Tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers visit Fenway Park to face the Boston Red Sox in the 114th World Series. The last time the franchises met in the Fall Classic is now gone from living memory: 1916. The oldest living Red Sox fan, Mary Latowski, was born on Valentines Day 1916 so it’s fair to say she can’t remember the 13th World Series when she was eight months old. (UPDATE: Mary attended game 2 at Fenway Park, making this the fourth World Series she has watched.)
Although the Dodgers became the Dodgers around 1910 (after dropping Trolley from the “Trolley Dodgers”), in 1916 they were called the Robins, named after their colorful manager Wilbert Robinson. The games in Boston were not played at Fenway Park but in the home park of the National League Boston Braves (now Nickerson Field) which had a larger capacity and hence more ticket sales.The favored Red Sox won in five games for their third championship since 1912. The Red Sox would win again in 1918, making it four titles in seven years. (Interestingly, the NL Boston Braves won the World Series in 1914 so Boston was really the king of baseball in the nineteen-teens.)
Tonight, the current Red Sox begin a quest for their fourth championship in 15 years. As Thomas W. Whalen reminds us in When the Red Sox Ruled: Baseball’s First Dynasty (2011), the modern Sox are unlikely to match their forbearers who dominated the so-called Dead Ball Era. The Sox (then called the Americans) also won the first World Series in 1903.Led by centerfielder Tris Speaker and pitcher Smokey Joe Wood, the Red Sox beat the Giants in 1912 and the Phillies in 1915. In 1916, Speaker was traded and Wood retired (later he would return to the game as an outfielder). Luckily, for the Red Sox, the phenom George Herman “Babe” Ruth came to the rescue. Ruth first joined Boston in 1914 at age 19 as a raw but preternaturally gifted pitcher. After an 18 win season in 1915 (although he did not pitch in the series and only pinch hit once), in 1916 the Babe had perhaps his best season, winning 23 games with a 1.75 ERA.
We know the rest of the story. In 1920, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees who converted him to a full time batter: “The Babe”, “The Great Bambino”, “The Sultan of Swat”, “Theof Clout”, “The Titan of Terror”, “The King Of Crash” and “The Behemoth of Bust.”
As described by Whalen, the legend of Ruth’s colorful excesses were emerging in 1916. In young manhood, let loose after living in a reform school and with money in his pocket, Ruth’s appetites often turned to sex. His roommate Larry Gardner good naturedly told a friend: “He [Ruth] never unpacks his bags. He never stays with me in the room when I’m on the road. He’s always living with women.” One of Gardner’s earliest memories of the Babe involved the phenom being serviced by a prostitute while lying on the floor “smoking a cigar and eating peanuts.”Whalen chronicles some of Ruth’s youthful habits — unsurprising for a boy who grew up in a bar and a reform school — that became the stuff of baseball myth,
Nonetheless, Ruth’s lifestyle did not prevent him from pitching 13 straight scoreless innings in game 2 of the 1916 World Series, winning 22 games with a 2.01 ERA in 1917, winning two more games in the 1918 World Series and hitting 654 home runs for the Yankees (along with a Curse that lasted 84 years).
According to the Boston Globe, the crowd of thirty-six thousand at Braves Field was unusually subdued:
Nonetheless, the reserved crowd witnessed the most exciting game of the Series. The Red Sox jumped to a 6-1 lead. In the fourth the Robin’s bats came alive. Zack Wheat tripled home Casey Stengel with one out. The Robin’s might have scored more in the frame had Harry Hooper not made a spectacular double play off a hard-hit ball to right field by George Cutshaw, the Brooklyn second baseman, one that amazed the Boston Post‘s Paul Shannon.
The game featured a dramatic rally by Brooklyn in the ninth, one that left the hitherto subdued crowd — and readers of the New York Times — gasping. The Robins loaded the bases and closed the score to 6 -4. Carrigan went to his bullpen.
Mays gave up an RBI to Hy Myers to bring the Robins within a one run with the bases still loaded. But Mays induced Jake Daubert to ground out.
During that era, starters usually pitched complete games unless they were battered early or were pinch hit for. May’s last inning save was a rarity. The Series actually featured two saves for the first time as Brooklyn’s Jeff Pfeiffer closed out Game 3 with 2 2/3 perfect innings. In fact, prior to 1916, there had only been one save recorded in the World Series in total, when Doc White of the White Sox registered a three-inning save against the Cubs in Game 5 of the 1906 World Series. Not until 1924 did a World Series again see two saves.
In another stark contrast between that era and ours, Boston only used five pitchers. Although, five is two more than the three pitchers the Red Sox used a year before in the 1915 World Series. By contrast, in the 2018 World Series, the Red Sox are carrying 11 pitchers and the Dodgers 12.
Game two featured a titantic 14 inning pitching duel between Boston’s Babe Ruth and Brooklyn’s Sherrod Smith. Ruth allowed a first inning inside-the-park home run to Hy Myers but no more for the next thirteen innings. In the 14th, Hobitzell walked and advanced to second on Lewis’ sacrifice. McNally ran for Hobitzell and scored on a first pitch single by pinch hitter Gainor. The longest game in World Series — not surpassed until 2005 — was over. Robinson’s decision was second guessed by Baseball Magazine:
Grantland Rice — whose reports were used by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle — said Robinson was doomed no matter which course he took:
As another sign of different times, the 13 plus innings only took 2 hours and 32 minutes. Looking at the play-by-play, we see that batters in the Dead Ball era did not take a lot of pitches, but put the ball in play quickly. In the combined 17 1/3 innings pitched by Smith and Ruth, the pitchers combined for a total of only 15 walks and strikeouts.
The Series moved to Brooklyn where the Robins staved off a 3-0 deficit with a 4-3 victory. The Boston Post‘s Paul Shannon describes the excitement in Brooklyn as they celebrate the first World Series game in Flatbush. (The Dodgers made the Series again four years later in 1920, but did not win one until 1955.)
Despite the fervor, attendance at the game was low, only 21,087. The Democrat and Chronicle’s staff correspondent opined that the empty seats were a result of the “extortionistic” ticket price of $5 the Robins were charging.
The D & C also ran a a piece on how Rochestarians were following the series. In those days, fans gathered to follow the game on electronic or Paragon boards that received telegraphic information and replicated a stadium scoreboard. The Geeusee Arna had a Paragon board, while the Baker Theater had an electronic board.GAME 4
After three straight one run games, the Red Sox took control of the Series with a 6 – 2 win.
The Robins began strong with a two run rally against Dutch Leonard in the first inning. But, they lost a golden opportunity for a third run. After that, Leonard shut out Brooklyn for the next eight innings. In the typical purple prose style of the day, the New York Times describes the Robins’ roller coaster ride:
In the very next inning after the Brooklyn outburst, the Red Sox countered with a three run home run by Larry Gardner, smoked into the outer reaches of center field. Of the three home runs in the Series, Gardner’s blast was the only one that cleared the fence. For Rice, Gardner’s blast sealed the Robins’ fate:Back at Braves Field on Columbus Day before a record crowd of 42, 620, the Red Sox closed out the Series 4 -1. The Boston Post hired Ty Cobb (whose Tigers lost three straight Series from 1907 – 1909) as a special correspondent. Cobb tipped his hat to Ernie Shore:
In Grantland Rice’s dispatch for the New York Tribune (carried by the Democrat and Chronicle), he held that Boston’s dominance was indicative that the American League was so superior the National League almost was not a Major League:
This year’s Red Sox hope history repeats itself. As they were in 1916, the 2018 Red Sox are favored. Seven USA Today sportswriter prognosticated: 4 predicted Boston in 6; 3 predicted Boston in 5.
The Red Sox better hope the Dodgers don’t have one more “wild autumnal flurry” in them.NOTE: For more on the purple prose used by sportswriters to describe the 1916 World Series, see How The New York Times Covered the 1916 World Series (10/24/18).
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