The crowd began congregating on a gray, drizzly December morning in 1890 at San Francisco's Clay Street Wharf. Bracing themselves against the cold wind and brisk dampness of the seafront, people from all walks of society had assembled in response to the arrival of the U.S. Navy flagship Charleston, which sat anchored in the bay. Undaunted by the dreary weather, the throng waited patiently in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Charleston and its famous passenger, David Kalakaua, the King of Hawaii. The King disembarked at fifteen minutes to four o'clock in the afternoon and, accompanied by Admiral George Brown, boarded a twelve-oar barge that rowed him ashore. Shouts went up as royal salutes were fired from other ships in the harbor, and smoke enveloped the entire scene. Emerging from the smokescreen, the barge reached the gangplank and the coxswain shouted, "Way enough! Toss oars!" King Kalakaua, cutting an impressive figure in his Prince Albert coat and a black, chimney pot hat, stepped onto the wharf and was greeted warmly by General John Gibbon and the Fourth United States Cavalry. The King acknowledged his crowd of admirers and was escorted to one of twelve carriages waiting to transport the dignitaries up Market Street to the Palace Hotel.For more about the earliest baseball in the Hawaiian Islands, see Punahou and Baseball in the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Numerous events were held in the King's honor, including an all-star baseball game staged five days before Christmas at Haight Street Grounds between a team of native Californians who played in the eastern professional leagues and a group of locals from the California State League.' The King, whose attendance made him the first monarch to attend a baseball game on American soil, was quite familiar with the sport thanks to his financial advisor, Alexander same Alexander Cartwright often credited with creating the modern game. The King's presence was a measure of how far Cartwright's favorite game had progressed.
The story goes that baseball was introduced in the West during Cartwright's journey to California via wagon train during the Gold Rush. Whether true or not, it is almost certain that he or some other veteran of East Coast "base ball" planted the seed, and by the early 1850s there were accounts of people playing "town ball" in the streets of San Francisco. Cartwright did not linger, instead sailing on to Hawaii where he sent for his family and became a prominent citizen. By the time of his death in 1892, Cartwright's connection to baseball was forgotten, even in his native New York. Nearly a half-century would pass before the ex-bank clerk/volunteer fireman and his Knickerbockers teammates received credit for their contributions to the game. By that point, the Abner Doubleday myth was entrenched and Cooperstown had the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Although Cartwright may have been forgotten, the game he promoted was not. It developed, thrived and spread everywhere, including the West. Teams were soon being established all over California, although they initially functioned as social clubs requiring little physical activity beyond drinking and exaggerated storytelling. That began to change by 1860 when players from Sacramento and San Francisco met in a state championship series. The San Francisco team, the Eagles, captured the silver ball engraved "For The Best Base Ball Playing, September 25, 1860."
08 October 2014
Pacific Coast Baseball, 1890
From The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957, by Dennis Snelling (McFarland, 2011), Kindle Loc. 80-98: