A baseball star, Billy Sunday played for the Chicago White Stockings in the 1880s and later the Philadelphia Phillies.
Born during the Civil War in a log cabin in Iowa, his father, who was a Union Army soldier, died of pneumonia when Billy was a month old.
At age 15, Billy Sunday struck out on his own, working several jobs before playing baseball. His career took off when he was recruited by A.G. Spalding, owner of the White Stockings and founder of Spalding Sporting Goods Company.
Billy Sunday became one of the most popular athletes in the nation.
While leaving a Chicago saloon with some other players in 1886, he heard a group of gospel singers on the street from the Pacific Garden Mission. Attracted by the hymns, as they were the same ones his mother used to sing, Billy Sunday went to listen.
He began attending services at the mission, where he experienced a conversion.
Billy began attending YMCA meetings, quit drinking and got married.
A national sensation occurred Feb. 17, 1889, when Billy Sunday preached his first sermon as a Christian evangelist in Chicago.
He went on to pioneer radio preaching, and did so enthusiastically that the FCC was formed when his radio signal overlapped ballgame broadcasts.
During the next 46 years, till his death Nov. 6, 1935, over 100 million people heard him preach.
Commenting on prevailing Christian sentiments, Billy Sunday stated: “Rivers of America will run with blood filled to their banks before we will submit to them taking the Bible out of our schools.”
In his animated style, Billy Sunday said:
- “The devil says I’m out, but the Lord says I’m safe.”
- “Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”
- “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”
- “I never see a man or a woman or boy or girl but I do not think that God has a plan for them. … He will use each of us to His glory if we will only let Him.”
- “Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone.”
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