Wednesday, February 07, 2007

he's got the spirit...



i can't help but look at this 1909 RPPC and hear the devastating voice of ian curtis singing "i've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand"... and then screaming "i've got the spi-rit, i've got the spi-rit"...

the caption reads "billy sunday talking "booz" to 7,000 men. fully 90% rose to their feet when asked who would vote against booze. bloomington ill. photo by c.u. williams". i'm sure you can understand my affection for this image of the blurry mr. sunday with his fire and brimstone on overload.

i was all set to pair this image with a 1928 recording of pine top smith's "i'm sober now" (and possibly joy division's disorder), but the web revealed such an interesting picture of mr. sunday, that i took my tongue out of my cheek, and decided to fill in the historical blanks....

billy sunday was born in 1862, and began his adult life as a professional baseball player. he started his career on the chicago white stockings in 1883, and played on various teams until 1894. he was not much of a hitter (he struck out his first 13 at bats... yes, it must've been the devil's work...); but he was a great base stealer. in 1891 he set a new record with 90 stolen bases; and billy was known as the fastest player to run the base path - he could do it in 16 seconds. no wonder the camera couldn't catch his flailing arms in this photo...!

sunday was saved in 1886, and took this to be his calling. he secretly preached while playing ball for a few more years; but eventually saw the light, turned down some incredibly lucrative offers to continue to play ball, and began to preach full time.

it might have been fate, but sunday's preaching career was at the height of popularity during the years that the irascible ty cobb was playing baseball (1905 - 1926). cobb was notorious for doing just about everything sunday was preaching against... (and coincidentally, cobb was also a great base stealer). i wonder if during his life as a ball player, sunday learned about many of the vices he would eventually preach against .

sunday was incredibly famous during this time and supposedly preached the gospel to more people than anyone before him in an age without television and barely radio. due to the flailing arms and fiery evangelist style, he became extremely wealthy and preached vehemently against the evils of alcohol until his death in 1835. his fame and popularity would make it seem likely that he had an impact on prohibition hanging around as long as it did, and i'm sure he was heartbroken when it was lifted just two years before he died...

it kind of makes you wonder if there's something in a certain man that would make him a good preacher and a good ball player. it's like he had two lives, in two worlds. i found this incredibly crude recording of him online... listen

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