Matty vs the Elephants

In 1905 the World Series resumed after a one year hiatus. The New York Giants won the National League pennant in 1904 but refused to play a postseason series against what Giants manager John McGraw called “an upstart league.” Public outcry was such that the next year the World Series resumed.

The Giants won the NL pennant by 9 games over the Pirates so McGraw was going to have to play whether he wanted to or not. His team was pitching heavy with Joe McGinnity and Red Ames both winning 22 games and Christy Mathewson winning the pitching triple crown (wins, strikeouts, ERA). The hitting wasn’t all that great. The infield consisted of (from 1st around to 3rd) Dan McGann, Billy Gilbert, Bill Dahlen, and Art Devlin. The outfield was George Browne, Mike Donlin, and Sam Mertes, with Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan doing the catching. Backups Sam Strang and Frank Bowerman were the only other players to net 50 or more games. Never heard of most of them, right? (Although if you get a chance to see the Buster Keaton silent movie The General Donlin plays one of the Union commanders.)  Like I said, pitching heavy.

They faced off against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, sometimes nicknamed the “White Elephants” (another story for another post) who won the AL pennant by 2 games over the White Sox. The A’s were also pitching heavy with Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, Andy Coakley, and Chief Bender all winning 16 or more games. Waddell, like Mathewson, won the American League pitching triple crown. Again, not a great hitting team. The infield (again 1st to 3rd) was Harry Davis, Danny Murphy, Jack Knight, and Lave Cross. The outfield was Socks Seibold, Danny Hoffman, and Topsy Hartsel,with all-name-team catcher Ossee Schreckengost behind the plate. Monte Cross, Briscoe Lord, Mike Powers, and Harry Barton were the entire bench (no one else played even one inning in the field for the A’s). Again, never heard of them, right?

Looking at the rosters it appeared the 1905 World Series would be dominated by pitching. There was one down note to that premise. Just before the Series began, A’s ace Rube Waddell was injured in a freak injury on the train returning from a game. The Sports Encylopedia: Baseball lists the injury as a shoulder separation, but there were rumors it was faked and Waddell had been paid to miss the Series, thus turning the odds towards the Giants. There is no evidence that I can find that substantiates this rumor, so I’m discounting it now, but can be persuaded if evidence is found.

 It turned out to be the greatest Series-wide pitching performance ever. The Giants won in 5 games with the A’s taking game 2 by a score of 3-0 behind Chief Bender. In the game the A’s got 3 unearned runs off “Ironman” McGinnity. It was a unique event in the Series. In the 4 Giants wins the A’s scored exactly zero runs. McGinnity won game 4 1-0 and Mathewson won the other three.

Mathewson’s totals are unquestionably the finest totals in World Series history. He pitched 3 complete games (27 innings), giving up no runs (not even an unearned run) for a 0.00 ERA, with 14 hits, 1 walk, and 18 strikouts. In fact, you can argue that the Giants pitching (Mathewson, McGinnity, and Red Ames for 1 whole inning) had the single greatest World Series for any staff. In the Series the Giants ERA was 0.00 with only 25 hits, 25 strikeouts, and only 5 walks. They didn’t give out Series MVP’s back then, but Mathewson surely would have won it.

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2 Responses to “Matty vs the Elephants”

  1. William Miller Says:

    I love a good pitcher’s duel. But, just for the sake of argument, if you ended up with that kind of pitching dominance in the 2010 World Series, would the fans be happy? Would T.V. ratings be affected one way or the other? Do fans prefer 1-0 quick, efficient, 1 hour and 45 minute games, or do they prefer 3 1/2 hour 8-6 games with multiple homers? Just wondering. As always, an interesting historical chapter in baseball history. Thanks again, Bill

  2. verdun2 Says:

    As my posts on the best World Series games point out, I’m a fan of low scoring well played games. Apparently you and I are in a minority. It seems fan, not just chicks, dig the long ball. I understand ratings are better in big scoring games.
    That’s somewhat dependent on which teams are playing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a 1-0 thriller between the Yanks and BoSox outdid a 10-8 shootout between the Pirates and Brewers in the ratings. And if the Yanks-Sox went 10-8 I’d expect them to outpoint the 1-0 Pirates-Brewers game.
    Glad you like the history ariticles.

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