Oscar Wilde Baseball Teams?

I’m reading “A Clever Base-Ballist - the Life and Times of John Montgomery Ward”, and the author says that “in 1883 there were more than one hundred different [baseball] teams named the Oscar Wildes.”

My impression of baseball in 1883 is that it was a game played by guys who wouldn’t be caught dead reading anything by Oscar Wilde. So why in the world was the name so popular in baseball circles? I can see one team taking the name as a joke, but 100???

His wittiness and suaveness would be appealing to young men, before knowledge of his sexuality penetrated the Victorian veneer of privacy.

More to the point, in 1882 Wilde just finished a year-long tour of the US that took the country by storm. He was a very popular figure in the US in the early 1880s, perhaps one of the four or five most recognizable names in the country.

No, I’m not kidding you.

Check out the opening scene of the '97 bioflick Wilde.

Yeah, but plenty of other celebrities were popular, too, and you didn’t see a hundred teams called the “Mark Twains” or the “Walt Whitmans” (I assume). Gotta be more to it, some specific reason, don’t you think?

Maybe a lot of them had popups in foul territory?

Forget Whitman – he was a pretty obscure poet at the time.

Twain was very popular, but Wilde was a sensation. His sexuality wasn’t an issue, since no one knew about it (possibly not even Wilde at that point). He was like a rock or hip hop star, so people named their teams after him.

Maybe so, but I think the author , Bryan Di Salvatore, was using hyperbole unless in the footnotes he lists the 100 teams.

Well, not only did Oscar Wilde tour the USA in the 19th century, he travelled to the Wild West, just the kind of place where you’d think macho cowboys and miners would loathe him… but by all contemporary accounts, Westerners LOVED Wilde, and his public appearances out West always drew huge, appreciative crowds.

Go figure!


This guy was like the Beatles coming to America in the early '80’s. You just can NOT imagine how big a deal it was. So the figure quoted doesn’t sound out of line to me.

I too find surprising. So. If there were at leat 100 hundred, can some one show a photo or link showing at least a couple of Oscar Wildes from the 1880’s? :confused:

Now that would be pretty tough – Oscar Wilde’s big tour thru western America was in 1886; Geo. Eastman started producing Kodak flexible film in 1884, only 2 years earlier. It’s unlikely there were many photographers active out west in “the 1880’s”. And the earlier photo development processes, using glass plates and wet or dry processes, were much more complicated, and even more unlikely to be seen out in the wild west.

Oscar Wilde’s year-long lecture tour of the United States was in 1881-1882, not 1886. And there were plenty of photographers out West in the 1880s. Any town of more than a few thousand people would typically have a professional photographer. For instance, the 1882 city directory of Leadville, Colorado had eight men whose occupation was listed as photographer.

Newspaper Archives.com has 31 references to Oscar Wilde in 1882, in newspapers such as The Atchison Globe (Atchison, Kansas), The Daily Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado), The Daily Miner (Butte, Montana), The Daily Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), The Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), and The Waukesha Freeman (Waukesha, Wisconsin).

But all references were about the man himself, and none were about a baseball team named after him. And that was when Wilde was at the peak of his popularity in the U.S.A.

The Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel 7 Aug. 1882, pg. 3