White Sox-Giants World Tour: Feb. 26, 1914

The White Sox and Giants at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's stadium. - Courtesy of James E. Elfers' trove

The 46th and final game between the globetrotting teams thrills the biggest crowd of the tour in London, including His Majesty

Feb. 26, 1914 in London: White Sox 5, Giants 4 (11 innings)

So far in Europe, the White Sox and Giants had six scheduled games, but could only play one. They were rained out in Rome for three straight games, and after one game in Nice, two more rainouts -- possibly halfhearted ones at that -- followed in Paris.

The tourists left a most displeased Paris on 9:15 a.m. on Feb. 22, heading to Calais to sail across the English Channel. They arrived in London in the evening, and had the next three days to get sightseeing out of their system -- and build up one final affair.

Not that London in February was any better. From the New York Times on Feb. 23:

The climatic conditions we are having at present, howeve,r may appear inhospitable as compared to those which have been granted to the baseballers elsewhere in Europe. Many of the football grounds are flooded or unplayable, and there are no immediate prospects of improvement, as the weather prophets foretell rain.

The women had spent their days in Paris loading up on clothes. In London, it was the men who put fashion first, hitting the haberdasheries with quite a bit of vigor. While they shopped, Charles Comiskey and John McGraw made the rounds in the media. In "The Tour to End All Tours," James E. Elfers said Comiskey played the diplomat well, since he had been raised around Chicago's political machine. McGraw, though, ran into some problems by runnign his mouth

On 24 February 1914 the two men held court, and McGraw's comments nearly destroyed either team's opportunity to even play a game in England. When interviewed by the Pall Mall Gazette, McGraw let loose with, "American soldiers are superior to the British because of the athletic discipline in the United States and because every American soldier has learned to play baseball and through that game has benefited his mind as well as hit body."

The British papers fired back with scathing editorials, questioning whether the British should even kowtow to the Americans by hosting a game. McGraw decided that he probably shouldn't talk for the rest of the European stay.

While Comiskey spoke well, he wasn't feeling well due to the London dampness. Neither was McGraw. On top of that, Jimmy Callahan had gone to Ireland ahead of the group, and they hadn't heard from him. It would've been poor form for none of the three to show up to a banquet dinner hosted by American actors at the Savoy. Fortunately, Callahan came back in time to give the American leadership at least one of its representatives.

Among the guests was Lord Desborough, a close friend of King George V. The king was enthusiastic about the game, and he was expected to attend. Desborough only strengthened the notion with a speech which Elfers relays:

"[King George V] spoke glowingly of the athletic relations of England in America. He advanced the opinion that the white races of the earth have completely demonstrated their superiority in every athletic enterprise and praised base ball as an invigorating, health-building and morally clean sport."

Either somebody didn't know Jim Thorpe was among them, or somebody forgot. Either way, Thorpe's presence disproved that notion, because he was still the main draw as he went around the city. And Elfers says that London knew that Thorpe wasn't white, because, "If Jim Thorpe disappointed the British in any way, it was in not meeting their expectations as to what a 'wild' American Indian should look like. The British had honestly expected him to be wearing feathers and scalps."

Despite threatening weather and a war of words between McGraw and the media, the game held its date. On Feb. 26, London provided a cool but clear day to allow the tourists to square off one more time.

With the king expected to attend, a crowd of 20,000 to 35,000 fans showed up to Stamford Bridge. Even if you take the low British estimates, it still made for what was easily the largest crowd of the tour. The king didn't disappoint either, showing up to his luxurious, satin-lined box behind home plate.

In Baseball Magazine, Frank McGlynn describes the scene -- King George entering to three cheers from the populace, players lined up in front of the Royal Box, and the leaders of the tour:

American Ambassador Page then introduced Messrs. Comiskey, McGraw, Callahan and Mr. M.D. Bunnell (the director of the tour) to King George, who said, as he shook hands with the American managers: "I am delighted to see you gentlemen here with your ball teams." Ambassador page then passed a baseball to the King, who threw it to [Jim] Scott, the Sox pitcher, thereby indicating that the King had pitched the first ball. This baseball was taken from the game after the first play, and later presented to Mr. Comiskey by Messrs. McGraw and Callahan, as a souvenir of the occasion.

The ceremonial events gave way to good, hard-nosed baseball, even on the soggy turf. Maybe because it was the last game of the tour, or maybe because it was easier to get to London than anywhere else, there were American reporters on hand to actually give an account of the game.

Guess who else showed up? Jack Sheridan. The mortician/umpire who was too engrossed by mummies in Cairo to catch the ship out of Alexandria finally caught up with the party in London. The European climate bailed him out, as Bill Klem only had to fly solo for one game.

All these loose ends tied up nicely as the Sox (with Scott pitching) and the Giants (with Red Faber) played a tight, tense game. The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, and Hans Lobert tied it up in the top of the fourth with a two-run homer that King George appreciated.

The score stayed knotted at 2 until the 10th, when the Giants scored a pair of runs off Joe Benz to take a 4-2 lead. With the White Sox down to their last three outs, Buck Weaver inspired hope by leading off with a single. After a groundout, Tris Speaker took Faber deep to center with a drive seemingly destined to tie the game. From Gus Axelson's Comiskey biography "Commy":

Speaker's drive had all the earmarks of a home-run but Magee, sprinting as he had never done before, made a leap in the air and speared the ball with one hand. Disgusted, Speaker yelled:

"Yes, you lucky stiff. You tried that grandstand play eleven times on the trip without making it and now you pulled it off in front of the king."

Faber could breathe a sigh of relief after retiring one future Hall of Famer, but Magee couldn't help him with a second one. Sam Crawford hit it a little farther than Speaker, and extended the game with a two-run blast.

After Benz pitched through the 11th unscathed, Tommy Daly led off for the Sox in the bottom of the inning. From Axelson:

Daly was the first up for the Sox. It was rookie against rookie and royalty looked on both. Faber tried to squeeze one by on the inside. He made a poor guess. Where the ball went no one cared. [Mike] Donlin, in center field, took one look at and made a break for the shower. King and commoner arose, stretched and agreed they had seen "some game."

The result led to this rare headline in the Washington Herald:

Headline_medium

The king had a blast, standing and cheering with the rest of the crowd at the conclusion of the game, and sending a message to the teams afterward: "Tell Mr. McGraw and Mr. Comiskey that I enjoyed the game enormously."

A reporter from the New York Times kept an eye on the royal box, and said the king was into the whole game, while the ambassador explained the finer points.

The King laughed heartily when the first foul ball struck the protecting wire netting, causing those behind to duck apprehensively. He expressed much surprise over the terrific speed of the ball as it traveled, and showed keen amusement, too, at taunts and cries of the fans, such as "Take him out," "Get a new umpire," He's got a glass arm," &c. The King looked mystified, however, when some one called out, "There's a hole in the bat!" as Jim Thorpe swung wildly at a low one.

George paid enough attention to correct Klem when he announced the wrong score at the end of the sixth inning.

With the king enamored by the action, local newspapers speculated over the possibility of the game taking root. A number of papers were willing to admit that baseball was a much faster game than cricket. Here's an example from the  Dundee Courier:

There are many thousands who do not patronise cricket because it is "too slow." This could not be said about baseball, which is one of the fastest and most strenuous games on earth. It follows that baseball demands skill and physique of high order in its devotees. The American baseball expert would not receive a Cabinet Minster's salary unless his ability was superlative and unique.

But Elfers points to a Chicago Evening Post article collecting opinions from other British papers, most of which dismissed the game as a mere knock-off of rounders.

Despite the pessimism of the locals about the game, the trip was an undeniable success from a financial perspective. The Chicago Tribune said that "the receipts were almost $75,000 above expenses." When you consider the effort it took to send 67 people around the world 100 years ago, that kind of profit seems enormous.

It also turned out to be a success for the White Sox. The Sox didn't need today's victory to clinch the series, but it put an exclamation point on the globe-girdling voyage. Over 46 games, the White Sox won 24 and lost 20, with two games ending in ties.

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