Thursday, July 5, 2012

1929 World Series: 10-spot

The Teams
American League: Philadelphia Athletics (104-46) - Sixth World Series (Won in 1910, 1911, 1913) 
National League: Chicago Cubs (98-54) - Sixth World Series (Won in 1907, 1908)

What Happened
The best strategic move in the 1929 World Series actually happened several weeks before the series started. In early September, PhBiiladelphia manager Connie Mack told veteran pitcher Howard Ehmke that he was going to release him. Ehmke wanted a chance to pitch in a World Series, so he convinced Mack to let him stay, promising the old skipper that he had one good start left in him. Mack agreed and sent Ehmke to scout the Chicago Cubs, who were running away with the National League pennant.

When the World Series rolled around, Mack stunned all of baseball by picking Ehmke to start Game 1 instead of one of his 20-game winners in Lefty Grove or George Earnshaw. But Ehmke had been paying attention during all those weeks he spent following Chicago around, and he used his sidearm delivery and soft breaking pitches to completely baffle the Cubs. It took the A's until the 7th inning to finally break through against the Cubs, but they gave Ehmke a 3-0 lead entering the ninth. Though he gave up an unearned run in the ninth, Ehmke held on for an unlikely Game 1 victory.

The other interesting decision Mack made before the series was to put the great Grove in the bullpen. Grove was almost unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball at the time, but he was left-handed - as most people named "Lefty" tend to be - and the Cubs were stacked full of powerful right-handed batters. Mack wanted to avoid the mismatch, so he put the best pitcher in the game in the bullpen. He brought him out of the bullpen in the fifth inning of Game 2, though, after the Cubs got five straight singles off Earnshaw. Grove got out of that threat, then barely broke a sweat in shutting down the Cubs the rest of the way to give the A's a 2-0 series lead.

Earnshaw got the starting nod again in Game 3 for some reason, and a three-run sixth inning was all the Cubs needed to cut the series deficit. After getting on the board, the Cubs lit up a bunch of A's pitchers who weren't Lefty Grove to take an 8-0 lead in Game 4. But then the A's put together the greatest inning in World Series history, lighting up the Cubs for 10 runs to turn certain defeat into a series-turning victory.

With a big inning like that pushing them along, it seems like the A's should have been fired up for Game 5, but instead their hitters sleep walked through the first eight innings. Trailing 2-0 entering the ninth, Mule Haas hit a one-out, two-run home run over the short Shibe Park right field wall to tie the game. After a second out, Al Simmons doubled, and after an intentional walk to Jimmie Foxx, Bing Miller became just the second player to end a World Series with a hit, giving Philadelphia the championship with a double.

Defining Game
When the Philadelphia fans stood for the seventh-inning stretch for Game 4, things were looking bleak. The Cubs were leading 8-0, and Charlie Root had only given up three hits. By all appearances, it was a Cubs win, and it had the potential to be so much more than that. Simmons lead off with a home run, but that just meant that it was no longer a shutout. The Cubs were still going to tie the series, and they had guaranteed the series would be heading back to Wrigley Field. This was the kind of loss that would turn the entire series around. Even the consecutive singles by Foxx and Miller weren't going to change that, nor the singles by Jimmy Dykes and Joe Boley that scored a pair and made it 8-3. All that meant was that the Philadelphia bats were finally waking up. They needed some kind of positive vibe heading into Game 5.

After an out, another run-scoring single, this one by Max Bishop. Interesting, too, because they're taking out Root. Haas then got to bat against Art Nehf, and he hit a deep fly ball to center field. It should have been the second out, but Hack Wilson broke in when he should have drifted back, and by the time he recovered, Haas was sliding into home. It was 8-7. Panic time for the Cubs.

The A's weren't done. After Mickey Cochrane walked, the Cubs tried Sheriff Blake on the mound, but he gave up consecutive singles by Simmons and Foxx. Tie game. Pat Malone then came in to pitch, and he hit Miller to load the bases, and then Dykes finished things with a two-run double. An 8-0 deficit had turned into a 10-8 lead. Two innings later, what should have been a series-turning win for the Cubs had turned into a devastating, virtually series-clinching loss.

The A's had a lot of hitting stars in the series, but Foxx shined the brightest. He opened the scoring with home runs in both Games 1 and 2, and he got two singles in the series-defining 7th inning of Game 4. 

Scores(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Philadelphia 39110 3
Chicago 1338 2

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

46. 1929 - Philadelphia (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-1
47. 1982 - St. Louis (N) def. Milwaukee (A) 4-3
48. 1923 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
49. 1944 - St. Louis (N) def. St. Louis (A) 4-2
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

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