Long before American football gained the global popularity that it is known for today, baseball was known worldwide. In 1914, the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox traveled around the world on an international tour. On Feb. 1, 1914, the teams played a 10-inning game in Cairo, Egypt, resulting in a 3-3 tie.
The tour was the brainchild of John “Mugsy” McGraw, who was managing the Giants and would later become known as the most successful manager in baseball, and Charles Cominskey who owned the White Sox. They were both envious of the fame that Albert Spaulding, of sporting-goods fame, gained after leading teams on a tour of several countries during the 1889-90 season. McGraw and Cominskey’s goal was to present a bigger and better tour, with teams that represented the two biggest cities in the United States.
They filled the rosters of both the Giants and the White Sox, but left space for some other famous players. Some of those that joined the tour were future Hall-of-Famers pitcher Christy Mathewson, center fielder Tris Speaker, pitcher Urban Farber and outfielder “Wahoo” Sam Crawford. Among these players was outfielder Jim Thorpe, who was notorious for both his athletic dexterity and for causing controversy in the sports world. After it was found that he was being paid $2 a game to play professional baseball, Thorpe had been stripped of his Olympic medals, and they were not restored until 30 years after his death.
The tour started off on Oct. 18, 1913 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Giants beat the White Sox in an 11-2 victory. The teams then played in other key cities across the United States, including San Diego and Seattle.
In December, the Giants and the White Sox set off to pay a visit to 13 other nations, departing the U.S. by boat. Their first game on foreign soil was played in Tokyo, Japan, where 5,000 people turned out to watch. The second game played in Tokyo gathered 7,000 viewers, and then the teams were off to China. The teams played in Manila, Australia, India, Egypt and Europe. While they were in Italy, the teams met Pope Pius X. They then went on to France, where all their games were rained out. The last country the teams visited was the United Kingdom, where they played in front of 20,000 spectators and King George V. The White Sox beat the Giants 5-4 after 11 innings, with the extravagant game being kicked off by King George V handing the ball to McGraw and Cominskey.
The teams then returned to the United States during the middle of spring training. The players didn’t get any rest before being wrapped up in the 1914 season, and their performance showed that they had been traveling non-stop since the end of the 1913 season. The New York Giants finished 10.5 games away from first place, and the White Sox finished even worse off with a record of 70-84, tying with the newly-named New York Yankees for sixth place.
Although the teams didn’t fare well during the 1914 season, the international tour still has yet to be matched, and will continue to be known as one of the greatest feats of baseball.