It’s been one century and five years since the Chicago White Sox trounced the New York Giants in an exhibition game played in Tokyo, December 6th, 1913.
The game, part of a world tour to spread the love of baseball, was only a small slice in a much larger pie, which predates both world wars.
It started on October 18, 1913, in Cincinnati, crossed the United States westward, stopped briefly in British Colombia the end of November, then headed to Japan.
One can find the whole story in detail in the book, The Tour to End All Tours, by James E. Elfers.
Lasting from the winter of 1913 into the spring of 1914, the two baseball teams landed on their first foreign soil the 6th of December after battling a typhoon at sea.
That storm, often a footnote in this tale, nearly sank the boat. History could have recorded the tour as the worst disaster in baseball when the greatest players of the day perished at sea, but it didn’t.
On the 6th of December, against seasickness and a busy schedule, the players offloaded to play their first game outside of America.
They had to celebrate Thanksgiving on the fly, but most of the players often not to eat due to travel sickness.
Making matters worse, their ship, the RMS Empress of Japan, sailed headlong into a storm the night of Thanksgiving. A wave slammed the boat, injuring one player who fell and cut his hand.
The next day the storm worsened, tossing them about the sea for the better part of two-weeks. By many firsthand accounts, they barely made it through.
In an interesting side-note, there was a media crew on board, a filmmaker by the name of Frank McGlynn. Reportedly, because that footage is apparently lost, McGlynn managed to film some of the storm from the deck, despite not having waterproofed equipment.
By the 6th, they made it to port.
Arrival in Japan
The ship arrived in Yokohama with limited supplies. They needed provisions, but mostly fuel, coal for the rest of the journey.
The players needed vaccinations for further travel to Australia, but they also had to get to Tokyo for the first game. As travel is wont to go, it was rush, rush, rush.
That said, the people of Japan greeted them like heroes returned from war.
Foreign Game One
They’d already missed two exhibition games, one in Kobe, and another in Osaka. With so many other stops ahead of them, the storm had prevented them from going back. As it was, moving forward through time would prove challenging enough.
The players traveled on rickshaws to their hotel for some food first, then to the field in Tokyo. There, thousands of Japanese citizens, baseball fans and curious onlookers filled the stadium.
Japanese college teams had been playing baseball for decades, but they were not considered worthy rivals at that time. The Americans players would soon learn the worthiness of the Japanese players.
For the game on the 6th, the White Sox played the Giants, beating them 9-4. We don’t have much on the actual game’s play-by-play, but one can imagine the intensity in that stadium.
After that first day, the American teams cobbled together a scrimmage team to play a team of Japanese players at Keio University. Although the Japanese players took the first point, they didn’t win, but they gave the American a much harder time than they imagined. Lesson learned.
From Japan, the RMS Empress of Japan would sail to Australia, India, Egypt, Europe, and eventually back to the United States.
Thankfully, there were no more typhoons.