Look how great a forest is set on fire by a small flame.
Boston has named its major league baseball team after a certain color of stocking, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 19th century, Boston’s baseball team used to have a silly name. They were called the Boston Beaneaters.
The Beaneaters had, arguably, the best stadium in baseball. The South End Grounds included the Grand Pavilion, a two-story grandstand, which featured ornate spires and turrets.
On May 15, 1894, the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Beaneaters in the South End Grounds in Boston. In the third inning, a man lit a cigarette in the right field stands and the match fell below the bleachers, starting a small fire.
But, at that very moment, a fierce fight broke out between Boston’s Tommy Tucker and Baltimore’s John McGraw. Soon both teams emptied their dugouts and ran onto the field. The fans were riveted on the brawl. Spectators began throwing food and beer bottles onto the field. Fights erupted in the stands.
All this while, the fire grew and spread. Soon the bleachers were engulfed in flames. The fire not only destroyed the ballpark, but spread through the city. Before the fire was brought under control, 170 buildings were destroyed and hundreds were left homeless.
When a brawl erupts during a baseball game, a little flame doesn’t captivate our attention. But, after it becomes a devastating fire, and hundreds have lost their homes and all their belongings, a fight at a ballgame doesn’t seem all that important.
The apostle James warns us about the dangers of little things. Great fires are started by small flames. And bitter feuds – even wars – can be started by minor slights or insults. Yet, we’re often unconcerned about the minor rifts we create because, like a small flame, it’s so minor.
But little things, when ignored, become big things. The longest peacetime border in the world lays between the United States and Canada, but that peace was threatened by the death of a pig.
On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutler shot a neighbor’s pig that got into his garden. His now pigless neighbor threatened to defend his case in British Columbia, but Cutler refused, claiming the island on which they resided was American territory.
Tensions grew as sixty U.S. soldiers, led by Captain George Pickett (who would later lead the ill-fated charge at Gettysburg) claimed the island as U.S. territory. The Canadians brought an equal number of soldiers – claiming the island for Canada.
“The Pig War of 1859,” as it is called, involved a military standoff that lasted twelve years. It was finally settled without loss of life . . . except for one pig.
Extinguishing a flame early is a lot less costly than trying to put out a raging forest fire.
(copyright 2011 by Marty Kaarre)