Robert Edward Auctions report on their blog that they were sent a delivery of “odds and ends from the estate of baseball historian Al Kermisch.” One of the items was an 1898 document titled “Special Instructions To Players,” deploring “the use of obscene language by players at the ballpark, to intimidate umpires and opposing players, and to verbally battle with unfriendly fans.” They say:
This piece is ironic as it provides many examples of exactly the kind of “brutal language” that was being outlawed. In fact, it is so over the top that at first we thought it was some type of a joke. But as we examined the paper, found that this language did exist in the 1890s, considered that general rowdiness and the use of obscene language by players were big issues in baseball in this era, and noted that the accompanying items were all from the same era, we soon realized that that this was not a joke at all. This was actually a fascinating and historically significant baseball document, distributed to National League players, that captures an aspect of professional baseball from the rough-and-tumble single-League 1890s era that is not well documented. Granted, in terms of language, it is also the most offensive official Major League baseball document that we have ever seen. That makes it all the more amusing to us, but we also recognize that maybe this is a piece that isn’t for the entire family. Truck drivers, yes, sailors, yes, ballplayers in the 1890s, obviously yes. But probably not everyone.
They solicit opinions as to whether they should include it in their spring catalog. Not having to worry about family values, I can take unalloyed pleasure in it, and recommend it to anyone with a taste for vile language. At the end of the document is the line “UNMAILABLE. Must be forwarded by Express”—presumably the National League could have been prosecuted for sending obscenities through the mails. (Via MetaFilter, where one commenter suggests that it is a printer’s joke from the 1890s, which is certainly possible but doesn’t detract from the humor.)