1912 World Series
From BR Bullpen
|1912 World Series|
|Boston Red Sox
105 - 47 in the AL
|4 - 3 - 1
|New York Giants|
103 - 48 in the NL
 The Match-Up
As baseball progresses into the 21st century and over 100 World Series have been played, few remember that perhaps the most exciting Fall Classic ever played took place in 1912 between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants.
No video is available, so this World Series drifts into obscurity, unable to be brought back to life by ESPN Classic. But this clash between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants was truly a remarkable eight-game series with an incredible finish.
The Philadelphia Athletics were in the process of winning four American League pennants in five years on the strength of their $100,000 infield of third baseman Frank "Home Run' Baker, shortstop Jack Barry, second baseman Eddie Collins and first baseman Stuffy McInnis. But the Red Sox, managed by first baseman Jake Stahl, broke up that run in 1912 with their heralded outfield of Duffy Lewis in left, Tris Speaker in center and Harry Hooper in right. The pitching staff was led by Smokey Joe Wood, who went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA.John McGraw and were led by the incomparable Christy Mathewson, who was 23-12 with a 2.12 ERA. But their staff also included Hall of Famer Rube Marquard, who won a league-high 26 games, and rookie Jeff Tesreau, who led the league with a 1.96 ERA.
The Red Sox, of course, were playing in their new ballpark, Fenway Park, which opened that year, while the Giants were playing at the Polo Grounds. Box seats at Fenway were going for five dollars. In New York you get get four in a box for $25.
Both teams had won the pennant by wide margins, the Red Sox by 14 games and the Giants by ten, creating a highly anticipated World Series that even overshadowed the presidential election between Republican incumbent William Howard Taft, Democratic challenger Woodrow Wilson and Bull Moose candidate Theodore Roosevelt.
Many still remembered 1904, when both teams won their pennants but Giants owner John Brush refused to play the Red Sox in the World Series. Eddie Collins, now in the Hall of Fame, gave his opinion on the Series to a wire service and predicted the Red Sox would win. Wrote Collins - or his ghostwriter - on the eve of the series: "After having played against Boston last week, it is my opinion that there never was a team so well prepared for a world's series or so confident of victory. The Red Sox looked better in this last series with the Athletics than I have seen them look all season...
Collins also predicted the Red Sox would hit the Giants pitchers hard, with the exception of Tesreau, the rookie spitballer.
"I expect to see the Red Sox hit Mathewson and Marquard. Matty has not the speed which he used to possess and they can bat a curve ball pitcher, especially Speaker and (Larry) Gardner, the two lefthanded batters. If Marquard starts, I think he will be mauled badly...
In summation, Collins said, "I want to emphasize the fact that the Red Sox are ready. They are in the best of shape for the series and feel sure of victory.
 Game 1 - Opening Classic
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||0||0||4||6||2|
|New York Giants||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||8||1|
|W: Joe Wood (1-0) L: Jeff Tesreau (0-1)|
- attendance: 35,730
What everybody wanted to see was Wood vs. Matthewson but in the opener, but McGraw made a curious decision and decided to pitch Tesreau instead against Wood. McGraw felt Matthewson and Marquard were better suited to pitch in Fenway Park for Games 2 & 3.
There were 35,730 at the Polo Grounds for Game 1, including several thousand Royal Rooters who had come down from Boston to watch their team take on the Giants.
But in the third inning, Giants outfielder Red Murray hit a two-run single and New York led 2-0. Tesreau, despite three walks, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Then with one out, Tris Speaker hit a drive to right that should have been caught by center fielder Josh Devore. But right fielder Fred Snodgrass cut in front of him and couldn't make the catch. Speaker had a triple and scored on Lewis' grounder to second. The Red Sox then took a 4-2 lead in the seventh when Hooper doubled home one run and Steve Yerkes hit a two-run single with two outs and runners at second and third.
The Red Sox took that 4-2 lead into the ninth and Wood was rolling, having allowed just two hits since the third inning. His strikeout total stood at nine as Red Murray led off the inning with a fly to right. Fred Merkle then singled past short and Buck Herzog blooped a single to right, putting runners at first and second. Catcher Chief Meyers, who had hit .358 during the regular season, then singled past third, sending Merkle racing home. Lewis, supposedly a great defensive outfielder, then did a curious thing: he tried to throw out Merkle at the plate even though his run was meaningless. Merkle was safe and the throw allowed the tying run to reach third with one out as the winning run went to second.
"I threw so hard I thought my arm would fly right off my body," Wood said afterward, talking about striking out Fletcher and Crandall.
Curious note: McGraw had Beals Becker pinch-run for Meyers in the ninth. Becker, as a fourth outfielder, had hit .264 during the regular season. That left him to use Crandall as the last batter even though he had plenty of pinch-hitters on the bench. While it may seem surprising seen with today's eyes, in fact Crandall was an outstanding hitter coming off a .313 season, who was probably an option as good or better than any other player on the bench.
Second curious point: There were 30 errors in this series, including 16 by the Giants.
After his Series opening victory, Red Sox manager Jake Stahl told the press, "We got the jump on them and we can do it again. Tesreau, Mathewson, or Marquard, it will be the same. The boys can hit anybody McGraw sends along."
 Game 2 - The Tie
|New York Giants||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||3||0||1||0||6||11||5|
|Boston Red Sox||3||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||1||0||6||10||1|
|Game stopped by darkness after 11 innings|
- attendance: 30,148
Matty started this one against Ray Collins, a 14-game winner during the regular season for the Red Sox. McGraw wanted this one bad with his best pitcher on the mound but the defense behind him was lousy. But this was not a Matty Classic as the Red Sox scored three in the first, loading the bases with no outs on Harry Hooper's single, an error by shortstop Art Fletcher on Yerkes' grounder and Tris Speaker's bunt single. Duffy Lewis forced Hooper with a grounder to second (would the infield have already been playing in?) but a grounder off Matthewson's glove scored one run and Jake Stahl's single scored two more.
The Giants came back. Red Murray and Buck Herzog both had three hits that day, including a pair of doubles in a three-run eighth inning that gave the Giants a 5-4 lead.
Then Lewis doubled with one out in the bottom of the eighth and Fletcher made his third error of the day when a grounder went between his legs for an error.
The game went extra innings and Fred Merkle gave the Giants a 6-5 lead in the 10th after a leadoff triple, scoring on pinch-hitter Moose McCormick's sacrifice fly.
Matty's defense let him down in the bottom of the inning though, as Speaker hit a line drive to center that Becker misplayed into a triple. Speaker then came in to score as the Giants botched the relay and catcher Art Wilson dropped the ball.
The Giants put two runners on base in the 11th but both Becker and Snodgrass were cut down trying to steal. The game was called after 11 innings because of darkness and Matthewson said afterward, "It was the hardest game I ever went through. I certainly felt all in when it was over."
McGraw tried to make the best of a bad situation, saying, "I did expect Matty to win for us. I haven't used him for nearly a month and I was sure he would come through. He did not lose, we did not lose and the moral victory belongs to us. The boys made a grand fight against a big early lead."
 Game 3 - Classic Catch
|New York Giants||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||2||7||1|
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||7||0|
|W: Rube Marquard (1-0) L: Buck O'Brien (0-1)|
- attendance: 34,624
Marquard dominated Game 3 in front of 34,624 at Fenway Park, taking a five-hit shutout and a 2-0 lead into the ninth.
The Giants had taken the lead in the second inning when Red Murray led off with a double off Boston starter Buck O'Brien, moved to third on Merkle's sacrifice bunt and came in to score on Herzog's fly ball to left field. They added a second run in the fifth when it was Herzog's turn to lead off the inning with a double. He advanced to third on Chief Meyers' ground ball out to pitcher O'Brien and scored on Art Fletcher's single. The Giants then proceeded to load the bases, stealing two bases in the process, but O'Brien got out of the jam when Fred Snodgrass flied out to left field.
The score remained thus until one out in the bottom of the ninth, when Duffy Lewis beat out an infield hit and then scored on Larry Gardner's double. Stahl followed with a grounder back to the mound and Marquard made a good stop, getting Gardner going to third. Olaf Henriksen ran for Stahl and Heinie Wagner reached when first baseman Fred Merkle dropped a throw from Fletcher on a grounder that should have ended the game. Henriksen raced to third on the play and then Wagner stole second unopposed.
That put runners on second and third and darkness was descending on Fenway again when Hick Cady hit a long line drive to right-center. Giants center fielder Josh Devore and right fielder Snodgrass raced over and the latter made a terrific catch in the gloam, one that many Red Sox fans didn't realize he had made.
Legend has it that some people thought the ball went for a hit, the Red Sox actually won the game and didn't realize otherwise until reading the newspapers the next day. Urban legend? Maybe. The series was tied however.
 Games 4 & 5 - Red Sox Take Control
 Game 4
|Boston Red Sox||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||3||8||1|
|New York Giants||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||9||1|
|W: Joe Wood (2-0) L: Jeff Tesreau (0-2)|
- attendance: 36,502
Game 4 was played in New York and Smokey Joe Wood pitched a complete game in a 3-1 victory for the Red Sox. Wood, beating Jeff Tesreau for the second time, struck out eight and did not walk a batter but allowed nine hits, having to escape several jams.
The Red Sox built a two nothing lead with runs in the second and fourth inning. In the second, Larry Gardner led off with a triple and scored on Tesreau's wild pitch. In the fourth, Gardner drew a lead-off walk. Stahl tried to bunt him over to second, but failed, hitting into a force-out instead, and then redeemed himself by stealing second base. He moved to third on a ground out and then scored on Hick Cady's single.
Wood took that 2-0 lead into the seventh but Buck Herzog singled with one out and Fletcher doubled him home with two outs, making it a one-run game. Pinch hitter McCormick followed with a single and Fletcher tried to score but was thrown out by Yerkes, the Red Sox second baseman. Fletcher tried to bowl over Cady at the plate but the Red Sox catcher held onto the ball for the out.
The Red Sox added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, again thanks to Gardner reaching base as the lead-off batter, with a single to center off relief pitcher Red Ames. Stahl's sacrifice bunt was successful this time around, and Gardner came around to score on Wood's two-out single. Wood then returned to the mound and disposed of the Giants in order to seal his and Boston's second win of the series.
 Game 5
|New York Giants||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||3||1|
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||x||2||5||1|
|W: Hugh Bedient (1-0) L: Christy Mathewson (0-1)|
- attendance: 34,683
In Game 5, Hugh Bedient, a 20-game winner for the Red Sox, out-dueled Mathewson for a 2-1 victory at Fenway Park. The Red Sox scored both of their runs in the third with consecutive triples by Harry Hooper and Steve Yerkes. Second baseman Larry Doyle then let Speaker's ground ball get past him for an error, scoring Yerkes. This was all the offense that the Red Sox could muster off Mathewson, as he would retire the next 17 batters he faced, not allowing another base runner in the game.
Unfortunately for Matty, the Giants managed just three hits off Bedient. Merkle doubled leading off the bottom of the seventh and scored on a two-out error by Gardner. But Mathewson grounded to third to end the inning.
The Red Sox had one concern. Speaker had twisted an ankle and was having trouble running. "I am losing base hits each game because I can't get down to first base enough on the account of my ankle," Speaker said the day of Game 5. "It hurts the team to have a cripple like me, as my slowness makes double plays possible when I'm on the bases. I think the ankle is coming along and it ought to be all right with rest tomorrow."
In any case, the Red Sox were now in a possession of a 3 game to 1 lead.
 Games 6 & 7 - New York Comes Back
 Game 6
|Boston Red Sox||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||7||2|
|New York Giants||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||x||5||11||2|
|W: Rube Marquard (2-0) L: Buck O'Brien (0-2)|
- attendance: 30,622
They went back to New York for Game 6 and at this point the Series got a little bit dull. The game featured a re-match of Game 3, in which Rube Marquard of the Giants and Buck O'Brien of the Red Sox had locked in a pitching duel. This time, O'Brien was roughed up as the Giants scored five runs in the first inning. With two outs and Larry Doyle on second as a result of a single and stolen base, New York stroked five consecutive base hits. This would have been enough by itself to put up a big inning, but O'Brien obliged them by committing a balk, that allowed Doyle to score the first run, and then by being victimized by a double steal that saw slow-moving catcher Chief Meyers take second base while Buck Herzog stole home. This bizarre inning ended up with O'Brien picking off Art Fletcher at first base, but the Giants had all the runs they needed.
Boston did make a half-hearted attempt to come back in the top of the second, when Gardner - again - led off the inning by reaching on Marquard's miscue. Stahle followed with a single and then with two outs, Clyde Engle, pinch hitting for the battered O'Brien, stroked a double to left, driving in two unearned runs. However, Marquard cruised for the remaining seven innings, on his way to a complete game 5-2 victory. Ray Collins pitched seven scoreless innings in relief of O'Brien, but his effort was in vain as his teammates only reached base four times against Marquard the rest of the way.
 Game 7
|New York Giants||6||1||0||0||0||2||1||0||1||11||16||4|
|Boston Red Sox||0||1||0||0||0||0||2||1||0||4||9||3|
|W: Jeff Tesreau (1-2) L: Joe Wood (2-1)|
|HR: Larry Gardner BOS, Larry Doyle NY|
- attendance: 32,694
The Series went back to Boston for Game 7 and Red Sox fans had to be feeling good because Wood was facing Tesreau for the third time. There were 32,694 at Fenway waiting to see Smokey Joe wrap it up. Instead, the Giants did to Wood what they had done to O'Brien the previous day: they scored six runs off him in the first inning. Wood didn't come out for the second. In fact, Wood never got settled down: the Giants' first three batters rapped base hits, then after a sacrifice bunt, four of the next five batters hit safely. Once again, only a base running out ended the hemorrhage, with pitcher Tesreau being caught in a rundown while trying to steal second base, but avoiding a tag long enough to allow Fletcher to score the Giants' sixth run.
Charley Hall came in to relieve Wood at the top of the second, but in contrast to Ray Collins' performance in game six, he was unable to hold the Giants to their already sizeable lead. He walked the first two batters he faced, and then, after picking Josh Devore off second base, allowed a single to Fred Snodgrass. He attempted another pick-off play at second base, this time on Larry Doyle, but threw the ball into the outfield instead, allowing a seventh run. Boston got a run back in its half of the inning, when Larry Gardner led off by hitting a ball that bounced over the outfield fence, a home run under the rules of the time. The scored stayed thus until the sixth, when Doyle immitated Gardner with a bounce home run of his own, with Devore on base. With neither pitcher being particularly sharp, the teams then added a few more runs each in the final innings, although New York's massive 9-1 lead was never threatened. The final score was 11-4 in favor of the Giants, tying the Series at three games apiece. For only the second time ever, the World Series would go to a decisive game, to be played at Fenway Park the next day.
Doyle was the offensive star for the Giants, scoring three runs on three hits while driving in two. The damage was spread equally however, as all of the Giants' starters, except for left fielder Red Murray, collected at least one hit, while seven of them scored at least a run. On the Red Sox side, ironically, it was relief pitcher Hall who was the hardest to put out, reaching base four times on three hits, including a double, and a walk. Historical footnote: In the ninth inning, the Giants had runners on second and third when Art Fletcher hit a line drive into short center. Speaker raced in to make the catch and then stepped on second to double up the runner, the only unassisted double play ever made by an outfielder in a World Series.
 Game 8 - The Classic Finish
|New York Giants||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||9||2|
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||3||8||4|
|W: Joe Wood (3-1) L: Christy Mathewson (0-2)|
- attendance: 17,034
Curiously, there were only 17,034 at Fenway, 15,000 less than Game 7.
According to Bill James, a Boston executive gave away seats that normally went to the Royal Rooters. In response, they set up a 300-man picket line that effectively cut the crowd in half. That's remarkable considering this game turned out to be an all-time Classic.
This time it was Mathewson vs. Bedient in a rematch of Game five's pitchers' duel, although Wood would be available in the bullpen for the Red Sox, courtesy of his early trip to the showers in the previous day's game.
The Giants struck first as Devore led off the third inning with a walk and scored on a two-out double by Red Murray. But they failed to score in the fourth after a leadoff double by Buck Herzog. Then, with one out in the fifth, Larry Doyle hit a deep drive to right and Hooper made a tremendous catch, going over the railing and into the temporary bleachers.
Mathewson carried the 1-0 lead into the seventh. But Stahl blooped a single with one out and Matty walked Wagner. Cady popped to short but Olaf Henriksen, batting for Bedient, hit one off the end of his bat and just past Herzog at third, a double down the left field line that tied the game. Hooper flied to center to end the inning.
Stahl, with the score 1-1 and his starting pitcher out of the game, then brought in Wood and for the first time in the series, the Red Sox 34-game winner was going head-to-head with the great Mathewson. The Red Sox threatened in the bottom of the ninth when Stahl doubled with one out but Mathewson got the next two hitters on fly balls to end the threat.
The Giants then took the lead in the top of the tenth on a one-out double by Murray, his fourth double of the series, and a single by Fred Merkle. Merkle went to second when Speaker bobbled the ball in center but Wood kept him there by striking out Herzog and getting Meyers on a grounder back to the mound. Wood made that play with his bare hand and would not be able to pitch the rest of the game. He was up first in the bottom of the tenth but he was a .290 hitter, one of the best among pitchers at wielding a bat, and probably would have led off. The Giants were still three outs away from their first World Series title since 1905 and they had one of the greatest pitchers in history on the mound. Clyde Engle pinch-hit for Wood and Matty put two strikes past him. Engle, a .234 hitter during the regular season, then hit a fly ball into short right-center where center fielder Fred Snodgrass called off Devore. But he dropped the ball and Engle hustled into second base.
That brought up Hooper, who crushed a pitch into deep right-center. This time Snodgrass went racing over and made a terrific catch as he crashed into the right-center field wall. Engle thought he was going to score and barely made it back to second base to avoid being doubled up. With one on and one out, Mathewson curiously walked Steve Yerkes on four pitches. The crowd roared because that brought Speaker to the plate. Speaker popped up the first pitch into first base foul territory, roughly halfway between first and home. First baseman Fred Merkle seemed to have the easiest play but Matty inexplicably called him off, yelling for catcher Chief Meyers to take it. Meyers was caught off guard, either hearing the call too late or not hearing it at all, and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground.
Speaker yelled at Mathewson that the play would cost the Giants the World Series and made good on his threat by lining a single to center. Engle scored and the other runners moved up to second and third when Devore made the mistake of throwing home. McGraw then had to walk Duffy Lewis intentionally to bring up Larry Gardner, the Red Sox 5-foot-7 third baseman, who brought the series to an end with a long fly ball to right.
This World Series would be remembered for the $30,000 muff by Snodgrass, which was the difference in the amount between the winner's and loser's share. But the Giants defense was bad throughout the Series and there were actually three poor plays in the deciding inning.
 Further Reading
- Bill Nowlin, ed.: Opening Fenway Park in Style: The 1912 World Champion Boston Red Sox, SABR, PHoenix, AZ, 2012. ISBN 978-1933599359
- Glenn Stout: Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2011.
|Modern Major League Baseball World Series
Pre-1903 Postseason Series