Thursday, February 23, 2012

1910 World Series: Transitions

The Teams
American League: Philadelphia Athletics (102-48) - Second World Series
National League: Chicago Cubs (104-50) - Fourth World Series (won in 1907, 1908)

What Happened
The 1910 World Series was a series of transition, featuring one team on the way up and another on the way out. On the way out was the Chicago Cubs, looking for one more championship to cap their their run of four National League championships in five years. Like always, the Cubs had a great pitching staff, leading the league in virtually every pitching staff. For once, they added a strong offense, leading the league in home runs and triples. But with most of their stars getting into their 30s (which was old for ballplayers in that era), they were running out of opportunities to win.

On the way up was the Philadelphia Athletics. Though they had played in the World Series in 1905, much of their team had turned over by 1910. In their place was talented youngsters, including three-fourths of what would become the $100,000 Infield. Third baseman Frank Baker, shortstop Jack Berry, and second baseman Eddie Collins were in the starting lineup, and first baseman Stuffy McInnis was in his final year as a bench player. Those four would come to be known as the $100,000 Infield because of their eventual combined salaries. Yes, combined. The point is, they were stars, and their careers were just getting started.

But reach the top, they had to get through the Cubs. They were dealt a blow when ace Eddie Plank, one of their few holdovers from 1905, had to sit out the series with a sore arm. Taking his place in Game 1 was Charles Bender, who was given the clever nickname of "Chief" because of his Native American heritage. Bender only gave up three hits - two coming in the ninth while the Cubs tried to rally in vain - while Baker got three hits himself for the A's. The Cubs pounded Three-Finger Brown in Game 2, while 30-game winner Jack Coombs got the win for Philadelphia.

In Game 3, with Coombs pitching on only one day of rest for some reason, the A's offense exploded for 12 runs on 16 hits. They were a win away from the title, which became one inning away as Bender took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. But for the second straight start, Bender tired in the ninth, and the Cubs tied it on Frank Chance's triple before winning the game in the 10th.

Game 5 was between Brown and Coombs, who was pitching on two days of rest this time. It was a 2-1 Philadelphia lead entering the eighth when Coombs himself started a rally with a single. Five runs later, and the A's started celebrating. It was the birth of their dynasty, and the end of Chicago's.

Defining Game
Chicago's offense showed some spark throughout the series, but Game 4 was the only one where they got any payoff for it. Chance's triple scored the tying run, and the Jimmy Sheckard hit the game-winning single to center in the bottom of the 10th. Sheckard's single was more than the hit that helped the Cubs stave off elimination - it was also the first walk-off hit in World Series history.

The A's only used two pitchers all series, so it would have been easy to pick either Bender of Coombs, but their offense was the real show. Collins, Baker, and Danny Murphy all batted above .400. Baker had three doubles and a triple, Collins had four doubles and four stolen bases, and Murphy had a series-high 9 rbi and the series' only home run. In other words, take your pick of any of the three.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Chicago 1 3 5 4 (10) 2
Philadelphia 4 9 12 3 7

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

86. 1910 - Philadelphia (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-1
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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