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White Sox-Giants World Tour: Nov. 11, 1913

Another day is dominated by an unforeseen animal contest, but this one lacks the cruelty of a badger fight

Hans Lobert in 1915.
Hans Lobert in 1915.
Bain News Service / Library of Congress

Heading up the coast from San Diego ...

Nov. 11 in Oxnard, Calif.: Giants 3, White Sox 2

Oxnard was the last small-town stop on the world tour, and it was the home of Giants outfielder and guest of honor Fred Snodgrass. He led off the game for the Giants, and the Chicago Tribune recap says that his friends interrupted in order to present him a gold watch.

It was a well-played game in front of 5,000 people. Christy Mathewson and Joe Benz scattered 25 hits between them, but aside from a Sam Crawford home run into the automobiles parked behind center field, the only other extra-base hits were doubles by Steve Evans and Fred Merkle.

Smallball put the winning run across in the seventh, when speedy Giants third baseman Hans Lobert reached, stole second and scored on a pair of singles.

Oxnard stood out to Lobert. When talking about the world tour to Lawrence Ritter for his seminal book, "The Glory of Their Times," Lobert specifically mentioned this game -- although it had nothing to do with the winning run.

They had this tremendous ox roasting, been roasting it for a couple days, and lima beans with onions, and beer. That was our breakfast! Did you ever try roasted ox and beer for breakfast? Not bad. Puts hair on your chest to say the least.

No, not that part, although it's interesting. The players were greeted with much fanfare coming off the train, including a fleet of autos, which took them around the city before driving them to a ranch for the roast.

Lobert continues:

So after all we had partaken and all this good food, the mayor of the town got up and put me on the spot:

He asked me if I would run a horse around the bases that afternoon.

That part.

Lobert initially resisted racing against an animal, but John McGraw talked him into it, and it was decided that the contest would take place after the game. Problem was, among the crowd of 5,000 were hundreds of cowboys on horseback on left field, and Lobert tells Ritter that they kept creeping inward until they were too close to ignore. In the seventh inning, McGraw told Lobert, "John, get ready and run the horse. We can't finish the game."

I have Lobert's interview on a four-disc set of Ritter's original audio, and it differs from the account in the book due to editing and such. But I like hearing the way Lobert tells it, so here's a transcription.

So out of this herd of horses -- oh, the most beautiful black animal came out of there, and a Mexican cowboy on her. He was all dressed in the chaps and the spangles. He couldn't speak English; I said, "Señor, practico! We'll take a walk around the bases."

I was to touch each inner corner of the base, and he was to go around so as not to run me down. But the horse was trained, see, to make those sharp turns. We walked around, and the crowd roaring and they took moving pictures of it.

So, [claps] I got off, bingo. I led at first base by at least 10 feet. At second base, I was 20 feet ahead. And all of a sudden, that Mexican going around second, [whistles], shot right into the shortstop, and he only missed me that far.

I had to dodge to get clear and I lost stride, but I picked up immediately and I was still in front going to third. We were going down the finish line, and it was just like that. So when I pulled up at the finish, I said to [Umpire Bill] Klem -- he was the referee -- "How 'bout it?"

He said, "The horse won by a nose."

I said, "Listen, don't ever tell me that. No horse could beat me by a nose."

You can listen to it here. Ritter's intro is included, and the story starts at about 1:30.

By Lobert's laugh after the punch line, you get the idea that he's told that story thousands of times, and it never gets old. For what it's worth, the Tribune's account agrees with him:

"Lobert, regarded as one of the fastest base runners in the game, enlivened the sport by racing once around the diamond against a pony. The horse won by a nose. Lobert would have won, spectators believe, if he had not been forced to watch the horse."

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