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Baseball and Beer, but Not Billiards: Quirky Deloitte at Work and Play

Deloitte and its legacy firms have always taken their work seriously, but that has not kept their professionals from having a bit of fun. That enjoyment has sometimes taken physical form, from a beer bottle to a baseball uniform to an African forest toad.

“Our clients are happy to look at our work as dry and humorless,” Deloitte Norway founder Jacob van Tangen Kielland said in 1962. “It does not have to be.”

Deloitte founder William Welch Deloitte might not have agreed. Deloitte, a man of few words, demanded that his clerks behave with propriety, especially in public. “He never gambled or played cards and thought billiards a wicked game,” author James Kilpatrick wrote in his 1942 chronicle of the firm’s early days. “He had no particular hobby and went in for no sport as a young man except for a very occasional game of cricket.”

On the other hand, Deloitte’s counterpart across the Atlantic, Elijah Watt Sells, encouraged, sponsored and played for the firm's baseball team in its inaugural season in 1907 and then commissioned and published a book recounting its exploits. Still, work came first: The team played on Saturdays, but there was no game on 29 June, "being one of the days on which securities are counted." The team dominated its opponents, losing only once to another office team against seven victories. But Sells knew how to keep his men humble: They lost 17-2 to a team made up of workers on Sells’ farm and though they would defeat the farmhands later in the season, Sells ensured his farm team would take the season series by adding several ringers from the New York Giants, who won the World Series in 1905. The pro baseball team was led by future Hall of Famer and Sells’ friend, John McGraw.

Deloitte itself eventually got in on the sporting fun, with cricket matches against rival accountants Cooper Brothers & Co. (now PwC) before World War II. And while William Welch Deloitte was noted for the “touch of austerity in his manner,” his nephew and clerk Edward Allbeury also noted that he was “very peculiar in some respects.”

From the Touche Ross-branded beer bottle to the forest toad named ”Deloitte,” to the viral ode to the Deloitte organisation penned and performed by a delighted new analyst (in its own way, a successor to earlier videos made for internal audiences and based on the likes of The Blues Brothers and “The Mickey Mouse Club” song), Kielland’s belief that life at Deloitte could be anything but dry and humorless is ratified, day after day.

In or about 1858 he bought a farm-house with considerable land attached and at considerable expense converted it into a comfortable house and made gardens, lawns etc., of some acres; he kept two Jersey cows, some sheep, pigs and poultry. . . . When he began to enjoy an increased income he seems to have taken to driving and spent some little time each day in Hyde Park. He was very proud of two pedigree ponies, which had belonged to the well-known Lola Montez.
- Edward Allbeury, nephew and Deloitte clerk, on William Welch Deloitte