Giants’ Pitching in 1905 World Series Can’t be Matched
If you thought the San Francisco Giants pitching was excellent as they whipped the Texas Rangers, 4 games to 1, in the recent World Series, you would be correct. But that effort fell considerably short of the New York Giants’ pitching in the second WS 105 years ago when the original version of that National League franchise turned in a performance that simply can’t be beaten —- ever.
But the Giants, who refused to take part in the 1904 WS because of long-standing personal feuds, almost repeated a no-show in the 1905 WS because of those animosities.
John McGraw, the feisty little manager of the New York Giants, and Ban Johnson, the rather arrogant president of the 4-year-old American League, did not get along at all. In addition, John T. Brush, owner of the Giants, hated Johnson even more than McGraw did.
Both Brush and McGraw felt the fledgling American League was not in the least equal to their older and well established National League.
As a result, the McGraw-Brush led New York Giants, winners of the NL pennant in 1904, refused to play the Boston Americans in a World Series that year.
The Americans (renamed Red Sox in 1908) were winners of the AL title for the second straight year. They beat the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NL, 5 games to 3, in the first WS in 1903. That initial WS was arranged by the two league championship teams and not by any agreement between the two leagues.
McGraw, a short-tempered son of Irish immigrants, displayed his own arrogance in 1904 when he said that his Giants were already the World Champions because they were champions of “the only real major league”.
But a great number of baseball fans, including New York Giants fans, were upset that the Giants would not face the Boston Americans in a postseason playoff the way the Pittsburgh Pirates did the previous season.
The fans’ discontent served to override the ill feelings between John Brush and Ban Johnson that went back to the days when Brush owned the Cincinnati Reds in the 1890s and Johnson was sports editor of the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette.
In order to placate those disgruntled baseball fans, Brush took it upon himself in the winter of 1904-05 to come up with rules for an annual World Series between the NL and AL champions. He set the WS as a best-of-seven playoff instead of the best-of-nine that was the format in that 1903 WS.
And so it has been every year since with the exception of 1994 when the Major League Baseball players went on strike in mid-August and there was no WS. The WS reverted to a best-of-nine playoff, 1919-1921, but returned to the long-standing best-of-seven in 1922.
Brush’s WS rules were approved by the NL and AL club owners in time for the 1905 season so that his Giants, who repeated as NL champions, did play in what was the first MLB-approved WS although it is recognized as the second WS.
In what still stands as one of the more amazing exhibitions of WS pitching by the teams involved and by one pitcher in particular, the Giants beat the Philadelphia Athletics, 4 games to 1.
It was also the first of three WS matches between two of baseball’s greatest managers, John McGraw of the Giants and Connie Mack of the Athletics. Mack’s Athletics got more than even with McGraw’s Giants by beating the New Yorkers in the 1911 and 1913 WS.
That 1905 WS was the first of 18 WS appearances by the Giants who lost 12 of those fall classics. The Giants, who won five WS as a New York team, achieved their first WS triumph since they moved to San Francisco in 1958 largely because of the pitching by four young pitchers.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who are each 26, and the “baby” on the staff, Madison Bumgarner, a 21-year-old North Carolinian, were the magnificent starters while Brian (Black Beard) Wilson at 28 finished off the Rangers in three of the four victories. Two of those were shutouts and Lincecum gave up only one run in the fifth and final game. The opening game was all hitters as the Giants won, 11-7.
But that was better than average WS pitching by any criteria.
MLB today can’t be compared with the game played over a century ago. Today it is a hitter’s game and pitchers are greatly restricted in what they can do with a baseball.
Back in 1905 home runs were rarities while pitchers scuffed up dirty baseballs with razors, sandpaper or finger nails and added saliva, mud, tobacco juice or resin to those balls.
Nevertheless, the 1905 Giants were special in that WS, no matter how one judges pitching efforts back then. They entered that Fall Classic with an amazingly strong pitching staff of Christy Mathewson who had 31 victories, Joe (Iron Man) McGinnity at 21 victories and Red Ames with 22 as the team won 105 games in the regular season.
The Athletics had two of MLB’s best pitchers themselves in Eddie Plank, who won 25 games in 1905, and Rube Waddell, the big southpaw with 27 victories. But Connie Mack’s A’s were unable to use Waddell in the series because of a late-season injury to his left shoulder.
Despite being rich with pitching, John McGraw called upon only two of his aces to start during the WS.
Christy Mathewson, the big right hander from Factoryville, Pennsylvania, threw three complete game shutouts against the Philadelphia Athletics. “Iron Man” McGinnity started and lost one shutout in the second game of the series and started and won another shutout in the fourth game.
Philadelphia’s Chief Bender pitched a 3-0 shutout over the Giants in that second game of the series, a rare exhibition of pitching by both teams as each of the five games was won by a shutout.
Mathewson, who won 20 or more games 13 times in his 17 years with the Giants including 4 seasons with 30 or more victories, gave up 14 hits, struck out 13 and walked only one batter in the 27 innings he pitched in the WS. He won the first game, 3-0; the third game, 9-0, and the fifth and final game, 2-0, on October 9, 12 and 14, respectively.
No present day manager would dare start his best pitcher after 3 days of rest and then again 2 days later.
McGinnity, like Mathewson, was not charged with a single earned run in the WS even though he lost that second game, 3-0. All 3 Philadelphia runs were unearned because of two errors by the Giants. The Iron Man won the fourth game, 1-0.
Thus the Giants, in their first WS appearance, were victorious, 4 games to 1, while establishing a WS record with a team earned run average of 0.00. That can’t be beaten and it has not been equaled so far.
Two of the New York Giants who played in that WS are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame —- Christy Mathewson and his catcher, Roger Bresnahan. John McGraw is also in the Hall of Fame as a manager.
Those are but three of the record 66 Giants (55 players and 11 managers) in the Hall of Fame, more than any other MLB team. The Dodgers are second with 45 players and 9 managers and the Yankees are third with 41 players and 11 managers.
There might be one or two future Hall of Fame inductees on the Giants team that won this year’s WS —- Tim Lincecum and the rookie catcher, Buster Posey, come to mind. But that is a long time off and maybe no Hall of Famers will emerge from this Giants team.
But while trouncing the Rangers, all of these modern Giants By the Bay played like those old time Hall of Famers, Christy Mathewson and Roger Bresnahan.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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