Monthly Archives: September 2013

Being Black in North Dakota, 1930s

From Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line, by Tom Dunkel (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), Kindle Loc. 1692-1722:

Out-of-state semipros like Ringhofer revolutionized North Dakota baseball. Blacks, however, had a disproportionate impact. They were game changers. Negro League refugees brought with them speed, big-time experience, and often charisma: a combination of qualities seldom found in farmboy ballplayers. Quincy Troupe pegged out runners from his knees during games and at practices amazed wide-eyed kids by chucking baseballs over the left field fence while standing at home plate. Double Duty Radcliffe, who was catching (as well as pitching and playing outfield) for Jamestown, would bet batters $1 they couldn’t steal a base off him. After leaving Bismarck to pitch for the town of New Rockford, Roosevelt Davis paid homage to Paige when he faced his former team. He deliberately walked the bases loaded twice just to see if he could squirm his way out of those innings without giving up any runs. Side bets on his chances of succeeding were probably being taken in the grandstand. Davis escaped both jams unscathed, but Bismarck got the last laugh by cuffing him 13–3.

Many spectators at a Jamestown, Valley City, New Rockford, or Bismarck ball game had never before seen anyone who looked like Roosevelt Davis or Quincy Troupe. They were as rare a sight as winter rainbows. The population of North Dakota in 1930 was 680,845. The census listed 377 “Negro.” Jamestown had two blacks adrift in a sea of 8,187 inhabitants. The towns of Beulah, Valley City, Washburn, and Turtle Lake were 100 percent white. Bismarck seemed wildly multicultural with 11,000 people, of whom 46 were black. Era Bell Thompson graduated from Bismarck High School in 1924, then went to college and became an editor at Ebony magazine in Chicago. Growing up, she felt like an exotic species. White classmates marveled at her pale palms, asked to touch her hair. Whenever the topic of slavery was slated for discussion in history class, Thompson cut school.

Bismarck in the 1930s was not much different from the Bismarck of the 1920s—Era Bell Thompson’s time. Black ballplayers moved freely about town, but they were advised to confine their socializing to the lower-class South Side. You couldn’t safely assume that every proprietor on the North Side would be as ecumenical as Jack Lyons, who even allowed Indians to patronize his hamburger stand. If Troupe, Haley, Paige, and Davis wanted to eat at a restaurant, they knew how the game was played: find one that didn’t mind selling black customers takeout meals at the back door. Beyond the orbit of the state capital, the racial climate tended to be more unstable. During the Depression, Moose Kay, a black drifter, wandered through McLeod, an unincorporated village in the sparsely settled southeast corner of North Dakota. He liked baseball and stopped to watch a game between McLeod and the town of Milnor. Afterward, he offered his services on a barter basis: in exchange for meals and a place to stay, he’d be willing to coach McLeod’s team for the rest of the summer. Moose knew his baseball. Things went swimmingly until the Fourth of July, when a white man, who’d likely done too much celebrating, verbally attacked Kay, who’d also been celebrating. Kay floored him. That punch instantly ended his coaching gig and put his life at risk, as was duly recorded years later in McLeod’s official centennial history: “Moose got scared and crawled on a night freight train. The ball team felt pretty bad over this.”

The veneer of civility could crack under even the slightest stress. Third baseman Joe Desiderato cringed at the way hecklers hounded his black teammates during road games. “I saw the kind of abuse that those guys took,” he told relatives back in Chicago. “Way beyond what people should tolerate.” When the team crossed the border into Canada, the hostility didn’t necessarily diminish. At times, it got worse. Whatever city they were in, Churchill had an all-or-nothing policy. If a hotel or restaurant turned away or disrespected a single Bismarck player, everybody turned on their heels and left together. Said Desiderato, “We always stayed as a family.”

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Gopher Days, 1935

From Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line, by Tom Dunkel (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), Kindle Loc. 2253-2265:

Gopher Days were popular events on the northern plains calendar, even though they amounted to glorified community pest control. No one dressed in furry costumes. Children didn’t amuse their parents by impersonating bucktoothed rodents. People simply had great fun cutting the tails off all the gophers they could catch and kill—live gophers being the bane of every farmer’s and rancher’s existence—and competing for medals and cash prizes. Towns planned street festivals to coincide with the purges, amassing piles of as many as 100,000 gopher tails. On June 14, 1935, the ball teams from Bismarck and Devils Lake played a doubleheader in Brinsmade, North Dakota, as part of its Gopher Day celebration. (Back in Bismarck, state and federal agents were busy chasing bootleggers. They seized 3,397 bottles of moonshine in two raids.) Paige rested in Brinsmade. Bismarck still won both games. Desiderato and Troupe handled the pitching. Neil Churchill had his own cause for celebration, which had nothing to do with gophers or beating Devils Lake. Determined to ease the strain on Paige, he’d put out feelers for additional pitchers. Double Duty Radcliffe—who had landed with the Brooklyn Eagles after Jamestown jettisoned its black players—was willing to return to North Dakota, but couldn’t get released from his Brooklyn contract. On Gopher Day Churchill succeeded in coming to terms with Barney Morris, who’d gone back to Louisiana after the 1934 season. When Bismarck hosted the Kansas City Monarchs the following weekend, Morris was on the mound for the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. He got saddled with a hard-luck 2–1 defeat, but his fastball, curve, and changeup were in fine form. Churchill saw enough to be convinced he had a solid backup to Paige.

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25th Infantry Regiment Black Baseball Champs

From Black Baseball Out of Season: Pay for Play Outside of the Negro Leagues, by William McNeil (McFarland, 2007), pp. 52-55:

The famous 25th Infantry Regiment was the all-black company popularly known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The regiment was formed in 1869 and saw service in the United States, Hawaii, the Philippine Islands, and Mexico. Its baseball tradition had its beginnings in Missoula, Montana, where the first team was formed in 1894 by Master Sergeant Dalbert P. Green, who was instructed to form a regimental team after an informal baseball game between an interracial infantry team and an all-black cavalry team created such interest and enthusiasm that Col. Andrew S. Burt believed that organized teams would be good for morale and would relieve the boredom that existed during periods of peace and quiet on the frontier. Green, who was named team captain, noted that “Players generally furnished their own uniforms and shoes: these consisted of canton flannel drawers (altered by company tailors), a dark blue flannel shirt, and a pair of barrack shoes (heels cut off), stockings, and caps furnished by the players. Practice was held in the evening after retreat, games being played on Sundays and Holidays. The ‘Old Timers’ didn’t take to the game as they do at the present time. An athlete, to be considered, had also to show soldierly qualities of the very highest type.” He considered the 25th Infantry Regiment teams that were stationed in Hawaii between 1914 and 1918 to be among the greatest teams he was ever associated with. As he said, “During my connection with the team it has played against players in different parts of the United States and foreign possessions and who have become famous in both the National and American Leagues, not mentioning the minor leagues at all….

The 25th Infantry baseball team rose to prominence after it was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. They established themselves as the best team on the island of Oahu, and began to compete against college teams and teams of the high classification Pacific Coast League….

The leader of the team was Wilbur Rogan, better known as “Cap,” short for Captain, to his fellow soldiers because of his leadership qualities, not only on the baseball field, but also in army matters….

Rogan seemed to carry the 25th on his back for much of the decade, but he did have help. His teammates included four players who would later follow him to the Kansas City MonarchsDobie Moore, Lem Hawkins, Bob Fagan, and Oscar “Heavy” Johnson—plus Fred Goliath, who would play with the Chicago Giants in 1920, and William “Big C” Johnson, who would join the Dayton Marcos in 1920.

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When Baseball Was Everywhere

From Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line, by Tom Dunkel (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), Kindle Loc. 357-410:

There is no big bang theory of baseball. It evolved, like the blues and the miniskirt. Bat-and-ball games were being played in Massachusetts in 1735 and in Pennsylvania in 1831. The New York Knickerbockers put baseball rules down on paper in 1845, but nine innings weren’t the norm until 1857 and overhand pitches wouldn’t gain acceptance until 1884.

Through every modification, baseball’s popularity swelled. By the end of the Civil War, America finally had a pastime with mass appeal; somehow square dancing and rail splitting had never quite captured the public imagination. A pair of milestones marked the transition to commercialism. In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings put ten players on salary, a luxury the team seemingly couldn’t afford, since the Stockings unraveled within two years. In 1876 the eight-team National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs began play; this was the first entity with the resources and the leadership to survive over time. (That’s the same National League still going strong today.) The 52–14 Chicago White Stockings won the 1876 championship, finishing six games ahead of the spunky Hartford Dark Blues and St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Poet Carl Sandburg grew up in Galesburg, Illinois, in the 1880s on a steady diet of Chicago sports pages, which fed his fantasy that he would someday wake up a big-league outfielder. “What is this fascination about making a hickory stick connect with a thrown ball . . . or running for a fly and leaping in the air for a one-handed catch?” he mused in his memoir Always the Young Strangers. “These questions have gone round and round in the heads of millions of American boys for generations.” Adulthood didn’t necessarily bring definitive answers to such questions.

The professional ranks expanded in 1901 with the spawning of an American League to compete with the National League, but their combined sixteen teams occupied only the top floor of what historian Harold Seymour referred to as the sprawling “House of Baseball.” There was plenty of action below and it wasn’t confined to schoolyards or playgrounds. Industrial and recreation leagues flourished. Grown men by the tens of thousands laced on spikes and lost themselves in takeout slides and doubles that split the gap. Indian reservations had hardball teams. Employees of coal companies, trolley car manufacturers, police departments, funeral homes, and local Communist parties took to the field together in off-hours. As baseball became the language of leisure, it collided with another cherished American tradition: the will to win. The result was predictable. Dollar bills got stuffed into uniform pockets, usually because a company or a town or some civic-minded pooh-bah had lost patience with losing. This semipro ethos infused the farthest fringes of the sport. Dwight Eisenhower earned spending money patrolling center field for a team in the Kansas State League in 1910, registering under the phony surname “Wilson” in order to protect his amateur status. Young Mr. Eisenhower had his eyes on an appointment to West Point and—who knows?—maybe a career in the military. On a summer day in 1915 an estimated 100,000 fans flooded Cleveland’s Brookside Park to watch a game between the White Autos and Omaha Luxers, two regional semipro superpowers.

The WPA Guide for Alabama made mention of “a semi pro team in nearly every town.” Some of the teams courted a broad audience. When Nashville, [Alabama Arkansas], hosted Dierks, [Alabama Arkansas], for a game in 1924, the Nashville News reported, “Ladies will be admitted free, as will one-armed and one-legged men and children under 6 years old.” Up north in New York, the Brooklyn Bushwicks installed lights on their field in 1930, five years before the Major Leagues took the plunge into night baseball.

Family-owned Bona Allen, Incorporated, of Buford, Georgia, had several thousand employees. It primarily produced shoes but also supplied the raw leather used to make baseball gloves. The semipro Bona Allen Shoemakers crisscrossed the Southeast with players earning a princely $300 to $400 a month. The company mounted a giant shoe on a Chevrolet chassis and an advance man would drive from town to town, handing out leather key chains to drum up interest before ball games. There was a standing offer: every member of an opposing team that beat Bona Allen received a free pair of dress shoes. The company didn’t give many away. In 1936, for example, the Shoemakers stomped to a 73–6 record, peeling off a 35–game winning streak. Their ballpark in Buford was a gem. Crowds turned out even when the Shoemakers weren’t there. In-progress summaries from important road games were relayed by Teletype to the Bona Allen plant. Somebody would read the updates over a loudspeaker while hundreds of fans sat in the stands outside cheering a deserted field.

Major League baseball held the line at just sixteen teams until 1961, but a crazy quilt of minor leagues got stitched together by independent hands. As far back as 1909 there were 246 minor league teams loosely tied to 35 leagues. These were rogue operators that sold their best players to the highest-bidding big-league club. In 1921 the Major Leagues chose to take more direct control of their destiny and adopted the farm system. American and National league teams were free to own and operate multiple minor-league affiliates that would feed talent up the organizational chain. Branch Rickey, then running the St. Louis Cardinals, was the visionary godfather of this new business model. The New York Yankees followed a few steps behind him. Those two teams set about assembling well-funded farm systems that would give them a competitive advantage for decades to come. Other teams dragged their feet and paid the price as the Yanks and Cards made regular trips to the World Series.

By 1932 the minor leagues had contracted to 102 teams and 14 leagues, but they were still a vibrant enterprise and still predominantly independent. However, the country remained largely rural and provincial. The automobile was duke, not yet king, of the culture. Fans wanted to cheer for a home team that was only a few blocks from home; all the better if they could walk to the ballpark. Since most major and minor league teams were many miles away, local semipro teams bridged that sports gap, although the definition of “semipro” was elastic. At the “light” end of the semipro spectrum, players received a token salary or passed the hat for donations during games. They’d often put in a full day’s work before slipping on their uniforms. At the opposite, “heavy,” extreme were generously subsidized clubs like the Bona Allen Shoemakers. They charged admission to games, the quality of play was high, the pay was excellent, and work obligations generally minimal. A player’s “job” might be to read the newspaper or to hopscotch bars at night chatting up fans. In 1930 the average minor leaguer earned about $65 a month. It was not unheard of for prospects to turn down a pro contract in favor of sticking with their company or town team. The money was likely to be better and there was the added security of year-round employment, no trifling consideration with the economy a shambles.

This book is far, far better by every measure than the very poorly written Barnstorming Hawaiian Travelers book I’ve just finished. I had to force myself to finish the last one. But once I began reading Color Blind, I couldn’t put it down. It reads well, but unfortunately appears to be very poorly fact-checked in places.

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Hawai‘i Chinese Baseball Team at the Far Eastern Games, 1915

From The Barnstorming Hawaiian Travelers: A Multiethnic Baseball Team Tours the Mainland, 1912-1916, by Joel S. Franks (McFarland, 2012), Kindle Loc. 2220-2242:

Luck Yee told readers that China needed a baseball team to represent it adequately at the Far Eastern games. Thus, sports-minded Chinese authorities went to Hawai’i for help because they knew that “a Chinese baseball team” had made several successful journeys to the American mainland. Furthermore, “Manila people” were anxious to see a Chinese Hawaiian team in action.

The son of a Chinese immigrant father and a native-born Hawaiian mother, Luck Yee described the trip westward as pleasant. He said that he and his teammates would climb on deck to do some warming up. However, “It was a queer experience to get out there the first time, throwing the ball while the ship was dipping and rolling. All the boys, except one or two, held conferences with the sharks and other fishes for a day or more, and then were well, ate heartily and slept nicely.”

Luck Yee had generally kind things to say about Japan. After 11 days at sea, the Chinese Hawaiian ballplayers reached Yokohama. Upon arrival, the team roamed by foot the city’s streets because they could not communicate with the “jinrikisha men.” Eventually, they ate at a Chinese restaurant and spent the night at the Hotel De France. The team seemed to like “Tokio” more. There, they took an “enjoyable” ricksha trek around the city. “Wherever we stopped the people would gather around us wonderingly. We had a hard time trying to obtain information from the policemen. All we could get out of them was a shake of the head.”

Luck Yee expressed less warmth for China. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, the Hawaiians noted the Sampras harboring “poor women, carrying children on their backs and rowing the boats too. Some of them had clothes that were tattered and worn out – poor miserable things. They were hungry creatures.” Before actually setting foot on Hong Kong the Hawaiians were accosted by a disagreeable Chinese customs official, according to Luck Yee. The pitcher claimed this bureaucrat “had the hauteur of an absolute ruler of the place.” He searched the players’ trunks for opium, firearms, and cartridges, and his arrogance, Luck Yee stressed, almost led “to blows.”

Still, Hong Kong merchants entertained the visitors. Luck Yee recalled that during one feast put on by local merchants, “beautifully dressed girls” sang for the players. However, the Hawaiians could not understand the lyrics of what the entertainers were singing until the young women sang Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song” and the “famous Tipperary.”

A motorcade greeted the Chinese Hawaiian ballplayers upon their arrival in Manila. They were then driven to the local YMCA where they stayed. Unable to practice for the 26 days they were ship-bound, Luck Yee and his teammates tried to work out in Manila their first day. The Chinese Hawaiians drew a large crowd to their practice – a crowd that included several opposing players. However, the weather was so hot they decided to do something else with their time after 15 minutes of exercise.

The Manila sporting press, Luck Yee complained, generally “knock[ed] us” before the Chinese Hawaiians took the field. Luck Yee conceded that there was one “contrarian” among the local sportswriters who praised the visitors. Luck Yee wrote, “It was fun to see them jeer at each other through the columns of their respective papers. The more they knocked the harder we played.”

Even though the team played effectively, the Manila sportswriters continued to scoff, maintaining that the Hawaiians were more lucky than good. Still, the visitors drew well – hefty crowds of as many as 10,000. Luck Yee reported proudly that the team tied the “much touted” Manila nine and then savaged another nine of hometown heroes, 10-0. The Manila press started to change its tune, while the city’s Chinese community invited the Hawaiians to a dinner.

Returning to China, the Hawaiians were feted by Chinese President Yuan Shi Kai. The ballplayers received “little mementoes.” However, political trouble was brewing for the President and the Hawaiians were feeling sorry for Yuan Shi Kai. Luck Yee asserted, “Wonderful indeed must be that man who will eventually lead 500,000,000 countrymen.”

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The Wilsonian Reset with Latin America, 1913

From The Banana Wars: An Inner History of the American Empire 1900-1934, by Lester D. Langley (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1983), p. 121:

Thus the military interventions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Wilson era, often portrayed as drastic departures from American practice, had ample historical precedent. What was different about Wilsonian policy toward Hispaniola was the degree of political interference undertaken by the United States to reform its admittedly backward societies and, that failing, the willingness to use military intervention as a means of bringing about reform. It can be argued that Roosevelt had done much to set the pattern for such interfering behavior in the Dominican Republic’s internal affairs with the customs receivership. But Roosevelt had established strict limitations on what he believed the United States should and should not in the republic, and the 1907 treat had reaffirmed these restrictions. We would collect the customs, set aside 55 percent for satisfying foreign claimants, and give the politicians of Santo Domingo the remainder. We would protect the customhouses from the perils of insurrection. After that, if their political house was in disorder—and it usually was—it was their house.

That was Roosevelt and Root‘s approach. Their policy for the republic involved no sweeping American prescriptions for reordering Dominican finances or tinkering with the republic’s chronically disturbed political system. Taft and Knox went much further. In 1912, when revolutionary outbreaks disturbed the frontier, the American minister, William Russell, recommended military occupation of the customhouses and indeed a takeover of the country to bring to an end what he considered barbaric practices—forced recruiting into warlord armies, pilfering of public funds, and judicial corruption.

Wilson and Bryan advocated even more stringent requirements for the Dominican political system. The president personally directed Mexican policy, and he gave Bryan and the State Department considerable latitude in Dominican and Haitian affairs. The Great Commoner was easily the most controversial of Wilson’s cabinet appointees. Acting on the impulse that he must cleanse the foreign service, he zealously removed most of the appointees who had secured their posts under the nascent professional standards inaugurated by Hay and appointed wheelhorses and party hacks in their stead. For Latin American posts Bryan’s housecleaning resulted in the dismissal of ministers with an average of fifteen years’ experience and knowledge of the language of the country to which they were accredited. Most of Bryan’s nominees were simply incompetent, though the new minister to the Dominican Republic, James M. Sullivan, a former lawyer and prizefight promoter (who had been recommended by the secretary of state as one of his “deserving Democrats”), was both incompetent and corrupt. Eventually public revelations about the circumstances of his appointment and Wilson’s intervention brought Sullivan’s removal but not before he had seriously damaged American prestige in the republic.

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Japanese vs. Chinese Baseball in Hawai‘i, 1911

From The Barnstorming Hawaiian Travelers: A Multiethnic Baseball Team Tours the Mainland, 1912-1916, by Joel S. Franks (McFarland, 2012), Kindle Loc. 456-490:

The visits of Japanese baseball teams to the American mainland in 1905 and 1911 helped set the stage for the Hawaiian Travelers baseball team’s initial journey in 1912. In 1905, a contingent from Waseda University traveled eastward to the United States. Under the headline of “Japs as Ballplayers,” the Washington Post told readers that Waseda’s trip to America had enhanced baseball’s popularity in Japan as well as “future international contests between the universities of the Pacific Coast and the Orient.” The Japanese nine, moreover, had improved its play during its stay on the mainland. Waseda offered relatively little competition to Stanford, Cal, and St. Mary’s nines. But in Southern California, the Japanese contingent played better.”

Indeed, in Southern California, the Waseda nine managed to take part in the first baseball game played on the American mainland between two teams representing different non-white racial groups. At a Los Angeles ballpark, Waseda encountered a team from Sherman’s Institute, a Riverside County boarding school for Native Americans. Waseda beat the Sherman Institute nine, which included John Tortez, a talented Cahuilla Indian athlete who became better known as “Chief” Meyers, a solid catcher for the New York Giants. Waseda also defeated a Los Angeles High School nine and, more impressively, a team representing the University of Southern California. In all, according to the Seymours, Waseda won seven of 26 games in the U.S.

In 1911, the Waseda nine returned to the American mainland, as did a team from Keio. These Japanese ballplayers from Waseda had a hard time with Stanford but impressed observers. The Daily Palo Alto saw them as both skilled athletes and racialized exotics: “The Japanese proved their reputation for sportsmanlike playing…. They are a nine of small men and they have to work for everything they get. Their native smallness handicaps them in their playing, but what they lose in size is made up in quickness, and in their taking advantage of every opening offered by the opposing nine.”

The next year the “Chinese Traveling Team” left the islands for the U.S. mainland with the blessings of Honolulu’s Chinese community and haole business interests. The team, affiliated with Honolulu’s Chinese Athletic Club, had raised, according to the Hawaiian Star, $6,000 for the trip. Fortuitously, the notion of sending a team of Chinese Hawaiians to the American mainland brought together Honolulu’s Chinese and non-Chinese commercial
interests. The former wanted to divert white mainlanders from their frequently zealous support of anti-Chinese legislation. The latter wanted to entice mainland tourists and investment. The fact that Japanese teams had toured the American mainland in 1905 and again in 1911 with some success and apparently without any major incidents suggested that the logistics of sending a Chinese Hawaiian nine westward were secure and manageable.

Of course, no one wanted to ship off a contingent of incompetents to mainland baseball diamonds. But Honolulu’s small baseball world knew of a number of very good Chinese Hawaiian ballplayers – ballplayers that would be seen as surprisingly skilled curiosities by many mainlanders. Scattered on various Honolulu teams, players such as En Sue Pung, Lai Tin, and infielder Alex Asam were assembled into an All-Chinese nine just in time to greet the Keio University team when it came to the islands in 1911.

Before taking on the Keio nine, the All-Chinese team easily defeated the best team in the Oahu League, the Hawaiis, 8-2. The Pacific Commercial Advertiser bemoaned the inability of the “Celestials” to enter a team in the Oahu League. As it was, fans were surprised that the league champion could fall so readily to the Chinese Hawaiians.

Meanwhile, many Japanese and Chinese Hawaiians were excited about the Keio-All-Chinese game scheduled for July 12, 1911. The Pacific Commercial Advertiser lamented that the game between Keio and the All-Chinese was scheduled for mid-week. Accordingly, Japanese and Chinese Hawaiian working people, as well as other Hawaiian baseball fans, would be prevented from attending. Nevertheless, the game was slated for late in the afternoon and most Honolulu baseball fans, except for Honolulu’s Nikkei population, seemed to back the local team.

A relatively huge crowd arrived for the Keio-All-Chinese match-up. Apparently, feelings ran high. According to the Advertiser, spectators were warned in English, Japanese, and Chinese to refrain from fighting, a warning which was supposedly heeded. The Japanese team won, 6-3. However, a rematch was arranged and the Advertiser speculated on a possible victory this time for the Chinese Hawaiians. “It will be a great feather in the caps of the Chinese team if they can pull a victory from the Japanese players, and the rejoicing in the Chinese community will beat any Fourth of July and Chinese New Year rolled into one that Honolulu has ever seen.” Meanwhile, Chinese Hawaiian baseball fans persisted in attending and rooting against the Keio nine as the Japanese ballplayers opposed Honolulu’s various multi-ethnic teams.

In the rematch, the Chinese Hawaiians proved too much for the visitors. According to the Advertiser, Apau Kau, “the burly, good natured Chinese … pitched the game of his life.” The score was 5-2 to the advantage of the locals when the Keio players left the field to protest an umpire’s decision. The Advertiser surmised as well that violence was simmering between the Japanese and Chinese spectators. However, “the mounted and foot police came in on the lope and stopped the little `tea party’.”

Things had gotten too exciting for all concerned. A rubber match between the All-Chinese and Keio was, indeed, cancelled. Moreover, at least the Advertiser seemed concerned about Asian Pacific athletes assuming a prominent place in Hawaiian baseball. “Aliens” were hurting the sport on the islands, according to the daily, “and the sooner the Europeans and their descendants get busy, and start the best game on earth going like it used to be, years ago, the better for the peace of mind of the Honolulu people.” In truth, the Advertiser appeared most distressed over the behavior of those Nikkei baseball fans determined to boycott all games between Keio and Hawaiian nines because they believed the Japanese ballplayers got a raw deal in the second game against the All-Chinese.

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Gen. Leonard Wood in Cuba, 1899-1902

From The Banana Wars: An Inner History of the American Empire 1900-1934, by Lester D. Langley (Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1983), pp. 15-17:

The most capable of the military governors was probably William Ludlow, governor of Havana, an engineer, who was sufficiently incensed at the wretched condition of the city that he advocated an American occupation “for a generation.” But the departmental commander with the best political connections was Brig. Gen. Leonard Wood, a physician and career soldier, governor of Santiago, who instituted a regime of cleanliness in the city and meted out public whippings to citizens who violated sanitary regulations….

In December 1899 [President McKinley] named Wood military governor of Cuba and instructed him to prepare the Cubans for independence…. Wood had uncommonly broad authority to accomplish that task. He was, wrote his biographer, “practically a free agent.” Ecstatically optimistic about his task, he declared to the press a few weeks after his appointment that “success in Cuba is so easy that it would be a crime to fail.”…

Wood was already demonstrating the “practical approach to nation building. He arose each morning at 5:30 and began a day of furious routine, signing directives, giving orders, hearing complaints, and undertaking inspections of schools, hospitals, road construction, and public projects. He would even investigate the routine operation of a municipal court. He ran the military government like an efficient plantation owner with a show so southern charm for his Cuban wards coupled with a Yankee sense of organization and efficiency. He dined with the Cuban social elite and conversed with the lowliest guajiro (rural dweller) in the countryside. For sheer intensity of commitment, Wood was unmatched by any Cuban executive until Fidel Castro. Cubans who remembered the old three-hour workdays under the Spanish now had to adjust to Wood’s bureaucratic regime of 9:00 to 11:00, 12:00 to 5:00, six days a week. Wood’s office ran on a twenty-four-hour schedule, with the day-to-day business supervised by Frank Steinhardt, who later became U.S. consul and in 1908 took over Havana Electric Railway….

When Wood stepped down in May 1902 Cuba was not militarily occupied in the same way as, say, Germany after 1945, but it had already felt the imprint of American ways and techniques, expressed through a military regime and stern-minded physician turned professional soldier. Mindful of the biblical injunctions on cleanliness, Wood had proceeded to sanitize the island’s towns by strict regulations on garbage disposal (the Habaneros had always thrown their refuse in front of the house), paving the streets, and whitewashing the public places. Wood was convinced that filth explained Cuba’s epidemics of yellow fever, though an eccentric Cuban scientist (of Scottish ancestry), Dr. Carlos Findlay, argued correctly that the culprit was the mosquito. Wood’s vigorous sanitary campaign nonetheless probably helped control another Cuban scourge, typhoid.

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Death of Venice’s Stato da Mar, c. 1500

From: City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas, by Roger Crowley (Random House, 2012), Kindle Loc. 5454-5511:

Vasco da Gama returned from India in September 1499, having rounded the Cape of Good Hope. The Republic dispatched an ambassador to the court of Lisbon to investigate; it was not until July 1501 that his report came in. The reality of it fell on the lagoon like a thunderclap. Terrible foreboding gripped the city. For the Venetians, who lived with a particularly intense awareness of physical geography, the implications were obvious. Priuli poured his gloomiest predictions into his diary. It was a marvel, incredible, the most momentous news of the time:

… which will take a greater intelligence than mine to comprehend. At the receipt of this news, the whole city … was dumbfounded, and the wisest thought it was the worst news ever heard. They understood that Venice had ascended to such fame and wealth only through trading by sea, by means of which a large quantity of spices were brought in, which foreigners came from everywhere to buy. From their presence and the trade [Venice] acquired great benefits. Now from this new route, the spices of India will be transported to Lisbon, where Hungarians, Germans, the Flemish, and the French will look to buy, being able to get them at a better price. Because the spices that come to Venice pass through Syria and the sultan’s lands, paying exorbitant taxes at every stage of the way, when they get to Venice the prices have increased so much that something originally worth a ducat costs a ducat seventy or even two. From these obstacles, via the sea route, it will come about that Portugal can give much lower prices.

Cutting out hundreds of small middlemen, snubbing the avaricious, unstable Mamluks, buying in bulk, shipping directly: To Venetian merchants, such advantages were self-evident.

There were countering voices; some pointed out the difficulties of the voyage:

… the king of Portugal could not continue to use the new route to Calicut, since of the thirteen caravels which he had dispatched only six had returned safely; that the losses outweighed the advantages; that few sailors would be prepared to risk their lives on such a long and dangerous voyage.

But Priuli was certain: “From this news, spices of all sorts will decrease enormously in Venice, because the usual buyers, understanding the news, will decline, being reluctant to buy.” He ended with an apology to future readers for having written at such length. “These new facts are of such importance to our city that I have been carried away with anxiety.”

In a visionary flash, Priuli foresaw, and much of Venice with him, the end of a whole system, a paradigm shift: not just Venice, but a whole network of long-distance commerce doomed to decline. All the old trade routes and their burgeoning cities that had flourished since antiquity were suddenly glimpsed as backwaters—Cairo, the Black Sea, Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad, Smyrna, the ports of the Red Sea, and the great cities of the Levant, Constantinople itself—all these threatened to be cut out from the cycles of world trade by oceangoing galleons. The Mediterranean would be bypassed; the Adriatic would no longer be the route to anywhere; important outstations such as Cyprus and Crete would sink into decline.

The Portuguese rubbed this in. The king invited Venetian merchants to buy their spices in Lisbon; they would no longer need to treat with the fickle infidel. Some were tempted, but the Republic had too much invested in the Levant to withdraw easily; their merchants there would be soft targets for the sultan’s wrath if they bought elsewhere. Nor, from the eastern Mediterranean, was sending their own ships to India readily practical. The whole business model of the Venetian state appeared, at a stroke, obsolete.

The effects were felt almost immediately. In 1502, the Beirut galleys brought back only four bales of pepper; prices in Venice steepled; the Germans reduced their purchases; many decamped to Lisbon. In 1502, the Republic dispatched a secret embassy to Cairo to point out the dangers. It was essential to destroy the Portuguese maritime threat now. They offered financial support. They proposed digging a canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. But the Mamluk dynasty, hated by its subjects, was also in decline. It proved powerless to see off the intruders. In 1500, the Mamluk chronicler Ibn Iyas recorded an extraordinary event. The balsam gardens outside Cairo, which had existed since remote antiquity, produced an oil with miraculous properties highly prized by the Venetians. Its trade symbolized the centuries-old commercial relationship between Islamic countries and the West. That year, the balsam trees withered away and vanished forever. Seventeen years later, the Ottomans strung up the last Mamluk sultan from a Cairo gate.

Tome Pires, a Portuguese adventurer, gleefully spelled out the implications for Venice. In 1511, the Portuguese conquered Malacca on the Malay Peninsula, the market for the produce of the Spice Islands. “Whoever is lord of Malacca,” he wrote, “has his hand on the throat of Venice.” It would be a slow and uneven pressure, but the Portuguese and their successors would eventually squeeze the life out of the Venetian trade with the Orient. The fears that Priuli expressed would in time prove well-founded; and the Ottomans meanwhile would systematically strip away the Stato da Mar.

The classical allusions of de’ Barbari’s map already contain a backward-looking note; they hint at nostalgia, a remaking of the tough, energetic realities of the Stato da Mar into something ornamental. They perhaps reflected structural changes within Venetian society. The recurrent bouts of plague meant that the city’s population was never self-replenishing; it relied on immigrants, and many of those from mainland Italy came without knowledge of the seafaring life. It was already noticeable during the Chioggia crisis that the volunteer citizens had to be given rowing lessons. In 1201, at the time of the adventure of the Fourth Crusade, the majority of Venice’s male population were seafarers; by 1500, they were not. The emotional attachment to the sea, expressed in the Senza, would last until the death of the Republic, but by 1500, Venice was turning increasingly to the land; within four years, it would be engaged in a disastrous Italian war that would again bring enemies to the edge of the lagoon. There was a crisis in shipbuilding, a greater emphasis on industry. The patriotic solidarity that had been the hallmark of Venetian destiny had been seen to fray: A sizable part of the ruling elite had demonstrated that, though still keen to recoup the profits of maritime trade, they were not prepared to fight for the bases and sea-lanes on which it depended. Others, who had made fortunes in the rich fifteenth century, stopped sending their sons to sea as apprentice bowmen. Increasingly, a wealthy man might look to reinvest in estates on the terra firma, to own a country mansion with escutcheons over the door; these were respectable hallmarks of nobility to which all self-made men might aspire.

It was Priuli again, acute and regretful, who caught this impulse and pinpointed the declining glory it seemed to imply. “The Venetians,” he wrote in 1505, “are much more inclined to the Terra Firma, which has become more attractive and pleasing, than to the sea, the ancient root cause of all their glory, wealth, and honor.”

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Smyrna, 1919: Mustafa Kemal’s Last Chance

From The Sultans, by Noel Barber (Simon & Schuster, 1973), pp. 240-242:

The armistice was barely a month old when Mustafa Kemal reached Constantinople, after month of fighting the Arabs. He found the enemy everywhere – British warships in the Bosporus, French troops in the capital, Italians guarding the railways. The Ottoman Empire had been smashed, all the leaders of the Young Turks were abroad in hiding, the Government was led by an old pro-British diplomat from the reign of Abdul Hamid called Tewfik Pasha.

Mustafa Kemal should have been in a unique position, for with Enver gone he had no rival as the only successful general in Turkey. He was also kn own to have consistently opposed joining the Germans in the war. Yet political power eluded him, largely because of his own lack of tact. He passionately advocated ‘Turkey for the Turks’ in political speeches, demanding generous peace terms. He publicly attached Tewfik’s government and the occupation forces; he tried to stem the timid acceptance of total defeat; he tried to form a new political party as the months rolled by – until Turkey was shocked by a blow which to them was even graver than defeat.

In February 1919, Venizelos, the Greek Prime Minister, made a formal claim to the Peace Conference in Paris for the possession of the city of Smyrna on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. It was the price which Britain and France had already agreed on as a reward for Greek entry into the war. So many Greeks lived on the Aegean coast that Venizelos’ demands seemed reasonably fair, but there was also a more cogent argument in favour of them. Lloyd George regarded Venizelos as ‘the greatest statesman Greece had thrown up since the days of Pericles’ and it seemed to him highly expedient for the Greeks to replace the Turks as protectors of the British route to India. To President Wilson, a Greek occupation of Smyrna would be preferable to Italian threats to make the Mediterranean an Italian lake. According to the American author Edward Hale Bierstadt, ‘at the suggestion of President Wilson Greece was authorised to occupy Smyrna in order to forestall any Italian move in that direction’.

Three months later, on 15 May, 20,000 Greek troops landed at Smyrna, backed by British, American and French warships, and, as Churchill put it, ‘set up their standards of invasion and conquest in Asia Minor’. Delirious crowds of Greeks – for centuries a subject race of the Ottoman Empire – welcomed their ‘liberators’ who immediately sought revenge by massacring as many Turks as they could find in the city and province.

At first the Turks could not believe the Greeks were in Smyrna. It was one thing to suffer the occupation even of Constantinople by alien troops of the victorious Western powers, but for a former subject people to be presented with one of the greatest cities in Anatolia was an altogether different kind of humiliation. A crowd of 50,000 gathered in protest before the mosque of Sultan Ahmed in Constantinople. Under the machine guns of Allied troops, they carried black flags while black curtains shrouded the national flag of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal was there and (as he later wrote) was obsessed with only one thought – somehow to reach Anatolia and organise resistance to the Greeks, and the docile Turkish government which had given Smyrna away.

To Mustafa Kemal, distrusted by both Turks and British, it must have seemed an impossible dream. He was already known to the Allied occupation authorities as an intractable hotthead with dangerous left-wing sympathies. And, though respected for his military prowess, he was at this time hardly a figure to inspire confidence. Furious and impotent, he had let himself run to seed. Down-at-heel, short of money, he was living at the modest Pera Palace Hotel overlooking the Golden Horn. His face was lined and grey from a recurrence of his disease.

Yet, unknown to Mustafa Kemal, the British, even before the Greeks stepped ashore at Smyrna, had suggested that the Sultan should send a high-ranking officer to deal with increasing violence in the area. The request was not exactly a threat, but it masked an alternative distasteful to the Sultan. If the Turks could not keep their Anatolian house in order, the Allies would have to send in troops.

Mustafa Kemal was the last man anyone would have imagined would be nominated to handle the gathering storm in Anatolia. And yet that is exactly what happened, for he was the last man – the only man – available. At their wits’ end, the Sultan and Damad Ferid, the Grand Vizier, turned to him. The British were horrified; they already had evidence that he was concerned with plots to prepare centres of resistance, and his name was on a list for possible deportation to Malta. The Grand Vizier, however, finally persuaded the British that the troubles in Anatolia were due to rebel factions loyal to the memory of Enver and anxious to restore the Committee of Union and Progress….

Mustafa escaped from Constantinople by barely and hour, thanks to the blundering jealousies of the Allies. Urgent orders were certainly sent to intercept him, but the British, French and Italians all played varying parts in the control of passenger vessels, and each distrusted the others. While they were bickering, Mustafa Kemal slipped through the net.

He landed at Samsun on the Black Sea coast on 19 May 1919 – four days after the Greeks had occupied Smyrna. His orders were to disband the Turkish forces in the area. Instead he immediately started to organise a resistance movement and raise an army.

The Anatolian Greeks and Armenians would pay an especially dear price for these external interventions.

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