Billy Sunday

By: Kate Davis

"Fire and Brimstone" Preacher

Billy Sunday was born on November 19th, 1862 near Ames, Iowa. His father died one month after his birth, leaving his mother with three small children. Later, she remarried and had two more kids. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Billy spent most his teen years in an orphanage and working on farms. In 1883, he signed a contract with the Chicago White Stockings (today's Chicago Cub's). Billy spent 7 years in the National League setting a record for most stolen bases, which was later broken.

In 1886, Billy was converted at the city's Pacific Garden Mission. He became active with the YMCA and a local Presbyterian Church. He married in 1888 and retired from baseball in 1890 so he could preach the Gospel full time. Billy served for three years under a famous evangelist before finally launching his own career in 1896.

In the next four decades, Billy became the most prolific American evangelist. Billy preached against sin, alcohol, and vice. He got lots of news coverage every time he preached. He became well-liked and wealthy, even though he gave most of his fortune away. It is estimated that as many as 100 million people heard Billy preach and over one million people walked down the "Sawdust Trail" to shake his hand and accept Christ as the savior of the world.


Billy had a wonderful impact on the world. He showed people that you can change career choices at any time. He moved people with his words. After realizing the career path he was on was not right for him, he lived out the rest of his life as a voice of God on earth for all to hear.
Billy Sunday Warns America (1929)

Video Questions:

  • What is the message or goal that Billy is trying to get across?
  • In your opinion, why were people so inspired by Billy?