Baseball season has just wrapped up with the Washington Nationals beating the Houston Astros to win their first World Series title ever. It reminds me of a baseball game played here in Perry back in 1922.
In October of 1922, Babe Ruth and a less popular but still very successful player in his own right, Bob Meusel, came to town to play an exhibition game. There was a lot of hype and excitement, as you can imagine, leading up to the event. The Perry branch of the American Legion had organized the event and hoped to make a tidy sum of cash off of ticket sales. Unfortunately, the day ended up being cold and dreary, and even though the rain mostly stopped an hour or so before the game began, the attendance was much lower than hoped. Ruth and Meusel ended up taking most of the profits home with them. I guess that’s what happens when you play a baseball game on Friday the 13th.
The game was against Pella, and Meusel played for them while Ruth played for Perry. Meusel hit a homerun and Babe hit a couple of triples. You’d think “The Sultan of Swat” could have managed at least one homer, but apparently the outfield wasn’t enclosed by a fence, which enabled the outfielder to get to the ball and throw it back in before the lumbering Ruth could get past third base.
I hadn’t realized until recently that the Ku Klux Klan was very active in Perry around that same time. I also didn’t know that the KKK was extremely anti-Catholic. Babe Ruth was Catholic and is said to have even visited St. Patrick’s School while in town. You would think given the fact that, according to a The Perry News article, a KKK grand master lived in town, there would have been protests and maybe even a cross burning. In reality, Babe Ruth coming to town was such a big deal that KKK members decided to forgo their prejudice for the day and instead sat in the stands and cheered for him and the hometeam along with everyone else. I guess that’s what happens when you play a baseball game in Perry. God bless America.
To a lot of us, Perry seems like a small, innocent little town. However, Perry is not quite as innocent as it seems. There was once a time when Perry was a hub for things that were far from innocent. Let me tell you of a story of one such time.
The year was 1923 and a big group of people had gathered in Perry. Most of them were dressed in white, but not everyone belonged to the same group. The first group of people were Nurses and Sisters, who had come to oppose the second group. The second group, supposedly composed of mostly men, were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Charolette Kaster, who donated a photo of the event to us, also gave us a brief history of the event, as told by her grandmother. It is as follows: “The KKK came to Perry in about 1923. In addition to motivational speakers, there were a group of "thugs" from out-of-town who had come to organize Perry and promote their organization. Some in Perry resisted, and were threatened with burning of homes and businesses if they did not participate. The first meeting was a large crowd, many of whom were curiosity seekers rather than Klan followers. There were some number of men who donned the white robes and hats/masks, whether by belief or fear, only each knows for himself. There was to be a parade of the KKK during a holiday. As they lined up, these Sisters dressed in their uniforms stood forward and blocked the street. None of the Perry men would harm the Sisters, so they disbanded. They did meet later that night, burned a cross in someone's farm field, but nothing further came of it. It was the beginning of the end for the KKK in Perry.”
There are a few other stories about the KKK and the march that they held here in Perry. One quote, which we believe is from George Soumas, talks about how his father knew who people were in the march because he could recognize their shoes. According to other photos we have in our catalog, the KKK also had a building in town that they used for meetings and parties, according to the photo. We even have a Perry Chief article about the march, which you can come and see in the database here in the Town Craft building. The most interesting thing that we have in our archives from the dealings of the KKK here in Perry, however, is an actual outfit worn by a member, complete with the hood.
As you can see, Perry is not quite the innocent town that it may appear. There are plenty of other stories about the KKK’s dealings in Perry, but you will have to go out and discover them for yourself.