Two weeks from today, on June 24, the Cubs will play their first regular-season game at London, England, against the Cardinals.
It may surprise you to learn that the Cubs have played exhibition games at London before: 3 of them, in March of 1889, when they were known as the White Stockings.
The games were Nos. 33-35 of 53 that comprised a round-the-world tour, organized by Albert Spalding, team president of the Whites and founder of the famous sporting goods company.
NEARLY ENTIRE TEAM
The Whites' 10-man roster featured 7 of their 8 regular position players from the 1888 season, led by 36-year-old first baseman Cap Anson, who had slashed .344/.400/.499, and 25-year-old outfielder Jimmy Ryan, whose line was .332/.337/.515.
Ryan had hit 16 homers and Anson 12. Second baseman Fred Pfeffer and shortstop Ed Williams both had hit 12 and had an average of .250. But Williamson had an OPS of .737, to Pfeffer's .674.
Outfielder Marty Sullivan had homered 7 times while batting just .236, with an OPS of .652.
Their best pitcher, Gus Krock (25-14, with a 2.44 ERA) was not on the tour. Their other 2 pitchers with an ERA below 3.00 were: John Tener (7-5, 2.74) and Mark Baldwin (13-15, 2.76).
The Whites had finished 1888 with a record of 77-58-1, good for second place, 9 games behind the New York Giants (84-47-7).
The Whites' opponent throughout the tour was a team called the All Americas. It featured players from 6 other teams in the National League and 2 in the rival American Association.
WEST TO EAST
The tour began with a game in Chicago on Oct. 20.
The teams met again the next day at St. Paul, Minn., then battled in Minneapolis, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Omaha, Denver, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City before arriving on the West Coast.
After several games against one another in San Francisco and Los Angeles, plus 4 "exhibition games" in which one club played somebody else, the Whites and All Americas boarded a steam ship on Sunday, Nov. 18 and headed for Australia.
A week later, they reached Honolulu, Hawaii. They had hoped to play twice during a one-day stopover, only to be told that baseball was among numerous activities prohibited on the Sabbath.
So it was not until Monday, Dec. 10, that the series resumed, with a game at Auckland, now part of New Zealand but then a colony of Australia. The teams then sailed to the Australian mainland, where they played 11 more games in 4 cities. The last, at Melbourne on Jan. 5, attracted a crowd of 11,000.
Over the next 3 months, the Whites and All Americas squared off in Colombo, Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka); Cairo, Egypt; Naples, Rome and Florence, Italy; and Paris, France, the last of those on Friday, March 8.
"The Frenchmen were pleased with the sport," said a dispatch in the next day's Chicago Tribune, "and applauded the good plays liberally. They declare that base-ball is developed from the old Norman game called 'Jehque.' "
The teams left for England by boat that night and arrived the next morning.
"A violent storm -- the worst of the year -- gave them a great shaking-up on the Channel," John Montgomery Ward, captain of the Americas, wrote in the Tribune.
"Some Channel steamers dared not venture out till morning. The immense seas carried away the lookout's bridge and badly frightened all too sick to care whether the boat sunk or not."
A game had been scheduled later in the day at Bristol but was not played because the grounds had flooded. The teams instead headed for London.
The players rested on Sunday, then worked out on Monday before attending a performance of a play in the evening.
From the Tribune:
"Having been invited by Miss Grace Hawthorne to visit the Princess' Theatre, the members of the base-ball teams tonight, after feasting themselves on a literary dish of 'Good Old Times,' feasted themselves on something more substantial when the curtain had fallen.
"A recherche supper had been prepared in the salon to which everybody did full justice."
There were multiple speeches, including one by Spalding, who "dwelt on the happiness he felt on once more hearing his own language spoken after traveling through so many countries where they could not make themselves understood."
READ ALL ABOUT IT!
The first game took place the following afternoon, Tuesday, in South London.
The Tribune devoted a column and a half of its front page to a report by James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald.
Following is an extended excerpt from the beginning of Bennett's account (some paragraph breaks added for easier reading):
LONDON, March 12. -- The American base-ball teams played their first game upon English soil this afternoon, and aside from the miserable condition of the weather the event may without doubt be put down as perhaps the most memorable in the history of the American National game.
The drizzling rain which was falling when the boys turned out of bed this morning ceased toward noon, only to give place to a genuine representative London fog, which settled down like a pall upon the city as well as upon the spirits of the players.
President Spalding determined to carry out the program announced, however, if it was in any way practicable, and at half-past 12 o'clock the teams entered two handsome drag in front of the First Avenue Hotel and were driven to Kennington Oval.
Here a number of prominent members of the Surrey Cricket Club had prepared an elaborate luncheon for the party.
[Bennett then lists notable members of a reception committee, including 2 dukes, 3 earls, 2 viscounts, 4 lords, the lord mayor of London and the consul general of the United States.]
Capt. Anson remarked afterward that, after all, the English nobility embraced a surprising number of royal good fellows.
"We forget entirely," said Anson, "that we are lunching with Lords and Dukes. I never felt more thoroughly at ease in my life, and the rest of the boys seemed to feel as much at home as I did." . . .
AT KENNINGTON OVAL
The players then adjourned to their dressing-rooms to prepare for the game.
Meantime the fog had been growing denser, but the crowd continued to pour through the gates until the club-house balconies were filled and a great assemblage of humanity encircled the oval, their moving figures looking not unlike distant spectres in the sticky, drifting fog.
When play commenced there were 8,000 people upon the grounds, and had the day been fair this number would have been doubled.
Despite the dampening effect of the gloom and rain the liveliest interest in the players and in the game was everywhere manifested among the great crowd.
Every American present was closely questioned as to the rules and points of play, and as to the characteristics and records of the players, and, indeed, it may be safely said that never before have Englishmen been so familiar with the American game of base-ball as they are at the present time.
More from Bennett:
Shortly after 3 o'clock the players took the field for practice, and, although the turf was soft and in the worst imaginable condition for fielding or base running, they gave an exceedingly pretty exhibition of the great American sport, the brilliant throws and catches being warmly applauded as fast as they occurred, and that was pretty fast.
Dr. W. G. Grace and W. W. Read, the celebrated cricketers, watched the work of the men from one of the club-house windows, and time and again accorded the boys their hearty applause.
The anxiety of the crowd to see the game commence, however, soon made itself manifest. After the boys had indulged in ten or fifteen minutes of preliminary practice cries of "Play ball, play ball!" and "Begin the game!" (just as happens on every diamond in America) arose from all parts of the oval.
Thereupon [baseball pioneer and designated umpire] George Wright walked upon the field and called all the American boys to the bat for the game, which opened amidst breathless silence.
As exhibition after exhibition of swift throwing to bases, of pretty fielding, and of clean hitting and desperate base running followed one another, murmurs of admiration were heard, while time and again the crowd burst into hearty applause, which continued to the close of the game.
THE PRINCE OF WALES.
While Chicago was at bat in the second inning there was a stir among the occupants of the grand stand in front of the club-house, and then the hundreds of spectators arose and lifted their hats as the Prince of Wales took a seat at a big window with Prince Christian and President Spalding.
Play was immediately stopped when the Prince appeared, and Capt. Anson, calling the boys up to the home plate, led them in three hearty cheers and a still heartier "tiger" for the Prince.
The act called for responsive cheers from the spectators.
The Prince watched the game with keen interest until the close of the eighth inning, asking President Spalding innumerable questions as the game proceeded, and nodding his head approvingly as he grasped the points of play.
At the close of the fifth inning an intermission of ten minutes was called and the players, led by Ward and Anson, ascended to the Prince's point of view and were formally presented to the future King of England.
The Prince had a pleasant word and a cordial grasp of the hand for each of the players, and complimented them upon their playing.
More cheers greeted the teams as they descended and took the field for the remaining innings of the game.
BACK AND FORTH
When that 10-minute break took place, the Whites were behind by 2 runs. They had scored twice in the bottom of the first, then Teney immediately surrendered 4 in the top of the second, on a 3-run double, a steal and a wild pitch.
"But All America stopped there," Bennett wrote, "and in the sixth Chicago tied the score with some of the prettiest hitting you ever saw. [Pitcher John] Healy could not fool the colts a bit, and the way they rapped him about was a caution.
"It was the same way in the eighth [when the Whites tallied 3 more runs] and thus Chicago won a mighty pretty game [by a score of 7-4].
"Ward and his boys feel sore over their defeat."
The Whites outhit the All Americas, 14-8, as 6 of their players had multiple hits. Pfeffer had 3, including a triple. Anson also tripled.
Each team made 3 errors, which resulted in 5 of the 11 total runs being unearned.
Baldwin struck out 7, walked 3 and hit a batter. On 1 of the strikeouts, catcher Tom Daly gunned down a runner trying to steal second.
Healy fanned 1 and walked 1.
The game took 2 hours, 5 minutes.
BASEBALL VS. CRICKET
Beneath the box score, the Tribune's coverage concluded with these 3 sentences:
"The general impression seems to be that the game is far beneath cricket, and that it will never be adopted in England.
"The Post says that the general verdict of Englishmen, if not cricketers, will be that there is no game they would rather play than base-ball.
"The Daily Telegraph ways that the general opinion will be that the Americans are adepts at throwing and catching, but that the game is merely an elaboration of rounders."
The next day, Wednesday, the teams visited Parliament and Westminster Abbey in the morning, then played again in the afternoon.
"7,000 people witnessed what in the United States would have been voted a rattling good game," Bennett wrote.
"Lord's Grounds, out at St. John's Wood, are the swellest of the swell cricket grounds of London. They embrace two cricket ovals, either of which is as well kept as any of the beautiful grounds visited by the teams in Australia."
The Duke of Buccleuch, president of the Marylebone Cricket Club, told the Americans during the pregame luncheon that the grounds "were not in the pink of condition," owing to the time of year.
"Had you come in the height of the season," the duke said, "we should have been better prepared to receive you. However, we are glad to see you, and you will command us if there is anything we can do to make your stay pleasant.
"I like base-ball, and I am sure that all Englishmen will like it, too, when they come to understand it better."
The All Americas scored 3 runs off Tener in the bottom of the second and stayed in front until the eighth, when the Whites tallied 4 times to take a 6-5 lead.
Anson replaced Tener with Baldwin, who "was bubbling over with speed, and a murmur of admiration arose every time a ball left his hand and whizzed over the plate."
Not enough balls did so, however, as he walked the leadoff batter, who went to second on a passed ball and scored on a single.
A steal, an out and a sacrifice fly then delivered what proved to be the winning run.
Thursday's rubber game of the London series was held "on the velvety lawn of the Crystal Palace grounds, as beautiful a spot, perhaps, as there is near London," Bennett wrote.
"When the game commenced there were comparatively few people present, but before the third inning had been played out the assemblage had swelled to thousands."
The crowd was estimated at 6,000.
The All Americas scored single runs off Baldwin in the first 2 innings.
The Whites tied the game in the third. Tom Burns circled the bases when his grounder to third was thrown wildly past first. Then Baldwin walked, stole second and came home on a single.
The deadlock remained until the seventh. Pfeffer walked, moved to third on a steal and passed ball, and scored on a double Burns -- just the Whites' fourth hit of the day.
With 1 out in the top of the eighth, Sullivan threw out a batter trying for a triple.
"Then [Ned] Hanlon hit safely and tore up ten feet of the turf in a tremendous slide to steal second -- a feat that set the crowd wild with delight.
"Their enthusiasm then, however, was nothing compared to that manifested when Tom Brown sent the ball whizzing over the heads of the crowd into the far centre. It always was a grand sight to see Brown scoot around the bases, but never did he do it in grander style than when he made that hit.
"The cheers which began at the moment he started continued until long after he had crossed the plate with Hanlon ahead of him, thus scoring two runs for All America."
They added another in the ninth, then retired the Whites in order to complete a 5-3 victory.
June 24 will be the Cubs' first game back in London in 124 years, 3 months and 10 days.
REST OF TOUR
Over the next 13 days, the teams played in Bristol, Leighton and Birmingham, England; in Glasgow, Scotland; in Manchester and Liverpool, England; and in Belfast and Dublin, Ireland.
On March 28, they departed for the United States, where they played 9 games in 8 cities, with the finale on April 20 in Chicago, where the historic tour had begun exactly 6 months earlier.