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SEPT. 21 (1888) - Left Field*
By Bill Grimes
Sep 21, 2007 - 4:07 AM

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Arrested for flirting “out of left field”

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS * SEPTEMBER 21, 1888 – According to Mark Lamster’s book, Spalding’s World Tour, three Chicago White Stockings players (later known as the Cubs) were arrested on this day in baseball for flirting with Mrs. Seth Blood, the proprietor of a house just beyond the wall at old West Side Park.
ballpark.jpg
West Side Park circa 1900, courtesy Chicago Public Library

Word of the “flirting” apparently got back to husband Seth, and the next thing you know the police started arresting people. What kind of “house” it was was never clarified.

 

West Side Park, or West Wide Grounds, as it was sometimes referred to, was known for several things. It was the site of the last Chicago Cubs World Series championship in 1908. There were actually two different parks on the site, one from roughly 1885 to 1891, and a second West Side Park from 1893 to 1915.

 

There is some dispute about this, but Chicago’s West Side Park is also claimed to be the origin of the saying “that came out of left field,” meaning preposterous, irrational or crazy. As the story goes, just beyond the left field fence of the ball park in the early 1900’s was a mental hospital called the Neuropsychiatric Institute. Irrational comments could be heard emanating from the insane asylum, as it was referred to at the time, hence the idiom, “that came out of left field.”

 

Contributing sources:

Spalding’s World Tour, by Mark Lamster, 2006, published by Public Affairs, New York

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Side_Park

Chicago Sun-Times , April 2, 2006, by Mark Hoekstra

 

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