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Feb 06

A game, a trial, a chase, a fight and racism

This is the account of the off field actions of the second Sunday baseball game played in the Washington Metro area. While most of the racist content has been edited out some may find this offensive.

Luther E Burket, the secretary of the Washington Ball Club, had been arrested, charged with violating the law in playing a game of ball, and had left $60 with the sheriff, as collateral for his appearance for trial today. But some of the colored constable in the neighborhood were determined that Squire Drummond, the black justice of the peace, who resides in the neighborhood, should get his perquisites out of the arrest, so sent for him to try the case immediately.

The crowd had pretty well thinned out when he came through the gates carrying a gingham umbrella. Mr. Burket went to him and the sheriff and demanded an immediate trial. Sheriff Beach demurred at first, but finally consented, and summoned five witnesses, a Critic reporter among the number. The crowd took possession of the grandstand, the justice took his seat on the bench and the witnesses lighted cigars. It was impossible to obtain order, and the sheriff declared he would not go on with the trial.

The crowd reluctantly went away and the Sheriff strode off, followed by a crowd of admirers, who insisted on treating everybody at the beer stand until there were several very “jiggy” deputies around.

In the meantime lawyer Breen had secured his Honor. He talked to him effectively for a few minutes and finally he said he would try the case. This time the judge’s stand was selected for the impromptu court of justice, and thither the magistrate the defendant, his lawyer, and the Critic man repaired. Mr. Breen stated the case, and word was sent to the sheriff to come over and be sociable. But that distinguished gentleman realized the dignity of his office and sent a message to the court that it could go to a hotter climate than Virginia. The Colored magistrate looked pathetically at Mr. Burket and the reporter and scratched his woolly pate as he muttered: “Deed Mister Beach oughn’t to do anything like dat. We give him a good majority in dis yer district and he aint treating me right.” Vision of the loss of his fee swept across his troubled countenance and he looked anxiously about for someone to suggest a possible solution of the difficulty. Mr. Breen told him to go ahead and h decided to do so. When the sheriff saw the trial would go on he condescended to come into court, so, followed by his motley crew, he worked his way up the stairs.

Then the justice asked Burket what he had to say, just as somebody rang the bell in the judges’ stand and yelled, “They’re off!” This was a little more than the court could stand. “You’se people,” he said, “am in the court of justice, and I wants yer to respect it. De fust man what creates any disorder in vis ver court will get himself in trouble,” the crowd was quiet for a moment while Lawyer Breen pleaded guilty for Burket and asked for judgment. “De offense am a fine,” said the squire, “Oh $2 for each man. Dure were eighteen oh dem ball players and Mister Bukket here, and, whatever de costs am, youse prepared to pay de amount?” Mr. Burket said he was and the Sheriff proceeded to figure the costs. Then the circus commenced.

A specimen of the genus tough, such as is found in many Southern towns was one of the deputies. He rejoiced in the name of Andy, and his rolling moustache, stained with tobacco juice, and the soft felt hat made him a picturesque figure. He kept up a conversation with a friend, in which about every other word was horribly profane. Finally the Squire called him down. Then the bell rang again and somebody advised the court to “breakaway.”

“Well, you fine me, blankety, blanket, blank,” said Andy. “Now, man you stop,” yelled the squire. “You can’t swear here with punity.” “You, made me swear,: replied Andy, and there is no way of telling how much longer the war of words would have gone had not the sheriff announced that his fees and the fine was $46.60. Then Andy broke out again. This riled the justice, and turning to the sheriff he said; “Mr. Beach, as consriber of de peace of dis commonwealth, I ax you to remove dar man.” The sheriff calmly ignored the squire’s request, and told Andy to shut up. The squire then announced that his fee was $1. “What!” said a voice in the crowd; “does that damn person, although instead of person he used the “N” word, get a dollar. The judge got up. He was mad, fighting mad, and didn’t take him a minute to size up the situation. “Who called me a damn —?” The squire called out the man who had said that but there was no replay. Lawyer Breen told the squire that the total fine was $47 and the sheriff had already been given $60 and the fine could be taken out of that.

Meanwhile, Andy, the deputy, had been visiting the beer stand and was more belligerent than ever, he returned to the stand and renewed his controversy with the judge, who seemed powerless to prevent the wanton abuse. There might have been a row then and there had not Sheriff Beach created a sensation. Turning to Mr. Burket, he said; “I arrest you for violating the law of this State in giving an exhibition of gain and profit, without a license. It is an indictable offence and I ask the judge to commit you under bonds for the grand jury.” Burket braced up as well as he could for he knew he couldn’t get $500 bonds at that time, and a night in the Alexandria jail was anything but pleasant. The lawyer demanded to see the warrant, which was made out in the name of Hill.

“Why,” said Mr. Breen, “I’m going to take Mr. Burket to Alexandria and he can give bonds, and we’ll settle the law part of it afterward.” The Sherriff was mad all through. He had been forced into a trial against his will and was determined to get even. Things looked equally for Burket; especially as the magistrate aside he would grant the warrant. The Sheriff commenced to fill out the information on the back of The Critic score book, which had been accommodatingly loaned to him. All of Burket’s friends were willing to do anything to oblige the Sheriff and het his attention away from the prisoner. One of them sat down and talked to the judge, while another man quickly whispered, “Get out of here. This is too serious a matter to risk yourself on.”

“But, how can I?” said Burket, despairingly. “Oh, walk behind me, I’ll keep between the sheriff and you and when you get down stairs go to the road. I won’t be far behind.” Burket took the tip and quickly worked his way down stairs. The sheriff, unsuspectingly, called out to his deputies below to look out for anything wrong down there. It looked as if the attempted flight was nipped in the bug, but one of Burket’s friends told the sheriff he could write better if he put the book on the ledge of the stand. He did so, and his back was to Burket, who was walking rapidly and unconcernedly though the deputies, who having seen him pay the fine and not knowing of his subsequent arrest thought it was all right.

When he reached the gate, the Critic man, who thought it time to see whether any pursuit would be attempted, left the stand unmolested and hurried after Burkett. The latter’s carriage was in the road in charge of an employee of the company, and he jumped into this. The escaped prisoner was picked up one hundred yards down the road and the journey to Washington begun.

It was exciting for when Burket’s escape was discovered there was profanity on the part of the Sheriff and a determination to capture the fleeing secretary. Just as his buggy turned the road at the railroad junction, a buggy with the Sheriff and a deputy dashed out of the grounds in hot pursuit. Burket knew his horse and soon had him going at racing speed. Pursuer and pursued applied the whip vigorously, but Burket’s horse was like Salvabiz or Tenny running away from the field. Uphill and down dale, gaining a few yards here and losing a few yards there, the five miles between the Driving Park and Washington was made in record time/ this was a relief, because it was thought that some of the deputies might try to cut off the fugitives at the north end of the bridge by taking the train.

Meanwhile, Andy the Deputy, his vanity wounded when the magistrate had denounced the man who called him the n word, and the court no longer in session knocked Squire Drummond to the ground with one punch. Vainly the magistrate called on the other deputies to arrest Andy for assault. They did not interfere and Andy made him get up. Then he drew his revolver and the magistrate gathered his judicial ermine, as it were, around him, and ran. Finally, after satisfied his thirst for gore, Andy left him, and the justice came back and demanded his arrest. Some of the other deputies who thought Andy might do the squire injury attempted to arrest him, and another fight ensued. But all was amicably adjusted and the whole part went to the beer stand and partook of numerous glasses of the flowing amber. The party continued until the night came down.