The Giants edged the Athletics yesterday afternoon in front of the largest crowd to ever witness a baseball game. 38,281 baseball enthusiasts packed into the new Polo Grounds, and they were treated to a pitching duel between two of the finest hurlers of the stitched potato the game has ever seen. Why, the two twirlers are a combination of Cy Young and Thomas Edison, as they both have invented their own pitches: Bender the nickel change (later known as the slider) and Matty the fadeaway (later known as the screwball). Each tosser mixed these into their arsenal with great effectiveness, keeping the batters on the defensive all afternoon. As for the scene at the ballpark? Well, I’ll let Rex Beach, my contemporary at the New York Times, describe it.
The bleachers were banked solidly by 12 o’clock, for it was a great baseball day. The sun was slightly dimmed by a faint October haze, and the air was sharp enough to be invigorating. It was real hard cider weather, with just the right tang to it.
One noticed first upon looking down at the well kept field that a great shadow, cast by the south wall of the grandstand, was creeping out toward the visitors side, inch by inch. Later, as the game progressed, it was like the implacable shadow of defeat reaching out to engulf the Quakers. It crept slowly across the sward, and it was not until it touched the players bench occupied by Mack and his men that the Athletics weakened.
It was 12:45 when out through a huge whiskey sign in right field came the Elephants (the Athletics), to be met with an ovation (picture above). They came lackadaisically, however, with heavy step and heads down. It was like a funeral march. The Giants on the contrary came with a rush, Devore leading and Matty at his heels. The crowd gave tongue magnificently, and one could not fail to recognize the fact that baseball is the one legitimate outlet for the great American lung.
No man with blood in his veins could have watched the hand of the clock creep around toward the hour of 2 without yielding to the intensity of that multitude. It could be felt and it caused the heart to pound…Then came perhaps the most interesting moment of the game. It was that hush, pending delivery of the first ball, which can be heard. Matty split the plate, and, oh, what a yell! (Photo of the first pitch of the Series is at the top of the story. Notice the shadow Beach wrote of earlier.)
The Athletics drew first blood in the 2nd frame. Frank Baker led off with a single, then went to second on a Danny Murphy groundout back to the mound. A rare Chief Meyer passed ball sent Baker to 3rd, and first baseman Harry Davis (right) came to the plate. The 37-year old, filling in for an injured Stuffy McInnis, did the honors of knocking in the first run of the 1911 World Series with a single.
The Giants drew an equalizer in the 4th. Fred Snodgrass was hit by a pitch, then went to second on a grounder. Buck Herzog hit a grounder to 2nd baseman Eddie Collins, but Collins booted the ball, and Snodgrass, who had been running on what was a hit and run, came around to score.
The Giants nearly took the lead in the 6th, but Collins got a reprieve for his earlier mistake with some quick thinking at 2nd. With runners on first and third with two outs, the wily McGraw called for a delayed double steal. Buck Herzog took off for 2nd, and catcher Ira Thomas threw down. But the razor-minded Collins saw what devious plans the Giants had in store, and cut off the throw, sending it back home, where Snodgrass was so dead that his body was cooling as he reached the plate.
After an Art Fletcher groundout to lead off the bottom of the 7th, it was Chief versus Chief, the two finest Redskin athletes in America going toe to toe. The Giants’ Meyers got the upper hand, sending a screamer down the left field line, and when the dust settled, he was standing on 2nd. After Mathewson struck out, the Giants leadoff hitter Josh Devore came to the plate. Bender had been yapping at the Giants hitters all day, and with a 2-2 count on Devore, he started running his mouth again.
“I’m going to throw you a curved ball over the outside corner,” taunted the Chief.
“I know it, Chief,” Devore (left) answered back. Devore runs a boxing gym in Indiana during the offseason, and the pugnacious pugilist delivered a knockout blow on that next pitch, hitting one deep to left, scoring Meyers.
“I knew it would be a curve ball,” Devore told Mathewson after the game. “With two and two, he would be crazy to hand me anything else. When he made that crack, I guessed that he was trying to cross me by telling the truth. Before he spoke, I wasn’t sure which corner he was going to put it over, but he tipped me.”
The Giants had two runs, and with Matty on the mound, they might as well have had 20. He retired the last 11 batters he faced, the mighty throng roaring its approval all the while. The Series shifts back to Philadelphia, where these two superpowers will meet again on the 16th. Here’s the box score for Game 1, and we end with a few thoughts from Beach:
To be sure, the Quakers were on a strange field, in hostile territory, and were naturally a bit nervous at the start, so this opening victory does not settle the argument by any means. Monday’s game in Philadelphia may swing the odds back to even money again, but the Giants have the jump; first blood is theirs, and this triumph is liable to inspire them with a confidence which may prove a material factor in the struggle to come.
It was a great game, a great crowd, and a great day, and the issue was in doubt up to the last. What more could a fan desire?
(October 18th, 1911) NEW YORK– William Penn and Ben Franklin were seen milling around the visitors clubhouse late yesterday afternoon. They were there to extend an invite to one “Mr. Frank Baker”, heretofore known as “Home Run”, to join that rare pantheon of Philadelphia immortals, men whose names and deeds shall be remembered in the city of Brotherly Love long after they are physically gone.
It is funny what makes men heroes in this game. We are not cheering their intellect, stamina, or charm. We are cheering their ability to lift a piece of lumber off their shoulder and hit a spheroid in an act that takes places in tenths of a second. And the later in the contest they can do perform this rather random act, the louder we cheer.
If there were any justice in this world, the real hero of yesterday’s ballgame would be the Athletics pitcher, Jack Coombs, who threw one of the greatest games in the brief history of this Fall Classic. After all, in 11 innings, the great Coombs pitched every bit as well as he did a year ago (when he won three games against the Cubs in the 1910 Series), allowing a mere 3 hits to this vaunted Giants lineup.
But perhaps part of the reason this game is so uniquely American is because we are a nation who loves instant gratification, and without a mythological past, we have to create our heroes on the fly. This combination of forces has created Philadelphia’s newest hero, now and forevermore.
He is no longer Frank Baker, young third baseman of the Philadelphia Athletics. He is Home Run Baker, the American Zeus who hit the 9th inning home run off the greatest pitcher in baseball (sorry, Cy) to change the flow and the feel of the 1911 World Series. If the Athletics go on to win this Series, he will never pay for a steak in the town of Philadelphia again.
After all, Game 3 seemed to be all but over. Sure the lead was only 1-0, but the Giants had found a way to thwart every A’s rally all afternoon. In fact, many Giants fans were headed for the exits, satisfied that their own hero was placing another feather in his cap. Through 8 innings, Matty had shut down the might Athletic lineup, and when Eddie Collins grounded out to Buck Herzog at 3rd to start the 9th, Giants fans began to discuss Game 4.
Mathewson gained two quick strikes on the left-handed Baker with curve balls. As we had learned the day before, the way to pitch to Baker was by nibbling around the plate. That is what made the next pitch so perplexing. The ink was hardly dry on the paper Matty had written that morning, questioning Marquard’s decision to throw Baker a fastball that he took out of the park in Game 2. And for some reason, Matty, perhaps thinking his fastball had a bit more sizzle than Marquard’s, tried to throw it past Baker. It is doubtful he will ever forgive himself. Baker, no doubt delighted by the straight avenue that ball was driving, swung the bat fiercely, and sent it flying the opposite direction even faster. As stunned Giants fans stared in disbelief, the ball flew through the light drizzle and the grey autumn air and cleared the right field wall (Polo Field right field wall can be seen below, with several Athletics lounging below it before the game began) by 15 feet and landed in the next to last row. As New York sportswriter Fred Lieb put it, the New York ballpark was so quiet you could hear “Baker putting his footprints in the dirt as he rounded the bases.”
The game was tied, and the momentum of the game and the Series was instantly changed. The Giants suddenly couldn’t handle routine grounders, and Matty lost the aura of invincibility he has worked so hard to create over the years. The game went into extras.
In the 10th inning, the bad blood that has been rising between the two teams in this season went from a simmer to a boil. With Fred Snodgrass (right) standing on second, a pitch got past catcher Jack Lapp and Snodgrass took off for third. Lapp quickly recovered, and rifled a shot to Baker. Perhaps angry about Baker’s hit the inning before, or perhaps desperate to earn the base that stands a mere 90 feet from home, Snodgrass came sliding spikes high. His sharpened spikes slashed Baker, and play was paused as Baker was tended to by
a doctor. The New York fans turned on Snodgrass, booing and hissing as he walked back to the bench after the out, disgusted by his lack of sportsmanship. Furthermore, they cheered when Baker took his place again at third base.
It was obvious at this point that New York had lost its cool. In the top of the 11th, the team fell to pieces. Collins singled to left, and Baker ran out an infield single. Giants third baseman Buck Herzog picked up the ball and threw it wildly and to first, and the A’s had men on 2nd and 3rd and no-one out. Danny Murphy hit a grounder to the shortstop Fletcher, but Art fumbled it. A run scored and all were safe. Harry Davis singled home a run and the A’s were up 3-1.
The Giants made a last ditch effort in the bottom of the inning. Herzog tried to make up for his awful day in the field (he had 3 errors) by leading off with a double. He got around to score on an Eddie Collins error. But with two outs, Beals Becker tried to reach 2nd on a steal, and Jack Lapp threw him out, the fifth baserunner Lapp threw out on this afternoon. A remarkable performance from a backup catcher against the fastest team in baseball.
And so the A’s won the most thrilling game of the Series thus far, 3-2, in 11 innings, and the Series shifts back to Philadelphia. There are talks of a long week of rain Philly, but perhaps it is just as well. For this is a game to be savored, discussed, and argued over for days and even years to come. As Mack told Lieb after the game, “That’s one game I’ll never forget if I live to be 100. I think I lived a lifetime during it.”
(October 20th, 1911) PHILADELPHIA– The rivalry between New York and Philadelphia just heated up a bit, as Philly fans have made life so miserable for Fred Snodgrass that he has left the city and returned to New York until the rain stops. Snodgrass, as you may recall, slid hard into Frank “Home Run” Baker an inning after Baker’s dramatic game tying home run. The slide was so vicious that it produced gashes in Baker’s arm and leg, and tore his trousers from knee to hip. Even the home town New Yorkers thought it a dirty ply, and booed Snodgrass when he walked back to the dugout. Well, if you think the home town didn’t like it, you can only imagine what Baker’s Philly fans thought of it. They have so aggressively hooted Snodgrass since he got off the train that McGraw thought that Snodgrass should head back to New York until the rain stops for his own safety.
The center fielder’s absence from the Majestic Hotel started a wild rumor that he had been shot by a crazed A’s fan. There was no substance ot the rumor, but a crowd gathered at the Majestic until several Giants players came out and explained the situation. As for Snodgrass? Will he even play in Game 4 in Philly if this rain ever lets up?
“My goat is not for sale,” he says. They say the crowd tomorrow will have it in for me, but there’s no danger of my going up in the air.”
Another wild rumor went out that baker had suffered blood poisoning because of that fateful slide, but this was of course hogwash. Baker is resting peacefully at his home in North Philly, and is as pleased as anyone about these rains, which have given him time to lick his wounds.
IN OTHER NEWS: Tickets for Game 4 are almost impossible to come by here in Philadelphia, and several fans braved the thunderstorm last night in the doorways of Shibe Park in the hopes of getting their hands on some tickets. Scalpers are having no problems disposing of tickets for double their face value, and Game 4 will certainly be a sellout.
*notes for this article came from the October 20th, 1911 copy of the New York Times.