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The 1914 season was not starting well for the Boston Braves. They were off to a 3-12 start. And the season got worse on this day, as the Braves dropped a 1-0 game in Cincinnati. Red Ames gave up just three hits for Cincinnati and that held up even though Boston starter Bill James surrendered just two hits.
The Reds scored the lone run of the game in the first inning when right fielder Herbie Moran walked and scored on a double by shortstop and manager Buck Herzog. Catcher Tommy Clarke singled in the second for the Reds' other hit and did not get a runner on base after the fourth inning.
But the one run would be enough for Ames as the Braves put up little fight. The Braves got two runners on in the first but second baseman Johnny Evers was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a grounder. In the sixth, first baseman Butch Schmidt walked, stole second and moved to third on a wild throw from Clarke, but third baseman Charlie Deal flied out to end the inning.
Boston had one more rally, of sorts, in the ninth. Schmidt led off with a single and Oscar Dugey ran for him. Deal sacrificed Dugey over to second, but Ames retired the next two batters for the shutout win.
When the game was over, Boston was in last place at 3-13 and already 10 1/2 games behind first place Pittsburgh. The Reds were 11-11 and in fifth place. However, as some of you already know, 1914 was the year of the "Miracle Braves."
On July 4, the Braves were still in last place. They were 26-40 and 15 games behind the New York Giants. And from July 4 on, the Braves went 68-19, an astonishing .781 clip. The Braves were 19-6 in August and 26-5 in September. They ended up winning the pennant by 10 1/2 games. When they got to the World Series, they shocked the Philadelphia Athletics in four games.
How did the Braves turn it around so dramatically? Was there a key midseason acquisition? No, that really didn't happen much in that era.
Were the Braves extremely lucky? Somewhat, although they won just five games more than their Pythogorean expectation.
Did they have a lot of great players? They did have two Hall of Famers. One was the league MVP in Evers, who batted .279, but had a pretty good OBP of .390 as he drew 87 walks. The other Hall of Famer was shortstop Rabbit Maranville, who was just 22 at the time and would play until 1935. Maranville would never be much of a hitter, batting .258 in his career with 28 home runs, but teams seemed to like having him around.
The Braves did have some excellent pitching in 1914. James, once the offense got started, was able to put up a 26-7 record with a 1.90 ERA. The 22-year old appeared to have a bright future, but injuries limited him to just 74 2/3 innings in two more seasons. Dick Rudolph was 26-10 with a 2.35 ERA and Lefty Tyler was 16-13 with a 2.69 ERA. The three men combined to pitch 940 innings for the Braves that season. They also pitched all 36 innings of the World Series. Manager George Stallings was somehow able to put it all together for one year.
As for the Reds, the 1914 season went south after May. The Reds were tied with the Giants for first place on May 31 and they ended up in last place at 60-94, 34 1/2 games behind the Braves. From June 1 to the end of the year, they went 35-79. 43 different players suited up for the Reds in 1914 as the management tried just about anything to straighten out the team. Ames, the winner on this day, would lead the NL in losses with 23, although his ERA was just 2.64. When the Reds finally won an NL pennant in 1919, the only holdover from the 1914 squad was second baseman Heinie Groh.
The Braves stay at the top didn't last long. In 1915, the Braves finished second and in third place in 1916. Then it was back to the second division most of the time and the Braves would not win the pennant again until 1948.
Source: Boston Globe, Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference.com