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Revenge is a dish best served 93 years cold
2008-10-08 08:00
by Bob Timmermann

If the Boston Red Sox defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in the upcoming ALCS, there will be a rematch in the World Series, a rematch from the great beyond. The Red Sox won two consecutive five game World Series in 1915 and 1916 against the Phillies and Dodgers.

In this installment, I'll take a look back at the World Series of 1915.

In 1915, the World Series was still an event put together on the fly. The starting dates of the series and even the locations of the game weren't decided until the days before the season was scheduled to end.

On October 1, 1915 representatives of the NL champion Phillies and the AL champion Red Sox met to discuss the ground rules. What I found odd was that the Red Sox hadn't even clinched the AL pennant by this time, although they were very likely to. (They ended up winning by 2 1/2 games over the Tigers and didn't make up three rained out games.)

The Phillies won a coin toss and got to host games 1 and 2 at their tiny park, officially called Baker Bowl, but formally known as National League Park. The Red Sox would host Games 3 and 4, but decided to play them at Braves Field because it had greater capacity. The year before, the Braves had played their home games in the World Series at Fenway because Braves Field wasn't completed. Game 5 would be played in Philadelphia if necessary and Game 6 would be played in Boston and they'd figure out the site for Game 7 before Game 6.

The Phillies home park seated 20,000 people on a good day if everybody inhaled and lost weight. The Phillies wanted to restrict sales of tickets to Boston fans, then called the Royal Rooters, but the Powers That Be (the National Commission), ordered that tickets be made available to Boston fans. However, the Royal Rooters had presciently declared that anyone in their membership who would give birth to an ancestor of Ben Affleck was kicked out of the group.

The Phillies had never won a pennant before, so interest was high in the city. It was the second straight Boston-Philadelphia World Series, although the year before it was the AL Athletics taking on the NL Braves.

Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander was the Phillies star. He merely finished the season 31-10 with a 1.22 ERA and 241 Ks in 376 1/3 IP. He also threw 12 shutouts. The Phillies hoped to pitch him three times in the first four games, but the schedule wouldn't allow it.

The Phillies wanted to start the series on Saturday, October 9 and have Alexander pitch Game 1, followed by a Sunday off, then Game 2 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday. But the Red Sox got the scheduled pushed up to have the series start on October 8. And the Red Sox final regular season game was October 7!

The Phillies had two other future Hall of Famers on the roster in shortstop Dave Bancroft and pitcher Eppa Rixey. The Phillies also had the game's preeminent slugger in Gavvy Cravath, who hit what was then considered a record 24 homers. (The baseball establishment had forgotten Ned Williamson's 27 homer season of 1884.) The Phillies led the majors with 58 homers.

The Red Sox were a much different team, hitting just 14 home runs, with pitcher Babe Ruth (who would appear just once in the 1915 World Series and just as a pinch hitter) leading the team with four. However, the Red Sox could score a lot of runs and outscored the Phillies by 80 runs (669-589) on the season. The Red Sox featured an impressive outfield that had two future Hall of Famers in Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper.

And the pitching staff for the Red Sox, although it had no Alexander, was uniformly excellent, sporting a 2.39 ERA.

Game 1 was played on October 8 and it rained in the morning, but it was sunny for game time, although the field was in bad shape. Alexander faced off against Ernie Shore.

The game was tied 1-1 in the 8th when the Phillies loaded the bases with one out on a walk by Milt Stock, an infield single by Bancroft (which could have been a DP if Boston shortstop Everett Scott had been covering second), and another walk to Dode Paskert. Shore got Cravath to ground to Scott at short, but the ball took a bad hop on the soggy turf and Scott couldn't go home with the throw and had to retire Cravath at first. Fred Luderus followed with a squibber that Shore couldn't pick up and another run scored and that was the difference. Phillies 3, Red Sox 1.

Game 2 drew the attention of President Woodrow Wilson, the first sitting president to attend a World Series game. The NY Times headline described Wilson as a fan and teaching his fiancee how to keep score. "You see Edith, there are nine players, but I really think there should be fourteen...." Wilson reportedly paid for his own ticket, feeling that he didn't merit complimentary tickets to such a famous event.

Erskine Mayer got the call for the Phillies and Rube Foster for the Red Sox for this august occasion.

Boston scored a run in the first on a busted double steal. Speaker broke from second and was thrown out. Hooper then tried to score from third, but Philadelphia catcher Ed Burns dropped the throw from second baseman Bert Niehoff to let Hooper score. The Phillies tied the game in the 5th on back-to-back doubles by Cravath and Luderus.

In the 9th, Boston third baseman Larry Gardner led off with a single, moved to second on a ground out and Foster then took care of matters himself by singling home Gardner with what turned out to be the winning run. Red Sox 2, Phillies 1.

After a day off for both Sunday and travel, the series resumed on Monday, October 11 in Boston at Braves Field. Alexander was back on the mound for the Phillies against Dutch Leonard of Boston.

The Phillies had a chance to put up a big inning in the second after getting a run on a Bancroft RBI single, but Red Sox second baseman Jack Barry (a longtime star for the Philadelphia A's and part of the "$100,000 infield") robbed Paskert of two RBIs with a diving catch of his bloop in right-center. Boston tied it up in the fourth on a Speaker triple and a sacrifice fly from Dick Hoblitzell.

Alexander couldn't hold off the Red Sox in the ninth, giving up a leadoff single to Hooper was bunted over to second. Speaker got an intentional pass. Hoblitzell grounded out, but Duffy Lewis singled in the winning run. Red Sox 2, Phillies 1.

For Game 4, a crowd of 41,096 (with over 20,000 turned away) came to Braves Field to see if Shore could give the Red Sox a commanding 3-1 edge. George Chalmers, a native of Edinburgh, started for Philadelphia.

Boston scored two runs on an RBI infield single from Hooper in the second and an RBI double from Lewis in the sixth. Shore made those runs hold up.

The Phillies got one run in the eighth on a triple by Cravath and a single from Luderus, but Shore put the brakes on any Phillies rally after that. Red Sox 2, Phillies 1.

There was no day off for travel and the teams went right back to work in Philadelphia the next day for Game 5. Mayer was given the start for the Phillies and Foster for the Red Sox.

There seemed to be some hope for the Phillies to get back in the series when they scored twice in the first on a Luderus double. But the Red Sox tied the game with a single run in the second and another in the third.

Hooper hit a ball that bounced into the seats at Baker Bowl and under the rules of the day that was a home run, and it tied the game. Mayer retired one more batter before giving up a single to Speaker and manager Pat Moran opted to replace Mayer with Rixey. This would be the only pitching change of the series.

The Phillies went back ahead in the fifth on a homer by Luderus, the Phillies only homer of the series. The Phillies tacked on another run when Hooper misplayed Burns' single to allow Niehoff to score the fourth run.

In the eighth, first baseman Del Gainer singled and Lewis followed with a homer to tie the game at 4-4.

Hooper, a native of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, California (they both claim him, although he went to college at St. Mary's in Moraga), batted in the ninth with one out and none on. And I'll let the New York Times take over.

This young son of the Golden West punched a home run into a party of dejected local fans when the score was tied at 4 to 4 in the ninth inning. The tremendous wallop hit in front of the bleachers and bounced playfully into somebody's lap. It decided the championship of the universe, and as its result the long-coveted streamer will fly for a year over Fenway Park, the home of the peppery Bostons.

Boston 5, Philadelphia 4.

2008-10-08 08:39:19
1.   ToyCannon
Jumping the gun with the RedSox? I'd like to hear about some of those classic DevilRay postseason appearances that have been obscured with time.
2008-10-08 08:44:27
2.   Bob Timmermann
But the 1915 Series started on October 8, so I thought it was appropriate.
2008-10-08 09:51:42
3.   Gagne55
It seems so weird to think that ground rule doubles used to be home runs.
2008-10-08 11:10:31
4.   Zak
Thanks for the write-up. Very interesting and very educational.

TBS must have had a nightmare with all the scheduling uncertainty. And the stadiums didn't have lights, so no games in prime time.

2008-10-08 11:28:02
5.   Gagne55
4 Yeah, and it was especially tough that T.V. hadn't been invented yet.
2008-10-08 16:10:19
6.   Zak
5 Who said anything about TV? Before TBS was a TV station, they had their own courier service where a guy in frilly pants would wait outside the stadium on a horse for a wax sealed scroll recapping the game. Once he got the scroll, he would personally deliver it to the Duke or the Count depending on whether the AL or the NL had home field advantage.
2008-10-08 22:26:09
7.   chryamz
Ah, but (W)TBS was Technology Broadcasting System, out of MIT.
Now, okay, they didn't come about until 30 years or so after 1915, but we're talking MIT geeks here - so it wouldn't surprise me if they figured it out back then.

(Former MIT geek; current resident of Moraga who can actually see St. Mary's College from the backyard.)

2008-10-09 13:43:18
8.   das411
Great great great post Bob. Imagine how this series might have gone if they had known how to do those "pitching changes" back then!

(and TC, I'm sure Bob will get around to doing these from the future [the future, Conan?] to commemoriate Game 1 of the 2015 and 2016 Rays Series victories just as soon as the anniversaries of those Game 1's in November roll around...)

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