In 1910, Death Row Inmates Played Baseball For Their Lives
In 1910, Death Row Inmates Played Baseball For Their Lives

In 1910, Death Row Inmates Played Baseball For Their Lives

Shannon Quinn - June 8, 2019

In 1910, Death Row Inmates Played Baseball For Their Lives
Sheriff Felis Alston. Credit: Wyoming State Museum

It All Came Crashing Down

The baseball players began to receive special treatment. The baseball players enjoyed receiving more food at meal times. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the rumor that Joseph Seng may escape the death penalty. This did not sit well with the rest of the prisoners. Sheriff Alston kept making up excuses for the delay, blaming it on bureaucracy. On the day that Seng should have died, one of the other fellow inmates tried to kill him. A heavy box filled with sand came tumbling over the railing, right above his head. Luckily for Seng, the box missed him by just a few inches. After this, Sheriff Alston had to increase the security in the prison.

If any of the players made a huge mistake during a game, the team captain George Saban would scream at them in the dugout. He told the players that if they did badly in these games that they would have time added to their sentence. And he perpetuated the rumor that Joseph Seng just may escape the death penalty. This was not true, of course, but it was enough motivation to keep the players practicing and doing the best they possibly could.

In 1910, Death Row Inmates Played Baseball For Their Lives
The team wearing their brand new uniforms. Credit: NyPost.com

In a town that was so full of drama and gossip, it was really no surprise that the word eventually spread about what was really going on in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. The citizens of Wyoming began to spread rumors that the governor was involved in this conspiracy. He decided to create a new anti-gambling campaign in order to convince people that he really wasn’t part of this. Sheriff Alston decided to cancel his baseball team and used the funding to create an education program instead.

Sheriff Alston was applauded by the local community. He was creating an educational program that would help rehabilitate these men who were typically high school dropouts and illiterate. Unfortunately for Joseph Seng, the governor never actually agreed to commute his sentence. The men in charge were able to pocket huge profits playing on the men’s hopes and dreams. Joseph Seng got to live a year longer than he should have, so the journey wasn’t all for nothing. Newspaper reporters show up to witness his execution. The reporters wrote that he walked bravely, with pride, and without fear. He knew that this truth may be the last year of his life and he lived it to the fullest, and he accepted his fate, closing the chapter on the prison team forever.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

The Death Row Inmates Forced to Play Baseball For Their Lives. Larry Getlen. The New York Post. 2014.

Albany County Historical Society – Otto Gramm

Fina a Grave – Joseph V. Seng

History Net – Book Review: The Death Row All Stars, by Howard Kazanjian and Chris Enss

Chris Enss & Howard Kazanjian – Death Row All Stars: A Story of Baseball, Corruption, and Murder

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