Thursday, March 15, 2012

1913 World Series: Unlucky Christy

The Teams
American League: Philadelphia Athletics (96-57) - Fourth World Series (won in 1910, 1911)
National League: New York Giants (101-51) - Fourth World Series (won in 1905)

What Happened
It wasn't Christy Mathewson's fault the Giants kept losing the World Series. After all, he was brilliant every time he took the mound in the World Series. It's just that his teammates rarely seemed interested in matching his talent. Maybe they were spoiled after 1905, when Mathewson basically won the World Series by himself with three straight shutouts.

Since then, though, it had been years of disappointment for the Giants, first in their inability to get past the Cubs, then in their failures in the World Series. In 1911, they lost to Philadelphia in a rematch of 1905. Then they lost to Smoky Joe Wood and the Red Sox in 1912. 1913 was their third straight National League pennant, and they would get a matchup against Philadelphia again, a rubber match between the two rivals.

While the Giants had Mathewson's expected brilliance against the A's, they didn't have much else. Philadelphia, meanwhile, were deep and strong, in the heart of a stretch where they would win four pennants in five years. They had Eddie Plank, who was nearly as good a pitcher as Mathewson, and the $100,000 infield, led by Eddie Collins and Frank "Home Run" Baker.

Collins and Baker were brilliant early in the series; they combined for six hits in Game 1 and were responsible for 7 of Philadelphia's 8 runs in Game 3. In between, Mathewson outdueled Plank in a 3-0, 10-inning win in Game 2, a game in which Mathewson himself got the game-winning RBI. Collins and Baker slowed down the rest of the series, but the A's didn't, taking a 6-0 lead in Game 4 before holding on for a win. Plank then held the Giants to 2 hits in Game 5 - one of them by Mathewson - to close out the series.

Defining Game
The offenses had little hope in Game 2 with Mathewson and Plank on the mound, with neither offense mounting any kind of challenge in the first eight innings. Finally in the ninth, the pitchers started to tire. First, the Giants got two runners on in the top of the 9th before Plank got out of it. Then, the Athletics got runners on second and third with nobody out in the bottom of the inning, only to see Mathewson get out of it, including two outs at the plate. Finally in the top of the 10th, Mathewson started the game-winning rally himself, driving in the first run of the game. The Giants added two more, then held on for their only win of the series.

Random Fact:
When Doc Crandall pinch-hit for Mathewson to lead off the bottom of the ninth of Game 5, the greatest postseason pitching career came to an end. Game 5 was Mathewson's 11 career World Series start, 10 of which ended up as complete games and 6 of which came with three days of rest or fewer. Over those 101 innings, batters hit only .197 off him, and his ERA was 0.97, or less than a run per game. Yet Mathewson's postseason record was only 5-5, and the Giants only won one of the series he pitched in. Aside from one three-game stretch of immortality, he had nothing to show for his brilliance.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Philadelphia 6 0 8 6 3
New York 4 3 (10) 2 5 1

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

81. 1913 - Philadelphia (A) def. New York (N) 4-1
82. 1930 - Philadelphia (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-2
83. 1914 - Boston (N) def. Philadelphia (A) 4-0
84. 1951 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
85. 1939 - New York (A) def. Cincinnati (N) 4-0
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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