Bill Staples has done some great work on the Walter Johnson vs. Lincoln Giants game at Olympic Field, Harlem, on October 15, 1911, concentrating on something that I wasn’t really paying any attention to: the fact that the first game of the A’s/Giants World Series was played in New York the day before, on Saturday, October 14. Together with a little more research I did this morning, this gives us a fuller view of the context surrounding that game.
The Philadelphia Athletics had tuned up for the Series with three exhibition games against a team of American League All Stars organized by the Washington Nationals’ manager Jimmy McAleer. The All Stars featured Walter Johnson, Gabby Street, and several other players from McAleer’s Washington squad, along with Ty Cobb and George Mullin from the Tigers, Hal Chase from the New York Highlanders, and a trio of Red Sox—Smokey Joe Wood, Larry Gardner, and Ray Collins.
In Washington on October 10, Jack Coombs, Eddie Plank, and Chief Bender of the Athletics combined to beat Walter Johnson, 3 to 2. The next day, in Richmond, Virginia, the All Stars turned the tables in a 13 to 8 slugfest, and on October 12 back in Philadelphia, the A’s, using three second-string pitchers, edged Smokey Joe Wood and the All Stars 3 to 2.
On the evidence of this exhibition series, McAleer declared the A’s favorites over the Giants in the upcoming World Series:
On Friday, October 13, McAleer’s All Stars went to Baltimore to face the Eastern League’s Orioles. Again Walter Johnson pitched, striking out 11 and walking none, to win 7 to 1. The Orioles’ ace Rube Vickers (32-14 in the Eastern League that year) had been loaned to the New York Giants to pitch on the final day of the regular season against the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 12, but Orioles’ owner Jack Dunn recalled him to work in the exhibition game, no doubt counting on the marquee matchup to swell attendance.
The next day, Johnson, Street, and McAleer were all in New York for the start of the World Series, among a long list of luminaries (both baseball-related and not). Then on Sunday, Johnson and Street played for the “All-Leaguers” against the Lincoln Giants. This means, by the way, that after the regular season’s conclusion Walter Johnson pitched three complete games in six days.
Bill sent a couple of additional reports about the All-Leaguers-Lincoln Giants game. The New York Times account calls the “All-Leaguers” the “All Stars”:
And the Washington Times reports that in the third inning Walter Johnson smacked a foul ball that hit his teammate Bliss sitting on the bench, breaking his nose and sending him to Harlem Hospital.
Bill suggests that the All-Leaguers were not a local white semipro team, but rather a team of major and minor leaguers, many of them perhaps in town for the World Series. The outfielder Mack, for example, could be Connie Mack’s son Earle, who played briefly for Scranton that year; the unfortunate Bliss could be Cardinals catcher Jack Bliss.
Here are the rest of Bill’s comments:
“Johnson is teammates with white players, not black players, so technically he is not a Negro Leaguer. Most likely the “playing WITH Negro Leaguers story” was misremembered by Johnson, or was a misinterpretation by Povich in 1939. I wonder if Johnson is blending memories of two different games: 1) A game where Gabby Street, “the southerner,” played in the 1911 game vs. Lincoln Giants; and 2) Another game vs. Negro Leaguers where Home Run Johnson hit a HR off of him.
“Also, given that Ty Cobb played for Walter Johnson's All Stars just a few days before, and the fact that some stars are in NY for Game 1 of the WS, I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility that “Wagner, ss” is in fact “The White Pop Lloyd,” Honus Wagner. If so, this game puts Lloyd and Wagner on the same field of competition. I don't know much about either player, but have read that the two respected each other as players ... and I had never heard of the two of them competing head to head. So if this is Honus, the box score you found is significant.”
Incidentally, it was John Holway (in his Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues—I don’t have a page reference handy) who suggested that the shortstop Wagner in this game was Honus Wagner. I was initially skeptical because 1) nothing I’ve seen (yet) mentions Honus; 2) there were other infielders named Wagner around at the time (most notably Heinie Wagner of the Red Sox, but also a couple of minor leaguers); and 3) Honus had been hobbled by a serious injury in early September (much cited at the time as one of the main reasons the Pirates lost the pennant)—but he had returned to the Pirates’ lineup by mid-September, so this doesn’t rule him out. If anybody knows for sure, drop me a line.