Sometimes we romanticize baseball in the olden days to a point of ignoring the ugly reality of how players often behaved and spoke to each other and umpires during the games. Can you imagine the reaction that clubs were starting to receive from the Victorian element that was starting to support the sport to the extent of bringing ladies to the games – and then hearing some umpire-baiting angry player shout at an umpire these exact words?
“KISS MY A**, YOU SON OF A B****!”
Guess what, folks? That exact epithet was just one of the more printable expressions recorded on a list ordered into preparation in March 1898 by New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds owner John T. Brush. This was during the brief period in which men of power and money could own more than one club in the same league. Brush wanted to “suppress obscene, indecent, and vulgar language on the ball field by players.”
As a result of Brush’s initiative, a document entitled “Special Instructions to Players” was delivered to all twelve National League clubs of those words and expressions that were forbidden from further use at the risk of serious consequence if established by conclusive proof. The unclear penalty ranged from removal of the offending player from the field “for a day or all time.”
Not so surprisingly, only one known copy of this blue language filled document survives to this day. I’m not really sure where it is, but historian John Thorn gives it a pretty good treatment on page 246-248 of his “Baseball in the Garden of Eden.”
As we understand better today, banning bad words doesn’t make them go away. The language only changes with the culture of the people playing and watching the games. Throw in a few thousand people getting beered-up without eating and the formula for unfit family hearing goes through the roof.
What do you think of player and fan behavior at the ballpark in 2012? Are these problems or not?
And please comment. I’d really like to hear what you think.