It was December and nearly Christmastime. Money was needed to buy toys for San Francisco's sick children and orphans. And there's no better way to raise money than to have a baseball game -- especially when royalty is in town.

King David Kalakaua of Hawaii had arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 5, 1890, aboard the USS Charleston. The king's spokesmen said he came for his health and would remain for five or six weeks. He planned to spend all his time in California, a week or so of that in the southern part of the state.

As the king left the Charleston that day, he was greeted by a battalion of cavalry. The Sacramento Union reported that crowds of people surrounded him at the wharf, and the king bowed right and left in acknowledgment. A carriage drawn by four horses took him to the Palace Hotel, where Gov. Robert Waterman welcomed him before a lavish reception.

Kalakaua was familiar with the game of baseball. He was taught about the American national sport by one of its founders, Alexander Cartwright, a native New Yorker who was a financial adviser to the king as well as the fire chief of Honolulu.

It was Cartwright who devised the diamond-shaped baseball field, decreed nine men to the outfield and was responsible for the three-strikes rule.

On Dec. 18 the Daily Alta California announced that local favorites from San Francisco and Oakland would be competing in the baseball game, which would be held Dec. 20 at the Haight Street grounds, where the bleachers could seat 14,000 fans.

"His Royal Highness King Kalakaua has promised to be present, which in itself should insure the presence of a large gathering, as the King has not shown himself to the multitude since his arrival," reported the Alta.

That Saturday turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.

"The diamond was in perfect condition. ... The directors' box was reserved for King Kalakaua and his party and was prettily decorated in front with the Hawaiian standard and evergreens. The grand stand and boxes were filled with ladies and their escorts, while the bleachers were crowded with the devotees of the national sport," reported the Alta on the day after the game.

The Haight Street grounds' park band escorted the two teams, the All-Californians and the Picked Nine, from the clubhouse around the grandstand and bleachers. The bench of the Picked Nine was draped with the American flag, while that of the All-Californians displayed the Hawaiian colors.

The king and his party arrived at 2:15 p.m. The band played "Hawaii Ponoi" and the game began.

Despite a triple by Picked Nine right fielder Ebright, the All-Californians won 12-8. The king did not stay for the whole game. He was a sick man suffering from kidney disease. Kalakaua never saw Hawaii again and died in San Francisco on Jan. 21, 1891.

Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at nildarego@comcast.net.