100 Years Ago: World Series Results a Bit Different
The San Francisco Giants of the 21st century are a much more efficient and victorious unit than their forebears of the last century, and particularly the New York Giants of 100 years ago who took an agonizingly long eight games to lose the best-of-seven World Series, 4-3.
This year’s version of the team won the finale of a four-game sweep over the favored Detroit Tigers in 10 innings, whereas the 1912 Giants lost a heart-breaker eighth and final WS game in 10 innings to the Boston Red Sox. The 2010 and 2012 World Championships are the Giants’ only victories in five WS appearances since the team moved cross country in 1958.
The Giants of a century ago, under their pugnacious manager, John McGraw, lost three consecutive World Series, 1911-1913. McGraw managed the Giants for 31 years, 1902-1932. His Giants won 10 NL pennants, played in nine World Series, and won only three of them.
When the 1904 Giants won the NL pennant, McGraw, a feisty and stubborn man, refused to play the Boston Pilgrims (later the Red Sox) in what should have been the second World Series because he detested the “upstart” rival American League, which was formed in 1902. The initial World Series was held in 1903 when the Boston Pilgrims beat the Pittsburgh Pirates.
McGraw relented in 1905 so that the NL champion Giants met and defeated owner/manager Connie Mack’s AL champs, the Philadelphia Athletics, in the second World Series.
But the New York Giants appeared in 14 World Series, winning only five of them.
The San Francisco Giants appeared in three World Series during the late 20th century, losing all three times.
Thus the 21st century Giants are the big winners in the family, winning both of their World Series appearances to date.
A Mighty Band of Players
Those 1912 Giants were a mighty band of players with a couple of future Hall of Fame pitchers, Rube Marquard (26 victories) and Christy Mathewson (23 victories).
The New York Giants were favored over the team that changed its name to the Boston Red Sox the previous year. But those Red Sox were also talented with the likes of Smoky Joe Wood, a pitcher who won 34 games during the regular season, including 10 shutouts.
The Red Sox batters were led by outfielder Tris Speaker, who hit for a .383 average only to finish second in the major leagues to Ty Cobb’s .410 with the Detroit Tigers.
This was the Red Sox’ second World Series but the first in their brand new Fenway Park, which had opened just six months earlier in April 1912.
However, the first game of the 1912 World Series took place in the fourth and last baseball park called the Polo Grounds. Each of these Polo Grounds was home to the New York Giants, who were established in 1883. The oddly shaped rectangular and final Polo Grounds was opened in northeast Manhattan in June 1911.
The Giants lost that opening game of the 1912 WS, 4-3, to Boston, on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
The teams played the next day in Boston’s new Fenway Park. They battled through a long standoff that ended in an 11-inning, 6-6 tie that was called because of darkness, frustrating Mathewson, who pitched the entire game for the Giants.
That is why the best-of-seven 1912 World Series became an eight-game affair.
Ain’t Over Yet
The 1912 Giants won game three at Fenway, 2-1, behind Marquard and lost game four at the Polo Grounds, 3-1, with Smoky Joe Wood, who pitched all 11 innings of the tie game, winning for Boston. Then the Giants lost game five at Fenway, 2-1, as the 20-year-old rookie, Hugh Bedient, out pitched the mighty Mathewson. The New Yorkers won game six back at the Polo Grounds, 5-2, as Marquard won again.
Games seven and eight were played at Fenway Park, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 15 and 16.
The Giants won game No. 7 in the only lopsided victory of the series, 11-4. This set the stage for the decider the next afternoon. And once again the teams went to extra innings and for the third time in the series Mathewson pitched the entire game for the Giants without winning.
The Giants led, 1-0, going into the bottom of the seventh when the Red Sox’ Hugh Bedient was lifted for a pinch hitter, Olaf Henriksen, who doubled to drive in the tying run. That is how the teams arrived at the 10th inning, deadlocked at 1-1.
The Giants gained a 2-1 advantage in the top of the 10th when Red Murray, an outfielder, doubled and came home on a single by first baseman Fred Merkle. With Mathewson pitching strongly, the Giants were of a mind to see a WS victory within minutes.
But as Yogi Berra said many years later, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Clyde Engle, a pinch hitter, opened the bottom of the 10th for Boston by hitting an easy pop fly to center field where Fred Snodgrass got under the ball for a routine out.
But Snodgrass inexplicably dropped the ball, something that happens to a Major League outfielder once or twice in a career, if at all.
This put the tying run on second for Boston.
Ironically, on the very next play, Snodgrass made a spectacular diving catch off of Harry Hooper’s line drive. But this got Engle to third base.
Mathewson then walked Steve Yerkes. Tris Speaker, given a second chance when first baseman Merkle and catcher Chief Meyers misplayed his foul pop, singled in the tying run and sent Yerkes to third. Duffy Lewis was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out.
Larry Gardner, the Red Sox’ third baseman, hit a long sacrifice fly ball to right that was caught by Josh Devore, who had no chance to throw out Yerkes, who tagged up and scored the run that won the game and the 1912 World Series for the Boston Red Sox.
As Fate Would Have It
Snodgrass was forever remembered as the man who dropped the fly ball that cost the Giants the 1912 World Series.
Ironically, Snodgrass joined the Giants as a backup catcher in 1908. That was the year of the even more infamous mishap known as “Merkle’s Boner” when Fred Merkle, who was on first base, failed to touch second base on a game-winning single that drove in the run from third with two out against the Chicago Cubs at the Polo Grounds.
The Cubs got the ball back to Johnny Evers, who stepped on second for the force and third out which nullified the “winning” run as the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
When the Giants and Cubs ended the season tied for the NL pennant, the tie game had to be replayed. The Cubs won that playoff game, Oct. 8, 1908, and thus the NL pennant the Giants should have won by one game.
And, as fate would have it, Mathewson pitched the complete 1-1 tie for the Giants that ended with “Merkle’s Boner.”
Whether or not the current day San Francisco Giants such as pitchers Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong plus position players such as Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and others ever reach the Baseball Hall of Fame is very questionable.
Maybe Posey has a chance to get there along with the former Giants so enshrined such as Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Marquard, Hoyt Wilhelm, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, John McGraw, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and others.
The current day Giants made up for the Snodgrass and Merkle miscues in a big way, finishing off the Tigers in style as Sergio Romo, the Giants’ closer, struck out the three Tigers he faced in the bottom of the 10th inning of the fourth and final WS game. This included striking out Miguel Cabrera, the American League’s batting champion, for the final out of the series.
The Tigers’ third baseman, who won the Triple Crown and is considered major league baseball’s premier hitter at present, didn’t even take his bat off his shoulder as he watched the final pitch of this World Series zip by him over the middle of the plate.
That recalled the end of the first World Series in 1903 when the Boston Pilgrims beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5 games to 3.
The last Pirates batter, who was the reigning NL batting champion and the best hitter of his day, also struck out without swinging at the last pitch from Boston’s Bill Dinneen.
That final hitter was Honus Wagner.
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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