After high school, William worked as a firefighter and gained somewhat of a reputation because of his great speed. One day in 1833, as he was playing baseball on an sandlot in Chicago, a scout from the White Sox saw him and signed him to a contract. William was a great fielder, but not a good hitter, but his speed forced many opponent's errors, and his stolen base count was second only to Ty Cobb at the time.
Unfortunately, William’s career was marred by drinking, and he spent a lot of time on skid row. One night however, as he staggered down a street, he heard a Salvation Army group singing one of his mother’s favorite songs, “Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?”. Later that evening he wandered into the Pacific Garden Mission and gave his life to Christ. Soon after, William left the baseball diamond, turning down a $5000 monthly salary in baseball for the pulpit that paid about $85 a month.
Throughout his career, it is estimated that William preached to hundreds of millions and became the most successful evangelist of the early twentieth century. The combination of his celebrity background, business sense, and period of poverty attracted every class of people. Indeed, there were so many people being saved as a result of William's fiery preaching (250,000 to over a million by some estimates) that hundreds of pubs and bars were closing. Some even said that he was the most amazing evangelist since John the Baptist.
Yet, for the thousands of sermons preached by William Ashley (Billy) Sunday, one of the most famous was entitled “Motherhood”. Remembering his own saintly mother, he said
Being a king, emperor, or president is mighty small potatoes compared to being a mother. Commanding an army is little more than sweeping a street compared with training a boy or girl. The mother of Moses did more for the world than all the kings that Egypt ever had. Oh, you wait until you reach the mountains of eternity, then read the mothers’ names in God’s Hall of Fame. I tell you women: Fooling away your time, hugging and kissing a poodle dog, drinking a cocktail, and playing cards is mighty small business compared to molding the life of a child.The entire Motherhood sermon can be read on our main website.