Tuesday, June 19, 2012

1916 World Series: Ruth for 14

The Teams
American League: Boston Red Sox (91-63) - Third World Series (won in 1903, 1912)
National League: Brooklyn Robins (94-60) - First World Series

What Happened
Bases loaded, top of the ninth, two out. Brooklyn first baseman Jake Daubert stepped to the plate, hoping to continue the Robins' improbable rally. Trailing 6-1 entering the ninth inning of Game 1, the Robins loaded the bases with one out. Their comeback seemed thwarted when Mike Mowrey hit a tailor-made double play ball, but Boston's Hal Javrin booted it, allowing a run to score and keeping the game alive. What happened next wasn't pretty, but after two infield singles, an infield popup, and a walk, the Robins had cut the lead to 1. That's when Daubert stepped up to the plate. He hit the ball up the middle, seeming destined for the outfield, but Boston shortstop Everett Scott cut it off, stopped, and fired to first, getting Daubert by a half-step. Boston had survived.

It's rare that the decisive play in a playoff series comes in the first game, but many people believe that's exactly what happened in the 1916 World Series. Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson - after whom the team was named - said for years afterwards that he felt that if Brooklyn had won that first game, they would have won the series.

It's not like they didn't have their chances, though. After losing a 14-inning classic in Game 2, the Robins won the first World Series game played in Ebbets Field to cut the deficit to 2-1, and they led 2-0 after the first inning of Game 4.  But then Boston's Larry Gardner hit a three-run, inside-the-park home run to give the Red Sox the lead, and they pulled away from there, winning that game and Game 5 to win their second consecutive championship.

Would the series have turned out differently if Daubert's ninth-inning hit had snuck through? It's possible, sure, but not likely. Even though they split the next two games, the Robins pitchers started to tire as the series dragged along. Boston didn't exactly have a powerful lineup, especially after trading away legendary center fielder Tris Speaker over the winter, but they had won two championships in the previous four seasons. They wouldn't have blinked at a 2-1 series deficit, and they had plenty of pitchers to keep trotting out there, while the Robins quickly ran out.

Either way Scott's great play to end Game 1 was a turning point. One that went a long way toward making sure the Red Sox repeated as champs.

Defining Game
Game 1 might have had the biggest play of the series, but Game 2 was the most stunning. Brooklyn centerfielder Hy Myers hit an inside-the-park home run to give the Robins a 1-0 first-inning lead, but then Boston pitcher Babe Ruth - who led the American League with nine shutouts during the season - shut them down from there. Ruth drove in the run that tied the game in the bottom of the third, then kept throwing up zeroes. Not to be outdone, Brooklyn pitcher Sherry Smith matched Ruth zero for zero, inning after inning. Brooklyn's only threat came in the 8th, as they put runners on the corners with one out. Mowrey was caught in a rundown between home and third after a grounder for out number two, and Ruth got out of it from there. In the bottom of the ninth, Myers cut down Javrin trying to score the game-winning run on a not-deep-enough fly ball, and the teams went into extra innings.

As the zeroes piled up, it was clear that both pitchers were tiring, but they didn't come any closer to giving anything up. In fact, Ruth was so tired that when he came up with the winning run on first with two out in the bottom of the 12th, he couldn't even consider swinging. He bunted weakly to Smith, then kept right on pitching. Finally, the Red Sox ended the drama on Del Gainer's rbi single in the bottom of the 14th. Gainer's hit was rightly overshadowed, though, by Ruth's performance. He went the final 13 innings without giving up a run, pitching well past the point of exhaustion. That streak was the start of something else, too. Though he didn't pitch the rest of that series, Ruth pitched two twice in the 1918 World Series and eventually extended his scoreless-innings streak to 29 1/3 innings, a record that would stand until 1961.


Three choices here, each with their plusses and minues. Ruth, obviously, is a choice for his 14-inning masterpiece, but he only pitched in one game in the series. Fellow pitcher Ernie Shore is also a choice - two starts, two wins, a 1.53 ERA. But, he was on the mound when Brooklyn began their near-series turning comeback in Game 1. Duffy Lewis was the best hitter in the series - a .353 average, two doubles and a triple - but his hits didn't mean much; his only rbi drove in the first run of the series, and his biggest plate appearance was his sacrifice bunt in the 14th inning of Game 2.

I'll go with Shore. The Robins' ninth-inning rally included two infield singles and an error on a double play ball. Hardly his fault, and he was brilliant the rest of the time.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Brooklyn 514 21
Boston 62 (14)3 64

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

53. 1916 - Boston (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-1 
54. 1949 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-1
55. 1942 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-1
56. 1974 - Oakland (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-1
57. 1955 - Brooklyn (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
58. 1979 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Baltimore (A) 4-3
59. 1987 - Minnesota (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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