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White Sox-Giants World Tour: Dec. 14, 1913

A yellow flag in the morning leads to a rushed day in Hong Kong

Happy Valley, as it stands in 2008.
Happy Valley, as it stands in 2008.
Minghong / Flickr
Dec. 14 in Hong Kong: Giants 7, White Sox 4 (5 innings)

The schedule had been pushed back a day, which posed a problem for Charles Comiskey and John McGraw as their clubs made their way to Hong Kong from Shanghai on the RMS Empress of Japan. British law prevented organizations from staging athletic contests where admission was required, so Comiskey and McGraw decided to waive the admission requirement and play for free.

No good deed goes unpunished, though. On the morning of Dec. 14, as the ship approached the harbor, the tourists experienced a rude awakening. As Frank McGlynn writes in Baseball Magazine:

We entered the harbor flying the yellow flag. It is customary for all vessels to hoist a yellow flag while anchored in quarantine, but when one sails up a harbor flying the warning signal it means contagious disease is aboard, and the reason of the Empress of Japan's flying the "yellow jack" was that one of the passengers had smallpox.

That meant more shots for players, which meant more sore arms. In "The Tour to End All Tours," James E. Elfers says that Giants pitcher Hooks Wiltse wouldn't accept a shot unless he could take it in the leg.

The delay at port caused the rest of the day to be a rushed affair. Still, the quarantine process really could have screwed up the rest of the Asian excursion -- especially since they were transferring their baggage to a new ship. They departed the RMS Empress of Japan for good this time, picking up the St. Albans for the next few trips.

Ted Sullivan didn't have to worry about ricksha drivers getting up in his business, but only for a lack of wheels. Per Joe Farrell in The Sporting News:

From the harbor Hongkong presents to the traveler's eye a fine picture. Here the party, with the exception of Tom Lynch and Lou Comiskey, were carried all around town in sedan chairs, resting on the stalwart shoulders of natives.

McGlynn and Farrell both noted that these vehicles would come to a stop if you tried taking their pictures, as most residents scattered at the sight of a lens. Elfers says it's partially due to superstition, and partially due to criminals not wanting their faces recorded.

This was the first baseball game to be played in Hong Kong, and the city wasn't quite ready for it. There was no welcoming party at the port, and the players wore their uniforms around the city and performed some public baseball demonstrations in order to drum up publicity. When they took a double-decker trolley to the stadium, they discovered that the grounds were not prepared at all for baseball.

Here's a good example of why you can't trust Sullivan's account for more than entertainment value without corroborating evidence. In "History of World's Tour," he writes:

The game that was played in Hong Kong was played on the British Military parade grounds, and so rapidly was the game played by the two teams that one British officer said to the other: "Say, Colonel, those Americans are so quick on their feet that, bless me heart, it would be 'ard to stop them from capturing a fort.

But piecing together the accounts from Elfers and McGlynn, the British on hand were more confused than anything.

For one, the Happy Valley Athletic Club did not have a baseball field. The umpires had to fashion one out of the all-grass field, and Joe Benz and Hooks Wiltse pitched without the benefit of the mound. The lack of borders enabled the crowd to encroach on fair territory, and what a crowd it was. Elfers writes:

The audience was the most diverse group so far encountered. Reflecting the worldwide reach of the British Empire, there were Muslims along the first base line, Hindus from India along third base, with a smattering of Chinese dispersed at the outer edges of the grounds, who had to sneak into the grounds because, for the Chinese, the fields were officially off-limits. The largest contingent in the crowd, however, was the almost seven thousand rowdy, extremely vocal British sailors who had never seen a game before.

They were far more familiar with cricket, which doesn't have foul territory or set positions for defensive players. So they saw no issue with moving into fair territory to talk to the players, who were standing where they were for a reason, unbeknownst to the sailors. Likewise, they cheered vociferously when Jim Thorpe ripped a long fly ball foul.

As you can guess, this posed some problems for the umpires and players, since fans were in the middle of it. Tris Speaker hit a home run that took minutes to recover.

Somehow, they were able to make an official game of it -- an offensively minded one, because it was a lot easier to hit than to pitch or field. The late start and quick return forced Bill Klem to call it after five innings, and the players rode rickshas back to the wharf to get on a shuttle to get them onto their new ship, the St. Albans. Total time in Hong Kong: a little over six hours.

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