Countdown to SABR Day 2011: 1910s Cobbette – Shortage of balls nearly terminates 1914 tour game

Cobbette-(128x128)This is post nine in a ten-post countdown to SABR Day 2011. The series is going through the decades of the 20th Century, backwards from the 1990s. On SABR Day itself, there will be a special feature on the 1890s, which will celebrate the significant link between keeping score and baseball history. This article will be published at 05:00 British time in order to coincide with the start of the day in the time-zone of the Cleveland-based SABR office. To view all the Cobbettes published to date, click here.

1910s

During a 50-year period between 1874 and 1924, touring Major League teams visited Britain on four occasions. The third of these was in 1914, when the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox played a 26 February game at Stamford Bridge in London, before a large crowd. Some sources gave the attendance as 30,000, while others suggested it was actually under 20,000. In either case, the number was well above that which would typically gather for a baseball game in Britain.

Various aspects of this game have been well described elsewhere, such as the dignitaries in attendance and the impact on the Anglo-American political relationship in relation to the war effort. So it seems slightly trivial to use the words of this Cobbette to focus on a shortage of balls, but that is the subject nevertheless.

The game was won by the White Sox 5-4 in 11 innings, but at one point it looked like a tie may need to be called. Here is a passage on this from the New York Times (1 March 1914):

“Three dozen new balls had been provided, and also a couple of dozen old ones were taken out for practice, but, owing to the mud around the home plate and the soggy condition of the diamond generally, the balls were used up much faster than was expected. As fast as they were withdrawn from play, they were promptly pounced on by souvenir hunters. Nobody seemed to notice the fact that the supply was almost exhausted until the beginning of the tenth inning, when Umpire Klem discovered that there were only four balls left. Then the managers began to do some worrying. When the eleventh inning was started there were only two balls in sight. McGraw [the Giants’ manager] and others hastily organized a searching expedition after the souvenirs, and had succeeded in locating half a dozen old balls when Daly’s homer solved the dilemma.”

If you have an interesting history snippet to share that has a link to Britain then please send a message to Joe Gray through the Get in contact page. To see all of the work of Project Cobb, which is a Chartered Community of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), click here.

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