Tour Team 1889

The game of Cricket has been the staple of British sporting appetite for hundreds of years. This somewhat slow paced and leisurely game has dominated the summers of many British boys and men. However a hundred and twenty five years ago this March another summer game was selling its wares across the world and in the spring it came to Liverpool.

The origins Baseball at this time was built mostly upon myth and legend but what was a fact was the growing appeal for a quicker and easily understood game. Albert Spalding perhaps Baseball most important pioneers saw that he could export the American game to countries who for the most part played Cricket.

Starting in Australia in 1888 he took his Chicago White Stockings and an All American team to Cairo, Naples, Paris and Dublin. By 1889 the tour was coming to close to its finish and after failing to get his exhibition game played in the Coliseum in Rome Spalding brought the team to London to play at the Coliseum of Cricket the Oval.

By the time the Americans arrived in London the story had been picked up by the Liverpool Echo looking to promote the later game which would take place in the city. For many in the country Baseball was not taken seriously as game being described as ‘…merely an elaboration of Rounders’ by the Daily Telegraph.

However one major difference between Baseball and all British sports was the professional nature of the game. The same year the Americans came to Liverpool the first professional players especially in football were emerging. With salaries for £400-£600 being earned on the American teams some feared football heading the same way.

The Exhibition tour had been fairly straight forward as the two American teams simply played one another. However in Liverpool a slightly different opportunity presented itself as the Liverpool Rounders Association offered to play the Americans.

With the Liverpool team offering to play the Americans the game instantly became an international fixture. The two sides were to play two games one of Rounders and one of Baseball with a large crowd expected to see whose game was the better.

The Liverpool Echo stated around five thousand turned out to the Police Athletic Ground in Fairfields to see the spectacle of the day.

Before the games against the Liverpool Rounders Association however a game was still to be played between the Chicago White Stockings and the All American team. The Liverpool Echo describe the Baseball players as ‘…splendid specimens of trained men…’ which had it was said attracted many ladies to the game. The two teams got underway but after only five innings the game was interrupted with the score standing at 2-2.

The interruption was caused -whether intentionally or not- by the appearance of the Liverpool Rounders Association to the field. The arrival of the ‘internationals’ -as the Rounders team were referred- led to the American’s abandoning their game. The first match between the internationals and the Americans was to be Rounders which according to the Echo the away team didn’t take very seriously.

The home fans felt they had the advantage and many were offering substantial odds on the internationals beating the Americans. Sufficed to say the home fans were not disappointed as the Americans were all out in the first innings for six whereas the internationals notched up 16 in their first inning.

The second inning saw some improvement from the Americans but they still only managed to score eight which saw the internationals win 16-14 after playing only one of their innings.

For the Americans however the Rounders match was of little concern and the Baseball game was the time to be serious about the competition.

A report in the Liverpool Echo stated ‘This game was ludicrously funny as the Englishmen were as much at sea at the national sport of America as the it was vice versa…and the general intricacies of the game puzzling the Rounders men who were no match for the tricky Yankees.’

The ‘tricky Yankees’ however seeing how lost the British were at the game coached the international team through the match. However after four innings without a single international player hitting the ball the Americans won 17-0.

Whether the crowds had been entertained by the two games is unclear but the report in Liverpool Echo stated ‘It will be safe to say that the majority of the spectators present were not greatly impressed with the game and there is little fear of it ever becoming popularised in England to the disadvantage of cricket.’

The report in the Liverpool Echo was right that Baseball would never over take cricket in the city but the games legacy was to live on. After the game small Baseball leagues have existed in the Merseyside area and the 1930s the game was major summer sport with teams such as the Liverpool Giants and the Wirral team the Caledonians dominating the sport.

A hundred and twenty five years later Baseball still has a foot hold in the city as the Liverpool Trojans prepare for the 2014 season in Bootle.