One hundred and seven days after they departed Seattle for the first of 10 voyages, the White Sox and Giants returned to American soil. The Lusitania sailed into New York in the early hours of March 6. They first checked in at quarantine at 8 a.m., and three hours later, they were able to sail into Pier 56 at the foot of Fourteenth Street around 11 a.m., under a chilly mix of rain and snow.
They were escorted by a pair of boats, including the West Shore ferry Niagara, which carried a Chicago contingent 200 strong. The magazine Sporting Life describes the Niagara's band playing "See the Conquering Hero Comes" as the Lusitania made its way in, with the players responding via megaphones. The New York Times pulled off the perfect analogy of the times, calling the dock "as noisy as a suffragettte meeting."
In "The Tour to End All Tours," James E. Elfers writes that the American League had ulterior motives for commissioning the Niagara. There was word that Federal League president James Gilmore wanted to rent a couple ships and pull up next to the Lusitania, getting a jump on buying the tourists away from their current employers. In response, the Niagara beat them to the punch by sailing out to the ship as it came in.
That wasn't all:
Organized baseball used some ham-handed intimidation tactics to foil the Federal League at every turn. A band of gunmen from the East Side, Tammany Hall's army of strong-arm enforcers, patrolled the streets leading to the waterfront with orders to "intercept" the representatives of the Federal League. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and James Gilmore's Federal League agents successfully made their way to the waterfront by keeping a sharp lookout for, and making some mad dashes to avoid, the Tammany Hall thugs. Having failed to keep them away from the waterfront, the Major Leagues switched gears. James Gaffney, owner fo the Boston Braves and member of the Tammany Hall political machine, used his influence to get the Federal League's ships locked in quarantine.
By blending in with the well-wishers at the dock, Federal League agents were able to slip players cards inviting them to discussions at the Knickbocker Hotel. According to Damon Runyon in Sporting Life, Tris Speaker, Lee Magee, Steve Evans and Mickey Doolan all paid a visit, and the Feds tried to make it worth their while.
Well, some interesting things happened in our headquarters. I saw Tris Speaker fingering a certified check for $18,000, with two $500 bills, which was the Brooklyn Federals' first offer. Speaker finally handed back Ward's money, saying, "For God's sake, men, take this money away or I'll fall. I promised on my word of honor that I would give [Red Sox president John J.] Lannin a chance before I signed up."
Speaker went back to Lannin, and Lannin matched the Federal League's offer. Many other players -- Sporting Life names Walt Leverenz and Sam Crawford -- were similarly able to use the outside offers as leverage with their current clubs. In the end, only Doolan and Evans jumped from that initial rush.
While the tourists had to sift through offers and counter-offers, they also had (at least) one more social event to attend -- a spectacular party at the Biltmore Hotel. Business and pleasure couldn't be separated entirely, as Elfers notes that Doolan and Philadelphia Phillies owner William Baker had a shouting match over the shortstop signing with the Baltimore Terrapins. Likewise, American League president Ban Johnson called the Federal League "pirates" and a "joke" on multiple occasions. National Baseball Commission head August Herrmann was less aggressive, but still dropped terms like "agitators" and "extremists."
That said, other speeches returned to the theme of the world tour, and New York Gov. John K. Tener delivered a speech that must have been music to Ted Sullivan's heart, saying this journey trumped Albert Spalding's exhibition 25 years earlier. Sporting Life ran the transcript:
"As I have already said the first international attempt to scatter the seed of baseball ball dissemination was in 1888-89. There is no doubt that this first world trip of base ball proselytes did much to introduce it in foreign lands but I am free to confess that I consider the tour just completed did vastly more to implant the principles of our national sport among foreign nations than the globe-circling crusade led by that distinguished knight of the early days, A.G. Spalding."
Sullivan had to like this part, too:
"The sun never ceases to shine on the English-speaking race. It ever has been my cherished dream, and I have on innumerable occasions predicted the accomplishment, that in the near future such a statement may be made of our great American outdoor sport. IN every clime and country, and under every sun, base ball will be played. To consummate this condition, to make it a world fact, you, Messrs. Comiskey, McGraw and Callahan, and players of both teams, have done more than I have the time or words to express. You have performed a service to the game and your country that will bear lasting results, for wherever the game is implanted there will indelibly be associated with it the word "America," the American game."
So yes, after traveling more than 30,000 miles stretched out over five months, the tourists returned to the United States and were lauded for making the world safe for baseball, even if the upstart Federal League made it quite the contentious subject at home. That's all great, but ...
What about the fruitcake?
We all remember the 125-pound dessert offered by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company in Seattle back on Nov. 18, 1913. It was supposed to be a trophy for the winner of the American portion of the tour, but since both games were canceled in Washington state, the tourists took it on the ship with the intent to eat it on Thanksgiving. The Pacific Ocean had other ideas, as rough seas killed most of the party's appetites. Plan C called for the tourists to eat it upon returning to America, half at the New York reception, and the other half in Chicago.
Elfers didn't us hanging with regards to confirmation.
The gargantuan fruitcake that the teams had dragged with them since Seattle, miraculously vermin free, was sliced right down the middle. The half featuring John McGraw's visage would be consumed at the party for the Giants at the Biltmore hotel.
So there you have it: 100 years ago today, a bunch of baseball players at a lavish reception probably ate a worse dessert than you did tonight.