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Death Row inmates were once forced to play baseball to delay their executions

Death Row inmates were once forced to play baseball to delay their executions

The Wyoming State Penitentiary All Stars were actually playing baseball for their lives

A group of death row inmates at a prison in the USA were formed into a baseball team that quite literally played for their lives.

Obviously, something like this could never happen in the modern day, but back in the early parts of the 20th century there was a team of convicts – ones who had committed serious crimes such as murder and rape – who played baseball against free men, with the complete co-operation of those who were tasked with keeping them locked up.

The rag-tag bunch of criminal athletes were called the Wyoming State Penitentiary All Stars, and they played their first game on July 18 1911.

On their side, they had three rapists, five thieves, three murderers, and a master forger.

OK, maybe not that master, given that he ended up on the prison baseball team.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Death Row All Stars.
Death Row All Stars

Due to a law that had been passed meaning that prison owners couldn’t profit from their inmates – though they can now profit from things made by prisoners, which is a story for another time – there were large sums wagered on the success of the team by those in the incarceration business.

That meant the stakes were pretty high for the hard-swinging inmates, as they were told that winning would reduce their sentences, while errors that cost the team dearly could even result in the death penalty.

Joseph Seng, the All Stars' top player, was a murderer.
Death Row All Stars

It ain’t exactly modern justice, but that was how things were in that part of the world at the time.

In their book, entitled Death Row All Stars: A Story of Baseball, Corruption and Murder, authors Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian detailed some of the practices that were in use back then.

"Desperadoes caught in the act of robbery, rape or murder in the town were not only hanged but sometimes actually skinned," they wrote.

"Various items were made from the hides of these unfortunate lawbreakers, sold as souvenirs, and used as a warning to other would-be felons."

In one instance, a prisoner was hanged and a pair of shoes was made from the unfortunate criminal’s skin.

That actually happened to one prisoner, George Parrott, as you can see.

A death mask of George Parrott, as well as the gallows he was hanged on and some shoes made of his skin.
Death Row All Stars

In the end, the team pretty much wound up at the same time as their star hitter Joseph Seng was executed in 1912, but interest remains to this day.

A synopsis of the book written about the team – which you can purchase here – reads: "It was the golden age of baseball, and all over the country teams gathered on town fields in front of throngs of fans to compete for local glory.

"In Rawlins, Wyoming, residents lined up for tickets to see slugger Joseph Seng and the rest of the Wyoming Penitentiary Death Row All Stars as they took on all comers in baseball games with considerably more at stake.

"Teams came from Reno, Nevada; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Bodie, California; and throughout the west to take on the murderers who made up the line-up.

"This is a fun and wildly dramatic and suspenseful look at the game of baseball and at the thrilling events that unfolded at a prison in the wide-open Wyoming frontier in pursuit of wins on the diamond."

Honestly, if it wasn’t true you wouldn’t believe it.

Featured Image Credit: Amazon/Death Row All-Stars

Topics: US News, Weird, True crime, Sport