Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1905 World Series: A String of Zeros

The Teams
National League: New York Giants (105-48) - First World Series
American League: Philadelphia Athletics (92-56) - First World Series

What Happened
The Giants almost killed the World Series before it could establish itself. After a successful inaugural  series in 1903 left many baseball fans wanting it to become a new annual tradition, the Giants, runaway winners of the 1904 National League pennant, announced that they would not participate in the World Series in 1904. The stated reason was that manager John McGraw didn't want to legitimize the American League, which he still considered a minor league.

Another main reason, though, was that it looked like the New York Highlanders (who would eventually be renamed the Yankees) would win the American League pennant. The last thing McGraw wanted was an opportunity for the Highlanders to claim the title of best team in New York, so he refused to play them. When Boston lapped the Highlanders in the final week of the season to claim their second straight AL crown, the Giants took a lot of heat for not playing in the World Series, but McGraw didn't back down. Eventually, though, the fans got their way. Though the move came too late to save the 1904 series, the National League announced that it would make the World Series an annual event starting in 1905.

It was fitting, then, that the Giants won the pennant again in 1905. Whatever their thoughts about playing in the World Series, they had to be happy that their opponents in 1905 were not the two-time champion Boston Americans (Red Sox) nor the cross-town Highlanders but the Philadelphia Athletics. The A's were a fine team, blessed with great pitching and a legendary manager of their own in Connie Mack. But in truth, they didn't have a chance, because the Giants had Christy Mathewson.

In truth, all the pitchers in the 1905 series stood out. All five games ended in shutouts, a World Series record that will almost certainly never be broken. Another virtually unbreakable record was set by Mathewson: he pitched in three games and threw three complete-game shutouts. That's 27 scoreless innings in one World Series.

There are all sorts of numbers that show just how dominant the pitching was in this series. The Athletics only batted .155 as a team, for example, with only five extra base hits. In the entire series, there was only one relief pitcher used, and he only pitched one inning of one game. And in the only game Philadelphia won, Game 2, all three of their runs were unearned, meaning that the Giants had an ERA of 0.00 in 44 innings pitched in the series.

The leader of it all, though, was Mathewson, whose brilliance made the series seem very anticlimactic. Maybe McGraw was right about the American League being an inferior league.

Defining Game
Game 5. One win from the title, McGraw gave the ball to Mathewson for the third time in the series for Game 5. Mathewson, of course, threw a shutout, giving up only five hits and four walks. Befitting the series, though, was how the Giants scored their two runs. They got one in the fifth on two walks, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly that turned into a double play, then got another one in the seventh on a walk (to Mathewson), a ground-rule double, and a ground out. So yah, pitching ruled.

You really have to ask?

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

New York 3 0 9 1 2
Philadelphia 0 3 0 0 0

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

87. 1905 - New York (N) def. Philadelphia (A) 4-1
88. 1965 - Los Angeles (N) def. Minnesota (A) 4-3
89. 1961 - New York (A) def. Cincinnati (N) 4-1
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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