Sometimes it takes a second look at the research to find a gem. This is one I overlooked when making my first pass through the pages of the Forum from June 1897. I picked up the story while scouring the Grand Forks Herald today, which noted some harsh criticism that the Fargo Forum had directed toward RRVL umpire Jimmy Banning.
Banning began the year playing for the Fargo team, but switched to the role of umpire just a few weeks into the season. He had played on Fargo's minor league team in 1887, which the June 19th Forum mentioned in its front page rant. My favorite part of the not so veiled criticism was this line, in which the writer may have wanted to show impartiality, but just couldn't hold back: "...Personally Jimmie is a nice fellow, and he has hosts of friends here from his good work behind the bat in the old Red River league. But with all due respect to the memory of his rapidly fading glory - as umpire - he's the rottenest specimen that ever came over the pike..." Wow.
Interestingly, it wasn't unfair treatment of the Fargo team that spurred the sportswriter's diatribe. Instead, it was Banning's work in a game between Grand Forks and Moorhead that prompted the criticism. It makes you wonder if there was some bad blood between the writer and the former Fargo shortstop. Especially when you consider he described Banning's worst call as the "...crown piece of idiocy...".