A Preacher Comes to Helldorado: Part II

tombstone baseball true west
C.S. Fly’s photo of a 19th-century baseball team in Tombstone, Arizona. – Courtesy Arizona Historical Society / Tucson AHS #17867 –

Among the Reverend Endicott Peabody’s friends in Tombstone was Wyatt Earp and his brothers Virgil and Morgan. Some sixty years later Peabody reminisced that, in his opinion, the Earp’s were honorable men who were trying to rid the town of its lawless elements. He was horrified at some of the political skullduggery that existed in Tombstone. He once wrote to a friend that corrupt politicians were too busy stealing the public money to deal with the lawlessness in Cochise County.

After the murder of Morgan Earp there was talk of lynching. Peabody made some unusual remarks for a proper Eastern-born parson: “I really think that an example of frontier justice…would be a good thing, for the place is full of desperadoes who hold the lives of others and themselves very cheap!”

Peabody’s superb athletic ability, more than anything else, won lasting respect from the Tombstone citizenry. He organized the town’s first baseball team and was one of its star players. He was also Vice President of the Tombstone Baseball Association.

Tombstone competed against teams from Tucson, Bisbee and Fort Huachuca. Competition was fierce and betting was heavy, as communities’ staked prestige and pride on the outcome. Since the miners worked a six-day week, the Sabbath was reserved for baseball, that is, until the arrival of Endicott Peabody. To find an unbiased umpire to officiate these contests and not be intimidated by the angry crowds was next to impossible. Reverend Peabody was the only man in the area who commanded enough respect to act as chief arbiter. This he did—for a price. The players must first attend church. It’s quite doubtful if the players felt out of place, as the magnetic personality of the parson attracted Tombstone’s wide gamut of frontier society that ranged from gamblers, prostitutes and saloon keepers to miners, merchants and the society of the upper-crust.

The Tombstone Epitaph spoke for most when it wrote admiringly of him: “Well, we’ve got a parson who doesn’t flirt with girls, who doesn’t drink behind the door and when it comes to baseball, he’s a daisy!”

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