Baseball was a popular pastime during the 1890s, and so was newspaper coverage full of colorful insults. In late summer of 1894 the Lincoln, Nebraska, baseball team played a three-game exhibition series with Des Moines. Lincoln boosters were less than enthusiastic about the first two games (one won and one lost by the home team).
The Nebraska State Journal on August 31, 1894, headed its coverage of the first game: “Let Des Moines Win. The Lincolns Give an Exhibition of Awful Ball. Pitcher Sets a Bad Example and Others Follow.” The article continued: “It is not because Lincoln was beaten [by a score of nine to five] that there is a kick coming but because the team was downed by its own wretched playing. It was more than a comedy of errors, it was a tragedy, . . . Baltz pitched. That is about all that can be said. His work in the box and on the field was characterized by as about as sheepheaded playing as has ever been seen on a diamond.” Worse than the offending Baltz’s performance, was his unnamed behavior on the field when “someone in the grandstand called for pitcher Johnson.”
Although Lincoln won the second game by a score of sixteen to seven, the Journal was not mollified, reporting on September 1: “Another tedious ball game was witnessed yesterday… Burris [the Des Moines pitcher] seemed to have no more control of the ball than a populist senator has of his mouth. Man after man was allowed to take his base on balls or after being hit until fifteen had gone to first.
“Then the playing of the two clubs in the field was something phenomenal. The men could not get their hands on the ball without making an error and in many cases they went after it in a manner that positively gave the four hundred spectators a desire to hire a kicking machine for being present. Then to give a finishing touch to the fiasco Haskell umpired with about as much accuracy as a phonograph which had never had a word concerning baseball talked into it.”
The third game (won by Lincoln, seven to three) displayed more skill by both teams. The September 2 Journal noted: “After two very tough games of ball, the Lincoln and Des Moines teams braced up and gave as pretty an exhibition yesterday as the most cranky crank in the city would want to see. The game was full of sharp, brilliant plays, and although there were a number of errors, the good plays overbalanced the poor ones.”
Just imagine what these guys would have done with sports talk radio.
The 1894 David City baseball team, Nebraska’s champion amateur team that year and one of the few racially integrated teams of the day. NSHS RG3064-26
[May 1999; Revised May 2018]