Baseball brings charges for men – News Item

John R. Lindermuth

Two young men from Shenandoah were arrested on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 1891, for playing baseball.

Their “crime” was a result of violating Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws, provisions dating back to the 17th century and forbidding work, sports and other activities on Sundays.

Thomas Fluck and Michael Ryan were arrested on a warrant sworn out by Charles Jones, charging them with participating in a game of baseball at the trotting park on the previous Sunday. Warrants were out for other members of the Shenandoah team which played against a team from Jackson.

“The accused did not deny the charge. They said they did not know they had violated any law and, as they work during the week, Sunday is the only day on which they can enjoy themselves.

“Squire Dengler read the law and imposed a fine of four dollars each upon each of the young men. They said they would not pay and were committed to the lockup for the night. This morning Constable Tosh took the accused to the Pottsville jail, where they will remain for six days, which is the term of imprisonment prescribed in default of payment of fine.”

John Lorah, a local teamster, was also charged with desecrating the sabbath by having driven a baseball team to and from Lost Creek a few Sundays earlier. He also was fined $4.

The following day William Powick, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Shenandoah, explained in the Herald the prosecutions were a result of action taken by churches of the community to secure a better observance of the sabbath.

“It was decided to make Sunday baseball the first object of attack, because more people are implicated in it and because its very popularity is leading so many of our young people astray,” Powick said. “These prosecutions and others that may follow are not petty prosecutions growing out of personal grudges, but the first exhibitions of a movement on the part of a considerable number of intelligent, upright and determined men and women who seek nothing but the welfare of the community through the enforcement of the law.”

Pennsylvania’s prohibition of baseball and other sports on Sundays was not lifted until 1933 and some elements of the Blue Laws still remain in force.

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