“A Game before the Kings and Many Nobles”

24 Oct

While traveling around the world as a member of A. G. Spalding’s 1888-1889 world tour, John Montgomery Ward wrote a series of dispatches for The New York World.  On February 23, 1889 the team played in Rome:

“In the picturesque Piazzi di Siena of the grounds of the Villa Borghese today the American baseball teams played a highly exciting game.  This is one of the favorite resorts of Roman citizens.  Never before in all my experience on the diamond have I seen so many distinguished persons among the crowd of baseball spectators as were in attendance here this afternoon.  The nobility was out in all its glory, and in there center stood his Majesty King Humbert.  He was dressed in a civilian’s suit and apparently enjoyed the sport. “

King Humbert "enjoyed the sport"

King Humbert “apparently enjoyed the sport”

Ward listed every member of the royal party and other “Roman princely families” who were present at the game.

“Nearly all the local literary and artistic celebrities were in the unprecedented royal and papal assemblage, and the applause at times would have stirred the heart of the most enthusiastic admirer of the American national game.  The last time the Piazzi di Siena was used was on the occasion of the marriage of the King’s brother, when the celebration was held on these magnificent grounds.

“The day was beautiful and the players were in fine condition.  During the preliminary practice the crowd of 5000 people was simply amazed at the skill displayed by the boys in batting, throwing and catching the ball.  The game itself was extremely well played, and resulted 3 to 2 in favor of Chicago.   The batting was lively, but nothing could pass the fielders, who played with remarkable energy.”

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

On the day of the game in Rome Ward said the players received word that National league owners were instituting the Brush Salary Classification Plan; a system developed by Indianapolis Hoosiers owner John Tomlinson Brush,  which rated players and placed them into five categories, each with a capped salary.  The Brush Plan, along with the Reserve Clause, would be the major impetus for the formation of the Players League:

“I interviewed every one of the men on the subject.  The scheme, as it is now understood by us, is regarded as a great mistake.  President Spalding, Captain Anson and Ned Hanlon concur in this opinion and say the plan is impossible and will not last long.”

Another issue that rankled players in Rome was the news that National League owners were demanding that the players return to the states by April 1 to prepare for the 1889 season; Ward said of the demands:

“From letter received by various members of the All-American team it is evident that certain managers are endeavoring to force the players to report for duty by April 1st.  For the information of these magnanimous gentlemen I will say that every player in the party will play the trip out.”

The All-Americans returned on April 6.

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2 Responses to ““A Game before the Kings and Many Nobles””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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