Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | March 18, 2015

17. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 1

What professional baseball player who influenced a million people to follow Christ said this?

“I don’t believe your own bastard theory of evolution, either; I believe it’s pure jackass nonsense. When the consensus of scholarship says one thing and the Word of God another, the consensus of scholarship can go plumb to hell for all I care.”

This 19th century player was still famous enough to make the 2013 Panini Golden Age Card Set

This 19th century player was still
famous enough to make this
Panini Golden Age Collectors’ Card Set in 2013

I don’t endorse the salty language this man sometimes used, but his passion for the truth electrified America with vigorous, unapologetic Biblical preaching. A former professional baseball player, his lively physical antics on stage riveted listeners’ rapt attention.

But Christians with more conventional perspectives cringed at his unorthodox style and language and even publicly criticized him. Nevertheless he preached the Word of God to over 100 million people, and estimates of conversions at his tabernacle meetings run to over one million. Both hearers and conversions are believed to number more than anyone else prior to Billy Graham.

Born in an Iowa log cabin during the Civil War, this man became one of the country’s most popular athletes. It stunned the nation when he left baseball to preach the Gospel. But eventually he became the country’s most popular preacher.

Who is this man?

Baseball fans remembered him racing around the diamond, clutching his hat. He set a record for the fastest trip around the bases (14 secs). People came to hear this man’s practical, down-to-earth, illustration-laced talks and to see his on-stage baseball-inspired dramatics. He said,

“I want to preach the gospel so plainly that men can come from the factories and not have to bring a dictionary.”

This man was a stalwart proponent and defender of Biblical Christianity. He said,

“Nowadays we think we are too smart to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus and too well educated to believe in the Resurrection. That’s why people are going to the devil in multitudes.”

He preached colloquially, using the vernacular of the day to best communicate with ordinary people:

“I may be crude. I use slang. But I always make myself understood. The average man-the man in the street has only about 300 words in his vocabulary. He needs the message, and I speak his language so he will understand.”

Who was this star baseball player and world-famous evangelist?

Chicago Centerfielder Billy Sunday Baseball Card

Centerfielder Billy Sunday
Chicago White Stockings
Baseball Card from late 1880s

This man was William Ashley Sunday, popularly known as Billy Sunday (1862-1935).

Sunday played professional baseball for eight seasons on three teams, during which time he became a Christian. He left baseball in order to preach the Gospel and became the most famous revivalist of the early twentieth century. His sermons were performances that entertained as well as communicated Biblical truth in everyday language.

Sunday biographer William Glyn Evans wrote:

“Sunday learned that people listened better when they could visualize what they were hearing. So he became active, dramatic, and acrobatic, and the crowds were delighted. He was purposely sensational, his language purposely extravagant, his delivery purposely accentuated, because he wanted to make the gospel interesting to hear. Also, Sunday embodied the masculine approach to preaching. His athletic career, his vast energy, his taut nervous system, and his sheer animal display drew men of all sorts into his tabernacles. He presented himself as a lone, courageous battler against the overwhelming forces of evil—the devil, liquor, sin, vice, and corruption.”
(Evans, William Glyn, Profiles of Revival Leaders, Broadman Press, 1976, p. 85.)

Baseball Career

In 1883 Billy Sunday broke into professional baseball with the National League champion Chicago White Stockings as an outfielder. Team owner Albert G. Spalding, founder of Spalding Sporting Goods, signed Sunday on the recommendation of Hall of Famer Cap Anson who managed the team and starred as a player.

Initially Sunday impressed Anson by beating the fastest man on the Chicago team in a 100-yard race, winning by 15 feet. Manager Anson grew to trust Billy Sunday so much that he turned over to him the responsibility for paying travel expenses for the team and handling ticket receipts. During Sunday’s five years with the team, Chicago won National League championships in 1885 & 1886.

Halfway through the 1885 season, Sunday was batting .371 — one of only two Chicago players batting over .300. During the season a sportswriter wrote this of Billy Sunday:

“His pace between bases is simply terrific, and when he goes to bat the crowd seems instinctively to turn its eyes toward the carriage line or the right field fence. What to any other man would be a two or three-base hit, is to Sunday a three-bagger or a home run, and the way he climbs over the earth between those bags is something to part the lips and open the eyes of any man with a soul in his body or blood in his veins.”
(Knickerbocker, W., Sunday at the Ballpark: Billy Sunday‟s Professional Baseball Career, 1883-1890, The Scarecrow Press Inc., 2000, p. 41.)

Sporting Life said,

“Sunday is about as good an every day player as Chicago can boast. The man doesn’t live who can beat him at base running; he is a strong, safe batter, and his fielding play is generally faultless.”

While playing for Chicago in 1886, Sunday heard a street preacher from the Pacific Garden Mission. Stirred by the hymns which were reminiscent of his mother’s singing, he started attending worship services and soon committed his life to God. Feeling God’s call to preach, he began speaking in churches and YMCA meetings.

A favorite baseball story that Sunday told repeatedly in sermons involved a game he played for Chicago in Detroit. With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Detroit had the tying and winning runs on base. The batter slammed a screamer over Billy Sunday’s head in right field. He recalled,

“As I saw the ball rise in the air, I knew it was going clear over my head into the crowd that overflowed the field. I turned my back to the ball and ran. The field was crowded with people, and as I ran I yelled, ‘Get out of the way!’ and that crowd opened like the Red Sea for the rod of Moses. I ran on, and as I ran I made a prayer; it wasn’t theological either, I tell you that. I said, ‘God, if you ever helped mortal man, help me to get that ball!’ I ran and jumped over the bench; when I thought I was under it, I stopped. I looked back and saw it going over my head, and I jumped and shoved out my left hand, and the ball hit it and stuck! At the rate I was going the momentum carried me on, and I fell under the feet of a team of horses. But I held on to it and jumped up with the ball in my hand. My how they yelled! Tom Johnson, who used to be mayor of Cleveland–dead now–rushed up to me and poked a ten dollar bill in my hand. ‘Here, Bill,’ he cried to me, ‘Greatest thing I ever saw! Buy yourself the best hat in Chicago. That catch won me $1500.'”
(McLoughlin, William G., Billy Sunday Was His Real Name, The University of Chicago Press, 1955, p. 5.)

1889 Pittsburgh Alleghenys Baseball Team

1889 Pittsburgh Alleghenys Baseball Team
Centerfielder Billy Sunday is 2nd from left in middle row. Hall of Fame infielder & strong
Christian James “Deacon” White is third from right in top row. Hall of Fame pitcher Pud
Galvin is on Billy’s right. Hall of Fame 1st baseman Jake Beckley is on left end of front row.

For the 1888 season, Sunday was sold to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (now the Pittsburgh Pirates). He was the star of the team in center field. Renowned for his speed on the bases and in the field, Sunday thrilled fans with acrobatic diving catches. This was done barehanded in the era before players used baseball gloves.

In August 1890 Sunday was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies who hoped he would lead the team on a late-season pennant run. He signed a 3-year contract at $400/month for the 7-month season. This was at a time when the average worker in America made only about $500 yearly.

Outfielder Billy Sunday

Philadelphia Outfielder Billy Sunday, 1890

However, in March 1891 Sunday obtained his release from the Phillies and left baseball to enter Christian ministry at a greatly reduced salary. Upon being released by Philadelphia, the Cincinnati ballclub offered him $500/month, but he elected to minister with the YMCA at $83.33/month. Later clubs offered him up to $2,000/month to return to baseball, but he declined. Much later as a successful evangelist he was offered $1,000,000 to be in movies, but he refused in order to continue his evangelistic crusades.

The baseball world was astonished when this admired sports hero made such a drastic career change. The next blog article in this series will consider Billy Sunday’s radical step that impacted the lives of thousands for eternity.

Questions to Ponder
  1. Why would a highly-paid star player like Billy Sunday play for his new team for just a few months? What could cause him to leave while on the crest of impressive athleticism and success?
  2. Has your passion for excellence on the job inspired the confidence and trust of co-workers, as Billy Sunday did while on the White Stockings team?
  3. Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the seventeenth installment in the Famous Thinkers series highlighting great men who believed in the Creator.
Read the prequels:
1. Famous Thinkers – Former U.S. President Supports Intelligent Design
2. Famous Thinkers – Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
3. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Supports Intelligent Design
4. Famous Thinkers – Theologian Testifies for Creation
5. Famous Thinkers – Rocket Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
6. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation
7. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation 2
8. Famous Thinkers – Astronomer Is a Creationist
9. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist
10. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist 2
11. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 1
12. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 2
13. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 3
14. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 4
15. Famous Thinkers – Physician Is a Creationist
16. Famous Thinkers – President Is a Creationist

Read the sequel:
18. Famous Thinkers – Evangelist Is a Creationist 2

Bible-Science Guy logo

Subscribe – Don’t miss future blog posts!
Click the sidebar’s “SUBSCRIBE” button to follow the
Bible-Science Guy Blog. You’ll automatically receive
new posts free by email. Click

©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday March 18, 2015 A.D.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23)

What do you think? Leave a comment. Please pray for the worldwide impact of the Bible-Science Guy ministry!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: