May 19, 2013
During the winter of 1888-89, baseball became an international game. A select group of major league players -- 10 from the Chicago White Stockings and 10 others representing an all-star aggregation -- set out from San Francisco in mid-November. Among the players were the game's greats of that age: Chicago stars Cap Anson, Ned Williamson, Tommy Burns and Jimmy Ryan, opposed by John Ward, Sam Crane and Jack Manning among the "All Americans." The trek, organized by Albert Spalding as a means of introducing baseball outside America, started with a cruise to Hawaii and Christmas in Melbourne. There the clubs mixed baseball with cricket, playing against some of the locals; a farewell contest in Victoria drew a reported 11,000 spectators.
The players spent much of January on the Indian Ocean, took to shore in Ceylon for a game in front of 4,500 at a Colombo cricket grounds, then journeyed to Egypt where they docked in early February. The following day, they played a game at the most unusual locale of their journey, the desert sands in front of the pyramids. The All-Americans won 10-6. "I apologized to the Sphinx," Anson later remarked.
The teams played in Naples Feb. 19 before 3,000 in the figurative shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. They scheduled a private game in Rome for a group of students at the American College, and drew a sparse audience in Florence. In Paris March 8 they played along the Seine; in England, one contest in London drew 8,000.
Arriving in New York April 6, the delegation celebrated with a banquet. They had staged 28 games abroad (the All-Americas winning 14, the Chicagoans 11 and three ending in a tie.) And they had succeeded in their principal goal, demonstrating America's national game to the world.
Pete Browning, star outfielder of the Louisville Colonels, signs a $1,800 contract, a condition of which is that he take a temperance pledge in front of a local judge. Disgruntled with the way that club owners control salaries and player movement, a group of players led by John M. Ward organize a new affiliation, the Players League, to take the field in 1890.
The Johnstown flood kills 2,209 persons on May 31.