, for the benefit of a church institution and that if the game was interrupted by the police he would sue for damages. He showed Sergt Hennessey a blank "for necessary work on the Lord's day," signed by Duputy Supt Warren. Sergt Hennessey told Mr O'Connor that the permit was of no use in the matter of a Sunday game of ball.

Crowd in the Grounds.

All the time the argument was going so the crowd was collecting fast outside of the grounds. Seeing the large number of people who could not gain entrance through the gate guarded by patrolman O'Brien. Mr O'Connor opened the large double gates on Wiliams st and 500 people poured inside the inclosure. There was no boisterousness on their part.

Capt Harriman arrived at the park about 2:20 and had a talk with Mr O'Connor regarding the game, and with him were 10 patrolmen. Capt Harriman told O'Connor "You can't do this thing legally, and the first man who throws a ball will be arrested. If you think you can upset our rules and regulations you are mistaken."

O'Connor argued that golf was played at the country Club on Sunday and at Newton golf clubs, and games of baseball are being played now in this city. He contended that his park was a private grounds and that he had a right to play the game on those grounds as no admission fee was charged.

"They may do those things elsewhere," said Capt Harriman, "but you will not play baseball here today."

"But," said O'Connor "Deputy Warren and Supt Pierce said we would not be disturbed if we played the game," and he then showed capt Harriman the permit he had "to perform necessary work" signed by Deputy Supt Warren. Capt Harriman looked at the "necessary work permit" and told O'Connor that it was of no use in this case, and he explained to O'Connor the nature of the permit he held.

Threatens a Summons.

O'Connor said that he would play the game and Capt Harriman then said:"I forbid you or anyone else to play a gme of ball here this afternoon. The superintendent and the deputy are in no way authorized to give a permit to violate the Lord's day. That permit you hould is for necessary work. This is not work. You can't play your band, you can't even toss a ball and all present here are liable to be summoned to court."

O'Connor took counsel of friends and seemed more deterimined than ever to play the game. He said he was waiting for his attorney before he called the game, but Mr Scharton did not appear. Just before 2 o'clock the forst Hanks team arrived and was cheered.

The crowd surged toward the gates when it saw Capt Harriman going in that direction, while a larger portion of the crowd followed O'Connor about the field. Capt Harriman approached the fort Banks team and told capt John Fisher that a game could not be played. Capt Fisher then declined to go on the field in uniform and start the game.

The Hubbard A.A., a 15-year-old team, was present with uniforms and it was said they were ready to play the game if O'Connor wanted them to.

About this time Sergt Hennessey arrested Edward Goodman, 25 years old, of 228 Blue Hill av, on the charge of attempting to pick the pocket of Edwin J. McGuire. he was hustled off to the station house.

Asks the Captain to Leave.

O'Connor at last approached Capt Harriman and said to him: "Captain, I am going to ask you to leave the grounds and take your officers with you. This is private property and I want you to leave."

"Well, I guess not," said Capt Harriman. "I shall stay here and see this thing through. Now, Gene, if you would only take my advice and not try to play this game you would save yourself a lot of trouble, for just as sure as you attemtp to play ball here this afternoon I will arrest you."

"This is fair notice," said O'Connor, "and I guess we will make a test case of it. I am going to play ball, and I ask you and your officers to clear the field so we can begin." Capt Harriman laughed and the crowd cheered.

O'Connor went to the dressing room and donned a white baseball suit, and when he appeared on the field with a bat and ball, the 3000 men and boys followed him to the extreme right field corner. There O'Connor batted the ball and it went over the fence into Williams st. His act was not seen by the police because of the density of the crowd around him.

O'Connor went back to the dressing room and again appeared with another ball. This time he was watched by Sergt Hennessey and patrolman McAdams. He had no sooner batted the ball than Sergt Hennessey and patrolman McAdams and Capt Harriman placed him under arrest.

Police Diplomacy

Capt Harriman's diplomacy prevented friction with the crowd that might have resulted in serious trouble. Capt Harriman was patient with O'Connor and the crowd soon disappeared after O'Connor was taken to the station house.

William R. Scharton, attorney for O'Connor, appeared at the station house and notified Capt Harriman that bail would be furnished. Bail Commissioner John. R. McVey was soon at the station house and accepted sureties in $100 for O'Connor's release. His case will be called at Jamaica Plain this morning.


Atty. William R. Scharton defended the case in front of Judge Perrins of the Jamaica Plain municipal court. Scharton argued that since no game had actually been played, O'Connor could not be charged with playing baseball. Where the lawyer saw no game at all, the judge saw a flagrant violation of law. O'Connor provided bail, and the case was continued until the next day.

This case drops out of the news here, but O'Connor returns with another arrest in Mattapan and the title "The Father of Sunday Baseball" for his efforts.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, thanks for sharing. I had a great Aunt that was married to Capt. Harriman's son, Alfred.

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