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  • Wyoming, 1911, the sun shines down on a baseball  diamond as a pitcher throws a fastball that  

  • doesn't go in the intended direction. He stamps  a foot on the ground, enraged that he's messed up  

  • again. What he does over the course of this game  is literally a matter of life and death. He's  

  • not just playing to win. He's playing to survive. As are his teammates, all convicted felons playing  

  • for the Wyoming State Penitentiary All Stars  in the city of Rawlins. Murderers, robbers,  

  • men who've committed heinous crimes against the  vulnerable, playing like seasoned professionals

  • This rag-tag bunch of thugs and killers can playthere's no doubt about that, but the question is,  

  • can they win their way to a new life? Let's go back to start

  • When the Wyoming State Penitentiary was opened  in 1901 it was one tough place. This was a time  

  • when the West was still called Wild and outlaws  pervaded the land. Still, not long before the  

  • prison was opened, you could say that criminals  faced a rougher kind of justice if apprehended

  • Take for instance the story of the killer and  robber, Big Nose George Parrott. He was arrested  

  • in 1881 and was sent to the local jail in RawlinsBig nose, who certainly had quite the snout,  

  • must have thought his luck was in when he  was busted out of that jail, but it turned  

  • out that his rescuers were a local lynch mob. Those townsfolks weren't willing to wait for  

  • the authorities to deal with him. Around 200 of  them strung Parrott up from a telegraph pole.  

  • Physicians managed to get hold of his body, but  get this, his skull ended up being someone's  

  • ashtray and parts of his skin were made into  a death mask and a pair of shoes. The third  

  • Governor of the State of Wyoming, Mr. John Eugene  Osborne, actually wore them to his inaugural ball

  • If that sounds grim, you should know that  many crazy things went down in those days.  

  • Opening a penitentiary and housing prisoners  there was somewhat more progressive than mob rule.  

  • Still, if you found yourself locked up around  the time of the beginning of the 20th century,  

  • you could be sure that you weren't  getting much sympathy from the townspeople  

  • you had stolen from, beaten up or killed. No one blinked an eye when rustlers and murderers  

  • were treated inhumanely by a well-respectedeminently wealthy businessman named Otto Gramm.  

  • You could say that this man made hay while  the frontier crime rate was off the scales

  • He had a contract with the prison in the  early days and pretty much ran the place.  

  • For every criminal that entered the prison he  received fifty-seven cents per day per prisoner  

  • from the state, but he also ran the prison's  broom factory and took all the profits from that

  • Inmates at the time complained that  Gramm was a man from the Dark Ages,  

  • saying that he made the men work ungodly hours  and barely fed them. They drank out of tomato  

  • cans and were given just enough food to  prevent starvation. Rancid food at that

  • So, in that first decade of the 1900s,  Wyoming State Penitentiary was hell on Earth,  

  • but for Mr. Gramm it was a goose laying a lot  of golden eggs. Not surprisingly, morale in  

  • the prison was low. Prisoners had tried to escape  and were killed while doing so. They killed each  

  • other, and on occasions, guards were murdered. In 1911, the progressive senator Joseph Carey  

  • campaigned to get rid of Gramm and after  he won the governor's race he made Sheriff  

  • Felix Alston the big boss in the prison. This man, who'd been a gold miner, a water  

  • and ice man, a farmer, a national Park guide and  justice of the peace before becoming a sheriff,  

  • didn't not believe that working the prisoners  close to death was the way to fix their wicked  

  • ways. The broom days were over, and instead of  hard labor, prisoners were educated and also  

  • entered intense physical fitness programsWhen they weren't doing those things, they  

  • were sent out in gangs to fix the state's roads. This was a breath of fresh air to the prisoners,  

  • some of whom had never even been outside since  the prison opened. They were no longer making  

  • brooms and pining for a square meal but were being  fed and enjoying activities in the prison yard

  • What activity did they enjoy the most? Baseball  of course, the USA's favorite sport at the time

  • One day warden Alston was watching the men play  and he thought, “Goddamnit, some of those men  

  • aint half bad.” In fact, he mused while watching  men hit balls over the wall and throw curveballs,  

  • that some of them would standchance of becoming professional

  • Alston got talking to his old friend, governor  Carey, and asked him if it would be ok if the  

  • prison formed a baseball team. Carey wondered  if forming a prison team could be a bit of fun  

  • and he gave Alston the greenlight. Carey was also partial to gambling.  

  • This will tie into the story soon. The men were bought brand new uniforms  

  • and practiced as if they were professional  players. They called themselvesThe Wyoming  

  • State Penitentiary All Starsand while the  public thought the whole thing was a farce,  

  • the inmates would not only prove them wrong but  would change the public's perception of them

  • One person that absolutely hated the  fact the team had been made was Gramm,  

  • who still held the belief that prisoners needed  to be treated like animals. Not only that,  

  • he had hopes that one day he might start  his ultra-profitable broom operation again

  • It was arranged that the All Stars would  play their first game against a local team  

  • called the Wyoming Supply Company Juniors. No one  gave them a chance of course, because how could  

  • prison criminal vermin organize themselves  and beat a team filled with real athletes

  • Imagine hearing the line-up, Leroy Cooke is at  first. He bludgeoned to death a barber and stole  

  • his money. On second, George Saban, convicted  of second-degree murder. On third, Jack Carter,  

  • who shot and killed an old hermit, cut him up  and burned his remains in the fireplace. Pitcher,  

  • William Boyer, stabbed his father  to death with a letter opener

  • The date was set. On July 18, 1911, a team  consisting of murderers, rapists, a forger  

  • and five thieves, would go up against the  mighty Wyoming Supply Company Juniors.  

  • Alston had high hopes, so high that he put  down quite a large bet that his team would win

  • The stakes were also high for the teamIf you won this game, they might well get  

  • time off their sentence. But if they made  a mistake that cost the team the win, well,  

  • no time off and not much chance of them having  their sentence commuted. That meant a life or  

  • death game for some of the death row prisonersand by God, they took it seriously. They didn't  

  • want to end up having their skin made into a pair  of shoes, a story that no doubt haunted them

  • They didn't just win the game, a game  against one of the best teams in the area,  

  • they absolutely trounced their opponents and  they did it playing with style and as gentlemen.  

  • The final score was 11-1 to the All Stars. They  were over the moon, not only because they'd  

  • achieved something great, but because it was  looking like hard time was about to get softer

  • The outstanding player on the team  was Joseph Seng. He hit two home runs,  

  • with one being a grand slam. If you're notbaseball fan that means hitting a homerun when  

  • there are men on bases one, two and three, thereby  scoring four runs. It's about as good as it gets

  • The newspapers the next day were busy  publishing stories about a bunch of convicts  

  • that had somehow turned into formidable  baseball players. Referring to Seng,  

  • The Washington Post wrote, “Slayer Scores Home  Runs.” The first paragraph read, “Joseph Seng,  

  • right fielder is under sentence to be hangedSeng made two home runs hit over the penitentiary  

  • wall. One of his hits cleared the basesbringing in three others and scoring himself.” 

  • Seng was on death row for killing  his supervisor in the street, well,  

  • the victim wasn't only his supervisor. He was  also the husband of the woman that Seng loved

  • This is what another newspaper wrote about him: “Joseph Seng, who was convicted of murder in the  

  • first degree and sentenced to death, played  a classy game all the way through. He will  

  • petition the governor to commute his sentence  to life imprisonment sometime this month.” 

  • In fact, when people read about Seng's  brilliance a lot of them sympathized with him.  

  • Ok, he had killed a man, but some people saidhey, he isn't exactly public enemy number one,  

  • he killed out of love, and man, he's a great  athlete, surely the state could commute his death  

  • penalty. Rumors started to catch fire. Word on  the street was that if Seng could keep on playing  

  • like a star then he might just get what he wants. But there were others on the team that hoped for  

  • some mercy for their efforts. One of them was  captain George Saban. The tale thickens here

  • You see, Saban was arrested after he'd killed  three sheep herders. He'd snuck up on them one  

  • night and shot them all dead, which really were  cold-blooded killings. The thing was, though,  

  • those slayings were part of a long dispute between  herders and cattle ranchers that had taken other  

  • lives. These conflicts were known as theSheep  Wars”. There were actually local politicians that  

  • thought Saban was in the right for doing what he'd  done. Let's not forget, this was the wild west

  • Another thing was the fact that Saban was actually  a friend of the prison warden, Alston. It had  

  • been Alston that had arrested him, and while he  didn't want to put a close friend behind bars,  

  • he didn't really have much choice. He got 25 years  for his crime but was made the captain of the team  

  • and was also allowed to leave the prison at times. What did he do when he was on the outside,  

  • you might wonder? Well, much of his free  

  • time was spent going around to the local saloons  and brothels and talking to men who liked to make  

  • bets. He told them all about his crack team  of players and just how good Seng was. Saban  

  • would take twenty percent of their winnings if  they bet. He was also in cahoots with Alston,  

  • whose money he used to place bets of his own. Well, when Mr. Gramm the broom-man got wind of  

  • this he was at first appalled and then later  he wondered if he couldn't report the matter.  

  • He got in touch with Senator Francis Warren, a  man who was hoping to oust Carey as governor.  

  • While Gramm had no proof that Carey was in  on the betting, he believed it to be true

  • Meanwhile, the guys on the team were having  the time of their lives. They were eating  

  • better food than the rest of the prisoners and  they moved more freely around the prison. They  

  • played the same team again, and they won easilySuperstar Seng was man of the hour another time,  

  • hitting balls left, right and center. The  score was the same as the first time, 11-1. 

  • But as prisons goeven todayone  man's good luck is another man's torment.  

  • Seng was to be executed soon even though he still  had the public on his side; even though he was  

  • winning games. Then one day an envious prisoner  thought that he'd move forward that execution  

  • date all by himself. He saw Seng sitting onlanding at the bottom of some stairs, and with  

  • an iron ball fastened to his legs, he climbed to  the level above Seng and pushed over a heavy box  

  • of sand. It would have hit and killed Seng had  he not at the right moment moved to the side

  • They won their next game, 11-4, and again Seng  was the standout player, hitting home runs with  

  • as much ease as a Major League player playing  against a junior high school team. Three games  

  • to zero, and Seng was the hero every time. Surely, they'd not hang him by a rope

  • As the team were basking in their glory, inmates  had been trying to escape. Having a baseball team  

  • practising in the prison and going out for games  wasn't making life easy for the guards. It created  

  • more chaos. Seng also now needed to be protectedwhich took up even more of the guards' time

  • It wasn't really his fault, but it bugged some  of the inmates that he was getting special  

  • treatment. His execution date arrived and lo  and behold, he wasn't sent to the gallows.  

  • Some inmates gossiped that the only reason  that happened was because he was due to play  

  • and was making a lot of money for... someone. They won their fourth game against the same team,  

  • but not with as much ease as they'd won their  other games, with the final score being 15-10.  

  • Over the course of 15-months they won time  and again, racking up a record of 39 wins to 6  

  • losses, with each game being played in  front of raucous supporters. In total,  

  • $136,000 had been bet on them, which is almost  four million in today's money. It's thought a lot  

  • of the winnings went into the pockets of local  politicians and their election campaign funds

  • The heat was on Governor Corey, a man whose  reputation was at risk after Gramm had started  

  • those rumors about him placing bets. It's  likely because of that, that Corey announced  

  • that he was cracking down on gambling. Soon after, the All Stars were a thing of  

  • the past. Alston said that baseball would  be replaced with educational programs,  

  • which seems to have suited a lot of  the other prisoners not on the team

  • As for superstar Seng, well, he at least got to  live a little longer than he would have if he  

  • hadn't hit balls out of the park. It wasn't good  enough, though, and he was hanged on May 24, 1912.  

  • 350 locals had petitioned the governor to  commute his sentence, but it didn't work.  

  • The man that once hit a ball through a third-story  window in the guards' quarters of the prison  

  • wasn't going to escape the dreaded noose. Before his death he Seng said, “I never  

  • received a square deal until I was brought to  the penitentiary.” He was grateful for having  

  • been able to play the game he loved, at least for  a short while. At 2.45 am, the moonlight shining  

  • on the gallows, he took his final breathThe local newspaper wrote the next day,  

  • His steps were steady, and he went to his death  in a manner which stamped him as a brave man.” 

  • Now you need to watch this, “You DON'T Want  To Be Sent To This Prison (Worst Prison In The  

  • World In 2019)”. Or have a look at this, “Why  Nobody Can Escape From Guantanamo Bay Prison.”

Wyoming, 1911, the sun shines down on a baseball  diamond as a pitcher throws a fastball that  

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Death Row All Stars - Prisoners Playing a Game for Their Lives

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/29
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