We are now in early fall of 1923, and it was something of a nervous time — for various reasons — in Peterborough. What was going on over there between Germany and France? Was the Prime Minister about to create a diplomatic spat with Britain? And, indeed, was Peterborough going to win? Read on, for bad news from abroad, an important moment in Canadian history, and as hinted yesterday, baseball — quite a lot of baseball, in fact.
In the western part of Germany, in what is now the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, lies the Ruhr Valley, and it was there that the eyes of Peterborians attuned to foreign affairs were peering this week in 1923. The “Ruhr Crisis,” as it is now known, had been precipitated when Germany defaulted on the onerous reparation payments to France that had been included in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. France’s response to the default: the occupation of the heavily industrialized Ruhr.
Needless to say, Germany was up in arms about this, although not, again due to the Treaty of Versailles, literally. In fact, the reaction of Germans living in the Ruhr Valley was one of passive resistance, with strikes being one of the more common manifestations. However, in late September of 1923, those protests seemed to be losing their impetus. On September 24th, the Peterborough Examiner reported that German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann had declared that “[r]esistance must be given up without condition,” and this duly occurred. The French occupation of the Ruhr would last until 1925, and, among other things, helped fuel the rise of right-wing nationalism in Germany that would culminate in the events of the 1930s in that country.
Halfway around the world meanwhile, news reports were still coming in about the massive earthquake that had devastated Japan on September 1st. “Hero Ship of Quake Horror Reaches Home” read the headline in the September 24th Examiner, recounting the arrival of the Empress of Australia in Vancouver. The ship had been in Yokohama when the quake struck, and her crew and passengers had provided valuable assistance in the immediate wake of the disaster. As the newspaper reported:
“Dr. Rose, the ship’s surgeon, organized an emergency hospital. Hundreds of injured were aided. Countless scores of operations were performed. Passengers served under the command of the ship’s officers. The women formed a sewing circle and for days stitched ceaselessly to turn out garments for the people.”
The earthquake, which spawned a series of deadly firestorms, killed more than 140,000 people, and left close to two million homeless. It also provoked anti-Korean rioting in Japan that killed thousands more.
We turn now to Canadian matters, as Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was preparing to set off for the Imperial Economic Conference in London. Despite the name given to the gathering, Imperial foreign policy was to be the main item on the agenda, and the September 21st Examiner betrayed a little bit of anxiety about what Mackenzie King might do or say on Canada’s behalf:
“…we are invited to join in policy of defending communities which bear precisely the same relation to the Empire and to us as we do to the Empire and to them. For Canada to stand absolutely aloof would be to say to Great Britain that we wholly indifferent to the defence of the Overseas Dominions, of which we ourselves are one.”
The Conference was to be an important, if over-looked, episode in Canada’s history. Canada did indeed, to a certain degree, “stand aloof,” and helped secure an agreement under which Britain would no longer have the final say over foreign policy decisions by the Dominions. Canada, and the other “outlying” countries of the Empire, would henceforth have the right to negotiate their own treaties and make other such decisions, so long as they did not harm their Imperial colleagues in doing so.
In Peterborough, meanwhile, the kids were back in school, the fall had arrived, and nothing terribly extraordinary was going on — with one exception. As we alluded in yesterday’s brief post, the big news in the city of Peterborough 92 years ago this week was to be found on the baseball diamond. The Ontario Baseball Amateur Association playoffs were underway, and Peterborough’s teams were — to put it mildly — having a fine time. Of the six levels of competition sanctioned by the OBAA — Bantam, Midget, Juvenile, Junior, Intermediate, and Senior — city clubs had already captured the provincial title in one (the Peterborough Rotary Club were Bantam champions), and were steaming in that direction in four others.
On Saturday, September 22nd, the four teams took to various fields, prompting the Examiner headline above. And it was a successful day, too; only the Peterborough Maple Leafs, chasing the Juvenile championship, were beaten, by a Hamilton team that would go on to clinch the title with another victory the following week. The Peterborough Curlers, however, defeated Hamilton’s Midget entry to clinch the provincial honours. At the Intermediate level, the General Electric team eliminated Oshawa to advance to the East Ontario finals. Meanwhile, thanks to a no-hitter thrown by pitcher Frank Whitehouse at Riverside Park, the Lakeviews club took a 1-0 series lead against Niagara Falls in the Junior finals. The September 24th Examiner called the local teams’ efforts “a mighty nice afternoon’s work.”
Niagara Falls would tie the series against Lakeviews on the following Saturday, but the Peterborough side won the decider on October 3rd. And so Peterborough’s provincial championships now stood at three out of a possible six, with the Canadian General Electric squad still in action.
As for the “Electricians,” as they were inevitably known, they faced Brockville in the best-of-three East Ontario Intermediate final. The enemy took the first game, 10-1 on September 27th, but the C.G.E. team settled down, beating Brockville 9-2 in Peterborough on October 1st, and winning the series with a 15-11 victory in Napanee on October 5th (deciding games, at that time, were typically played at neutral venues). Off to the provincial final, against the West Ontario champions from Welland. The General Electric team duly made it four provincial championships for Peterborough, winning the opener 3-1 on October 10th and clinching things by a 10-6 score on the 13th.
To have two-thirds of the provincial baseball titles residing in Peterborough was a remarkable thing, and the local newspapermen were thrilled about it even before the championships were in the bag. A September 21st Examiner article described the baseball extravaganza as a thing “probably never produced before in any place throughout the length and breadth of this broad Dominion.” And the writers saw other benefits beyond the boost to civic bragging rights; on the eve of that “biggest baseball bill in Peterborough’s history,” the Examiner wrote:
“A reputation as a live sporting town is a very useful reputation to obtain, for it is generally recognized that a good sporting town is a good business town… For [that reason], as well as for their own fine records, the members of the various Peterborough ball teams who tomorrow will spread the name of their home city far and wide deserve general thanks and generous support.”
Amazing thought it may seem, the baseball excitement in Peterborough at this time was not limited to the performance of the city’s teams. Local fans could look forward to an exhibition all-star game scheduled for October 13th at Riverside, a benefit match for the Marmora chapter of the Great War Veterans’ Association. The organizers of that had scored a real coup, too; among the visiting stars would be Tris Speaker, the all-everything Cleveland Indians superstar. I need to do a little bit more research on that event, but it was a day at the ball park that deserves its own post here!
With that, we will leave Peterborough celebrating its baseball triumphs; next week, it will be time to look at the very beginning of October, 1924. In the meantime, here is a look at this week back in 1871!