This incredible memo, purportedly issued to all Major League Baseball teams in 1898 as part of a documented campaign — spearheaded by John Brush — to rid the sport of filthy language, was discovered in 2007 amongst the belongings of the late baseball historian Al Kermish, also a respected collector of memorabilia. Essentially an on-field code of conduct, most amusing is that the memo was in fact so expletive-laden and obscene as to be “unmailable” to its intended audience via the postal service, and so was delivered by hand to each of the League’s 12 clubs and their foul-mouthed players.
A fascinating document.
(It’s worth noting that experts are somewhat divided about the document, with some believing it to be a satirical memo, circulated amongst players at the time in response to what was a very real campaign within the organisation. Either way, very notable. Discussion can be found here, here, and here.)
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Robert Edward Auctions. Enormous thanks to Jaime Stearns.
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS TO PLAYERS.
In a contest between two leading clubs during the championship season of 1897, the stands being crowded with patrons of the game, a gentleman occupying a seat in the front row near the players’ bench, asked one of the visiting players who was going to pitch for them. The player made no reply. He then asked a second time. The gentleman, his wife who sat with him, and others of both sexes, within hearing distance, were outraged upon hearing the player reply in a loud, brutal tone, “Oh, go fuck yourself.”
On being remonstrated with by his fellow-players, who told him there were ladies present, he retorted he didn’t give a damn, that they had no business there anyhow.
This shocking indecency was brought to the attention of the League at the Philadelphia meeting in November, 1897, and a committee was appointed to report upon this baseball crime, define and suggest for it a remedy.
In response to nearly one hundred communications addressed to umpires, managers and club officials, soliciting definite, positive and personal knowledge of obscene and indecent language upon the ball field, the committee received a deluge of information that was so appalling as to be almost beyond belief, showing conclusively and beyond contradiction that there was urgent need for legislative action on the part of the League.
That such brutal language as “You cock-sucking son of a bitch!” “You prick-eating bastard!” “You cunt-lapping dog!” “Kiss my ass, you son of a bitch!” “A dog must have fucked your mother when she made you!” “I fucked your mother, you sister, your wife!” “I’ll make you suck my ass!” “You cock-sucker!” and many other revolting terms are used by a limited number of players to intimidate umpires and opposing players, and are promiscuously used upon the ball field, is vouched for by the almost unanimous assertion of those invited to speak, and who are competent to speak from personal knowledge. Whether it be the language quoted above, or some other indecent and infamous invention of depravity, the League is pledged to remove it from the ball field, whether it necessitates the removal of the offender for a day or for all time. Any indecent or obscene word, sentence, or expression, unfit for print or the human ear, whether mentioned in these instructions or not, is contemplated under the law and within its intent and meaning, and will be dealt with without fear or favor when the fact is established by conclusive proof.
By Order of the Committee.
[UNMAILABLE. Must be forwarded by Express]