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Sculpture Genesis of Historical Jaunt Down Memory Lane

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
May 9, 2005

Dear Babe: I have a plaster-of-Paris sculpture, approximately 6 inches tall, of a seated baseball player. Can you tell me anything about it from the attached images?
Mary Wall, Washington, D.C.

Da Babe loves history and you've opened the floodgates. The sculpture isn't extremely valuable, but it is part of a great story. It is a souvenir from a dinner celebrating the return of the ballplayers to the U.S. from the 1913-1914 world tour, said Robert Lifson, president of Robert Edwards Auctions in New Jersey. It's a nice item worth $300-$500 or so.

Even though it was the most extensive tour ever undertaken by Major League players, it was all but forgotten thanks to the outbreak of WWI. Forgotten until James Elfers came along. His "The Tour to End All Tours: The Story of Major League Baseball's 1913-1914 World Tour" hit bookshelves in 2003. Elfers is a member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) and a library assistant at the University of Delaware.

After doing a little online research and exchanging e-mail messages with Elfers, here's the short version.

The tour roster included future Baseball Hall of Fame members "Wahoo" Sam Crawford, Urban "Red" Faber, Tris Speaker and Christy Mathewson. Mathewson played in the U.S. games but backed out of the trip overseas. Legendary Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem also went on the tour.

The highest profile name on the tour was probably Jim Thorpe, the star of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Thorpe was with the Giants, having been stripped of his medals because he had played a few games of baseball for money prior to the Olympics.

The tour, hatched over drinks in the back room of a Chicago bar, was the brainchild of baseball's leading lights back then - New York Giants manager John McGraw and Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey.

The Giants and White Sox were supposed to provide the players for the tour, but in the end, others including Speaker supplemented the teams.

The barnstormers began playing in mid-October after the World Series and didn't finish until a celebration in Chicago the following March. It started with a 27-city American mini-tour in which the teams played 31 games in 34 days.

Then, they headed around the world starting in the Far East, playing in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Shanghai and the Philippines. The squads logged some 30,000 miles as they sailed to Australia, India and Egypt before heading across Europe. The teams played Italy, France and England. There were also side trips without ball games to Monaco and Ireland, Elfers said.

While the trip started with squads sailing through a typhoon en route to Japan, the return trip across the Atlantic was uneventful. However, the teams sailed home on the Lusitania - the luxury liner that would be sunk two years later when a German U-boat torpedoed it.

"There were actually two welcome home banquets, the first in New York, held at the Biltmore Hotel on Saturday March 7, 1914," Elfers said. "The Chicago dinner was held at the Congress Hotel in Chicago three days later. The New York banquet focused on the Giants and the Chicago gala focused on the White Sox."

"This particular item is a new one to me, but there were a lot of mementos made especially for these dinners. There were boxes of commemorative cigars distributed at both events."

He noted that there are references to "wax dolls" in baseball uniforms. It's possible that your plaster-of-Paris item was described that way.

Dear Babe: I have a Highland Mint sports memorabilia item from Ted Williams. It is an autographed 8x10 black and white picture along with a piece of a bat. It's in a sealed frame and it's marked 08/15. I think that means only 15 were made.
Eric Pinzon, Riverside, Calif.

I checked with the folks at The Highland Mint. They did release a game-used bat/autographed photo combo in the late 1990s. It sold wholesale to dealers for $98 and retailed for $150-$300. Today, it's worth around $500, said Phil Castinetti of Sportsworld in Everett, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

Want more? Check out another Babe Waxpak column every Thursday exclusively on Redding.com.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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