Baseball is trying to adapt to the times. Just recently, Major League Baseball passed a rule that states a pitcher must through a pitch every 12 seconds in order to speed up the time of a game. It is an attempt to satisfy today’s short attention span. However, it contradicts the reason why, in the late 19th and early 20th century, baseball dominated the landscape. This uniform (L994.D.084 shown above) in the Museum collection provides us with an understanding of what people wore, why they wore it and what lead to the reason for people to participate in such sports in the early 1900s.
Organized sport blossomed in the late 1800s. Athletic teams were frequently sponsored by industrialist and the players were quite frequently those who worked in factories. There were several reasons for this phenomenon. Late Victorian factories were usually, hot, sweaty, noisy places (by all reports the 1904 Canadian Shredded Wheat Company Factory was built on a model of cleanliness). Machines were starting to be utilized more and more. As a result, time became the most important aspect of factory life. As machines replaced people, the demands to keep up with the machines became greater and greater. Jobs also became very tedious, usually broken up into very small repetitive jobs. This reached its zenith with the Henry Ford factories of the 1920s when stopwatches and time was monitored on every single step of the production line.
Due to the demands on the workers, the pains of urbanization and the harsh working conditions, it is no surprise that baseball became such a hit with the working class. Baseball has rules and regulations, but the one thing it doesn’t monitor is TIME. Games can be quick or they can be slow, one didn’t even know how many innings would be in a major league game when one went to the park. If the score was tied, you just play another inning. Very few sports provide this flexibility and baseball was able to capture the imagination of the workers for this very reason.
That brings us to this artefact in the Museum collection. It is a very nice early uniform. It is from approximately 1914. The uniform itself was comprised of wool and has the initials “CSW CO” on the front. This stands for Canadian Shredded Wheat Company. We believe that the team was sponsored by the company, however not all of the players worked at the factory (we have no records of who was on the team and there are no reports in the newspapers of the day) as evidenced by whom this uniform is attributed to.
The donor of this uniform stated that it belonged to Leon Misener (1887-1969), son of Chester (carriage maker) and Amanda (Colbath) Misener. The family lived in the Drummondville part of town. In 1916 Leon was living at 160 Main Street with his parents. He also worked in the neighbourhood. He had various occupations listed over the years; clerk, art dealer, painting framer but most dealt with art and paintings. Just before heading off to war in 1916 he owned the Niagara Art Store and was listed as an art dealer established at 167 Main Street (on the west side of the street near Barker).
Leon was listed as being 5’3”, with dark blue eyes and dark brown hair. The uniform reflects his height, and looks even smaller due to the fact that baseball pants only went mid-ankle. The uniqueness of this uniform is in the lacing at the top. No professional team had lacing past 1911 (Boston), as the strings would certainly get in the way. However, it is very plausible that local teams didn’t keep up with current styles at the professional level, and certainly it is possible that this uniform dates to slightly before 1914.
So imagine, being in one of the city parks, playing on a hot summer afternoon, possible a busy railroad track nearby, the mist and roar of the Falls off in the distance. This game would have been a sanctuary for Leon and his teammates, after their usual 60 hour work week. It was a way to unwind and enjoy life.