Sunday, July 18, 2010

Those Terrible Sinners In St. Louis

St. Louis prides itself on its amateur base ball clubs, and such faith have the residents of that town in the harmlessness of the game, and to show that it is an innocent one, the authorities allows it to be played on the Sabbath. In fact, very few games are played on any other day of the week, and a recent Monday issue of one of the St. Louis organs devotes considerable space to the account of two "great" amateur games, and mentioning in addition about a dozen minor games, all played on Sunday.
-Inter Ocean, July 16, 1874

Again (and again and again), I go back to the cultural differences between St. Louis, which was settled by the French and had a large Creole population, and the rest of the country, which was, generally speaking, settled by Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Creole, Catholic St. Louis simply had a different view of how the Sabbath was to be observed. As the Creole influence wained over time, St. Louis would join with the rest of the country and enact blue laws but this wasn't the case in 1874 and there was no reason for the Chicago papers to get all snotty about it.


Richard Hershberger said...

It's not just the Creoles. Sabbatarianism was largely a product of the Puritans and their spiritual descendants. All those German immigrants whether Catholic or Protestant, tended to find it quite inexplicable.

As for a Chicago paper getting snotty about it, Sabbatarianism was widely established as a hallmark of middle class respectability. Complaints about Sabbath-breakers are a staple of 19th century journalism. While I agree that this particular item is a Chicago paper taking a shot at St. Louis, the sentiment is genuine and would ring true over much of the country.

This seems all very weird today, but there are a few vestiges of it. There are many jurisdictions where alcohol can't be sold on Sunday, even in otherwise wet counties. There is also a fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, which is closed on Sundays due to its owner's rather old fashioned beliefs. The attitude in conservative Protestant communities is interesting. The chain gets a lot of credit for this, even by people who routinely engage in business on Sundays. It is a little like lay Catholics' attitude toward celibacy: admired in others.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I was indeed going to mention the German and Irish Catholics in StL and how their view of Sabbath observation meshed with the Creoles but didn't really want to get into it.

Had forgotten about Chick-fil-A closing on Sundays. I was always shocked and surprised when I'd go to the mall on a Sunday and they weren't open. There's a furniture store in StL that also closes on Sunday and makes it a point to mention it in all their advertising. They're proud of the fact and want you to know that if you buy from them, you're dealing with a store that has a specific set of values.

Anonymous said...

It's very clear one's own comments shines a light up one's own attitudes and opinions toward others.

Just because a business owner, and I should point out - a "successful" business owner - determines Sunday is a day to close shop for a day of worship and time spent with families does not make it one of a set of "rather old fashioned beliefs".

Society, just like baseball, succeeds when we do the basics well. When the basics aren't executed, the team loses. Society loses also.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I appreciate the comment and understand what you're trying to say but I'm having difficulty in coming up with a response. Any response seems to lead me into a discussion of religious beliefs that I would rather avoid on my little baseball blog.

Within the context of 19th century Sunday baseball, the attitudes of St. Louis Catholics is relevent. To understand why Sunday baseball was acceptable in StL at that time while it was oppossed by a largely Protestent nation generally, one has to look at religious beliefs and culture. I've argued for some time that it's the Creole, Catholic culture of StL (reinforced by Catholic immigrants from Germany and Ireland) and their specific attitude toward celebrating the Sabbath that created the acceptance (and embrace) of Sunday baseball in opposition to an overwhelmingly Sabbatarian American mainstream.

I think it's difficult for a lot of people to understand the issue because there is no modern Sabbatarian movement. While I can remember the blue laws, those were taken off the books thirty years ago. The examples of Chick-fil-A and Goedeker's were given as examples of modern Sabbatarianism and as a throw-back to the old blue laws. While Richard can speak for himself, I think that's what he was talking about when he said that it seems weird today, that these are old fashioned beliefs.

Regardless of how we feel about it, the Sabbath is not observed as it once was. When I was a kid, all the stores were closed. There was no shopping. My grandmother wouldn't even cook on Sunday. She'd prepare a large meal on Saturday night and we'd eat it after mass on Sunday. But things are different now and we live in a more secular society. We can judge for ourselves if that's good or bad.

In the end, I'm not going to come right out and say we shouldn't discuss religion because there's nothing wrong with that in the context of a historical discussion. Also, I've never been afraid to discuss or defend my religous beliefs. But we're grown ups here-we are scholars and gentlemen-so we will at the very least be polite and respectful of each other.