(image via eBay)
Every year I consider dressing as Oscar Wilde for Halloween, finally giving myself an excuse to purchase extravagant coats, carry expensive canes, and toss off clever bon mots. Now I have another reason to do so. Because, as it turns out, not only have I been captivated by Wilde’s writing and ability to live his life as art, but 19th century ballplayers were enchanted as well.
While reading The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, about the birth of the American Association, I learned that during Wilde’s travels through the United States in 1882 he stopped to take in a ballgame. Said one reporter:
“He admired the game very much, but the uniforms were not quite to his aesthetic taste.”
Which depresses me because, well, I consider the baseball uniform the pinnacle of haute couture.
Why did Wilde stop to take in America’s burgeoning game? Probably because teams all over the country were naming their clubs either after him or in homage with monikers like “the Aesthetics.” As James Edward Brunson writes in his book The Early Image of Black Baseball: Race and Representation in the Popular Press:
"Throughout the country, baseball clubs named teams after him. The Constitution states: ‘A match game of baseball this evening between the Oscar Wildes, of Cleveland, and Sun Flowers, of this city, will be hotly contested.’ The Oscar Wiles vanquished them. The Republican reports: ‘Last Sunday the Marions defeated the Oscar Wilde’s 8 to 4.’ The Globe reports: ‘The Oscar Wildes of Roxbury would like to arrange games with clubs whose average age is 15 years, the Puritans of Roxbury preferred."
Sadly, it’s not a tradition that’s continued to today. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to own a Oscar Wildes of Roxbury jersey or if the Oakland A’s occasionally had “Oakland Aesthetics” throwback games? Until then, I guess I can make do with a Novel-T, at least until Ebbets Field Flannels releases their Cleveland Oscar Wildes uniform.
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