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

Daylong downpours prevent players from staging game in front of the tour's biggest crowd yet

A postcard of Shanghai Race Club, 1912.
A postcard of Shanghai Race Club, 1912.
Dec. 11 in Shanghai: Rainout

The second international voyage on the RMS Empress of Japan went far smoother than the first. The Yellow Sea waters were smooth and the Marconi device was fixed, so the White Sox and Giants traveled to China on time, and with plans made.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate. A steady rain fell as the ship approached Shanghai's harbor. It anchored itself where the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers meet, because it was too large to make its way up the Huangpu. The players had to transfer to a smaller ship, and before they could do that, they had to undergo cursory physical examinations.

Idle players looking over the sides of the boat received an unofficial welcome, according to Joe Farrell of The Sporting News:

While the tourists waited for the medical authorities to complete their examination, they were entertained by half a hundred beggars, with their entire families, in rowboats. They surrounded the boat in a rainfall and beseeched with hands upraised for alms. An American dollar tossed into one of the boats by [Tris] Speaker nearly caused the capsizing of all.

The smaller boat took them to the dock, where the usual crew -- a brass band and a fleet of automobiles -- greeted the players. They were whisked to a fancy luncheon at the Astor House, after which they headed to the Shanghai Race Club to see if a game could be played.

Earlier in the tour, the traveling party didn't mind a rainout. This time around, they wanted to play. Shanghai promised the biggest crowd yet -- the racetrack had been prepared to stage a baseball game for 25,000 fans, which meant a thrill for the players and fans, and quite a payday for Charles Comiskey and John McGraw. Alas, the rain never relented over the few hours they waited, and the game's cancellation was an inescapable conclusion.

They were set to return to the Empress of Japan at 6:30 p.m., which gave everybody a few hours to make the most of the city. Farrell writes that the Shanghai hosts had a couple of choices for the tourists, one more intriguing than the other:

It was an elaborate [program], from personally conducted auto and ricksha rides to the principal shopping districts, parks and boulevards, to a trip through the dingy and almost impenetrable ancient Chinatown, behind the great wall. This is a turbulent district, heavily patrolled, and the best influence in Shanghai could not arrange for a permit to visit certain parts of it.

In "The Tour to End All Tours," James E. Elfers says Farrell, Fred Merkle and Speaker chose the Chinatown option, perhaps with illicit intentions:

Though unmentioned, one wonders which "certain parts" of Chinatown the three bachelors wished to visit while out stag. Were they perhaps hoping for a clandestine visit to one of Shanghai's legendary brothels? Was their goal an opium den? In the end we are forced to leave these questions unanswered. As it turned out, the three spent most of the day in Chinatown, only returning to the hotel at 6:00 p.m. [...] H.P. Burchell of the New York TImes stated that the three, upon returning to the Astor House, claimed to have gotten lost in Chinatown. That may be the truth. It is also possible that the three were just being coy.

They flirted with danger, but everybody made it back to the dock for the return shuttle to the Empress. They were given a souvenir for their stay, and received emotional farewells from American sailors on gunboats, many of whom were heartbroken by the cancellation. The Sox and Giants couldn't get in a game on mainland China, and Hong Kong would prove a tough fit, too.

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