OK, so I said that today's installment was going to be the last "clump" update before catching up to real time.
Turns out that isn't true, but only because I got sidetracked by something incredible. You'll see.
The biggest crowd of the tour awaited the Sox and Giants, many of whom were from Texas. Tris Speaker had plenty of friends in the crowd, as did New York's Jeff Tesreau and Larry Doyle. Throw in Jim Thorpe for some star power, and the crowd was into it.
The players were relatively ready for it, too. They rolled into Houston at 1 a.m., which was enough time to get to the Rice Hotel and sleep in beds that remained in one place, which was a first on the trip.
But only the White Sox really woke up for the long-awaited rest. They opened up the game with a three-run first, and although Reb Russell (back from a brief break in Bonham) gave up a pair of runs in the bottom fo the third, the Sox eventually pulled away with a 14-hit attack.
Speaking of firsts, home plate umpire Bill Klem ejected his first player -- the Giants' Mike Donlin. In "The Tour To End All Tours," James E. Elfers provides the details. First, Donlin tore into Klem for temporarily forgetting the count on what was strike three to Mickey Doolan. When the Sox protested and Klem realized his error, the corrected call didn't sit well with the Giants, and Donlin was the loudest. Two innings later, Donlin entered the game as a replacement for Jim Thorpe and was called out on strikes. Elfers relays the Houston Chronicle's account:
Klem called Mike out on strikes in the sixth, whereupon Donlin formed the opinion that Bill had it "in for him." More blunt words were passed, one of which shocked the female patronage because of its torrid relations.
Nov. 3 in Marlin, Texas: Giants 11, White Sox 1
While the Bonham stop was unofficially Russell Day, Marlin was supposed to be for John McGraw's time to shine. He took to Marlin as a spring training site -- literally, in a sense, due to the city's mineral springs. The Giants had plenty of ties to the area, and a reception for hundreds was planned after the game.
Two things got in the way. One, McGraw's mother-in-law died suddenly in Atlantic City. His wife wasn't on the trip from stop to stop, but she was en route to El Paso, Texas, where she would catch up with the tour on Nov. 5. McGraw had to step away from the game to figure out how to get a hold of her. The news delayed the start of the game.
The other was what the Chicago Tribune described as a "slow and easy" game. The Giants used their unofficial home-field advantage to pound Joe Benz and Red Faber with a steady drumbeat of runs. The long innings added up -- to an hour and 40 minutes -- and they had to hurry from the ballgame to leave Marlin on schedule. McGraw traveled with them.
Buck Weaver might have dragged out the proceedings a little bit, according to The Dallas Morning News' account from Nov. 5. Weaver started an argument so heated that Klem threatened to kick him off the tour. Weaver didn't think Klem had the authority, but manager Jimmy Callahan said the National Commission had the authority on this tour, and not the American or National leagues.
Nov. 4 in Abilene, Texas: Rainout
Despite all the terrible weather the Sox and Giants encountered on the trip, they still managed to play their first 17 games as scheduled. A steady downpour greeted the travelers in Abilene, though, and it didn't relent, resulting in the first cancellation of the tour. The players used the opportunity to rest up or bum around town, where they were just as much of a draw.
Know what else was a draw, according to the Tribune story published the day after?
An old fashion badger fight was staged for the benefit of the teams and proved a big success.
I almost didn't want to know what that meant, figuring "badger fight" might be a colloquialism for something harmless/commonplace like a "chicken fight," and imaginations could conjure up something far wackier than the truth. But in the interest of history, I did some Googling and found this article from 2006 from the Abilene Reporter-News.
The visitors were also entertained at a badger fight at Wall's livery barn. Wagers were made on the outcome, and apparently McGraw was tipped off that fight organizers would use a starved badger.
The newspaper reported, ''Probably never in the history of Abilene was betting so pervasive. McGraw, the old sport, enlightened as to the outcome, held up a fist of simoleons as big as a turnip head against equal coin that the badger would tear the experienced dog to pieces.''
We are certainly talking about a real-badger badger fight here.
Listen, I'm not saying that pitting a hungry badger against a dog for profit and whimsy is delightful ... but I can't stop reading that last sentence. It's not the idea that it conveys, but just those particular words in that particular order. "Badger" is inherently amusing. "Experienced Dog" sounds like the name of a Rick Springfield cover band. Then you have "fist of simoleons" and "turnip head." Geez.
Once you start reading about a crooked badger fight for visiting ballplayers, you may as well see it through. It just so happens that the University of North Texas provides public archives of the Abilene Daily Reporter on its Portal to Texas History site. With any luck...
There it is. You can read the article for yourself if this link is a permalink, but I'll pull out some highlights, prefaced by a header I may never get to use elsewhere:
STAGED BADGER FIGHT FAST FACTS:
- McGraw set up the fight days in advance, and told the club to keep the badger in "a very morose and voracious condition."
- The organizers tried to get one of the non-wagering members of the traveling party to "pull the badger from under his cage in an honest way, so that neither the dog nor the badger might have an advantage in the 'terrible' conflict that should ensue."
- That sentence that I mentioned above? The Reporter-News truncated it. It actually reads: "... held up a fist of simoleons as big as a turnip head against equal coin that the badger would tear the experienced dog to pieces once he was liberated from his cage of a barrel." That's not any less absurd.
- The hardest part about a badger fight, just so you know: "Finding a disinterested non-betting individual who had never before seen a badger fight and who had never had the signal honor of pulling him out of his cage." News you can use!
- Klem was a natural choice to let loose the starving animal given his profession, but he declined: "You ain't going to get Mr. Klem to pull no badger."
- They were finally able to find an objective spectator to get the fight started, and an enthusiastic one. He "would be tickled to death to give all an honest deal by pulling the badger out when given the signal, 'one, two, three.'"
- I'll spare everybody the details of the actual fight, because that's when the unusual combinations of words can't hide what sounds just awful.
- But then the article is followed up by an advertorial/sponsored content for laxatives that "work while you sleep."