Above: 1898 Spalding Guide Page and 1898 “Special Instructions To Players” Document
click twice to enlarge images
When Keith Olbermann is not putting the world of modern politics and popular culture into historical perspective, he sometimes finds the time to put, well, history into historical perspective. Especially baseball history.
Keith Olbermann has provided us with proof that the 1898 Obscene Language Document that appeared as Lot #1182 in REA’s spring auction, is not a hoax, and actually dates from 1898. We always knew this, but we never knew that we would ever somehow be able to prove this fact to the skeptics who suggested that it could not possibly date from 1898.
Keith O has sent us a scan of page 198 from the 1898 Spalding Guide (pictured above) specifically referencing the document, and which even references the same “Committee” mentioned in the more colorful memo. He also notes that the third paragraph refers to the document as “private instructions” that will be “furnished and read” to all players, and states that each player will be required “to sign acknowledgement, to be filed with the President of the League, that this measure is fully understood.” This suggests that these documents, each entitled “Special Instructions To Players,” had to be signed and returned to the League, which would explain why we haven’t seen this document before.
Here is a link to the lot, which sold for an incredible $32,312.50:
As noted in previous REA blog posts (links below), one highly respected and very well known linguist, Geoffrey Nunberg of UC-Berkeley, was quoted in an article on Salon.com as saying that he thought the document was a “clumsy hoax - either a modern concoction or a modern alteration of a contemporary document.” It was unanticipated by us that anyone would suggest the document was not real, not serious (somehow a hoax or a joke), or did not date from 1898. But the fact remained that if this document was authentic and dated from 1898, it would literally rewrite the record books for the earliest recorded use or appearance in print of some of the English language’s most colorful words and phrases. We thank Keith Olbermann for taking the time to share his knowledge and research with us, and allowing us to share it with the rest of the world! Keith, if things ever get too hot in the glare of the media, there will always be a place for you at REA. Now if only we could get Bill O’Reilly to provide us with some valuable insight or research…
Previous REA blog links relating the 1898 Obscene language document: