Monday, March 12, 2012

1930 World Series: Philly flies high

The Teams
American League: Philadelphia Athletics (102-52) - Sixth World Series (Won in  1910, 1911, 1913, 1929)
National League: St. Louis Cardinals (92-62) - Third World Series (Won in 1926)

What Happened
One reason Connie Mack stuck around to manage the Philadelphia Athletics for more than 50 years was because he owned the team. Who was gonna fire him? Another reason was that he knew how to build a dynasty. From 1910-1914, the A's had the best infield in baseball, and those four players gave them four American League pennants in a five-year span. Starting in 1929, the A's had the game's best catcher (Mickey Cochrane), left fielder (Al Simmons), and pitcher (Lefty Grove), and had the second-best first baseman in Jimmie Foxx. All four of those players would end up in the Hall of Fame, and while the rest of their teammates around them were average to above-average at best, the four stars were enough to keep the A's at the top of the American League for three years.

1930 was the middle of a three-year stretch of dominance for Philadelphia, and after easily beating the Cubs to win the title in 1929, they faced St. Louis in the Series in 1930. St. Louis looked good, too; every regular, and their top two bench players, all hit above .300 for the season. But this was 1930, one of the biggest offensive years in baseball history, and the Cardinals' .314 team batting average was only good for third-best in the National League. They had good players, future Hall-of-Famers in their lineup like Philadelphia, but their stars weren't at the height of their careers like Philadelphia's were.

Case in point was Game 1. Burleigh Grimes held Philadelphia to just five hits in the opening game, but all five hits were extra-base hits, leading to five Athletic runs. St. Louis could have batted for 18 innings and not gotten 5 runs off Grove. In Game 2, Cochrane, Simmons, and Foxx combined for four runs, four hits, and three runs batted in - all in the first four innings - to pace another Philadelphia win.

When the series returned to St. Louis, the Cardinals bounced back. Bill Hallahan threw a shutout at Philadelphia in Game 3, and two unearned runs helped Jesse Haines top Grove in a matchup of Hall of Famers in Game 4.

The series turned in Game 5, as Grimes and Game 2 winner George Earnshaw matched zeroes through seven innings. Philadelphia then turned to Grove - did I mention that he was both the game's best starter and the best reliever? - as a fresh arm in the final innings, then got a two-run home run from Foxx in the ninth inning to take a 3-2 lead back to Philadelphia. From there it was easy: the A's scored in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings in their deciding Game 6 victory.

Defining Game
The string of zeroes Grimes and Earnshaw traded in Game 5 were especially impressive considering the lineups that were shut down and the era in which they were playing. Earnshaw only gave up two hits in his seven innings of work, and Grimes mostly kept out of trouble until the eighth. That inning, the A's loaded the bases with one out before going down on consecutive force plays at home and at second base. Perhaps, though, that was just a sign that Grimes was tiring, which wasn't a good sign with Cochrane, Simmons, and Foxx due up the next inning. Foxx made him pay in the top of the ninth with the blast that essentially clinched the series.

Despite all the stars Philadelphia had, it was Earnshaw who shined the brightest. While Grove only started two games and lost one of them, Earnshaw got the start in three games, including back-to-back starts in Games 5 and 6. He only gave up two runs in 25 innings, striking out 19 batters against only 13 hits allowed.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

St. Louis 2 1 5 3 0 1
Philadelphia 5 6 0 1 27

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

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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