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Pirates Cy Young found old magic as Boston rallied to win title

The first World Series: Last of three articles

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

By Shelly Anderson, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The participants in the first World Series had no way of grasping the part they were playing in history or that 100 years later baseball, the sport most steeped in tradition in this country, would still be staging the fall matchup between the National and American Leagues.

The 1903 World Series shifted to Exposition Park in Pittsburg for Games 5, 6 and 7. (Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates)

Related information

Day one: Pirates, Red Sox face off for first time in a century

Day two: Pirates' owner took swing at idea to make money

1903 World Series

On Oct. 7, 1903, the Pittsburg Pirates and Boston Americans (later Red Sox) and their fans only knew that the team from the Smoky City led, 3-1, in the best-of-nine Series and that the Pirates could wrap things up at home if they could win two of the next three games, all to be played at Exposition Park on what is now called the North Shore.

The Pirates had built their lead on three wins by workhorse starter Deacon Phillippe and timely hitting from several players. They had beaten Americans ace Cy Young just once, though, and had had some trouble against Boston's No. 2 starter, Bill Dinneen.

The Americans' comeback can be attributed in part to the awakening of Young, who was 36 but still going strong in career so good that the NL and AL named their top pitching awards after him. Young won 511 games, a record unlikely to be broken. To put it in perspective, the Yankees' Roger Clemens is about to reach a celebrated milestone with his 300th win.

Boston also had an edge in experience. The Pirates' average age was 26.8, Boston's was 29.3. Young and five everyday Boston position players were 30 or older.

Certainly the figurative disappearance of Pirates star shortstop Honus Wagner was a factor in what happened in the second half of the Series.

The Pirates' submission began with an 11-2 trouncing in Game 5 when they managed just six hits against Young, who drove in three runs and had one of five Boston triples. Wagner, who had moved to shortstop from the outfield that season, made two costly errors and was hitless.

Worse, Pirates starter Brickyard Kennedy, 35, got rocked and by several accounts looked shaken when he was replaced in the eighth inning. He never pitched again. That left the Pirates with just two proven starters, Phillippe and Sam Leever, who had a sore arm and was the loser in Game 2.

Game 6 was closer, but a 6-3 Boston win meant the Pirates had no chance of clinching the Series at home. The Americans built a 6-0 lead for Dinneen with all but one player getting a hit. Pirates center fielder Ginger Beaumont had four hits and two stolen bases, but Wagner again was hitless and made another error.

The Royal Rooters, a Boston fan club headed by pub owner Mike "Nuf Ced" McGreevey that had traveled to Pittsburg, began to taunt Wagner with a corrupted version of "Tessie," a popular song that year.

Honus, why do you hit so badly,
Take a back seat and sit down.
Honus, at bat you look so sadly
Hey, why don't you get out of town!

With the Series tied, 3-3, Young and Phillippe squared off in Game 7, the final game at Exposition Park. It was held after a postponement officially due to cold weather, but probably because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss wanted to stage a game on a Saturday so that mill workers could attend.

With fans scrambling for tickets and some paying a premium price outside the stadium, a crowd of 17,038, the largest at Exposition Park during the Series, watched the Americans take the Series lead for the first time after a 7-3 win. Boston went ahead, 2-0, in the first on triples by third baseman/manager Jimmy Collins and center fielder Chick Stahl and never trailed. The Pirates managed single runs in the fourth, sixth and ninth, and Wagner again was hitless with an error.

"We have no fault to find with Phillippe for losing the seventh game of the series," Pirates Manager Fred Clarke was quoted in the Pittsburg Press after Phillippe started for the fourth time in 10 days. "It was expecting too much of him to ask him to pitch, but we have no one else to depend on."

Now the Pirates had to make the trip back to Boston and had to win two games at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds to win the World Series.

Underscoring the Pirates' pitching problems was something that happened when the Pirates arrived in Boston. Clarke was hoping Ed Doheny might be available to pitch. He had won 16 games that season before paranoia forced him to return home to Andover, Mass., outside of Boston.

On the eve of Game 8, Doheny, worked up over accounts of the Series, attacked and seriously injured his male nurse with a fireplace poker, then held police at bay before being subdued and committed to a mental hospital.

Leever and Dinneen were expected to start Game 8, but when rain forced a delay to Oct. 13, Phillippe got the call for the Pirates. He gave up just three runs on eight hits, but Dinneen was better, pitching a four-hit shutout as the Americans won, 3-0, to take the Series. Wagner got one of the hits, in the fourth, but he struck out in the ninth to end the game after working Dinneen to a full count. He also made another error.

Dreyfuss lost a reported $7,000 betting on the Pirates, but he had made $60,000 that season as the Pirates drew 326,000 fans, and he stuck to a promise to divide the World Series gate among the players. They each got $1,316.25, more than the $1,182 each of the Americans got.

Wagner, the beefy, bow-legged "Flying Dutchman" from Carnegie, was the only hometown player on either team. His .222 average in the Series, including 1 for 14 over the final four games, and Series-high six errors, including five over the final four games, did not typify a career that included eight NL batting titles, including the 1903 crown. He is generally regarded as the greatest shortstop and one of the greatest players in baseball.

"It just goes to show you that everyone is human," said Leslie Wagner Blair, of Carnegie, who gives her age as "plenty-nine" and remembers her grandfather by his family nickname, Buck. She only knew him when she was very young and doesn't recall him mentioning the 1903 Series. Her memories are of him reading to her and sharing squares of Hershey's chocolate bars.

Blair is the last living direct descendent of Wagner. She was thrilled when the Pirates asked her to throw out the first pitch tonight when the Pirates and Red Sox meet to start an interleague series. It's the first time the franchises have played each other since 1903.

Also as part of Turn Back the Clock Night, all players, staff and PNC Park workers will be dressed in period costume. There will be no Pierogie Race or other regular promotions, no out-of-town scores and no animated scoreboard, just the linescore and pitch count. PA announcer Tim DeBacco will give the lineups and introduce batters from atop the dugouts with a megaphone, albeit one wired for sound. Nothing else will be played over the sound system, no organ or rock music. There will be live bands playing music more appropriate for a century ago.

Prices will not be rolled back tonight, however. For the 1903 World Series, the clubs raised their prices to 50 cents and $1.

The scene at the 1903 World Series and accounts of the games can be derived only from newspaper archives and books and a few photos. Everyone from that time is gone now, of course, but they are hardly forgotten.

Wagner, Young and Collins are in the Hall of Fame, Wagner a charter member, and the tradition of the World Series lives on.

It took maybe a decade after the Boston Americans' win in eight games before the NL-AL series became widely recognized as the definitive postseason championship, but those who were in Boston and Pittsburg in 1903 had an idea they were watching something special.

"The series ... was really the first contest in the history of baseball for the world's championship," the Pittsburg Press printed in an unbylined story two days after the Series ended, adding that it "has resulted in the greatest series of ball games in the history of the national pastime."

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