During the current coronavirus pandemic, many historical references are being made to the 1918 “Spanish flu” that claimed an estimated 675,000 lives nationwide. Many online sources have written about 1918 and also compared the two pandemics along with their societal responses. There are many instances of history repeating itself including the use of masks and social distancing along with school closures. It’s absolutely worth checking out.
It’s also interesting to see how the world of sports dealt with both situations which began to evolve early in their respective calendar years. Back in 1918, Major League Baseball decided to be careful but play through the outbreak. The season began on time but was halted in early September due to factors related to World War I. The World Series was played quickly but not before the owners and players squabbled over how to divide the money in light of the cancelled games. Sound familiar?
High school football did not have summertime activities back in 1918 like we do today. Just after school resumed, Sidney High coach Jack Martin held a callout on Monday Sept. 16 with 30 boys responding. I’ve been able to document a three game season that saw the locals get dominated 50-0 by powerful Dayton Steele before shutting out Urbana (6-0) and Troy (2-0).
In those days, the Sidney football environment was quite different from later years. The team bore the colors of orange and black but would not claim a nickname until 1926. There was no league affiliation for another 10 years. Home games were played at Lakeside Park, now the swimming and soccer area entering Tawawa Park.
Historically, there’s much to report locally from 1918 including the opening of the new People’s Federal building designed by the legendary Louis Sullivan. Sidney Daily News cornerstone J.O. Amos died. It’s the era of alcohol prohibition as Shelby County votes to stay “wet” but is overridden by the state legislature and then congress. Construction began on the Lockington Dam.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross has worked in local radio, TV, and newspaper since 1975. He authored a book on the first century of SHS football that is available at the Ross Historical Center in downtown Sidney.