As it is October [apparently], I started thinking about the World Series. The history of the Series, of course, is long and legendary. That first World Series, however, is the topic of our trip down memory lane today.
1903 Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Boston Americans [Red Sox]
The very first World Series - in 1903 - paired the National and American League champions in a Best-of-9 series. The Pirates were competing in their 22nd season in 1903 - although they were known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1882-1890. During most of those seasons, the Pirates were a middling-to-good team [with the exception of the 1890 crew, who somehow managed to go 23-110 without being run out of town], but one that never finished higher than 2nd place. At the turn of the century, however, the Pirates were becoming a force. They began a streak of three straight National League pennants in 1901. The team featured future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner and stars Deacon Phillippe and player-manager Fred Clarke. The 1902 Pirates were nearly perfect, going 103-36 in winning the pennant. By 1903, then, it was no surprise to see the Pirates take the National League crown again, finishing 6 1/2 games ahead of John McGraw's New York Giants. At 91-49, then, the Pirates were formidable.
Against them were the relatively new Boston Americans in the relatively new American League. For the first two years of their existence before 1903, the Americans finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. The Americans featured Hall of Famer Cy Young and stars Bill Dinneen and Patsy Dougherty. In 1903, the Americans went 91-47, finishing 14 1/2 games ahead of Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.
Managing the Pirates was the aforementioned future Hall of Famer, Fred "Cap" Clarke. Two days shy of his 31st birthday, Clarke was a player-manager, as were many of the managers at the turn of the century. Clarke played the outfield, batting .351 in 1903, with 32 doubles, 15 triples and 70 RBIs. At the helm of the Americans was 33-year old Jimmy Collins, another future Hall of Famer and another player-manager. Collins played third base and batted .296 in 1903 with 33 doubles, 17 triples and 72 RBIs.
The Series began on Thursday, October 1st in Boston's Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. In addition to the teams, 16,242 fans found one reason or another to skip work, school or some other responsibility to take in the first game of the first World Series. On the mound for the visiting Pirates was Deacon Phillippe, a 31-year old right-hander who finished 25-9 in 1903, completing 31 of the 33 games he started, while compiling a 2.43 ERA. Opposing him was right-hander Cy Young, who brought with him to the mound that afternoon a mind-bending 379 career victories. At age 36, he had another 132 victories in his future. Young - who jumped to the new American League at its inception in 1901 after a career spent primarily with the National League's Cleveland Spiders - finished 28-9...downright pedestrian for the future Hall of Famer [after winning 33 and 32 games respectively for the Americans in 1901 and 1902]. For 1903, Young compiled a 2.08 ERA, completing 34 or his 35 starts.
The Pirates were not the least bit intimidated by Young's greatness. Indeed, it was a long first inning for Cy, as the Pirates plated 4 runs - all after Young retired the first two batters. Pirate third baseman Tommy Leach laced a triple to right field. Shortstop Honus Wagner followed with a single, scoring Leach. Wagner then stole second and went to third after Prates' first baseman Kitty Bransfield reached on an error by Americans' second baseman Hobe Ferris. Bransfield - hardly fleet afoot with only 13 stolen bases - took off for second with Young in the stretch. Perhaps shocked at the immobile Bransfield's flight path, Americans' catcher Lou Criger unleashed a throw to second that sailed into the outfield, allowing Wagner to score and Bransfield to reach third. After Young walked Pirate second baseman Claude Ritchey, the slower-than-Bransfield Pirate stole second base. With runners on second and third, Pirate rightfielder Jimmy Sebring hit a two-run single, giving the Pirates their 4-0 lead.
While Young set the Pirates down in the second, in the top of the third Bransfield tripled to right and Sebring singled him home, giving the Pirates a 5-0 lead after three innings. The Americans' second baseman Ferris' lousy day continued in the fourth, as he once again booted a grounder hit to him, allowing Pirates' centerfielder Ginger Beaumont to reach first. Young should not have been too shocked by the shoddy defense, however, as Ferris committed 40 errors [playing both second and shortstop] in 1903. Nonetheless, when Leach singled, Beaumont scored from second, making it 6-0 Pirates.
While Young settled down in the fifth and sixth innings, the Americans simply were unable to touch Phillippe, managing only two hits off the Pirates' hurler through six innings. It was not until the bottom of the seventh - after the Pirates' Sebring raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run in the top of the seventh to make it 7-0 - that the Americans finally broke through. Back-to-back triples from Buck Freeman and Freddy Parent finally broke Phillippe's shutout. Americans' first baseman Candy LaChance hit a long sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Parent. But that was all Phillippe would allow, and the Pirates led the Americans 7-2 after seven innings. The Americans could only muster another run in the bottom of the ninth [another sacrifice fly by LaChance]. With that,Phillippe retired pinch hitter Duke Farrell [batting for Young] on a comebacker to the mound for the final out, and the Pirates had Game One, 7-3.
And all of this took less than two hours. Official time of game? How about 1:55?
Game 2 was the next day, also in Boston. The novelty of the championship series seemed to have worn off on the Boston fans, as only 9,415 showed up for the follow-up act. On the mound for the visiting Pirates was Sam Leever,another 31-year old right-hander. Leever finished the 1903 campaign 25-7 in 1903, completing 30 of the 34 games he started while compiling a 2.06 ERA. Opposing him was the right-hander Bill Dinneen, At age 37, Dinneen went 21-13 with a 2.26 ERA in 1903.
It was clear from the outset that Game 2 would be different from the previous day's matchup. For one thing, Dinneen got out of the first inning without giving up a run. Secondly, Americans' leadoff hitter - Patsy Dougherty - laced an inside-the-park home run to centerfield to stake the Americans to a 1-0 lead. That was doubled a few batters later, when Buck Freeman singled home Americans' centerfielder Chick Stahl, who had doubled off Leever. With a 2-0 lead, Dinneen had all the run support he would need, and Leever's afternoon was over after one inning, as Clarke replaced him with Bucky Veil. The rest of the game was a duel between Dinneen and Veil. A 6th-inning homerun from Dougherty - his second of the game, and this one over the wall - provided the only other scoring, as the Americans evened the series with a 3-0 victory. This game took even less time than Game 1, finishing up in an amazing 1:47.
NICE CROWD CONTROL: Hordes of Americans' fans swarm the playing field at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston prior to Game 3 of the 1903 World Series (above).
Game 3 was the next day, Saturday, October 3rd. the Best-of-9 series was broken up into three-four-two swing between Boston and Pittsburgh's home fields. Thus, for Game 3, the Series remained in Boston. Being a weekend, 18,801 came out to the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds for the afternoon. Amazingly - despite the fact that he had thrown nine innings and struck out 10 only 48 hours earlier - the Pirates sent Deacon Phillippe out again to pitch Game 3. Opposing him was the Americans' Tom Hughes, who who had gone 20-7 with a 2.57 ERA in 1903.
The Pirates led off the scoring in the second inning when catcher Ed Phelps' ground rule double scored Claude Ritchey [who, himself, had gotten aboard via ground-rule double]. After Hughes gave up another run the following inning - on a single by Tommy Leach that plated Ginger Beaumont, who had walked - Americans' manager Jimmy Collins had seen enough. Perhaps inspired by Fred Clarke's use of Phillippe, Collins called in Cy Young from the bullpen. That move didn't look too smart, however, when Young plunked Honus Wagner with a pitch to load the bases. Young almost got out of the inning unscathed, however, retiring the next two batters. That still left one more out to get. He appeared to have it, though, when Jimmy Sebring grounded what appeared to be the third out to Americans' third baseman - and manager - Collins...who promptly booted the ball. While Leach scored easily Wagner - perhaps still miffed at being hit - continued racing around third and headed home. Collins recovered, however, and fired to catcher Americans' catcher Lou Criger at home, nailing Wagner [a second time] for the final out. After all of this, the Pirates led 3-0. The Americans did manage one run in the fourth inning [on a sacrifice fly by Freddy Parent], but still trailed 3-1 after seven innings.
In the top of the eighth, Wagner doubled and Kitty Bransfield tried to sacrificed him to third, but ended up reaching base safely himself after Young was unable to field the bunt cleanly. Ritchey followed with an RBI single, to give the Pirates their 3-run lead back, 4-1. The Americans could manage only one other run off Phillippe - an RBI single by Chick Stahl in the eighth - and the Pirates won Game 3, 4-2. Out of 27 innings of World Series play, the Pirates' Phillippe had thrown 18 innings, allowed only 10 hits, 5 runs [4 earned] and struck out 16 batters. Not bad for 48 hours' work.
With the Pirates up 2 games to 1, the Series broke for the 575-mile train travel to Pittsburgh, and resumed with Game 4 on Tuesday, October 6th at Exposition Park III [my guess is that Exposition Parks I and II probably burned to the ground, like many all-wooden ballparks did back in the day]. Despite their Pirates' lead in the series, only 7,600 fans showed up for Game 4. I'm sure many had only just gotten their asses in their seats before the game was over - the entire contest lasted 1:30. Or, put another way, the game lasted the average amount of time it takes the Yankees vs. Red Sox to get through the second inning.
With two entire days rest, Phillippe was naturally ready to pitch again, so Pirates' skipper Fred Clarke sent him back up to the mound to start Game 4. Facing him was Bill Dinneen, the winning pitcher for the Americans in Game 2. As had been the case in Games 1 and 3, the Pirates scored first. In the bottom of the first. Ginger Beaumont led off the game with a single, but was forced out at second on a ground ball by Clarke, who beat out the throw to prevent the double play. With Clarke on first, Honus Wagner lined a single to advance the Pirates' manager to second base. Kitty Bransfield then lined a single. As Clarke rounded third, Wagner decided to try to advance from first to third on the hit. The problem was the throwing arm of Americans' centerfielder Chick Stahl. Stahl unleashed a bullet to third baseman Jimmy Collins. Before the Americans' manager could tag Wagner for the third out, however, Clarke slid safely at home with the first run.
The score remained 1-0 Pirates until the Americans batted in the fifth. With one out, Candy LaChance lined a single to leftfield and advanced to second on a groundout by Hobe Ferris. Lou Criger followed with a single to left, plating LaChance and tying the game at 1. That lasted only a few minutes, however, as the Pirates went ahead in the bottom of the inning when Tommy Leach singled home Beaumont who had tripled, to make it 2-1 Pirates. The Pirates added to their lead in the bottom of the seventh. Pitcher Phillippe led off the inning with a single to leftfield. When Americans' leftfielder Patsy Dougherty bobbled the ball, however, the alert Phillippe took second base on the error. Next, Beaumont laid down a bunt and turned what was meant to be a sacrifice into an infield hit by beating out the throw from Collins. Thinking that Phillippe might keep running around third in an attempt to score on the play, Americans' first baseman LaChance fired home. The problem was that Phillippe had been content to stay at third. When LaChance fired to Criger at home, however, Beaumont went all the way to second base on what was scored a bunt single. With runners on second and third, manager Clarke came up next and lofted a fly ball to short left field - too short for Phillippe to attempt to score. That missed chance ended up being moot, however, when the next batter - Leach - lined a triple to right field, plating Phillippe and Beaumont. When Wagner singled in Leach, it gave the Pirates a 5-1 lead after seven innings.
Perhaps because he was entering his 27th inning of pitching in six days, Phillippe made it interesting in the top of the ninth. Collins led off the Americans' last chance with a single, and raced to third on a single by Stahl. Buck Freeman then lined a single to rightfield, scoring Collins and sending Stahl to third. Amazingly, Clarke kept Phillippe in the game. Stahl scored on a ground ball to Wagner at short, which Wagner flipped to second baseman Claude Ritchey, forcing Freeman at second. With the Pirates' lead now 5-3, singles by LaChance and Ferris loaded the bases for the Americans with only one out.
At that moment, sensing that the entire tone of the Series could shift with one swing of the bat, the Americans' manager Collins sent Duke Farrell to the plate to bat for Criger. Farrell - a late-season addition who batted .404 in his brief time with Boston - lifted a long fly ball to leftfield which Pirate manager Clarke caught, with Parent scoring on the sacrifice fly. With runners on first and second and two outs, holding a slim 5-4 lead, Clarke kept Phillippe in to try to get the final out. Collins sent Jack O'Brien to the plate to bat for pitcher Dinneen. At first glance, O'Brien was an odd choice. 1903 would be his final season in a brief three-season career, and O'Brien had hit only .210 for the season. In 1903, however, baseball rosters were only 20 men [as opposed to today's 25], and O'Brien was the sole remaining left-handed batter on Collins' bench. Plus, despite O'Brien's meek numbers, he was a better option than Dinneen, who'd hit only .160 for the year.
With the nervous Pirates' fans on the edge of their seats, Phillippe hurled a pitch and O'Brien delivered a colossal swing...unfortunately for the Americans, however, the ball did not travel a distance commensurate with said swing. Instead, O'Brien's cut on the ball resulted in a mere pop fly to second baseman Ritchey, and the Pirates took a commanding 3 games to 1 lead with their 5-4 victory in Game 4.
While the Pirates did into Game 5 with a 3-1 lead in the Series, remember that the showdown was a Best-of-nine. So, they were still two - rather than the customary one - wins away from taking the Series. The game took place on Wednesday, October 7th. Perhaps tuned into the fact that their baseball team was on the threshold of something big, 12,322 fans thronged to Exposition Park III that midweek afternoon. The Americans went back to Cy Young. The Pirates sent...no, not Phillippe [although one wonders if Fred Clarke perhaps thought of it], but the perfectly-monikered Brickyard Kennedy. Now that, my friends, is a name. The 35-year old right-hander posted a 9-6 record for the Pirates in 1903, with a 3.45 ERA. He started only 15 games that season, but completed 10 of them. Kennedy was in his 11th season, having pitched nine of those with the Brooklyn Grooms before joining the New York Giants in 1902. Prior to 1903, Kennedy had won 20 games or more four times, but had lost 20 games or more five times. Alas, Kennedy's best days were behind him, and his performance in Game 5 was proof of that.
Although it didn't start out that way. Indeed, Kennedy and Young exchanged zeroes through five innings. Kennedy's troubles began in the top of the sixth, when the Americans' Chick Stahl led off the inning by lofting a fly ball to Pirate manager Fred Clarke in left. Now, in 2010 we often talk about a manager costing his team a ballgame. In 1903, he really did. Inexplicably, Clarke dropped the ball. A single by Buck Freeman put Stahl on second. Shoddy defense continued for the Pirates, however, when the Americans' Freddy Parent dropped a bunt down the third base line. Correctly reading the play beforehand, Pirate third baseman Tommy Leach charged the ball, believing he could get Stahl at third base. His instinct was right, as he fired a perfect strike to shortstop Honus Wagner, who had alertly covered third. Not so alertly, however, Wagner simply dropped the ball.
Thanks to the dreadful defense behind him, Brickyard Kennedy was looking at bases loaded with none out instead of what should have been two men on and two out. Perhaps addled by the shoddy play behind him, Kennedy promptly walked Stahl to force in a run. Things went from bad to worse next: Hobe Ferris hit a sure double-play ball back to Wagner. The future Hall of Famer made his second error of the game [and third of the Series], sailing his throw to second baseman Ritchey clear into right field, allowing Freeman and Parent to score, giving the Americans a 3-0 lead on three Pirate errors. Kennedy was able to mercifully record an out when Lou Criger - perhaps taking pity on the old man - sacrificed the runners [Candy LaChance and Ferris] to second and third respectively. It turns out he needn't have bothered. Next up was pitcher Cy Young, who promptly laced a triple to leftfield, plating LaChance and Criger and giving the Americans a commanding 5-0 lead, still with only one out. The winded Young then scored on a triple by Patsy Dougherty. Kennedy managed to finally record the last two outs and the Americans held 6-0 lead.
Amazingly - perhaps masochistically - Clarke sent Kennedy back out against the Americans in the seventh inning. Freeman and Parent started the inning with singles. LaChance then grounded to Ritchey, who flipped to Wagner for the forceout of Parent at second. With runners at first and third, Ferris singled up the middle to score Freeman, with LaChance stopping at second. Kennedy promptly walked Criger to load the bases, bringing Cy Young back up. Young promptly grounded out to Ritchey, allowing LaChance to score to make it 8-0. With two outs it looked as though Kennedy might escape with no further damage. If you think so, then you haven't been paying attention. Instead, Dougherty promptly tripled to centerfield, scoring Ferris and Criger and the Americans led 10-0.
Clarke finally had mercy on Kennedy's soul, sending out Gus Thompson to start the top of the eighth inning. New pitcher, same result. Stahl led off with a triple to right and scored on a Freeman groundout to Stahl at second. Thompson at least made progress, however, as he allowed only that run in the inning, leaving the Americans an 11-0 lead.
The Pirates avoided being shut out by Young in their half of the eighth. With two out, Ginger Beaumont singled. Manager Clarke then hit a ground ball to the Americans' shortstop Parent. While thinking about turning the double play, however, Parent took his eye off the ball and it went under his glove. The Pirates ended Young's shutout when Leach lined a triple to rightfield, scoring Beaumont and Clarke and cutting the deficit to 11-2. Alas, for the Pirates, that would be it. The Americans took Game 5, 11-2, cutting the Pirates' lead in the series to 3 games to 2. Young pitched a complete game [surprise, surprise], allowing only six hits. Kennedy, meanwhile, yielded 10 runs in seven innings. For those Pirates' fans looking for a silver lining, only four of the 10 runs were earned.
Game 6 of the series was played the next day, Thursday, October 8th, again at Exposition Park III. The Americans sent out Bill Dinneen against the Pirates' Sam Leever, in a rematch of Game 2. The Americans got on the board first, in the third inning. With two outs, Dinneen himself started the fun with single to left. Leever then walked leadoff hitter Patsy Dougherty. With runners on first and second, manager Jimmy Collins singled to center, scoring Dinneen with the game's first run. Chick Stahl followed with another single to center, scoring Dougherty, with Collins going to third. Stahl then stole second base to put runners on second and third. The Pirates' dreadful defense struck again, however, as Leever thought he had the third out of the inning on a ground ball to third baseman Tommy Leach. Leach booted the ball, however, allowing Collins to score the third run of the inning. When Freddy Parent made the third out on a comebacker to Leever, the Americans led 3-0.
Down 3-0, and seeing their Pirates' once-commanding 3 games to 1 Series lead in jeopardy, the 11,556 Pittsburgh fans sat stonefaced. Meanwhile, the Pirates could do nothing against Dinneen. The Americans had no such problem, however, against Leever. Stahl led off the fifth inning with a triple to leftfield. Buck Freeman's sacrifice fly to center scored Stahl, to make it 4-0 Americans. Leever promptly plunked Parent with a pitch, giving the Pirates' defense yet another opportunity to screw up. Leever managed to get the second out of the inning on Candy LaChance's fly ball to deep centerfield. When Hobe Ferris followed with a single to center, however, Parent attempted to go from first to third. Honus Wagner struck again. The Pirates' shortstop uncorked a wild throw to third baseman Leach, and Parent came all the way around to score. By the time the final out was recorded, the Americans led 5-0.
By this point it was obvious to the Pittsburgh faithful that the Pirates simply couldn't touch Dinneen. Through six innings he yielded five harmless singles to the Pirates. Meanwhile, the Americans piled on more runs again in the top of the seventh. With one out, Parent tripled to leftfield. LaChance followed with a double - also to leftfield - making it 6-0 Americans. Perhaps inspired by Leever's ability to limit the Americans to only one run in the top of the seventh, the Pirates finally broke through against Dinneen in the bottom of the inning. Jimmy Sebring led off with a single to rightfield. Pirates' catcher Ed Phelps followed with a single to centerfield. After Leever grounded out to second baseman Ferris - exactly why he let a pitcher trailing 6-0 bat in the seventh inning is a secret that went with Pirate manager Fred Clarke to the grave upon his death in 1960 - Sebring and Phelps each advanced a base. Ginger Beaumont followed with a single to centerfield, scoring Sebring and sending Phelps to third. Clarke followed with a long double to leftfield, scoring both Phelps and Beaumont, and cutting the Americans' lead in half, 6-3. After Dinneen got Leach to fly out to right, Clarke stole third base. Then Dinneen - who to that point had walked only four batters in 23 2/3 innings in the Series - inexplicably walked both Wagner and Kitty Bransfield to load the bases.
When Claude Ritchey stepped to the plate, then, with two out in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded, he represented the go-ahead run. Pittsburgh fans could see, then, the Pirates taking a commanding 4 games to 2 lead in the Series, needing only one more win to clinch it. Alas, Dinneen settled down to retire Richey on a ground out to Collins [who flipped to Ferris at second for the force out] to put an end to the inning. And the scoring for the game, as the Americans tied the Series at 3 games a piece with their 6-3 win in Game 6.
Pittsburgh fans had to wait a day to see their final Series game, as rain washed out the game on Friday. Game 7, then, took place on Saturday, October 10th. Obviously having seen enough - not to mention watching his two-game Series lead disappear - Pirates' manager Fred Clarke went back to the man who had won all three Pirates' victories so far, Deacon Phillippe, for Game 7. The Americans countered once again with Cy Young. It being a Saturday, the ballpark was packed at game time with 17,038 in attendance. However, they were barely in their seats before things got ugly for their Pirates. With one out in the top of the first, Americans' manager Jimmy Collins lined a triple to right field. Chick Stahl followed with another triple - this one to deep centerfield - scoring Collins and setting the Americans up for another big inning.
Considering how futile the Pirates had looked offensively in the past few games, the idea of giving up a second run was none too appealing to Pirates' manager Fred Clarke. So, he brought the infield in, even though it was only the first inning. In theory, this was wise. In practice, well, if there was one thing the Pirates' defense could have used, it was practice. At first it seemed that Clarke's strategy would pay off, as Buck Freeman grounded to second baseman Hobe Ferris. Ferris immediately fired home in an effort to nail Stahl at the plate. Unfortunately, Pirate catcher Ed Phelps dropped the ball, allowing Stahl to score for yet another unearned run courtesy of a Pirates' error - their 14 error of the Series at that point. Phelps somewhat redeemed himself by throwing out Freeman on a stolen base attempt. The damage was done however, and the Pirates were down 2-0 before they even came to bat.
Through the first three innings, the Pirates could muster only three singles against Young. The Americans scored again in the fourth. Freeman led off with a triple to centerfield and scored when Freddy Parent grounded out to Honus Wagner. After Phillippe struck out Candy LaChance, Ferris lined a triple between left and center. He came around to score when Lou Criger followed with a single to right. By the time Phillippe retired Young on a flyball to centerfield to end the inning, the Americans were now ahead 4-0.
The Pirates finally cracked through against Young in the bottom of the fourth. Kitty Bransfield tripled to left and scored when Claude Ritchey ground out to Jimmy Collins at third. Young then retired Jimmy Sebring on a pop up to Collins, however, to end the inning, with the Americans ahead 4-1.
Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh faithful in attendance for what would be the last game of the year at home - regardless of the Series' outcome, the Bucs' defense struck again. Parent led off the top of the sixth with a single past first baseman Bransfield. Chance tried to bunt Parent to second, but when Phillippe fielded the ball, instead of taking the sure out at first he tried to get Parent at second. The throw went wide and the runners moved up [Parent to third, LaChance to second]. From there, all it took was a Criger single to plate both men and by the time Phillippe induced Young to hit into a double play to end the inning, the Americans were now up 6-1.
The Pirates' miseries continued in the bottom of the inning - and that was even while scoring a run. Clarke led off with a triple to left. After Young struck out Tommy Leach, Honus Wagner attempted a suicide squeeze bunt. While Clarke did score on the play, Wagner had bunted the ball too hard back to Young, allowing him to easily retire Wagner for the second out. Young then retired Ritchey [after a single by Bransfield], and the Pirates still trailed 6-2 after six innings.
A pall hung over Exposition Park III. With the Americans poised to take a 4 games to 3 lead, the misery was punctuated by the way the Americans scored their seventh run in the top of the eighth. After retiring Buck Freeman on a pop up to Bransfield at first, Phillippe surrendered another triple - this one to Parent. Perhaps unnerved - or maybe just exhausted pitching into his 35th inning in a nine-day period - Phillippe uncorked a wild pitch, along Parent to score to make it 7-2.
The Pirates showed a faint glimmer of hope in the bottom of the ninth. Jimmy Sebring led off with an infield single and took second on Phelps' single to centerfield. With two on and no out, Clarke allowed Phillippe to bat, even though he had just completed his 36th inning on the mound. Phillippe came through, however, singling home Sebring, making it 7-3 with runners on first and second and no outs. Remember, though, I said faint hope. Young promptly retired Ginger Beaumont, Clark and Leach, and the Americans were heading back to Boston with a 4 games to 3 lead in the Series, needing only to win one of the next two games at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.
Having lost three in a row - something the Pirates had done only three times all season - the Pirates were at the brink of elimination for Game 8, on Tuesday, October 13th. Only 7,455 would be in attendance to see if the Americans could upset the mighty Pirates. With the luxury of four days' rest, Bill Dinneen took the mound for the Americans. Pirates' manager Fred Clarke subscribed to the "leave with the gal who brung ya'" philosophy of baseball, throwing Phillippe out for yet another start, this on two days rest.
For the first three innings, Dinneen and Phillippe exchanged zeroes. Dinneen retired the Pirates in the top of the fourth inning as well. The Boston faithful were rewarded, however, in the bottom of the inning. Buck Freeman led off with a triple to rightfield. The Pirates' defense struck again when Freddy Parent beat a ball off home plate. While Freeman could not score on the play, Pirates' catcher Ed Phelps simply could not field the ball, throwing too late to get Parent at first. After that latest Pirate error, perhaps sensing the Pirates' infielders were coming unraveled, the Americans' Candy LaChance squared to bunt. Pirates' first baseman Kitty Bransfield charged and successfully got LaChance at first with Claude Ritchey covering the bag. So, with one out and runners on second and third, Phillippe reared back and fired a pitch to Hobe Ferris. The Americans' second baseman promptly delivered a two-run single to center, scoring both Freeman and Parent and the Americans held a 2-0 lead. Throughout the frenzied Boston crowd, there was a feeling that those two runs would be all that Dinneen and the Americans would need.
The Americans added a third run in the bottom of the sixth. LaChance hit a two out triple to right field and scored on a single to center by Ferris. Dinneen went into the top of the seventh, then, needing just nine more outs to give the Americans' the first World Series title. He would not give up another hit. With the exception of a two-out seventh inning walk to Ritchey, Dinneen easily dispatched the Americans in the seventh and eighth. As he took the mound for the top of the ninth, he stood three outs away from baseball history.
The first batter for the Pirates in the top of the ninth was manager Fred Clarke. After nearly eight games of World Series play, Clarke was hitting .273 [9 for 33] with 2 doubles, a triple and 2 RBIs. This - in addition to their awful defense - was one reason the Pirates were three outs away from elimination. During the season, Clarke had hit a blistering .351 and led the National League in doubles , slugging percentage [.532] and OPS [.946]. All of that was forgotten, however, as he walked slowly back to his dugout in the top of the ninth after being retired by Dinneen on a lazy fly ball to leftfield. Next up was Tommy Leach. Leach's World Series statistics were almost identical to his manager's [a .281 average, having gone 9 for 32]. At least his playoff batting average was more in line with his regular season numbers [.298 average]. None of that mattered, however, as he too walked slowly back to the dugout after being retired by Dinneen on a fly ball to right.
With two outs, then, Dinneen was one out away from winning the World Series. The Boston fans - even though there were barely 7,000 of them - were near pandemonium. The idea that the upstart American League - in only its third season could upend the mighty National League was incredible enough. But that it would happen with the Pirates losing four games in a row - something they'd done only once the entire 1903 season - made it even more amazing. Dinneen stared in at Honus Wagner.
Standing at 5'11", Wagner would not seem imposing in 2010. Weighing in at 200 pounds with arms as big and thick as logs, however, he was one of the most fearsome physical specimens of his day. His World Series had been a miserable one. He'd hit only .231 [6 for 26] with only 1 extra base hit [double]. This was embarrassing when compared with his 1903 batting average of.355 [winning the National League batting title in the process]. During the 1903 season, Wagner also knocked in 101 runs [on only five home runs, mind you]. That was why he was among the highest paid players in either league, earning $5,000 in 1903 [about $118,000 in 2009 dollars, folks].
Worse than his hitting, though, was his fielding. Granted, Honus Wagner did not get into the Hall of Fame because of his fielding. And it is true that it is important to remember that field conditions in 1903 were nowhere near as pristine as today [many infields looked like land mines]. Still, normally Wagner's fielding could always be overlooked by his hitting. Not in the 1903 World Series.
And so it was that Wagner sauntered up to the plate to face Dinneen knowing that this was his last chance to salvage what had been an otherwise glorious season for him personally, and for his team as a whole.
Dinneen - nursing only a 3-run lead - looked into Wagner. Today, we talk about every kid dreaming of being on the mound with two outs in the final game of the World Series. In 1903, though, that fantasy was years off. Still, Dinneen knew the monumental importance of what he was about to do. On his final pitch, Dinneen reared back and fired, Wagner vainly swung his mighty bat...and hit nothing but air, missing for the third strike. The third out. In the final game of the first World Series. The Boston Americans had shocked the baseball world - not to mention the entire city of Pittsburgh - winning the Series 5 games to 3. To do so, the Americans had to win the final four games in a row - three of them on the road.
The 1903 World Series - if played in today's multimedia hell - would have gone down as one of the greatest of all time. No, there was no bottom of the ninth home run heroics. What there were, though, were two great teams battling it out over a nearly two-week period. Of all of the amazing things about that Series, perhaps none is more amazing than the fact that - in eight games - the two teams combined to use only eight pitchers! [Kennedy, Leever, Phillippe, Thompson and Veil for the Pirates; Dinneen, Hughes and Young for the Americans]. The other night Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington used five pitchers in one inning!
The Americans would become the Red Sox beginning with the 1908 season. In addition to the 1903 title, they would win six more World Series - four before 1918 and then none again until 2004, doing so 101 years after they won their first one. The Pirates would recover to go on to win 5 World Series between 1909 and 1979. Recently, though, there have been far, far more lean years than fat ones for the Pirates. Indeed, while both the Americans and Pirates franchise would end up winning nearly the same number of World Series, the true story of the franchises is in their records. The Americans/Red Sox have gone a combined 8,819-8,233 for a .517 winning percentage. The Pirates, on the other hand, have gone a combined 9,810-9,684, a .503 winning percentage. There were some good years for the Pirates, it's true. Indeed, it's sobering to realize that 2,645 of those 9,684 losses have come since 1980.
None of that was known on that Tuesday October afternoon in Boston 107 years ago. As Wagner struck out and Dinneen raised his arms in triumph, all that mattered was that the Boston Americans had won the World Series.
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