With the 2014 World Series in full swing,
with all the hype and hoopla in the air, a flashback to an earlier and
more innocent time in national pastime history seems in order.
Back in the 1880s, for a period of seven
years, there had been playoffs between National League and American
In 1903, Pittsburgh won its third
straight National League pennant and Boston won the brand new American
League title by 14 and a half games over the Philadelphia Athletics. The
Pirates bragged about Honus Wagner, whose .355 average earned him the
batting title. Their swashbuckling manager Fred Clarke was runner-up
with a .351 average. Boston bragged about its two 20-game winners Deacon
Phillippe and Sam Leever.
The first modern World Series came about
at the suggestion of Boston owner Henry J. Killilea and Pittsburgh's
owner Barney Dreyfuss. It was called "Championship of the United
States," a five out of nine games affair. The matchup was a voluntary
agreement between the two clubs, not the two leagues.
On October l, 1903, the first game was
played at Boston's Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds before 16,242,
quite a turnout which underscored the appeal of the “first World
Series.” Each team provided one umpire. Hank O'Day represented the
National League while Tommy Connolly was the American League choice.
Right-hander Deacon Phillippe, 31,
matched up against Boston's Cy Young, who had won 28 games that season
and was in the 14th season of a legendary 22-year career.
The Pirates jumped all over Young in the
first inning. After their first two hitters, Ginger Beaumont and Clarke,
made easy outs, Tommy Leach tripled. Then the great Honus Wagner singled
him in for the first run in World Series history. An error by Boston
second baseman Hobe Ferris on Kitty Bransfield's ground ball prolonged
the inning. Then, all hell broke loose. Boston catcher Lou Criger would
commit two more errors and the Pirates would steal three bases. By the
time pitcher Phillippe struck out to end the inning, the American
Leaguers were in a 4-0 hole. Pittsburgh won the game 7-3.
Throughout the game, and the series,
Boston's rabid fans serenaded Pittsburgh players with a popular song of
the day, "Tessie." Moreover, they substituted the regular lyrics with
their own vulgar rendition. "It was that damn song that caused us
problems," grumbled Buc player Tommy Leach.
Deacon Phillippe won three of the first
four games of the series for Pittsburgh, but then faltered. Boston swept
the last four games. Bill Dinneen and Cy Young accounted for all five
On October 13, only 7,455 showed up—the
smallest crowd of that first “Fall Classic.” Phillippe pitched his
fifth complete game of the series, but lost 3-0 to Dinneen. Boston had
Right after the game, players from both
clubs lined up for a combination team photo. That surprised many and was
a remarkable display of good sportsmanship, considering the bitterness
that had existed between the junior American League and the senior
Deacon Phillippe made out very well. He
was heroic in his efforts in the series, with five decisions in 44
innings pitched, still World Series records. His reward was a bonus and
10 shares of stock in the Pirates.
An oddity of the World Series was that
the losing players received more money that than the winners. Bucs Owner
Dreyfuss put his club's share of the gate receipts into the players'
pool. Each Pittsburgh player netted $1,316 while each Boston player
That first Fall Classic was a far cry
from the way the competition has evolved. Nevertheless, it triggered all
that has taken place through the decades.
(From the Vault)
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