Thursday, October 20, 2011


 "Billy Sunday, UNSHACKLED!"

A Doorway to Heaven"
By Carl F. H. Henry
Copyright @ 1942


Billy Sunday never saw his father who walked thirty miles to enlist in the Civil War and died
with scores of other Iowa infantrymen after fording a partly frozen river. From the front lines he
had written the expectant mother, “If it is a boy, name him William Ashley.” Mother and
children lived in the Ames, Iowa, log cabin for years before they managed to move into a frame
house. Perhaps that accounted for Billy Sunday’s illness the first three years of his life, which an
itinerant doctor cured with a syrup stewed from wild roots.

The lad had an intense love for his grandmother. When she died, the family did not tell Billy for
two days. Heartbroken, he mourned at the casket, refusing to be moved. The second day after the
funeral Billy vanished; no searching party could locate him. Finally his pet dog picked the scent
through the snow, and, leading the posse to the cemetery, stopped where the lad lay thrown
across the grave, chill-bitten by a cold November wind, and sobbing so that the friends despaired
of his ever stopping. For weeks his life was at low ebb, but the healing tide finally came.

The wolf of poverty hovered constantly at the log cabin door, so that Sunday’s mother finally
decided to put her two boys in a nearby soldiers’ orphanage. She prayed and wept while the boys
slept on the train. When Billy said “goodbye” he never dreamed that for the last thirty years of
his mother’s life, which ended June 25, 1918, he would have the joy of providing a really decent
home for her. That last June morning when he called her to breakfast she had gone on to heaven
without stopping to kiss her boy “goodbye.”

Sunday’s first job after leaving the orphanage in his mid-teens was mopping a hotel which he
also served as barker, orating its advantages to incoming train arrivals. Three months of that was
enough. Then, learning that Iowa’s lieutenant governor needed a boy, he polished his shoes, had
his hair trimmed, and convinced Colonel John Scott’s wife that he, Billy Sunday, was the young
man qualified for the job.

Colonel and Mrs. Scott sent him to high school, where, after two years he became school janitor,
meanwhile continuing his odd jobs for the lieutenant governor.

His baseball career began with a local team in Marshall-town, Iowa, for which Sunday played
left field. It so happened that Pop Anson, captain of Chicago’s famous National league White
Sox (now the Cubs), spent his winters in Marshalltown.

When the topic turned to baseball, which was Anson’s usual diet, he found the townspeople
talking about Billy Sunday’s speed on the diamond and his ability to nab fly balls that nobody
else would even attempt catching.

Considering that Sunday could run three hundred yards in thirty-four seconds, it was no surprise
that he caught flies like some folks catch a cold. Cap Anson’s aunt, who lived in Marshalltown,
urged the sportsman to take Billy to Chicago for a trial. In the spring, accordingly, a telegram
summoned young Sunday for a Windy City tryout. Buying a new green suit for six dollars and
borrowing money for the trip, Billy met the captain.

On Sunday’s first day on the diamond, Anson set the lad to a foot race against Fred Pfeffer, crack
runner for the Chicago team. Sunday had no running shoes, so ran barefoot. He not only won the
race by fifteen feet, but won his way into the hearts of the players. Cap Anson tossed him a
twenty-dollar gold piece.

During his first few seasons, Sunday succeeded in batting so poorly that the team considered it a
total mistake when he actually did connect. He struck out the first thirteen times at the plate.
Thereafter he began to find his stride.

Sunday broke into professional baseball when its players were rough, profane and hard-drinking
fighters. He did not need much encouragement for profanity himself, nor was he adverse to wine
and beer. During the winter months he attended Northwestern University; during the summer he
whacked the horsehide. He proved a splendid base-runner and a brilliant fielder. Seldom faring
exceptionally in the batter’s box against professional pitchers, he nevertheless in one game got a
home run and a single against an outstanding twirler. He was at his best when he stole four bases
while Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics was catching.

Sunday’s later pulpit pre-eminence did not spin a halo about his previous athletic success; rather
his evangelistic success gained added glow from the days on the diamond, for he was known to
sports fans of his generation as the speediest base-runner and most daring base-stealer in
baseball. In his earlier days he took too many chances, and his judgment was not always sound.
But his control over the ball enabled him to throw straight and swiftly, and he was so fast on his
feet that more than one top-rate player threw wild in the effort to head him off. He could stretch
ordinary one-base hits into doubles without trouble to anyone but the opposing team, and he was
the first man to run the circuit of bases in fourteen seconds.

In 1886, when Sunday had been three years on the Chicago nine, he walked down State Street
one Sunday afternoon with some of the biggest names in baseball. (In those days they played no
Sunday games, for there would have been no crowds). The party entered a saloon, had a round of
drinks, then walked to the vacant lot at State and Van Buren Streets. Whenever Billy Sunday
passed that lot in later years, even when Siegel & Cooper’s big department store had been
erected over it, he took off his hat, bowed his head and thanked God for saving him. Forty years
after Sunday’s decision, a policeman saw him stop and close his eyes in the midst of a crowd. He
offered to call a wagon if the man felt sick. Billy Sunday introduced himself and held a one-man
street meeting.

When Sunday and his baseball associates reached State and Van Buren on that memorable day,
some men and women in a horse-drawn wagon were playing horns, flutes and slide trombones,
and were singing hymns he had heard in Sunday school and which his mother used to sing- in the
Iowa log cabin. The baseball crowd sat on the curbstone and listened. Suddenly a winsome,
square-faced Irishman arose. That was Harry Monroe. He told how he once passed counterfeit
money for a gang of criminals and how he had been converted at Pacific Garden Mission.

“Don’t you men want to hear the story,” said Monroe, as he stepped toward the curb, “of other
men who used to be dips, yeggs, burglars, second-story workers, and who today are respectable
and have fine families? Or women who were slaves to dope and drink, or harlots who sold their
womanhood in the red light districts here, and who are now married in happy homes? Come
down to the mission tonight at 100 East Van Buren and you’ll hear stories that will stir you, even
if you’ve never been inside a church, or if you’ve wandered far away from God and your
mother’s religion.”

Billy Sunday turned to the fellows at his side and said, “Boys, I’m saying goodbye to the old
life.” Some of the men chuckled, others laughed, others were serious. Some of them paid no
attention at all.

That night at the mission Sunday was fascinated by the testimonies of men who went from the
guttermost to the uppermost. Again and again he attended and one night he went forward and
publicly professed Christ as Saviour.

The night he went forward he was not drunk, despite the story to that effect. Unfortunately,
Sunday himself gave that story credence when, in relating his conversion experience, he declared
that he “knocked over several chairs getting to the front.”

Harry Monroe had given the message and Sunday was under tremendous conviction. Mother
Clarke came back to his side and said, putting her arm around Billy, “Young man, God loves
you. Jesus died for you, and He wants you to love Him and give your heart to Him.” The ball
player could no longer resist. He swung clumsily around the chairs, walked to the front and sat
down. Harry Monroe came to his side and they knelt for prayer.

The next three nights Billy Sunday never slept a wink. He dreaded the jibes of the ball team at
ten o’clock Wednesday morning practice and during the afternoon game. He trembled when he
walked out to the field. There was Mike Kelly, one of Chicago’s outstanding stars, coming
toward him. Mike was a Catholic, and Billy expected almost anything.

“Billy,” he said, “I’ve read in the papers what you’ve done. Religion isn’t my long suit. It’s a
long time since I’ve been to mass. But I won’t knock you, and if anyone does, I’ll knock him.”
Then came the rest of the team, all of them, to pat Billy on the back and wish him the best of
luck. They were at a loss for words, too, and Sunday felt as if a millstone had dropped from his

Billy Sunday became even a better baseball player. He always insisted that taking Christ as
Saviour will make a man better at whatever he does, providing it’s a decent job.

That afternoon the Chicago team was pitted against Detroit, one of the hardest hitting squads in
the country. The Detroiters could be behind nine to nothing at the start of the ninth, and yet push
over ten runs in the final inning; they had a reputation for redeeming themselves.

This day, Chicago eked out a narrow lead right to the last inning. The Chicago twirler, John
Clarkson, one of the greatest pitchers of the day, had worked his famous “zipper” ball, with an
illusory upshoot, overtime. Two Detroit batters went down in the ninth. Billy Sunday, playing
right field, called in, “One more, John, and they’re done!”

The next batter was Charlie Bennett, Detroit catcher, who hit right-handed and nine times out of
ten sailed the horsehide deep into right center field. Sunday was playing far back, and followed
five speedy tosses, while Bennett came through with two strikes and three balls. The Chicagoans
knew that Bennett couldn’t hit a high ball close to the body, but he could set a low ball off like
dynamite. Clarkson braced himself for a bullet-ball high and inside. His foot slipped. The ball
went low. The resultant crack of ball and bat echoed through the stands.

Over in right field Billy Sunday saw it whirling through the sky, far over his head. Like a bolt of
lightning he turned. Following the approximate course, he ran so fast he forgot he could do one
hundred yards in ten seconds flat. As he ran, he prayed, “Lord, I’m on the spot, and now I’m a
Christian. If you ever help me, please do it now.”

The grandstand and bleachers were wild with excitement and thunderous shouting. To the crowd
standing along the right field wall Sunday yelled, “Get out of the way!” Through the opening he
sped, stopped, stuck his hand into the clouds with a leap. His fingers closed over the ball. As he
landed, he lost balance and fell, but jumped up with the horsehide secure in his hand.

The crowd went almost insane. Pop bottles, hats, cushions, and practically everything else went
flying into the air. Tom Johnson, later mayor of Cleveland, threw his arms around Billy and
shoved a ten dollar bill into his hand. At the clubhouse the whole team gave him a cheer, took off
his uniform and dressed him up. Then the crowd rushed in, carrying him off on its shoulders. At
the gate, brown-eyed, black-haired Helen Thompson threw her arms around him and kissed him.
She was the Mrs. Sunday-to-be.

Not many days later when the Chicago team traveled to a St. Louis series, Sunday happened into
a second-hand book store and for thirty-five cents bought his first Bible. At the end of the
season he joined the Bible class of Chicago’s Central Y. M. C. A., back in the days—as Mrs.
Sunday still puts it—“when the Y had Bibles, not billiards.”

After Sunday’s conversion in 1886, he spent three additional years with the Chicago team. The
people in the stands as well as his teammates knew that he had a working religion. On Sundays
he gave Y. M. C. A. talks, for which he was in great demand, and the sports pages all alluded to
his church activity.

An apt Bible student, he often testified, gave a brief Bible message, and then an invitation. He
developed increasing ability as a personal worker. Whenever the team traveled around the
country, Sunday was booked for meetings in local churches or with Bible clubs eager to hear his

When he left the Chicago team, it was to spend a year each with the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia
clubs, but it was not difficult to discern that his interest in full-time Christian service was

Five years after his conversion, Sunday obtained a release from the three-year contract with
Philadelphia in order to enter some form of Christian service. No sooner done than Jim Hart of
the Cincinnati team pushed a $3,500 contract under his eyes. It was a tremendous temptation,
especially when Billy’s baseball friends told him it was the opportunity of a lifetime. After all,
players are on the diamond only seven months of the year, and Hart was including the first
month’s $500 check in advance. That night Sunday prayed, not stopping until five o’clock the
next morning. He refused Hart’s offer.

Billy’s alternative, that of going into Y. M. C. A. work as a subordinate secretary at $83.33 per
month, which sometimes proved as much as six months’ overdue, seemed a great anticlimax to
his baseball friends. To Sunday, that decisive March of 1891 was one of the greatest parting of
the ways in his life.

~ end of chapter 6 ~


Thursday, October 13, 2011


 Entry #9:  
 Well now...  back to the good ol' Sierra Vista Public Library [Cochise County, AZ] stacks for another shot of interesting popular culture!

There it was... in the "Graphic Novels" section [mostly an enormous waste of time; save for some wonderful re-packaging of old time comics, such as the one in question today] staring out at me... from the goof folks at Fantagraphics Books:

A wonderful and complete collection of [for my money anyway] the greatest comic mag Warren Publishing ever produced: the late, great, and long-lamented BLAZING COMBAT!

To say that BLAZING COMBAT was a "war comic" is sort of like saying that Rembrant Van Rijn could draw pictures: a vast understatement.

For 4 glorious issues in 1965 and '66, Archie Goodwin [1937-1998] edited what comic-book historian Richard Arndt has assessed as, "Probably the best war comic ever published".   It was done in magazine format in entirely black and white [so the B&W reproduction is not bothersome this time] and it made a valiant attempt to bring realism and literary quality to the the genre of pictorial combat fiction.

Though it only lasted 4 issues, it has long been sought by collectors for its great quality.  I myself found a copy of issue #4 back in 1997 as a Bible college student in Tempe, AZ and  then and there determined to  read the full collection before I left this mortal coil. 

Now, due to the magic of unexpected re-prints found on the stacks of local public libraries, I can honestly say I have read the whole run... and what a run it was!

If you're familiar with the four original comic books (or rather "magazines," as this title was published)  then you know full well what to expect. If you never saw them then brace yourself-- you're in for a treat!

As much as i love the HAUNTED TANK and SGT. ROCK tales from my misspent youth, as well as the re-prints of the old EC '50s combat classics, the stories in BC are clearly a step above. These are unsanitized vignettes of war from stages throughout world history. It is well worth noting that the concept here [despite the 60s timeframe for publication] was never to be actually anti-war but instead to represent, as nearly as possible, the brutal and perplexing reality of war.  [Don't get me wrong... I am a pretty big peacenik myself-- my Christian/Libertarian stand on war and statism is pretty much summed up by the old Anabaptist Confessions of the 16th century... or the important current writings of Laurence W. Vance.]

Perhaps I should say it this way: if HERE the stories seem to scream the adage "War Is Hell," it is only from the context that it is also a strange and inevitable re-occurrence throughout human history: an unfortunate-- and sometimes even nessessary--  reminder of man's fallen nature.

These 29 stories range in setting from ancient wars, to the American Revolution, to both World Wars and even through the Vietnam Conflict [contemporary at the time of the mag's composition.]

Almost always the tales focus on some lone combatant and his personal  struggle to survive his circumstances and to somehow cling to some semblance of humanity. Some actually tell "heroic" or inspiring stories, such as the neat take on the Battle of Britain, or the cool recounting of the still-amazing career of World War I Canadian ace Billy Bishop (72 confirmed air kills.)

Other sagas show the deeper and more depresing side of war, such as the one about the  WWII G.I. prying gold fillings from dead bodies in the Pacific theater, or the recurring tales conveying the terror of fresh troops walking into mad-house theatres of all-out carnage. One amazing story called "Landscape" not only shows the Vietnam War's effects on a native peasant farmer, but stands as a remarkably prescient critique of all the inherent and intrinsic problems involved in the waging of that sad and misbegotten quagmire of a war.

Editor Goodwin himself is to be given much of the credit for the milestone that is BC, since he wrote or co-wrote nearly all of the stories.  [This is actually a great benefit to the collection as a whole, by the way, since the stories thus share a cohesive and  fairly uniform thematic "voice."]

But still, what would it all have been without all the amazing artwork!?  Severen, Frazetta, Heath, Wood... I could go on and ON!  It's a who's who of graphic greatness... and each of these old masters is caught at the absolute top of their game!

Kudos MUST also be given here to the good folks at Fantagraphics Books. As usual, their reproduction is outstanding. High-quality matte paper retains the detail of the artwork (which was reproduced from the original films) and the overall effect is amazingly, jarringly professional.

All in all, I can't give this one a high enough recommendation.

NOTE: A reviewer at Amazon has actually tallied the settings for the stories as follows: "American Revolution 1, American Civil War 3, Spanish-American War 1, World War I 4, World War II 10, Korea 3, Vietnam 4, Misc. 3 (US Cavalry vs. Indians, Post-Apocalypse, Thermopylae)"
Thanks, pal.

Oh, and as the old DC comics used to always [rather ironically] say at the end:

[It's a nice thought, anyway, right?]

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How important is FATHERHOOD? Interesting stats...

Here are some VERY interesting stats, to say the least...

Did you know that:

•43% of U.S. children live without their father (U.S. Bureau of the Census).

•63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Bureau of the Census).

•90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes (U.S. Bureau of the Census).

•85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes (Center for Disease Control).

•80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26).

•71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, March 26, 1999).

•71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools).

•75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Rainbows for All God’s Children).

•70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988).

•85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992).

Joshua 1:9
King James Version (KJV):

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."