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Letter Reveals Ku Klux Klan Attempt to Legitimize Itself Through Baseball in 1920s

In 1924, a major league baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants was a hot ticket. So hot, that not even then-Reds President August Herrmann could grant the Ku Klux Klan a Sunday afternoon “Klan Day” at Redland Field. 

Yes, that was a legitimate request in 1924.

A three-page letter addressed to Herrmann was recovered in the MLB archives, revealing attempts by a KKK member to arrange for a special day that included a ceremony before the game, and a scenario that would portray the Klan as humane, or at the very least as inclusive.

The KKK had plans to present flowers to both managers of the teams and additionally to every member of each team, “thus making no distinction and discriminating against no individual.” The first African-American baseball player to break the color barrier, Jackie Robinson wouldn’t take the field until 1947, so it is unclear what kind of discrimination could have taken place.

However, the request notes that the Knights of Columbus had previously held a similar ceremony, but only presented floral offerings to the manager of the Reds and the captains of both teams, an action perhaps considered discriminatory by the Klan.

Herrmann had declined the group's request, citing both the demand for a ticket to the series against the Giants and the popularity of Sunday games. The initial request notes that it “comes from one of the city’s fastest growing organizations that now enrolls within the provisional Klan alone in Hamilton County approximately 40,000 men and women.”

The letter estimates that the Klan members in attendance would exceed 100,000 members, and that “the greater majority of this number may be counted as loyal Reds fans…”

A call to a spokesman for the MLB was not returned.