Such is the case with the 1913 edition of Spalding's baseball guide. It can be found for free on the internet in all sorts of formats. This is part two of an ongoing series in which I will investigate excerpts of this hidden treasure.
Spalding's Baseball Guide - 1913: on religion
The Bible is the Spalding book of rules for the game of life. James B. Sullivan, beloved by all athletes, gave me these rules for athletes: "Don't drink, use tobacco, or dissipate. Go to bed early and eat wholesome food!" The boozer gets out of the game as certainly as the bonehead.
I have interviewed scores of the most noted players. Every one had a religious training. Many are church members. All avoid old-time drinking, as our fathers did smallpox.
Mathewson belongs to the high type now generally being duplicated. He is a modern masculine Christian. Base Ball demands brains as well as brawn.
Where to begin with this excerpt?
Perhaps Spalding's Guide was on to something with the Bible. International talent in baseball is on the rise, and a look at the religious backgrounds of nations with MLB players reveals a trend that would not surprise the writer of the 1913 guide at all. Below is a list of nations, ranked in order of most MLB players on 2012 opening day rosters, with religious data from the CIA factbook. Bible-using religions underlined:
- United States of America (613 players): Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4%
- Dominican Republic (95): Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%
- Venezuela (66): nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
- Canada (15): Roman Catholic 42.6%, Protestant 23.3%, other Christian 4.4%, Muslim 1.9%, other and unspecified 11.8%, none 16%
- Japan (13): Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8%
note: total adherents exceeds 100% because many people belong to both Shintoism and Buddhism
- Cuba (11): nominally Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jewish, Santeria
note: prior to Castro assuming power
- Puerto Rico (11): Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%
- Mexico (9): Roman Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 5.2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.1%, other 0.3%, unspecified 13.8%, none 3.1%
- Panama (7): Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
- Australia (4): Protestant 27.4%, Catholic 25.8%, Eastern Orthodox 2.7%, other Christian 7.9%, Buddhist 2.1%, Muslim 1.7%, other 2.4%, unspecified 11.3%, none 18.7%
- Curacao (4): Roman Catholic 80.1%, Protestant 11.2%, none 4.6%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.7%, Jewish 0.8%, other 1.3%, not reported 0.3%
- Nicaragua (3): Roman Catholic 58.5%, Protestant 23.2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7%
- Taiwan (2): mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%
- Colombia (1): Roman Catholic 90%, other 10%
- Italy (1): Christian 80%, Atheists and Agnostics 20%
- South Korea (1): Christian 31.6%, Buddhist 24.2%, other or unknown 0.9%, none 43.3%
The Bible is alive and well in baseball today.
I am not sure how someone would avoid smallpox, other than not touching anything. Roughly a third of smallpox cases resulted in death. Vaccinations were around in 1913, and in fact mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1905, perhaps a bit too late for the fathers alluded to in Spalding's to be impacted by the ruling. Fun fact: smallpox was declared eradicated from the world in 1980!
I enjoy how Christy Mathewson is touted as the type of ballplayer being "duplicated" in 1913. Mathewson was one of the five original members of the Hall of Fame, and maintains his standing as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. In 1913 he led the American League in most hits allowed and lowest WHIP. Wrap your head around that statistical oddity.
Baseball in 1913: a time where the talented players were strong bundles of moral fiber, much like their fathers avoided an infectious plague for millenniums!