Sunday, July 13, 2014

Baseball, Beer and Herbert Hoover

I've been doing independent baseball research for several years now and have collected quite a few interesting stories. I was looking over some of my old blog posts the other day and came across this little gem. It's one of my favorite anecdotes of all time.

For some, baseball without beer is as incongruous as the Fourth of July without fireworks. The practice of serving beer at ballparks was initially frowned upon by the National League. But when the rival American Association began to turn substantial profits by selling alcohol and playing games on Sundays, NL officials realized the error of their ways. The suds flowed freely--at least until prohibition reared its ugly head.

By the time President Herbert Hoover took office in 1929, prohibition was in full swing. Though he offered limited public support of the policy, Hoover was privately opposed to it, complaining that it caused all kinds of trouble and forced him to throw out perfectly good wine. An avid baseball fan, he had played shortstop as a kid and once referred to the game as  "the greatest of American sports." Faced with numerous domestic problems during his four-year term (not the least of which being the Great Depression), Hoover still found time to attend a few ballgames--making World Series appearances in 1929 and '30. By the time he showed up for Game 3 of the 1931 Fall Classic, alcohol had been considered contraband for over a decade. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As the 31st Commander-in-Chief settled into his box seats for the start of the game at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, someone in the stands let loose with a raspberry.Within seconds, the entire park erupted into a chorus of jeers. Before long, the alcohol deprived masses began chanting: "We Want Beer! We Want Beer!" It was the first time that an American head of state had ever been openly harassed at a ballpark (according to some sources). Hoover admitted to being irritated by the incident at a speaking engagement years later. "I was really peeved because I was probably the only man there who obeyed the law and had been thirsty for eleven years," he said. 

If you're interested in odd little stories like these, you might want to pick up a copy of Mudville Madness--my latest non-fiction book, which is being carried by Taylor Trade Publishing. It follows some of the most unusual on-field occurrences in baseball history from the 1800s right up through the 2013 season.

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