There was an early-season exodus of semi-professional baseball talent from Glens Falls, NY in 1913 as theology and politics collided. “George ‘Ham’ Wagner, one of the most popular players that donned a spiked shoe in this city, will leave tomorrow for Port Henry to affiliate himself with the team representing that village in the Essex County League,” The Post-Star of Glens Falls reported on July 11, 1913.
Wagner, who played on the legendary Glens Falls semi-professional team in 1910 that won 16 consecutive games, had returned for the 1913 season as field manager. “Wagner took charge of the local team four weeks ago and more than made good as its field leader. The Sunday baseball law caused the abandonment of baseball locally and Wagner and his fellow players were forced to look elsewhere for engagements, The Post Star reported.”
Glens Falls players Bentley Blake and ‘Barry’ Murray, both of nearby Hudson Falls, also moved on to Essex County League teams. Glens Falls pitcher Artie Egan and catcher Dana Wood signed with Rutland. Pork Flynn moved on to Boston.
The shut-down of Sunday baseball in Glens Falls was fallout from controversy over proposed legislation to repeal the state Sunday baseball law, which prohibited holding baseball games open to the public on Sunday if admission was charged, either directly or indirectly.
Christian Sabbath observers in Glens Falls were energized to pressure Warren County Sheriff Richard J. Bolton to enforce the Sunday baseball law.
“Sheriff Bolton stated last night that he was averse to taking such action, as he liked the game, but the many complaints which have been made to him both in signed and unsigned letters made it necessary for him to pursue this course or be held responsible for neglecting his duty,” The Post-Star reported on July 10th.
Operators of the Glens Falls semi-professional team determined it would not be financially feasible to continue without the robust the revenue from Sunday games, which had the best attendance.
The Post-Star opposed shutting down Sunday baseball. “Of all the fool laws in operation in this state, that regulating Sunday baseball contests leads the way,” the newspaper editorialized on July 11th.
In a separate editorial, The Post-Star said the debate over Sunday baseball was an example of class struggle:
“In numbers, the persons in favor of Sunday baseball greatly outnumber those who oppose the idea, yet in this particular instance, the minority rule the majority. The minority is composed of men and women who are the fortunate possessors of enough coin of the realm to banish all rainy day and wait-at-the-door thoughts and, with few exceptions, they may at almost any time gratify their every whim. They have no desire for Sunday baseball, preferring to pass that day speeding about the country in some high-powered automobile,” The Post-Star editorialized on Aug. 4. “Such trips, denied to the average baseball fan, provide sinless pleasure to those who take them, yet those same persons insist that their less fortunate fellowmen shall not be allowed the harmless entertainment and relaxation from their daily labors permitted by Sunday baseball.”
Another local semi-professional baseball team decided to test the Sunday ban. “Sunday baseball will be resumed in this city, according to a well-fueled rumor on the streets last evening, and it was learned arrangements are being made between the Ridgewoods and one of three teams—the Granvilles, the All Stars of Albany or the Empires of Schenectady for next Sunday at League Park,” The Post-Star reported on August 18th.
Two of the players that left Glens Falls earlier in the season returned, intending to play for the Ridgewoods at the game. “Artie Egan and Dana Wood of the Port Henry baseball team, who will serve as battery for the Ridgewoods team in Sunday’s baseball game at League Park, will arrive here this morning and work out with the local aggregation this afternoon at the park,” The Post-Star reportedthree days later.
Deputy Sheriff Lewis Mosher vowed to arrest players if the game was attempted. The rumored game was not played, but another game was stopped in process.
“Deputy Sheriffs Phillip O’Connell and Lewis Mosher yesterday stopped a ballgame on the Luzerne Road, just outside the city limits,” The Post-Star reported on August 25th. “Acting under instructions from Sheriff Bolton, the two deputies yesterday visited the local ballparks, but it was only on the Luzerne Road that they found a game in process. The players immediately ceased playing when ordered to do so. The officers also visited League Park, but the place was deserted.”
As the debate percolated statewide, a judge in Binghamton issued an injunction prohibiting law enforcement from enforcing the Sunday baseball law. The Ridgewoods decided it was time to again test Sheriff Bolton’s resolve.
“Will baseball be played Sunday at League Park?” a Post-Star headline on September 5th asked. “Manager Cushman of the Ridgewoods says a game will be played there that day. Deputy Sheriff Mosher says the contest will not be permitted,” the paper said. Mosher said players would be arrested if they attempted to play.
This time the game went on, with a caveat. The team did not charge admission, per se. Instead, the approximately 300 people who attended paid 25 cents each to become a member of the Ridgewoods organization, making the game a private event not open to the public.
Corinth defeated the Ridgewoods 2-0, The Post-Star reported September 8th. “There was no interference from Sheriff Bolton,” the paper later reported.
Photo: Glens Falls area school children playing a pickup baseball game ca 1900 (courtesy Crandall Public Library).