“Everybody was becomingly thankful.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, November 26, 1897
There’s not a lot of baseball on Thanksgiving.
It’s just turkey and football, isn’t it?
Sure, maybe there’s someone, somewhere having a catch before dinner. But, finding a game – a real game – is hard to do on Thanksgiving.
It was pretty much just turkey and football back in 1897, too. And, it’s been that way every Thanksgiving since.
But, I did find two bits of Thanksgiving baseball in 1897 …
On Thanksgiving Day, the boys of St. Mary’s Industrial School – the school for truants, miscreants, and wayward boys located on the outskirts of Baltimore – mostly played football. But, a few of them played baseball that day. It was a dull and cloudy day, but the rain held off until after dark, so the day was fine enough for outdoor games.
Thanksgiving 1897 was, for the 535 boys of St. Mary’s, “a delightful day,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
The school was still five years away from enrolling its most famous student – George (not-yet-Babe) Ruth who was committed to St. Mary’s by his parents for being incorrigible in 1902.
In 1897, George “Baby” Ruth was just 2 years old and several years away from becoming a star player for St. Mary’s Industrial School. (Here he is in 1913 — back row, center, with his catcher’s gear.)
The Baltimore Orioles also played on Thanksgiving Day 1897.
They had just finished their season in second place and were out on the West Coast on one of those barn-storming “all-star” tours that travelled through warm-weather states in the off-season as a way to make the owners some dough and help players make ends meet.
Baltimore Orioles “California Tour” Promotional Photograph. 1897
The Orioles spent their Thanksgiving being beaten 4-3 by the Sacramento Gilt Edges, a California League team.
(The Gilt Edges, by the way, got their name from Sacramento’s Ruhstaller’s Brewery, maker of Gilt Edge beer. The brewery still exists and they still make Gilt Edge.)
But for most Americans, Thanksgiving Day 1897 was a day for church-going (“services were most elaborate affairs, and in their magnitude and importance, were only surpassed by the Easter Festivals,” The Washington Post explained) … college football (the University of Virginia beat Carolina in the “South’s Oldest Rivalry” game, 12-0, wahoowa!) … and serving roast turkey dinners with all the usual trimmings to the poor, the infirm, the elderly, and the imprisoned.
Thanksgiving Day back then, it seems, was less a day to count one’s own blessings, but instead was a day to help provide the less fortunate with a belly-filling meal for which they could be thankful.
The Humphrey House, a Jamestown, New York hotel and restaurant, reminded its diners of the blessings of sharing a meal with the poor on their Thanksgiving Day menu.
“They who divide the plenty, By a bounteous Father given, Shall multiply this day the thanks, That sweetly rise to Heaven.”
(You can see the Humphrey House’s full Thanksgiving menu here.)
As The Baltimore Sun explained, “Many generous-hearted people were anxious that others should find some rays of sunshine in their lives to be grateful for and devoted part of the remaining hours to aiding the poor, sick, or those confined in institutions.”
“Everybody was becomingly thankful.”
That’s how The Baltimore Sun described Thanksgiving Day 1897.
May we all be becomingly thankful today, too.