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Billy Sunday’s Testimony
How Billy Sunday was saved, in his own words:
“Twenty-seven years ago I walked down a street in Chicago in company with some ball players who were famous in this world – some of them are dead now – and we went into a saloon. It was Sunday afternoon and we got tanked up and then went and sat down on a corner. I never go by that street without thanking God for saving me. It was a vacant lot at that time. We sat down on a curbing. Across the street a company of men and women were playing on instruments – horns, flutes and slide trombones -and the others were singing the gospel hymns that I used to hear my mother sing back in the log cabin in Iowa and back in the old church where I used to go to Sunday school.
“And God painted on the canvas of my recollection and memory a vivid picture of the scenes of other days and other faces.
“Many have long since turned to dust. I sobbed and sobbed and a young man stepped out and said, ‘We are going down to the Pacific Garden Mission. Won’t you come down to the mission? I am sure you will enjoy it. You can hear drunkards tell how they have been saved and girls tell how they have been saved from the red-light district.’
“I arose and said to the boys, ‘I’m through. I am going to Jesus Christ. We’ve come to the parting of the ways,’ and I turned my back on them. Some of them laughed and some of them mocked me; one of them gave me encouragement; others never said a word.
‘Twenty-seven years ago I turned and left that little group on the corner of State and Madison Streets and walked to the little mission and fell on my knees and staggered out of sin and into the arms of the Saviour.
“The next day I had to get out to the ball park and practice. Every morning at ten o’clock we had to be out there. I never slept that night. I was afraid of the horse-laugh that gang would give me because I had taken my stand for Jesus Christ.
“I walked down to the old ball grounds. I will never forget it. I slipped my key into the wicket gate and the first man to meet me after I got inside was Mike Kelly.
“Up came Mike Kelly; he said, ‘Bill, I’m proud of you! Religion is not my long suit, but I’ll help you all I can.’ Up came Anson, the best ball player that ever played the game; Pfeffer, Clarkson, Flint, Jimmy McCormick, Burns, Williamson and Dalrymple. There wasn’t a fellow in that gang who knocked; every fellow had a word of encouragement for me.
“Mike Kelly was sold to Boston for $10,000. Mike got half of the purchase price. He came up to me and showed me a check for $5,000. John L. Sullivan, the champion fighter, went around with a subscription paper and the boys raised over $12,000 to buy Mike a house.
“They gave Mike a deed to the house and they had $1,500 left and gave him a certificate of deposit for that.
“His salary for playing with Boston was $4,700 a year. At the end of that season Mike had spent the $5,000 purchase price and the $4,700 he received as salary and the $1,500 they gave him and had a mortgage on the house. And when he died in Pennsylvania they went around with a subscription to get money enough to put him in the ground, and each club, twelve in all, in the two leagues gave a month a year to his wife. Mike sat here on the corner with me twenty-seven years ago, when I said, ‘Good-bye, boys, I’m going to Jesus Christ.’
“A. G. Spalding signed up a team to go around the world. I was the second he asked to sign a contract and Captain Anson was the first. I was sliding to second base one day. I always slid head first, and hit a stone and cut a ligament loose in my knee.
“I got Dr. Magruder, who attended Garfield when he was shot, and he said:
“‘William, if you don’t go on that trip I will give you a good leg.’ I obeyed and have as good a leg today as I ever had. They offered to wait for me at Honolulu and Australia. Spalding said, ‘Meet us in England, and play with us through England, Scotland and Wales.’ I didn’t go.
“Ed Williamson, our old short-stop, a fellow weighing 225 pounds, was the most active big man you ever saw.
He went with them, and while they were on the ship crossing the English channel a storm arose and the captain thought the ship would go down. Williamson tied two life-preservers on himself and one on his wife and dropped on his knees and prayed and promised God to be true, God spoke and the waves were stilled. They came back to the United States and Ed came back to Chicago and started a saloon on Dearborn Street. I would go through there giving tickets for the Y. M. C. A. meetings and would talk with them and he would cry like a baby.
“I would get down and pray for him, and would talk with him. When he died they put him on the table and cut him open and took out his liver and it was so big it would not go in a candy bucket. Kidneys had shriveled until they were like two stones.
“Ed Williamson sat there on the street corner with me, drunk, twenty-seven years ago when I said, ‘Good-bye, I’m going to Jesus Christ.’
“Frank Flint, our old catcher, who caught for nineteen years, drew $3,200 a year on an average. He caught before they had chest protectors, masks and gloves. He caught bare-handed. Every bone in the ball of his hand was broken. You never saw such a hand as Frank had. Every bone in his face was broken, and his nose and cheek bones, and the shoulder and ribs had all been broken. He got to drinking, his home was broken up and he went to the dogs.
“I’ve seen old Frank Flint sleeping on a table in a stale beer joint and I’ve turned my pockets inside out and said, ‘You’re welcome to it, old pal.’ He drank on and on, and one day in winter he staggered out of a stale beer joint and stood on a come; and was seized with a fit of coughing. The blood streamed out of his nose, mouth and eyes. Down the street came a wealthy woman. She took one look and said, ‘My God, is it you, Frank?’ and his wife came up and kissed him.
“She called two policemen and a cab and started with him to her boarding house. They broke all speed regulations. She called five of the best physicians and they listened to the beating of his heart, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, and the doctors said, ‘He will be dead in about four hours.’ She told them to tell him what they had told her. She said, ‘Frank, the end is near,’ and he said, ‘Send for Bill.’ “They telephoned me and I came. He said, ‘There’s nothing in the life of years ago I care for now. I can hear the bleachers cheer when I make a hit that wins the game. But there is nothing that can help me out now, and if the umpire calls me out now, won’t you say a few words over me, Bill?’ He struggled as he had years ago on the diamond, when he tried to reach home, but the great Umpire of the universe yelled, ‘You’re out?’ and waved him to the club house, and the great gladiator of the diamond was no more.< /p>
“He sat on the street corner with me, drunk, twenty-seven years ago in Chicago, when I said, ‘Good-bye, boys, I’m through.’
“Did they win the game of life or did Bill?”
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