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Hobo Baseball Game


In 1897 it seems that bums and hobos might have been known for more than just hopping trains and sleeping under bridges, at least in Grand Forks!

On this date in 1897, the Grand Forks Daily Herald reported that a group of hobos took on the local Grand Forks baseball team, stating “a unique game of baseball was played yesterday at the local ball field.” It seems the hobos were just hanging around waiting for the fall harvest to begin when according to The Herald they “ demonstrated their ability to play ball with the same success that they dodge work.”

The Grand Forks boys must have been looking for an easy win as they readied to take on the hobo team. Perhaps they thought differently after they heard the hobo’s starting lineup: “Bowlegged Pete” was catching, the infield included “Shorty Swatts,” “Peggy McNabb,” “I. McCorker,” and “Pie-Faced Charlie.” In the outfield was “Lazy Red,” “Hungry Jake” and “Bunty Spikes.” On the mound for the hobos was “Milwaukee Mike.”

Starting pitcher for the Grand Forks boys was a Mr. Hoar, who likely intended to make easy work of the hobo team.

After the Grand Forks boys scored a run in the first inning, Hoar started to give up a number of hits that “came more freely for the hobos than free lunches.” So many in fact, he was taken out of the game and replaced by a man named Marshall.

Mr. Marshall had no better luck, and if it wasn’t for some hot fielding by the Grand Forks boys, the game would have been a run-away for the hobos.

Quoting the article, the Hobos’ hurler, Milwaukee Mike, pitched with “ as many graceful curves as a ballet dancer” while the Grand Forks team “ punched more holes in the air than would fill a porous plaster.” Whenever the local boys smashed what appeared to be a safe hit, a “ weary Willy” stood waiting for it and it seemed first base looked “as far away as Alaska.”

Despite the Grand Forks boys’ seasoned efforts, and a tie going into the bottom of the last inning, they gave up a run to the hobo team and lost 3-2.

The hobo team would maybe have smiled with even more pride if they knew that 58 years later, the Brooklyn Dodgers would win their only World Series as a Brooklyn team. Why the smiles? Because their nickname was: “The Bums.”

Dakota Datebook by Dave Seifert


Grand Forks Daily Herald, Issue # 234, August 3, 1897, p. 4.