Pitching Matchups for the 1911 World Series

(October 14, 1911) NEW YORK–If baseball had a Hall of Fame, both squads would have some surefire entries.

GIANTS: Christy Mathewson is as fine of a flamethrower as you will ever lay eyes on, and “Matty” can lay you low with his fadeaway (Later known as a screwball). He went 26-13 with a 1.99 ERA this season, not quite “Matty-esque” (remember that Matty won 37 games in 1908), but none too shabby. He’ll be on the hill this afternoon.

Their #2 option is no Christy Mathewson, but who is? Rube Marquard is a dashing young lefty who really felt his oats this year, going 24-7 with a 2.50 ERA. The Giants are quite pleased with his progress, and have plenty of confidence that their Game 2 pitcher can go the distance.

In a pinch, they can go to Red Ames (11-10, 2.68) or Hooks Wiltse (12-9, 3.27) with confidence.

ATHLETICS: They counter with quite a trio of hurlers. In Game 1, they’ll have the great Redskin Chief Bender on the mound. He is known as the innovator of the nickel change (now known as the slider), and we have no doubt he’ll employ it to confound the Giants’ batsmen.

And don’t think the Giants will see much relief in Game 2, as Eddie Plank takes to the hill. The 36-year old one-upped Ponce De Leon, finding a fountain of youth this year that enabled him to amass a record of 23-8 with but a 2.10 ERA.

And their 3rd pitcher in this Series is led the team in wins with 28. Jack Coombs (right) gives up more runs than the first two pitchers, but the boys tend to rally behind him, as they gave him a record of 28-12 this season.

ADVANTAGE: Mathewson is the best of the bunch, but the Athletics have more depth, as even their #4 pitcher, Cy Morgan, had a mark of 15-7 with a 2.70 ERA. I would give the slightest edge to the Athletics.


Today’s Pitching Matchup: Mathewson vs. Coombs

(October 17, 1911) NEW YORK–These two men hardly need any introduction, but we’ll give them one anyway, starting with the A’s right hander, “Colby” Jack Coombs.

PHILADELPHIA. Coombs immortalized himself in Philadelphia last year by winning 31 games in the regular season with a 1.30 ERA, followed by 3 World Series wins. Due to that performance alone it is doubtful the name of Jack Coombs will ever be forgotten in the City of Brotherly Love. This year, he was not quite as smashing, finishing with 28 wins but an ERA over two points higher, at 3.53. The Colby College graduate is one of the few educated men in the sport, and the bespectacled Coombs was thought to be heading into the world of chemistry until Connie Mack and a check for $2,400 changed his plans. Well, in 1910 he discovered the formula for getting the opposition out, but has he lost his magic? We’ll find out this afternoon if his above average fastball and devastating drop curve confound the Giants, or if 1910 was just a flash in the pan. And keep this in mind too: Jack swings a mean bat, and hit .353 on the season. One other note heading into today’s game: catching Coombs will be Jack Lapp, filling in for Ira Thomas.

NEW YORK. If there is a schoolboy in America who does not know the name Christy Mathewson, I should like to meet him. There are few bigger heroes in America than Matty, who has 255 wins since 1903, and an annual ERA that rarely pokes its head above 2. This season he was 26-13 with a 1.99 ERA in 307 innings pitched. He set a National LEague record for win in 1908 (37) that will be tough to break, now or ever. But he’s more than a great pitcher, he’s an American icon, endorsing everything from sweaters to leg garters. The Bucknell grad is handsome, smart as a whip, and such an impressive scribe that he regularly gets writing assignments from the New York Times. There is no bigger star in baseball than Christy Mathewson.

Of course, Matty nearly became a Philly native himself, though not with today’s opponent. After going 20-2 on a Norfolk, VA farm team in 1900, he was given a choice between going to the Giants or the Phillies. He went with New York, and what Philadelphia has missed out on the past decade it will get to know all too well today.

And so, at 3 p.m., we’ll get to see two of the best educated men in baseball square off against each other in the Polo Grounds. We will of course carry Game 3 live here on our Playograph.

 


Philadelphia Has a New King; “Home Run” Baker

(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.”


Giants Come From Behind in 9th to Win Thriller; Did Doyle Touch Home Plate?

(October 26th, 1911) NEW YORK– It looked like this Series was shaping up to have a real Broadway ending. Rube Oldring (left, looking at camera), whose sister died a week ago, was one out away from being Philadelphia’s newest hero. In the 3rd inning of yesterday’s game, he blasted a 3-run shot deep into the left field bleachers off of Giants pitcher Rube Marquard, and the A’s had a 3-0 lead and Jack Coombs on the hill. It looked like the Series was over, and Philadelphia prepared for a celebration. But these Giants proved that their hearts were still beating, and they’ve got as much grit as any team in baseball. They scratched out a run in the 7th, and the 9th inning began with the Athletics up by a score of 3-1.

Coombs got Buck Herzog to ground out to short. The Athletics were now 2 outs away from victory. Art Fletcher came to bat with none but the 5,000 A’s fans in attendance cheering. Fletcher brought the other 28,000 kranks back to life with a double. But Chief Meyer grounded out to short. The A’s were now one out away from the championship trophy. Up came Giants pitcher Doc Crandall. Doc, the first pitcher that I’m aware of being used solely as a relief pitcher, had come in in the 8th inning and shut the A’s down. Of course, he’s also known for swinging a fair piece of lumber, and McGraw regularly uses him as a pinch hitter. Jim Nasium over at the Inquirer remarked on the feeling amongst Philadelphia fans as Crandall (pictured below, right) stepped to the plate with 2 outs.

Those persons in the audience who are in the habit of grabbing their lunch in the shadow of the Bill Penn statue could already hear the old cheese cloth rustling down the brown October trail, and it just wanted one more man to be retired…we weren’t particular about the form of retirement that might be chosen by the principals in the cast, and then the accumulation of red fire could be touched off and we could spend the balance of the evening laying in an assortment of headaches as a grand wind-up to the national frolic for the season of 1911. Came then the Crandall episode, and the fireworks and the headaches adjourned to meet again tomorrow evening. 

The “Crandall episode” my colleague refers to was a scorching double to center field (“One of the hardest hits of the Series” said Mathewson afterward) off a visibly tired Coombs. That brought home Fletcher. The score was now 3-2. The A’s were still one out from victory, though it was obvious that Coombs was spent and perhaps even injured. Mack had sent Chief Bender out to the hill in the 8th to try to convince Coombs to come out of the game, but Coombs refused (Mack, or course, is not allowed on the field during a game because he refuses to wear a uniform).

After the Crandall hit, Mack sent Ira Thomas out to try to talk Coombs into taking a rest. Josh Devore was coming up to the plate. He had struck out four times against Coombs in Game 2 and had done nothing in this game. Coombs wanted to finish the game and end the Series. Mack left him in and Plank watched from the bullpen.

Coombs delivered his first pitch to leadoff man Devore, who cracked a single to left field, and Doc beat Bris Lord’s throw to the plate to tie the game at 3. We were going to extra innings.

Mack was determined to allow Coombs to finish what he had started, letting him bat in the top of the 10th. He beat out a bunt to first, but pulled a groin doing so and had to be replaced by Eddie Plank when the two teams went to the bottom the tenth still tied at 3. Plank had been a hero in Game 2, but not on this day. Larry Doyle led off the inning with his 4th hit of the game, a double that landed in the left field corner. Fred Snodgrass bunted Doyle over to third. Plank tried to get the runner at third, but Doyle was too quick, and now there was a runner on third and no outs. The New York bugs were buzzing. Red Murray flied out weakly to short right field, and held Doyle at third. Up stepped Fred Merkle. The goat of that famous game against the Cubs in 1908, he now played the hero, sending a fly ball into right field, deeper than Murray’s. Danny Murphy ran up to make the catch and hurled the ball home. Doyle slid. The throw to catcher Jack Lapp was high. The New York crowd went wild. The A’s shuffled off the field. But wait…there had been no call from the umpire.

Home plate ump Bill Klem remarked after the game that Doyle never touched home, and had Lapp tagged him or if the A’s had made an appeal, he would have called him out. Thousands of delirious New York fans began to pour onto the field. A’s captain Harry Davis looked at McGraw to see if he should protest. McGraw made no move. No protest was made, and Klem walked away. The Giants had completed the come from behind victory, and cut the Series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is scheduled for today in Philadelphia. We’ll have live coverage at 2 p.m. In the meantime, we’ll also have more on this controversial play at home that ended the game.