Monday, July 21, 2014

Game 7: Exciting World Series Finales (1912)

October 16, 1912
Red Sox vs. Giants
Fenway Park, Boston

The location of this game was determined by a coin flip. It was a makeup for Game 2, which had been declared a 6-6 tie on account of darkness after the eleventh inning. Having committed five errors in that game, the New Yorkers were fortunate to salvage a tie.

The 1912 Giants were managed by the pugnacious John McGraw, who would spend more than thirty years at the helm in New York, guiding the club to ten pennants and three World Series titles. The Gotham pitching staff was anchored by Hall of Famers Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson. With 373 career victories, Mathewson is considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of his time. Marquard, a left-hander, led the NL with 26 wins in 1912 as the Giants finished ten games ahead of the second place Pirates.

The Red Sox carried one of the most talented outfield tandems in history with Hall of Famers Tris Speaker (CF) and Harry Hooper (RF) patrolling the outer perimeter. Left fielder Duffy Lewis was no slouch either, leading the club with 109 RBIs during the 1912 slate. Before the "Green Monster" was erected at Fenway Park, there was a steep ten foot embankment in front of the left field wall. Lewis became so adept at playing the caroms, the hazard came to be known at "Duffy's Cliff." The Boston pitching staff was dominated by twenty-two year-old flamethrower Smoky Joe Wood. He led the American League in wins (34) and shutouts (10). Boston cruised to a pennant, placing fourteen games ahead of the runner-up Senators.

The Red Sox held a 3-to-1 advantage before McGraw's Giants scratched out a 5-3 win in New York. When the Series moved back to Boston, Wood (who had prevailed in his first two starts) suddenly lost his effectiveness, coughing up 6 runs on 7 hits before being getting the hook after just one inning. The Giants evened the Series with an 11-4 romp that day.

Before the final contest, rumors circulated that two Boston players had been caught scalping their tickets to undercover police. Another story surfaced about an altercation between Joe Wood and staff mate Buck O'Brien. It was reported that catcher Bill Carrigan also took a swing at Wood before the fight was broken up by manager Jake Stahl. Stahl later denied that the incident had taken place and Wood bore no bruises to prove it.
Boston's Hugh Bedient (a twenty-game winner during the regular season) took the mound against Mathewson. Both hurlers pitched brilliantly. With the score knotted at one apiece after seven innings, Stahl called upon Joe Wood to close out the game for the Red Sox. In the end, it was the Giants defense that would determine the outcome of the Series. In the top of the tenth, a one-out double by Giants left fielder Red Murray was followed by a clutch single off the bat of first baseman Fred Merkle. Wood retired the next two batters, but the Sox were in a 2-1 hole heading into the bottom of the frame.With Mathewson still on the mound for New York, Boston's Clyde Engle ended up at second base on an error by Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass. Snodgrass's mother, who was following the game on a telegraph scoreboard in a California theater, allegedly feinted when she got word of the play. Engle advanced to third on a sac-fly by Harry Hooper. Instead of having two outs and nobody on, Mathewson now had a runner at third with one-out. One of the strangest plays in World Series history followed.

Mathewson walked second baseman Steve Yerkes, bringing the ultra-dangerous Tris Speaker to the plate. Speaker hit a playable pop-up between first base and home plate. Mathewson called for catcher Chief Meyers to make the catch even though Fred Merkle was closer. Meyers, not the swiftest backstop in the league, couldn't get to the ball in time. It dropped untouched in foul territory. Speaker allegedly yelled: "Well, you just called for the wrong man and it's gonna cost you the ballgame!" Speaker singled home Clyde Engle to tie the game. Mathewson then walked the dangerous Duffy Lewis. Larry Gardener followed with a game-ending sac-fly as the Boston prevailed, 3-2. Only 17,034 fans were on hand (on a Wednesday night) to see the Red Sox clinch the Series in their brand new ballpark.

A headline in the New York Sun absolved Mathewson of any culpability: "Not Matty's Fault: Pitches Throughout With Superb Courage and Judgement." National League President Thomas Lynch echoed that sentiment, telling reporters: "If not for Snodgrass's muff, the Giants would have won the title. It was hard lines for Christy Mathewson, who pitched superbly." Sadly, Fred Snodgrass was never able to disassociate himself from the Giants heartbreaking loss in the 1912 finale. In a 1940 interview, he said: "Hardly a day in my life, hardly an hour goes by, that in some manner or other the dropping of that fly doesn't come up, even after thirty years." The error was even mentioned in the headline of his 1974 New York Times obituary.


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