This is not the first time these two teams have met in the Series. In 1905, they went head to head, and the Series helped establish Christy Mathewson as a star. Mathewson won three games in the Series, as the Giants walloped the Athletics, 4 games to 1. Incredibly, all 5 games ended in shutouts. Mathewson pitched 27 innings, didn’t give up a single run, and in fact only allowed one runner to reach third base the entire Series. It has been to this point the most dominant performance by a pitcher in World Series history. Of course, he wasn’t the only Giants pitcher with success in that Series. Joe McGinnity (who retired in ’08) pitched 17 innings without giving up an earned run either! The 3 runs the A’s scored in Game 2 were all unearned, and they were the only runs they would score all Series. It was a dominant performance by the NL champs.
Some thought that the Giants performance in that Series was proof that they were the better team, and would win again in 1911. However, a quick look at the lineup cards indicated that this was an entirely different A’s team than in 1905. There were only 3 A’s position players starting who had started in that 1905 World Series, and they had added stars in Home Run Baker and Eddie Collins. As far as pitching, the A’s still had Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, but had added the great Jack Coombs. Today’s Chief Bender vs. Mathewson tilt is a rematch of Game 5 of the 1905 Series, won by Matty, 2-0. Will history repeat itself? We’ll find out this afternoon.
When the A’s joined the American League in its first year of existence in 1901, team owner Benjamin Shibe wasted little time in offering exorbitant contracts to star National Leaguers, in effect raiding them of their talent. John McGraw, who had managed the Orioles in the AL but flipped over to the Giants of the National League, was disgusted by Shibe’s actions, but thought that spending so much money was going to tank the team. And so, while speaking to a reporter in 1902, McGraw stated that Shibe had a “big white elephant” on his hands. The term, popular back then, described something that looked nice but whose upkeep made it impossible to take care of. Connie Mack heard what McGraw had said and showing that he had an outstanding sense of humor, ordered all Athletic’s gear to carry a white elephant on it. (You can see it below on Chief Bender’s sweater. He’s talking to the Giants Chief Meyer earlier in the 1911 Series.)
By the time the 1905 World Series came around, it was obvious that the A’s were a profitable franchise. And so, in playing a practical joke on McGraw, before Game 1 of the Series, McGraw was given a statue of a white elephant (above) at Columbia Park in Philadelphia (The Park was located at 29th and Cecil B. Moore). According to the book John McGraw, the surly manager hammed it up this time, as he “doffed his cap and made a deep bow to the hooting spectators.”