clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

White Sox-Giants World Tour: Oct. 25, 1913 - Oct. 28, 1913

Pitching duel of the (early) century indirectly results in death and injury in Tulsa

Even the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch touted the Walter Johnson-Christy Mathewson matchup in St. Joseph.
Even the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch touted the Walter Johnson-Christy Mathewson matchup in St. Joseph.

Continuing on from Blue Rapids...

Oct. 25 in St. Joseph, Mo.: White Sox 4, Giants 3

After much ado and a little delay, Tris Speaker made his debut for the White Sox. Turns out they didn't need his help, even though Christy Mathewson pitched for the Giants. The Giants made three errors behind Matty, while the White Sox defense turned three double plays behind Walt Leverenz, whose control was spotty throughout the game.

Speaker went hitless on the day, but the other Hall of Fame mercenary picked him up. Sam Crawford went 4-for-4 with a double, also his quest for a second two-bagger was killed by a Jim Thorpe outfield assist.

While the Sox gained a star in Speaker, they lost one when Hal Chase injured his ankle when he collided with Fred Merkle trying to catch a wide throw in the eighth inning. Charles Comiskey, who didn't travel with the team stateside but dropped in occasionally, was in Kansas City to comment. He blamed inadequate footwear, saying that the move from high-tops to low-cut shoes increased the probability of ankle injuries. From the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 28, 1913:

"Comiskey's advocacy of the high shoe grew out of the accident to Hal Chase of the White Sox, whose disability resulted in the addition of Frank Isbell, former south side idol, to the globe girdling party. The master of the Sox was delighted to have Isbell join the party, but deplored the injury to Chase. The crack first sacker has been nursing a weak ankle for a whole season and it interfered with his playing to a considerable extent. The recent sprain happened to the other ankle and it is believed a winter of complete rest will be necessary to put Chase's locomotive machinery in good shape again."

Oct. 26 in Kansas City, Mo.: Giants 6, White Sox 2

The weather took a turn for the worse as the teams headed south from St. Joe, but with Comiskey on hand and 4,000 fans expecting baseball, the game was going to be played no matter what. From the Rock Island Argus the following day:

To give the fans of Kansas City an exhibition of the national game took some courage, as a steady drizzle, intermingled with snow, followed the globe trotters from St. Joseph to the Kaw. However, there was a considerable number of bugs in this town and there was nothing to do but to play, especially as President Comiskey of the Sox came down from Chicago to witness the fray, and lay they did in water and mud, accompanied by a whistling wind from the north. [...]

Back of the home plate and second base the water was deep enough for a swim, and fielding had to be classed among the hazardous occupations.

Doc White, better known as a pitcher, tried to play first in place of the slick-fielding Chase and had enough problems with the glove to offset his three hits. Jeff Tesreau didn't allow much else, and the Giants had an easy victory.

Oct. 27 in Joplin, Mo.: Giants 13, White Sox 12

One game after one American League star joined the Sox in center field, another one took the mound: Walter Johnson.

The Big Train joined the Honeymoon Special for a couple days on the tour to provide a bigger gate, and specifically to go head-to-head with Mathewson. The best pitchers of their day -- both lifers with their original leagues -- never crossed paths during regular season or World Series play, but Comiskey and McGraw were able to set up a date on the tour for the dream duel of the day to take place.

Unfortunately for the 5,000 fans in Joplin, today wasn't that day. Mathewson was slated to pitch, but he opted out of this one. Four inches of snow had fallen overnight, turning the field into a sloppy mess. Plus, Matty had pitched just two days before, so add it all up, and he didn't feel like giving it a go in such miserable conditions. That might've disappointed the fans who braved through awful road conditions to get to the park, but the teams did find a way to play in it. Johnson started for the Sox, so the fans got half the bill. Manager Jimmy Callahan pulled him after three innings, preserving the possibility of a head-to-head duel in short order.

So that's how a game that was supposed to start Johnson and Mathewson ended up with 25 combined runs. Johnson gave up two runs on six hits, but left with a 4-2 lead. The teams' bullpens and terrible field conditions took it from there.

You can see the ballpark below at the 2:30 mark in this video of 1913 Joplin ... hosting a champion drilling competition.

Oct. 28 in Tulsa, Okla.: White Sox 6, Giants 0

One day later, Mathewson declared himself ready to go. Johnson was fresh enough to pitch on back-to-back days. The clash of the titans would take place in Tulsa.

The matchup drew fans from all over eastern Oklahoma to South Main Street Park, and the crowd was more than the weatherbeaten ballpark could handle. Shortly before the start of the game, the bleachers in right field collapsed under the weight of 500 to 700 fans. From the Tribune recap:

One man, Chester Thomas, private of Company L Ninth United States infantry, was killed. About thirty-five other persons, all men, sustained broken and fractured bones. F.L. Echeberger of Tulsa is expected to die before morning. George Thatcher, 24 years old, of Boston, is among the most severely injured. [...]

Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and others of the two teams rushed from the field to the assistance of those caught in the wreckage and helped soldiers and volunteers remove the injured from the pile of broken timbers.

It's even worse when reading James E. Elfers' account in "The Tour To End All Tours."

Half an hour before game time, "without even a warning crack, the frail wooden stands crashed, hurling 500 men, women and children into a struggling, screaming mass of humanity."

The overloaded right-field bleachers collapsed just as a contingent of soldiers from Company L Ninth Infantry out of Fort Root, Arkansas, was passing underneath them. The solders were buried beneath broken planking, twisted metal and scores of distraught and injured baseball fans. One soldier, Private Chester Taylor, had his skull fractured in several places by the jagged edge of a wooden support beam. He died on the way to the hospital. In all, fifty people were injured, some severely. Every available ambulance, automobile and policeman was pressed into service to ferry the injured to the hospital. Twenty-five people had injuries that necessitated hospitalization. Injuries ranged from a wrenched back to multiple and compound fractures of limbs.

Elfers also notes that the same bleachers were knocked over by high winds in 1911, and the repairs were hastily made and of dubious quality, even at the time.

Nowadays, a partial collapse of the ballpark would force the game to be canceled, especially if somebody died on site. In 1913, it only delayed the game by 30 minutes, as Oklahoma's governor ordered the show to go on.

Johnson lived up to the billing, throwing an eight-hit shutout. Mathewson matched him through three innings, but back-to-back doubles by Speaker and Crawford opened the scoring in the fourth. Mathewson gave up two runs in the fourth, after which McGraw replaced him with Hooks Wiltse. The Sox greeted him with four runs in the fifth, and that was more than enough for a Big Train who was on his game.