by Linda Dyer
I actually found this object in a Tucson thrift shop, cost three dollars and purchased with no particular reason in mind. It had a certain charm and could make a cool gift box or package decoration for a baseball-loving friend.
It has remained with similarly sourced items, all gathered with the same general lack of intention. Then a purging binge took hold; it reappeared, and my history detective kicked in.
Well, what a story it tells. It is a memento from a dinner held in 1914. The box, which once held cigars, was one of those given as favors to approximately 600 men in attendance at a black-tie event that celebrated the culmination of an international professional baseball tour that featured the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox.
The tour, a marketing opportunity packaged under the guise of a celebration of American baseball, was the brainchild of the New York Giants’ John “Mugsy” McGraw and Charles Comiskey, then owner of the Chicago White Sox.
It would begin as a barn-storming trek across the country right after the 1913 World Series. The tour roster was augmented from the start with additional players—Tris Speaker, Christy Mathewson, and Jim Thorpe, to name just a few.
The 27-city American leg of the tour alone drew 100,000 fans as the teams played 31 games in 34 days. Upon reaching the West Coast, the players, accompanied by promotors, a few wives, and the press, set sail to demonstrate their athletic talents in 13 nations and travel over 30,000 miles, mostly by water and rail.
The tour’s first stop on foreign soil would be in Tokyo, and, going from east to west, the last one would be in London. In between, the travelers would visit cities in China, the Philippines, Egypt, Ceylon, France, and other countries with at least a basic ballfield, playing exhibition games against local teams and against each other.
The baseballers were very well received along their way. At that last stop on the tour, the Sox defeated the Giants 5 to 4 in 11 innings in front of 20,000 spectators, including King George V.
They headed home on February 28 in style—aboard the Lusitania—and a banquet welcoming the players home was held at New York City’s opulent Biltmore Hotel on March 7.
There is a photograph that can be found on the Internet of that evening, black-tie attendees standing in the dining hall, all facing the camera. Showing approximately 600 men, the photo is captioned “Dinner In Celebration Of The Home Coming Of The World’s Tour Players, Hotel Biltmore, March 7, 1914, Players & Baseball Men.”
I was able to find another box, in lesser condition, that sold at auction. Its hammer price was $400. That comparable would put a pre-sale estimate on this box at $400 to $600. There are plenty of baseball metaphors for this find, and I will be rethinking its future place.
Linda Dyer serves as an appraiser, broker, and consultant in the field of antiques and fine art. She has appeared on the PBS production Antiques Roadshow since season one, which aired in 1997, as an appraiser of Tribal Arts. If you would like Linda to consider appraising one of your antiques, send a clear, detailed image to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send photo to Antiques, Nashville Arts Magazine, 644 West Iris Dr., Nashville, TN 37204.