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Iowa History Daily: November 6 - Billy Sunday

Iowa History Daily: On November 6, 1935, Ames native, Chicago White Stockings outfielder, and significant American evangelist Billy Sunday died. Reputed by historians as the ‘most significant American evangelist of the early 20th century,’ Sunday’s life wandered from the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans home to packed stadiums.

After Sunday’s father, William Sunday, died of pneumonia five weeks after Billy’s birth while serving with the Iowa 23rd Volunteer Infantry in the American Civil War, the family struggled when Billy’s mother remarried only to be deserted by her second husband. At ten, Billy and his other brother found themselves sent off first to Glenwood, and later to Davenport, to live at the state run Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home.

Bouncing around to Nevada and later Marshalltown, Billy Sunday displayed athletic gifts which landed him on the baseball diamond. Signing with the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings, Sunday proved a swift-footed outfielder and baserunner who provided average pop at the plate for eight professional seasons.

Converting to Evangelical Christianity in the 1880s, Sunday left the game and developed a whirlwind oratorical style while barnstorming around the Midwest. The enthusiastic evangelist eventually gained a massive national following while advancing the cause of Prohibition, and continued to enrapture crowds until his death. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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