White Sox-Giants World Tour: Jan. 1, 1914

Brisbane Exhibition Grounds in 1925. - State Library of Queensland

The globetrotters land in Australia, celebrate the New Year late and play their first game early

Jan. 1 in Brisbane, Australia: Giants 2, White Sox 1

The tourists' second experience in changing hemispheres went far smoother than the first. In heading from Manila to Australia, the White Sox and Giants were actually able to gain the days they lost in the typoon from North America to Japan. They stopped at Thursday Island and Cairns along the way, and they were able to pull into Brisbane, Queensland, right on time -- just about midnight on New Year's Eve.

The most danger the White Sox and Giants happened not at sea, but on land. They stopped in Cairns to see Barron Falls, which they wouldn't normally be able to fit into their schedule, since it's only accessible by a long hike.

The tourists took a train normally used to haul fruits and sugar. It wasn't meant for a traveling party -- the rails were basically slapped on the hillsides, and multiple rickety bridges were needed for gorge crossings. It was something to endure.

On one of these bridges over the Barron Gorge, Buck Weaver nearly lost his life. In "The Tour To End All Tours," James E. Elfers explains:

The falls caused a considerable updraft. This updraft collided with Joe Benz's hat, blowing it off. Men wore hats in 1913; they were an equal fashion statement for both genders. As Benz's hat disappeared into the vastness of the gorge, the rest of the men and women made moves to batten down their chapeaus, but not before Louis Comiskey's fifteen-dollar hat became airborne. Lou had just purchased the hat in Manila, and this was his first opportunity to wear the thing in public. As it took to the air, Buck Weaver made an impetuous stab for the headwear, lost his balance, and had to be yanked back into the train car by his teammates, who had just saved him from falling 150 feet.

They all returned to the St. Albans, and steamed onto Brisbane with perfect timing -- they arrived just in time to see 1913 turn into 1914, and with a huge welcoming contingent on hand. They remained on board the St. Albans, but they made their own party. It might not have been the best of ideas, because the teams were scheduled to play at 10 a.m. in order to make it back to the St. Albans, but hey, it's New Year's Eve.

Enough Americans had moved to Australia at that time to give baseball a little bit of a footing, although it was very much a niche sport. Cricket was superior, and the White Sox and Giants played a game on the city's cricket grounds. That said, the Brisbane Courier allowed that, "The people of Queensland knew how popular [baseball] was in America, and fully recognized that it must have many good points to become the national game of a manly and sport-loving people."

Thanks to my friend Adrienne, an American baseball fan who made the same move, albeit nearly a century later, I have a ton of Australian clips about the game to rifle through. There are a few themes.

No. 1: It was a massive social event.

The Courier devoted more than a few inches of newshole to listing prominent citizens who attended the game and/or the reception afterward. The paper rattled off names both in the game story, as well as their "Woman's World" page. The Courier goes so far as to list who apologized for being absent.

No. 2: The papers didn't really know how to write about baseball.

It's hard to picture now, if only because globalization makes every sport at least somewhat familiar to a segment of the population, but it had to be a tremendous challenge to describe a sport you'd never seen. The account in the Melbourne Argus basically recaps the game as visual impressions arranged in chronological order.

The uniforms: The White Sox' road blues ("A dark blue costume, relieved with red and white") were more striking than the Giants' "drab-looking uniform of grey."

The players: "Impressed one as being strong, athletic, well-matured men."

The managers: "The function of each of these men is to enter the field when his side is batting, and to advise the men when to make their dash in from the third base to home."

Game action: "Donlin, a right-hander, was the first batsman for the giants. He was thrown out at first base, as was also Magee, who followed him. Lobert hit the ball out to centre-field, and the crowd applauded the catch. 'Why,' said, an American after the match, 'your crowd applauded all the fly hits. In the States the crowds only let us know when we miss 'em.'"

Bill Klem's theatrics: "Presently the umpire announced:-- "Scores at the present time, after four innings played -- Chicago 1; New York, nothing;" the emphasis he laid on the nothing causing spectators to laugh heartily."

No. 3: The Sox and Giants put on a good show.

It was a tight, well-played game. Sam Crawford drove in Tris Speaker in the first inning, but the Giants scraped across a pair of runs, including the game-winner somehow in the eighth, according to the Argus. Buck Weaver was credited with an incredible play:

There were not many sensational features of the game, but the catch of Weaver (the White Sox short-stop), which got rid of Lobert, was accounted a very fine thing, even by the Americans themselves, and excited the crowd, used to the milder catches on the cricket field. The batter hit the ball to Weaver, who moved to intercept, throwing out his gloved hand, and took a wonderful back-handed catch.

The Australians had been incredibly welcoming since the boat arrived, and it followed them to the field. They might not have had a great grasp of what was going on, but they were happy to witness it. As it said in the Bathurst Times brief, "The majority of those who saw the American baseballers play this morning are not likely to forget the display in the hurry."

But then you have the Worker, which gives the funniest, weirdest, least-enamored version of the events possible. The recap was but one of many items in the "World of Recreation" column, and all the spellings are how they appeared in the paper.

The American baseball teams, Noo Yark "Giants" and Chicawgo "White Sarx," otherwise Sox, gave a display of the game at Brisbane Exhibition Ground on New Year's Day. The match was remarkable for the quantity of talk indulged in by the players. There's no need for the crowd to do any barracking -- the Yanks attend to that themselves. "Well done, boy." "Put something into it, Joe." "Yur oot." "Sling her alawng this way, Dave."; were a few of the louder echoes among the general noise, delivered in aggressive Americanese. Both teams were costumed in huge, baggy garments, which present anything but an attractive appearance. During the game the umpire announced the progress score, "Chicawgo, 1: Noo Yark, nawthing." However, at the finish Noo Yark beat the White Sox by 2 points to 1. The game is one hardly likely to get footing in Queensland.

That said, the Australians who organized the events on their side of the ocean were sad to see the ballplayers come and go so quickly. Everybody had to hustle back to the dock because the St. Albans left at 1, with or without the ballplayers. A planned luncheon turned into a series of rushed speeches, and the clubs boarded the boat and headed south to Sydney.

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