Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The First '04 Boston-New York AL Championship Battle

Do you know about the 1904 Red Sox? We all know that they won the American League, but weren't given a shot to play the New York Giants in the World Series. The Giants' owner, John T. Brush (from the staircase!), didn't want to risk losing to the champs of the "inferior" league, especially if that champ was his crosstown rival, the New York Highlanders, who were later renamed the Yankees.

But have you ever heard the story of how the Red Sox (who weren't called the Red Sox yet) ended up beating New York for that year's AL title? For some reason, it's hardly ever talked about. But it fits right in alongside all the other famous Red Sox accomplishments and Yankee failures over the years, haha.

The Yankees started as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, and moved to Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, for the 1903 season. That year the Boston team ran away with the American League, with New York finishing in fourth place, 17 games behind. Boston topped the Pirates, five games to three (winning the last four), to become baseball's first "world champions."

The defending champs started the 1904 season with a three-game series at New York. Opening Day saw a snowstorm, but 15,000 still turned out, and Boston lost, 8 to 2, with Cy Young getting touched for five runs in the first inning of the season. (Young finished the year 26-16 with a 1.97 ERA, with a league-leading 10 of his 40 complete games being shutouts.) Boston would win the next two, and go on to win 26 of their first 36 games.

By the 4th of July, though, the Highlanders were within a game and half of the first-place future-Sox. But Boston won three in a row in New York a few days later, with Cy Young outdueling Jack Chesbro--their third match-up of the season--in the third game. Boston scored in the ninth to win, 2-1. New York salvaged game four, but Boston left with a three-and-a-half game lead.

The two teams were a half-game apart going into a series in Boston in mid-September. Three doubleheaders would be played. The New York Times' story of day one of the series starts

Manager Clark Griffith and his Greater New York team lead for the American League championship, and Griffith says he will hold the lead until the end.

In classic Yankee style, their boast would be immediately foiled. The Sox had lost and tied in the first doubleheader in a downpour, but won and tied on day two, to get the lead right back again. "Until the end" would mean "one day." On day three, New York took game one, but Cy "Farmer" Young beat them on a day where Boston saw its biggest baseball crowd ever to that point, nearly 23,000 people.

On September 26th, Boston swept a doubleheader at Detroit, while New York was swept in Cleveland, giving Boston a two-game lead for the pennant. But Boston would lose its next four in a row, and the two teams were again tied at the top as the calendar moved to October.

The two clubss would play a five-game series to wrap up the season starting on October 7th. Boston won each of its October games up to that point, while New York won all but one of theirs, meaning the Highlanders would be a half-game behind going into the final five versus Boston. This was it. Essentially a best-of-five series for the American League--which, in 1904, was as far as you could go. This would be the closest thing we'd ever have to a Red Sox-Yankees World Series.

Game one was in New York. The later-Yanks won, 3-2, with fans rushing the field and carrying "Happy Jack" Chesbro off the field. The "Greater New Yorks" had just gotten off the train from St. Louis and had to play the home game in their road uniforms. New York was back in first by a half-game with four to play.

The next day, Saturday, games two and three would be played in Boston. We kicked Happy Jack's ass in game one, and took a shortened game two behind Cy Young when darkness fell. About the day, the Times wrote:

Baseball "rooters" are beside themselves with delight to-night because of Boston's double victory over New York, which may mean retention of the American League pennant another year. Nearly 30,000 people tried to get into the ball grounds, and 10,000 more gathered about the newspaper bulletins down town, watching for the returns. Every reserved seat was sold a week ago, and the bleachers were filled an hour and a half before play began. Temporary seats had been placed in front of the grand stand, accommodating several hundred. The outfield was black with crowded humanity. Every inch of standing room was taken, hundreds lining the fences. So dense was the crowd on the field that it was agreed before the game that a hit into the spectators should be counted a two-baser.

Boston victories of 13-2 and 1-0, and now, with two games left, the New Yorks needed to sweep a doubleheader back in Manhattan on Monday to take the pennant. One Boston win, and the champs would successfully defend their title.

The Times, October 11th, 1904:

Probably no such interest ever was taken in a baseball event in this city as was manifested in the double-header of yesterday. Some 200 Boston "rooters," accompanied by Dockstader's Band of this city, had the extreme left end of the grand stand to themselves, and with the aid of the band, megaphones, and tin horns kept a constant din throughout the nine innings.

The Boston fans were outnumbered, considering 28,000 people were there, but the rooting must have worked. After New York had scored two in the fifth, Boston tied it at two in seventh when New York second baseman Jimmy Williams, after missing a grounder earlier in the inning, threw wildly to home allowing two runs to score.

Boston had the go-ahead run thrown out at the plate in the eighth, and the two teams, with the pennant on the line, went to the ninth, tied 2-2.

Lou Criger started the ninth for Boston with a base hit. Pitcher Bill Dinneen (who completed all 37 games he pitched in 1904) bunted Criger to second. Kip Selbach moved him to third with the second out. Jack Chesbro (he started 51 games that year, completing 48) then threw a wild pitch, scoring Criger. 3-2 Boston going to the bottom of the ninth.

New York got two walks in the ninth, but stranded the pennant-tying and -winning runs when Dinneen struck out Patsy Dougherty. The Bostons were champs again. (The Yanks won the second game of the doubleheader in 10 innings to officially end the season 1.5 games back.)

That sounded like a great pennant race. Too bad it's rarely ever mentioned. And look at the interest in these teams--the Red Sox were only in their fourth year in existence. So were the Yanks, and they were only in their second year in New York. But people were nuts about their teams. Kind of like now. I wish they'd let us carry players off the field, though.

And, of course, the writing in those articles is so amazing. I recommend going to the NYT site and just searching through that stuff. The really old ones are free. Check out the April 15th, 1906 article--another Cy Young/Jack Chesbro battle. It's like reading Greek mythology. You'll also notice the Yankees are called the Yankees in that article. That's 1906. In the next few years, the Times was regularly calling them that, but the "official" records say 1913 was when they went from Highlanders to Yankees.

I also found a great obit for Bill Dinneen in the 1/26/55 issue of The Sporting News, which can be found at Paper of Record.

Clark Griffith would go on to own the Washington Senators I. Cal, his son would own the Senators I and move the team to Bloomington, MN, now owned by Carl Pohlad. The Twins will soon be in a New Park and forced into the REALITIES of Outdoor Baseball.

Post a Comment

If you're "anonymous," please leave a name, even if it's a fake one, for differentiation purposes.

If you're having trouble commenting, try signing in to whatever account you're using first, then come back here once you're signed in.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

My Photo
Location: Rhode Island, United States