Sunday, July 8, 2012

1933 World Series: What Could Have Been

The Teams
National League: New York Giants (91-61) - 10th World Series (Won in 1905, 1921, 1922)
American League: Washington Senators (99-63) - Third World Series (Won in 1924)

What Happened
It might have been because the nation was in the deepest depths of the Great Depression, or it might have been because the two teams involved didn't quite capture the imagination of the country. Whatever the reason, the 1933 World Series didn't take over the nation's consciousness like previous versions had.

Those who were paying attention were treated to a series that kept getting to the cusp of greatness but ultimately falling short. A few bounces here or there and this could have easily become a series for the ages. Instead, it was over within five days, and the Washington Senators and their fans were left wondering what could have been.

The Giants had the two best players in the series in pitcher Carl Hubbell and outfielder Mel Ott, and those two were the keys to New York's Game 1 victory. Ott went 4-for-4, including a two-run home run in the first and a run-scoring single in the third. Given a 4-0 lead, Hubbell took over from there, holding the Senators to just three hits and a single unearned run through eight innings. In the ninth, the Senators mounted a rally, loading the bases with nobody out. Joe Kuhel drove in a run with a ground out to make it 4-2, but Hubbell got the final two outs to escape with the victory.

That game started a pattern for the Senators. After the teams split Games 2 and 3, Hubbell again took the mound for Game 4. Hubbell was almost as good as he was in Game 1, but Washington's Monte Weaver was just as good, and the teams went into extra innings tied 1-1. That's when the frustration began for Washington. They got two runners on base in the bottom of the tenth, but Joe Cronin grounded out to end the threat. In the top of the 11th, the Giants made it look easy, as a single, sacrifice, and single made it 2-1. In the bottom of the frame, Washington threatened again against Hubbell, getting the first two runners on base. They eventually loaded the bases with one out before a double-play ball ended the game.

Game 5 was, as it turned out, the final World Series game ever played at Washington's Griffith Stadium, and Washington's Fred Schulte made sure it was a good one by hitting a three-run home run to tie the game in the 6th. Once again, extra innings were in store. With two outs in the top of the 10th, Ott hit a deep drive to center field. Normally, there would have been plenty of room in Griffith Stadium's deep center field to contain the blast, but team owners had installed temporary bleachers in the outfield to make room for more fans for the series. Schulte got his glove on Ott's blast, but the ball squirted out of his glove and into those temporary bleachers for a home run. After two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, the Senators put two runners on base with yet another chance for a clutch hit. Again, though, they were left wanting. Kuhel struck out, and the Giants celebrated their title.

Defining Game
Hubbell was a great pitcher, sure, but he wasn't unbeatable. The Senators had a few chances to break through against him in Game 4. Had they delivered, had they stolen a win in a game that Hubbell started, it might have been enough for them to steal the entire series. Instead, they were left shaking their heads. Twice, it was Schulte, who made the third out with two runners on base in both the fourth and eighth innings. In the 10th, it was Joe Cronin, the future Hall of Famer, who grounded into a force play with two runners on to end the threat. Most frustrating, though was pinch-hitter Cliff Bolton, sent to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 11th, in a situation where a single most likely wins the game. Bolton wasn't a star by any means, but he did bat .409 that year, primarily as a pinch hitter. He made solid contact, too, hitting a sharp grounder, but it was right at shortstop Blondy Ryan, who quickly turned the devastating, game-ending, series-turning double play.

The answer to the question of "who was the MVP" depends on whether you prefer pitching or hitting. For fans of batters, it was Ott, who opened the series with a home run, hit the series-winning blast in Game 5, and in between batted .389. For fans of pitchers, it was Hubbell, who struck out 15 and gave up only 13 hits in 20 innings of work, ending the series with a perfect 0.00 ERA because all runs scored off him were unearned. If the World Series MVP had existed in 1933 and I was a sportswriter with a vote, I would have probably picked Hubbell. 

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Washington 2141 3
New York 4602 (11) 4 (10)

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

45. 1933 - New York (N) def. Washington (A) 4-1
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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