Sunday, June 26, 2005


June 26th, 1916

Washington plays at New York

From the Police Blotter section of the New York Times the next day:

"David Lerner, 24 years old, an actor of 123 Wadsworth Avenue; John J. Ehrman, a railroad engineer, of 930 East 180th Street, and Edward J. Steinfeld, a salesman, of 120 West Seventy-fourth Street, were arrested in the grandstand of the Polo Grounds during a game between the New York Americans and Washington's yesterday afternoon on charges of petty larceny for refusing, according to a special policeman in the grandstand, to surrender balls which had been knocked into the stand."

Yes, by the way, it really was one long almost eighty word run-on sentence. Leaving aside the most obvious bit of the story for a second, I love how the paper not only identifies the criminals by name and occupation, but also lists their home addresses. I can only imagine the furor that would cause if a paper tried it today.

But of course, however large a furor printing criminals' addresses would be, I doubt it would match the furor if the police started arresting everyone who tried to keep a foul ball. It was still a few years--and one tragic death--before baseball realized its titular instrument would have to be replaced more than two or three times a game and balls going to the stands therefore became souvenirs. I've not, despite best efforts, been able to turn up anything on what happened to the men after their arrest, but I imagine if any are still with us (David Lerner the actor would be 113 so it's unlikely but possible) they would enjoy the sight of a ball being hit into the stands and a group of fans jumping over seats (and each other) to acquire it with the police merely standing idly by.

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