.. ecame rather pleasant for Billy and Eddie. Despite their initial homesickness, they found the environment to their liking.
But good things never seemed to last for the Sundays. No sooner had the boys settled in and begun to feel part of the landscape than the pain of separation entered their lives again. They were moved to Davenport, another Soldier’s Orphan Home, because of State money concerns.
The four years in orphans’ homes were important ones for Billy Sunday. They turned out to be some of the best years of his formal schooling. He left Davenport with an ability to read, write, and do elementary math. His legacy from the Pierces’ care also included an ability to work hard and a desire to keep himself and his clothing neat and clean. Living in the Soldiers’ Home taught him to get along with many people, and in the midst of hundreds of other youngsters he was freed from a temptation common to all children, the temptation to believe that he is the most important in the universe.
The orphanage years also taught Billy Sunday some self-confidence. He not only discovered that he could perform all sorts of tasks; he also learned that among several hundred boys he was a first-rate athlete. He found that he was exceptionally fast on foot. He also found that on the baseball field he learned that his legs could do more than quickly get him under fly balls, they enabled him to steal bases. After he left the orphanage, he went back home for a short while.He then left for the city of Nevada determined to make it on his own. He worked for a Civil War veteran and his wife.
Colonel and Mrs. John Scott took him in, loved him, worked him hard, and Oswalt / 6 sent him to two years of high school. No one knows whether or not he graduated, but he was much better educated than the typical American was.
In 1880, two months before his eighteenth birthday, Billy Sunday decided to give up the rural life.He moved thirty miles east to Marshalltown, an agricultural service community that was becoming a small city. He was recruited by the Fire Brigade and began to work in a furniture store.
Billy began to play baseball each time the Marshalltown team took the field. The boy from Story County not only made the team but also immediately distinguished himself as a base stealer and left fielder. He helped the team prove themselves as one of the finest in the state.It was in early spring 1883 that Billy Sunday received a telegraph message from Adrian Anson, captain and manager of the Chicago White Stockings. “That was the first telegram I had ever received,” Sunday wrote in his autobiography, “and it was good news!” The good news was that “Pop” or “Cap,” as the players called Anson, wanted Sunday in Chicago immediately to try out for the famous National League baseball team.
He had heard of Billy from an Aunt in Iowa. In a remarkable display of self-confidence, the twenty-year-old bush leaguer resigned his job of finishing furniture and making mattresses. He spent his entire saving, $6.00, on a new sage green suit.He then borrowed $4.50 from a friend and spent $3.50 on a trip to Chicago.
He arrived with only one dollar in his pocket. Although Chicago was only 250 miles from Marshalltown, as far as Billy Sunday was concerned the growing mid-western metropolis might as well have been on another Oswalt / 7 planet. The former farm boy had never been so far from Iowa, and he had never seen a city larger than Des Moines (Dorsett 18). Within an hour of arrival the small-town Iowan felt the anxiety and self-consciousness of a county bumpkin in the big city.He arrived at Spalding’s Sporting Goods Store, Spalding was owner of the team, just as the telegram directed.
After waiting a couple of hours team members began to arrive. After a while Cap Anson strolled in. Tall, rugged, and burly, he introduced himself to the uncomfortable newcomer. “Billy, they tell me that you can run some.Fred Pfeffer is out crack runner. How about putting on a little race this morning?” Sunday happily agreed. Billy borrowed a uniform from a pitcher named Larry Cochrane, but for the time being there were no athletic shoes.
“Pheffer came out and he had on running shoes, so I ran him barefooted, and I’m glad to be able to say that I ran rings around him, beating him by fifteen feet.” It was Sunday’s speed that ultimately won him a permanent spot with the Chicago club, because this ingredient was part of Pop Anson’s recipe for success. Anson made Sunday a member of his twelve-man squad in 1883.The rookie played very little that first season, he took the field, in only fourteen games, but he also served the team by handling all of the business management for Anson while they were on the road.
The results were not stellar, but the rookie showed marked improvement. Sunday batted .241 in fourteen games his first year, and he hit .222 after forty-three games in 1884. In 1885 he played in forty-six games, raising his batting average to .256. In 1886 Sunday played twenty-eight games and batted .243.
During the season of 1887 he was a Oswalt / 8 starter in fifty games and rapped out fifty-eight hits, pushing his average to a career high of .291. He also stole thirty-four bases that year. Establishing himself as a professional ball player was important to the Iowa farm boy, but it paled in comparison to an event that took place during the 1886 season. One afternoon during the summer of 1886 Billy and some of the other players were walking the streets of Chicago. There were no games on Sundays in those days, and none of the half dozen players with Billy had anything purposeful to do.After a few drinks in a downtown saloon they strolled along and came upon a horse drawn wagon.
This particular wagon was one of the Pacific Garden Mission preaching teams. After listening to the gospel hymns that reminded him of his mother, something in Billy began to stir. Whatever the source of this inner restlessness, the veteran of three baseball seasons stood up at the street preacher’s invitation and abruptly announced to his teammates on the curb, “Boys I bid the old life good-bye.” Billy considered going down during the invitation but did not.
After several days of agonizing over this Billy went back to the mission and decided, “With Christ you are saved, without him you are lost” (Sunday “Satan” 4). He “committed” his life that night to a cause that he saw was more important than any baseball game ever played.Despite becoming largely famous after being traded to Philadelphia, it would be the results of that decision at the Pacific Garden Mission that the world would remember Billy Sunday for. Some applauded Sunday and his methods; others did not. But there is no question that Sunday’s sensational career was a phenomenon Americans would not soon forget. Biographies.