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White Sox-Giants World Tour: Dec. 6, 1913

The tourists finally reach land, and hours later are plying their trade in Tokyo

A Yokohama harbor scene from the early 1900s.
A Yokohama harbor scene from the early 1900s.
Library of Congress
Dec. 6 in Tokyo: White Sox 9, Giants 4

The White Sox and Giants were supposed to get their first glimpse of Japan by Dec. 2. They didn't see land until Dec. 5, thanks to the typhoon, the boiler it blew out and the coal supply it soaked. The power was so inefficient that RMS Empress of Japan Captain W. Dixon Hopcraft had to contemplate stopping at a port in northern Japan for fuel. He instead chose to press on to Yokohama, and they arrived with barely any supply left. At least the extra time allowed players to receive vaccination shots. Writes tour organizer Ted Sullivan in "History of World's Tour":

When nearing Japan, we were notified that we could not pass through the Orient to Australia, without being vaccinated. The Pitchers and Catchers of the Clubs were most alarmed. Pitcher Hearn, of the New York Giants, said it was not necessary for him to be vaccinated, as he was bit by a rattlesnake in the arm in North Carolina two years ago. Joe Benz, of the White Sox, wanted to be vaccinated above the ankle, as he wanted the use of his right arm for the coming season, but after Dr. Stewart of the ship explained matters, all the party submitted to the operation.

Their late arrival forced games in Kobe and Osaka to be called off, but they would still play three games in Tokyo -- including a game right after leaving the ship. I guess there's no jet lag when it takes 16 days to cross the Pacific Oean, but considering all but a few of the traveling party spent the trip battling seasickness, it probably would have been nice to get a steady day in.

But nope. After an enthusiastic welcome at the harbor in Yokohama (with Japanese fans giving a hearty American-style "howdy") around 10 a.m., the two teams were taken to Yokohama's Grand Hotel -- many of the players by rickshas -- for a rushed luncheon. Jim Thorpe and his wife drew a bad one, as a wheel fell off and spilled the Thorpes onto the street, but they weren't injured, and ended up climbing into another one. Sullivan said the players would get yelled at and called cheap if they tried walking.

Then they were back to traveling, taking the Imperial Railway 30 miles inland to Keio University in Tokyo (spelled "Tokio" by the papers at the time).

Baseball had been entrenched in Japanese culture for decades at this time. The crowd knew what it was doing, and among the spectators packing the grounds of the college ballfield were the teams from Keio University and Wasada University, which were fierce rivals at the time. But they had never seen the best players in the world on their turf, and Sullivan said the Americans captivated their audience.

As both teams entered the ball grounds of the University they were cheered to the echo by about fifteen thousand people composed of students and Japanese residents. The players presented a magnificent appearance in their world's tour baseball uniforms. When the American players went through the machinery of their practice with magnificent physical appearance, with their quick and snappy actions in handling the ball, set the Japanese wild.

(We're going to be reading a lot from Sullivan during the international portion of the trip, but keep in mind that he's prone to aggrandizement and flattery. In "The Tour To End All Tours," James E. Elfers said the game drew a capacity crowd of 5,000.)

University president Eikichi Kamata threw the first pitch to American Consul General Thomas Simmons, and the international portion of the world tour was underway. Umpire Bill Klem announced the lineups in his typical boisterous, dramatic style, and Elfers says that Klem's presentation ended up being one of the biggest novelties:

Klem's mammoth vocal power, elaborate style and pugnacious attitude were unlike anything the Japanese had encountered before in an umpire. Klem quickly became a favorite of the crowd and the sports reporters. Just how much of an impact Klem made could be seen in the next day's Jiji Shimpo. The paper had sent a caricaturist to the game to capture the day's activities. Klem's caricature was rendered larger than anyone else's.

There's not much play-by-play of the game, except that Tris Speaker stole the show for the White Sox. Speaker and Sam Crawford suffered from seasickness as much as anybody on the Empress of Japan. Speaker, however, shook off the effects and belted two homers, and he and the rest of the defense played an errorless game, while the Giants committed two errors.

Reading the various accounts in papers, magazines and books, you get the idea that this game merely whetted the appetite for a doubleheader the next day. One game featured the White Sox and Giants, and the other would give the Japanese ballplayers a shot to see how their brand of baseball stacked up.

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