1915 World Series
|1915 World Series|
|Boston Red Sox
101 - 50 in the AL
|4 - 1
90 - 62 in the AL
The 1915 World Series opposed teams from Boston and Philadelphia for the second consecutive year, except that this time, the leagues were reversed: it was the Boston Red Sox who represented the American League and, making their first-ever appearance in a World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies holding up the National League's colors.
The Series was closely fought, with all the games but the first decided by a single run, but the Red Sox emerged on top with a 4 games to 1 victory to earn their third World Championship after those of 1903 and 1912, as they were in the middle of the most successful stretch in team history. In contrast, after their win in Game 1, the Phillies would have to wait 65 years to win another World Series game, and 35 years to even return to the fall classic.
The Boston Red Sox
After their exciting win over the New York Giants in the 1912 World Series, the Boston Red Sox had fallen on some more difficult times. Manager Jake Stahl had lost his job midway through the 1913 campaign, with the team playing below .500 and was replaced by catcher Bill Carrigan, who would gradually lessen his playing time to concentrate on his managerial duties. The Red Sox had finished fourth in 1913, before climbing back to second in 1914. They were back on top in 1915, finishing 2½ games ahead of the Detroit Tigers, even though they had only bested them 101 to 100 in the wins column.
The Red Sox still had their great outfield from the 1912 championship year, with Tris Speaker in center, flanked by Harry Hooper in right and Duffy Lewis in left. Speaker had finished fourth in the league with a .322 batting average and remained the principal offensive threat on a team that was noted more for its pitching and defense than its prowess at the plate. Lewis had hit .291 with 76 runs batted in. The other main offensive contributors were first baseman Dick Hoblitzel, a .283 hitter who drove in 61 runs, and third baseman Larry Gardner, who hit .258. In the heart of the Deadball Era, the AL as a whole only hit .248 on average that year, but even against this low standard, the contributions of Hooper (.235 with 51 RBI), second baseman Heinie Wagner (.240, 0, 49), shortstop Everett Scott (.201, 0, 28) and catcher Pinch Thomas (.236, 0, 21) were sub-standard. However, the team boasted a strong bench, including shortstop Jack Barry, lately of Connie Mack's $100,000 infield, first baseman Del Gainer and infielder Hal Janvrin. But the team's best offensive player was a rookie left-handed pitcher named Babe Ruth: in barely 92 at bats, he had slugged 10 doubles and a team-leading 4 home runs, while posting a .315 batting average; manager Carrigan had already begun to use him regularly as a pinch hitter on his days off.
The team's real strength was on the mound. The staff had been almost completely renewed since the 1912 championship season. That year's pitching hero, Smokey Joe Wood had started the season with a bang, posting a 15-5 record with a league-leading 1.49 ERA in the early going, but had then been stopped dead in his tracks by the arm woes that would force him to switch to the outfield for the rest of his career; as the World Series rolled around, he was no longer one of Carrigan's options. Instead, he had a quartet of young starting pitchers to work with: 26 year-old right-hander George "Rube" Foster had gone 19-8 with a 2.11 ERA; 23 year-old left-hander Hubert "Dutch" Leonard was 15-7, 2.36; 24-year old right-hander Ernie Shore was 18-8, 1.64, while the aforementioned Ruth had posted an 18-8, 2.44 mark as a 20-year old. If that wasn't enough, another rookie, 23 year-old submariner Carl Mays had gone 5-5, 2.60, with a league-leading 5 saves (figured retroactively) as the team's main reliever, while Ray Collins, who had pitched very well in the 1912 Series, was still around to contribute in long relief. Wood, Foster, Ruth and Shore had finished with the top four winning percentages in the AL, while Leonard, Ruth and Wood had taken the top three slots in the fewest hits allowed per nine innings category. Carrigan's only problem would be to decide whom to give the ball to among all those options.
The Philadelphia Phillies
Contrary to the Red Sox, who were habitués of the top reaches of the American League, the Philadelphia Phillies had not won a single pennant since the beginning of the 20th Century. They had actually finished second in 1901, but had tumbled to the lower reaches of the National League after that season, only re-emerging as contenders in 1913. They had finished second that season, but 12½ games behind the first-place New York Giants. In 1914, as the ”Miracle” Boston Braves won a surprising pennant, they had fallen back to a distant sixth. What the 1914 season had shown, however, was that after years of domination by the Pirates, Giants and Cubs, who had won every pennant between 1901 and 1913, the NL race was now wide-open, the stronger teams having been decimated by player raids from the newly-formed Federal League, which had begun play in 1914.
In this context, the Phillies, led by first-year manager Pat Moran, who had just permanently hung up his catcher’s spikes, actually had a shot at the top prize. They pulled off a major trade in the off-season, sending their long-time star outfielder Sherry Magee to the champion Braves in return for outfielder Possum Whitted and reserve infielder Oscar Dugey. Talent-wise, the Braves won the trade as Magee was still a productive hitter, but the Phillies still managed to pull away from their NL competitors, finishing 7 games ahead of the Braves with a 90-62 record. Right fielder Gavvy Cravath had a great season, hitting .285 and taking advantage of the Baker Bowl’s cosy dimensions to post a league-leading 24 home runs, 89 runs scored and 115 RBI. Whitted pitched in with a .281 average as he alternated between left and center field, while first baseman Fred Luderus hit .315 to finish second in the NL batting race, with 7 home runs and 62 RBI. Shortstop Dave Bancroft hit only .254, but knocked 7 home runs of his own while scoring 85 runs, third-best in the league. Former Giant outfielder Beals Becker, playing left-field part-time, added 11 home runs to the team’s league-leading 58 to round out the offense. The other starters, 2B Bert Niehoff (.238), aging 3B Bobby Byrne (.209), part-time CF Dode Paskert (.244) and catcher Bill Killefer (.238) were not ones to keep pitchers up at night.
The team’s real strength was on the mound. In spite of the Baker Bowl, they only allowed their opponents 463 runs, a full 57 fewer than the next best team, for a remarkable team ERA of 2.17. A lot of this was thanks to the magnificent Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander, who had one of the best seasons of his remarkable career, going 31-10, 1.22, leading the league in wins (by 10 over his nearest rival), ERA, winning percentage, strikeouts , complete games, shutouts, etc. Dominant does not begin to describe his performance. In fact, he was the difference between a pennant and a finish around the .500 mark, since his mound-mates only posted decent results that were nothing really to write home about: Erskine Mayer was solid with a 21-15 record backed with a 2.36 ERA, but Al Demaree was only 14-11, 3.05 (one quarter of a run above the league ERA), 24 year-old Eppa Rixey had a fine ERA of 2.39 but finished 11-12, and George Chalmers was 8-9 in spite of a 2.48 ERA. They could keep opponents off the score-board, but would their hitters give them enough support to come out on top?
Game 1: October 8
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||8||1|
|W: Pete Alexander (1-0) L: Ernie Shore (0-1)|
- attendance: 19,343
The Philadelphia Phillies sent Pete Alexander to the mound for Game One, not surprisingly, while the Boston Red Sox replied with Ernie Shore. Phillies manager Pat Moran made a couple of changes to his line-up, benching regular third baseman Bobby Byrne, who had struggled at the plate all season, in favor of 22-year old Milt Stock, who had hit .260 in limited playing time. Stock was leading off, while Ed Burns was catching in place of Bill Killefer, both moves being designed to boost the offence at the cost of a bit of experience on defense. For Boston, World Series veterans 2B Jack Barry and catcher Hick Cady were in the line-up, at the expense of Heinie Wagner and Pinch Thomas respectively, in what were also moves designed to bolster the offensive side of the ledger. Still, arguably the team's two worst hitters that year, Harry Hooper and Everett Scott were occupying the first two spots in the batting order.
Not surprisingly, the game turned out to be a pitchers' duel. The Red Sox wasted scoring opportunities in the first two innings, failing in both cases to score after putting their lead-off man on base and moving him to second on a sacrifice bunt. Alexander settled down after that shaky debut, and it was the Phillies who put up the first run, in the bottom of the fourth inning. Dode Paskert led off with a single, and then, in a move typical of the Deadball Era, slugger Gavvy Cravath was asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt, moving Paskert to second. He moved to third base on a ground out and came in to score on Possum Whitted's infield single.
The score remained 1-0 for the Phillies until the top of the eighth, when Boston tied it up. Tris Speaker drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Dick Hoblitzel's ground out. Duffy Lewis then stroked a single to left to bring home the fleet-footed Speaker. The Phillies replied immediately, with Stock drawing a one-out walk of his own. Dave Bancroft singled and Paskert walked to load the bases. A ground ball by Cravath followed by a single from Fred Luderus plated two runs, and the Phillies were up 3-1 going into the ninth. Barry struck out to lead off the inning, then pinch hitter Olaf Henriksen, batting for Cady, reached on an error by first baseman Luderus. Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan then sent in pitcher Babe Ruth to pinch hit for Shore, but Ruth grounded out to Luderus in what would be his only appearance of the series. Harry Hooper then popped up to first base to end the game.
Pete Alexander had given up eight hits and two walks while striking out six opponents in claiming the complete game victory. It was not one of his more dominant performances, but - remarkably - it would stand as the only Phillies win in a World Series game until Game 1 of the 1980 World Series, when Bob Walk would earn a win against the Kansas City Royals !
Game 2: October 9
Played at the Baker Bowl, Philadelphia.Boxscore
|Boston Red Sox||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||10||0|
|W: Rube Foster (1-0) L: Erskine Mayer (0-1)|
- attendance: 20,306
Game 2, also played in Philadelphia, turned out to be another low-scoring affair. The Red Sox sent Rube Foster, who was arguably their best pitcher, to the mound to face the Phillies' second starter, side-armer Erskine Mayer. The managers made only one change to the previous day's line-ups, with Boston manager Bill Carrigan replacing Hick Cady at catcher with Pinch Thomas. The game started much as Game 1 had for Boston, with Harry Hooper drawing a lead-off walk and moving to second on Everett Scott's sacrifice bunt. He then moved to third on Tris Speaker's single. The two runners then attempted a double steal, but Speaker was caught at second, and Bert Niehoff's relay back to catcher Ed Burns was in time to catch Hooper, but he knocked the ball out of Burns's mitt, scoring on the error. Boston's next hitter, Dick Hoblitzel, singled to center and was also caught stealing to end the inning. The Red Sox had a 1-0 lead, but had run themselves out of a potential big inning with those three runners caught stealing.
The two pitchers then traded zeros for the next few innings, neither team mounting a threat until the Phillies tied the game up in the bottom of the fifth inning. Gavvy Cravath hit a lead-off double, the first extra-base hit of the Series for either team, and immediately came in to score when Fred Luderus did the same. The Red Sox threatened in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Mayer got pinch hitter Olaf Henriksen, hitting for Scott, to pop up to first to end the inning. The Phillies were unable to mount any threat of their own, as Foster limited them to a sixth inning single by Dave Bancroft apart from the two previously-mentioned doubles.
Boston third baseman Larry Gardner, who had hit the Series-winning sacrifice fly in Game 8 of the 1912 World Series, led off the ninth inning with a single to left. Jack Barry then hit a harmless fly ball, and Hal Janvrin, who had come in as Scott's defensive replacement, moved Gardner to second with a ground out. That brought up pitcher Foster, a solid .277 hitter during the season. Carrigan decided to let him bat, and the decision paid off when Foster hit a single to center field and Gardner beat Dode Paskert's throw home for the lead. Foster completed a remarkable victory by disposing of the Phillies in order in the ninth, evening the Series at one game apiece. He had struck out eight while walking none and giving up only three hits, facing only three batters over the minimum.
On a historical note, this game was also noteworthy for being attended by President Woodrow Wilson. It was the first time a President attended a World Series game, but it would not at all be the last.
Game 3: October 11
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||2||6||1|
|W: Dutch Leonard (1-0) L: Pete Alexander (1-1)|
- attendance: 42,300
The World Series moved to Boston for Game 3, after taking a Sunday off to rest (Sunday games were still forbidden in most cities at the time). The Red Sox chose to play the games at Braves Field, used by the National League's Boston Braves, as it had a much larger capacity than their own Fenway Park. It made perfect sense financially, as a mammoth crown of over 40,000 people came to see the game. With the day's rest, Phillies manager Pat Moran decided to bring back his ace Pete Alexander on short rest, figuring he was a better option than the unremarkable pitchers who made up the back end of the team's starting rotation (however, unbeknownst to him, one of these pitchers would turn out to be a future Hall of Famer in Eppa Rixey). There were no such qualms for Boston's Carrigan, as both Dutch Leonard and Babe Ruth were rested and available; he chose the more experienced Leonard, who had posted a fabulous 0.96 ERA in 1914 - the lowest in the entire 20th Century - and had had another fine season in 1915. The only other noteworthy change to the line-up was that Carrigan had inserted himself at catcher, although he had only played 44 games that season, and most of them as a late-game replacement given that he had not gone to bat 100 times all year.
Leonard did not let his manager down, duplicating Rube Foster's feat of Game 2 of setting down the Phillies on three hits and no walks. He needed to be sharp, since in Alexander, he was facing arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the time. In any case, the Phillies opened the scoring in the third inning. Ed Burns led off with a single, and Alexander followed by laying down a sacrifice bunt towards Larry Gardner at third. Gardner charged the ball well and threw to first base, but Dick Hoblitzel bobbled the relay, allowing both runners to be safe. Milt Stock then repeated the bunting strategy, with the Red Sox executing properly this time, as Gardner's throw went to Jack Barry covering first base. Dave Bancroft then hit a single to center field, scoring Burns, and Alexander made a move towards home, drawing a throw from center fielder Tris Speaker which allowed Bancroft to take second base. The Phillies were now up 1-0, and threatening more damage, with one out, runners on second and third and the heart of the order coming up. In what was a turning point in the Series, Leonard then settled down and got Dode Paskert to pop up to the infield and Gavvy Cravath to hit a fly ball to left to escape further trouble. In fact the Phillies would not get another base runner all day, as Leonard set down the last 20 men he faced in order, including Paskert and Cravath.
The Red Sox tied the score in the bottom of the fourth when Speaker hit a one-out triple and Hoblitzel drove him in with a sacrifice fly. That is how the score remained until the bottom of the ninth, as the two pitchers were dominant - Leonard especially so. Harry Hooper led off the inning with a single, and - to the surprise of no one in the stadium, certainly - Everett Scott was asked to bunt. He executed the strategy as requested, and Hooper was now on second. Moran ordered that Speaker be walked intentionally, bringing up Hoblitzel. He hit a ground ball to Bert Niehoff at second which advanced both runners a further base. Duffy Lewis then became the day's hero when he stroked a base hit to right field, giving the Red Sox a crucial 2-1 victory.
Game 4: October 12
Played at Braves Field, Boston. Boxscore
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||x||2||8||1|
|W: Ernie Shore (1-1) L: George Chalmers (0-1)|
- attendance: 41,096
Game 4 was another tense pitcher's duel, with the Red Sox once again coming out on top. Played for a second consecutive day in the National League rivals' Braves Field, the game drew another crowd of over 40,000. For the Red Sox, Game 1 starter Ernie Shore was on the mound, with Hick Cady completing the battery, while the Phillies' Pat Moran had an unappetizing choice of pitchers to make, between Al Demaree, Eppa Rixey and George Chalmers. It is not certain why he chose Chalmers, but in any case the Scotsman gave him a solid effort, even if he came out on the losing end of the decision.
The Phillies tried to pull some tricks to get their offense started in the first inning, as both Wes Stock and Dave Bancroft broke for second base on stolen base attempts after reaching first base as the game's first two batters. Unfortunately, both were caught stealing, although Bancroft was allowed to keep his base when Jack Barry dropped Cady's throw for an error. They failed to score, however, and it was the Red Sox who put the first run on the scoreboard, when Barry walked to lead off the third. Cady was asked to bunt, and laid down a perfect one, getting credit for a single. Pitcher Shore laid down another bunt to advance his two teammates and Harry Hooper singled in a run. The slow-moving Cady could score neither on Hooper's hit, or on Everett Scott's foul out to left field, and the score remained at 1-0 for the Red Sox.
Boston added a run to its lead in the sixth on a single by Dick Hoblitzell followed by a Duffy Lewis double. The Phillies got that run back in the top of the eighth when Cravath tripled after two outs, followed by a single by Fred Luderus. The Red Sox loaded the bases in their half of the inning, but failed to score, but the Phillies went down in order in the ninth, giving the Red Sox a 3 game to 1 lead, as Shore earned a complete game victory.
Game 5: October 13
Played at the Baker Bowl, Philadelphia. Boxscore
|Boston Red Sox||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||2||1||5||10||1|
|W: Rube Foster (2-0) L: Eppa Rixey (0-1)|
|HR Harry Hooper (BOS) 2; Fred Luderus (PHI); Duffy Lewis (BOS)|
- attendance: 20,306
For the first time in the Series, the two teams' offences showed up as they moved back to Philadelphia for Game 5. Rube Foster and Erskine Mayer, who had both started and pitched well in Game 2, were facing each other again. However, Grover Alexander should have been the Phillies' starter - Pat Moran had said so the day before - but Alexander reputedly showed up at the clubhouse too drunk to pitch, forcing Moran to change his plans. In later years, of course, Alexander would deny the charge that he was too drunk to pitch that fateful day. The other change was that Pinch Thomas was now Boston's starting catcher, as he had been for Foster's previous start.
This time, the Phillies took an early lead. Milt Stock was hit by a pitch to lead off the first inning, then Dave Bancroft singled to left. Dode Paskert laid down a bunt single to load the bases with nobody out, but Gavvy Cravath almost snuffed the threat when he tapped the ball back to pitcher Foster. Foster threw home to force out Stock, then Thomas relayed to first to complete the double play. However, Fred Luderus followed with a two-run double to give the Phillies the initial lead. The Red Sox halved the lead immediately when Larry Gardner hit a two-out triple in the second and Thomas singled him in.
Harry Hooper then tied the score in the third when he led off with a long drive that bounced into the stands for a home run under the rules of the day. After Everett Scott made an out, Tris Speaker singled, and the two managers made some strategic moves. Pat Moran pulled his right-handed starter in favour of left-hander Eppa Rixey, and Bill Carrigan replied by removing left-handed hitting first baseman Dick Hoblitzel and inserting pinch hitter Del Gainer, a right-hander with a sweet stroke and some speed. This was only the third inning of a 2-2 game, but the stakes were high. Moran won that battle as Rixey induced Gainer to hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Phillies' second-best pitcher was now out of the game.
The Phillies built another two-run lead in the fourth when Luderus hit a solo home run after one out; Bert Niehoff and Ed Burns then followed with singles, but Hooper misplayed the second one in right field, allowing Niehoff to score. The Phillies' 4-2 lead lasted until the eighth inning, as the Red Sox were unable to get to Rixey. Gainer led off the eighth with a single, and then Duffy Lewis followed with an inside-the-park home run to tie the score. In the bottom half of the inning, the Phillies placed two men on base with two outs, courtesy of a walk and a hit by pitch, but were unable to score.
With one out in the ninth, Harry Hooper hit his second bounce home run of the game to put the Red Sox ahead for the first time, by a score of 5 to 4. The blow was disheartening to the Phillies, especially as they had the bottom of the order coming up in their half of the inning. With Foster still on the mound and having given up only two hits since the fourth, it was a tall order. Lead-off batter Niehoff struck out, then catcher Burns hit a soft grounder to Gainer at first base. Moran then pulled his last card, sending pinch hitter Bill Killefer, who had been his starting catcher for most of the season but was a weak hitter with no power, to the plate for pitcher Rixey. By then he had already used his two better options, Oscar Dugey and Beals Becker, the previous inning when he had had Dugey pinch run for Cravath and Becker replace him as the right fielder. In any case, Killefer hit a weak grounder to shortstop to end the game and the series.
Because the Boston Red Sox would go on to win the World Series two of the next three seasons with one of the strongest teams of the Deadball Era, while the Philadelphia Phillies would not return to post-season play until 1950, the 1915 World Series has the reputation of having been a laugher, with the Red Sox's triumph by four games to one seen as a testimony to their outrageous domination. In fact, the Series had been extremely tight, with each Boston victory decided by a single run. The Series were probably decided on a couple of key turning points: Dutch Leonard's ability to stop the Phillies cold in Game 3 after they had him in the ropes in the early going, and Philadelphia's inability to capitalize fully on Rube Foster's shaky first inning in Game 5, while Harry Hooper took advantage of the Baker Bowl's short right field to hit two crucial bounce home runs, matching his season's output in one game.
It was typical baseball of the era, with dominating starting pitching, hitters being asked to bunt whenever a teammate reached first base, and stolen base attempts galore, but it must also have been extremely tense and entertaining baseball. The Series was certainly a hit at the gate and deserves to be better remembered than it has been.
- Bill Nowlin and Jim Prime: From the Babe to the Beards: The Boston Red Sox in the World Series, Sports Publishing LLC, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-1-6132-1727-6
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