Long Reads on Softball, Pot, School Violence, and Lynch Law

16-inch softball’s aristocratic roots; investigative journalism from Ida B. Wells; a teacher and a librarian get busted for a Bridgeport grow-house; and a violent year at Harper High.

 

* Adam Doster recounts the history of 16-inch softball:

Chicagoans may not like to admit it, but their hard-nosed, working-class game has aristocratic roots. On Thanksgiving Day 1887, at the tony Farragut Boat Club on the South Side, 20 alumni gathered around the club’s ticker tape machine to track the results of the annual Harvard-Yale football game, played that year at the Polo Grounds in New York City. When the news broke that the Bulldogs had beaten the Crimson 17–8, an overenthusiastic Yalie chucked an old boxing glove at one of his Harvard peers. To defend himself, the Boston Brahmin grabbed a nearby broom handle and swatted the glove away. Inspiration struck George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, who tied together the laces of the boxing glove, chalked out a baseball diamond on the club’s gym floor, and split the men into two teams. Mitts were not available, and thus not used. “A big soft ball and a small bat—that was the central idea,” the Chicago Tribune wrote of that first game, which ended in a 41–41 tie. A new sport was born.

* Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky follow the drawn-out legal outcome of a Bridgeport pot-house bust:

The sheriff’s office issued a press release headlined “Librarian, teacher busted for marijuana operation.”

Keller was released that day on a $2,000 bond. Ortiz was released several days later after posting $3,000.

Within a month, a grand jury indicted the pair on charges of possession with intent to deliver 500 to 2,000 grams of cannabis—a Class 2 felony, the second-highest category of crime in the state, right behind murder and rape. They were facing as much as seven years in prison.

* Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah on Harper High:

In the last school year, Harper High School was especially hard hit by the gun violence that has been spiking in South and West Side neighborhoods. Fifteen Harper students were shot, three of them fatally. Another 12 students who once attended Harper, including many who had transferred to other schools, also were shot during the school year, according to Harper Principal Leonetta Sanders.

[snip]

There are as many as 15 gangs in the area, including one named after a recent victim of violence, officials said. Sanders says school officials last year identified every gang member at the school and met with each of them. She says she has made it clear to students that the school “is neutral ground.”

* Ida B. Wells on lynch law, from 1892 (via Longform):

But the sacrifice did not remove the trouble, nor move the South to justice. One by one the Southern States have legally(?) disfranchised the Afro-American, and since the repeal of the Civil Rights Bill nearly every Southern State has passed separate car laws with a penalty against their infringement. The race regardless of advancement is penned into filthy, stifling partitions cut off from smoking cars. All this while, although the political cause has been removed, the butcheries of black men at Barnwell, S.C., Carrolton, Miss., Waycross, Ga., and Memphis, Tenn., have gone on; also the flaying alive of a man in Kentucky, the burning of one in Arkansas, the hanging of a fifteen-year-old girl in Louisiana, a woman in Jackson, Tenn., and one in Hollendale, Miss., until the dark and bloody record of the South shows 728 Afro-Americans lynched during the past eight years. Not fifty of these were for political causes; the rest were for all manner of accusations from that of rape of white women, to the case of the boy Will Lewis who was hanged at Tullahoma, Tenn., last year for being drunk and “sassy” to white folks.

These statistics compiled by the Chicago Tribune were given the first of this year (1892). Since then, not less than one hundred and fifty have been known to have met violent death at the hands of cruel bloodthirsty mobs during the past nine months.

 

Photograph: Monika Thorpe (CC by 2.0)

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