Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Series No One Cared About

The World Series has become such a staple of American culture, tickets can be quite difficult and costly to obtain for the average fan nowadays. But it wasn't always that way. In 1918, the hometown clubs couldn't give them away. 
With the United States fully committed to World War I, a “work or fight” order was issued, forcing all draft-age men into the military or “essential industries.” Baseball was considered expendable and the 1918 season was suspended after Labor Day. Played with special permission from U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, the World Series that year, which pitted the Red Sox against the Cubs, yielded the lowest player’s share in history (less than $1,200 for members of the winning team).
The Series opened in Chicago, where the games had been shifted to Comiskey Park because of its spacious capacity of 32,000. Cubs Park (later known as Wrigley field) was much smaller, accomodating just 18,000 at the time. None of the three Windy City games came close to selling out. In fact, there were more than 10,000 seats available when the teams squared off in Games 1 and 2.  
Attendance in Boston was even worse as only 22,183 fans turned out for Game 4. Fenway Park--with a capacity of 35,000--must have looked pretty empty that day. Displeased with the low gate receipts, players from both teams threatened to strike shortly before Game 5. Offered no concessions, they took the field more than an hour late. The results were disastrous as fans stayed away in droves the following day. Only 15,238 paying customers showed up to see the Red Sox claim their last world championship of the 20th century.
Members of baseball’s National Commission showed their disapproval of the players' actions by withholding the emblems that were normally awarded to Series victors (rings would not be distributed until the 1930's). By the time the Red Sox organization handed out replica emblems during a pre-game ceremony seventy five years later, every member of the 1918 club had passed away.

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