Phillies Fall Classics I


The TBOH Philadelphia Phillies Fall Classics 14-part series examining each of the games won by the club in the World Series over the franchise’ history begins here with Game One of the 1915 series against the Boston Red Sox.

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In 1915, the Phillies played in just their 33rd season of existence since the franchise had been founded back in 1883. Not once in the prior 32 years had the club finished in 1st place, and they had just three 2nd place finishes. One of those had been just two years earlier, in 1913, when the Phils won 88 games, the 2nd-highest total in franchise history to that point.

The club was unable to put it together in 1914 due largely to defections to the rival Federal League, finishing 74-80 and in 6th place of the 8 teams then playing in the National League.

Then on Christmas Eve of that disappointing year, the Phillies traded away star outfielder Sherry Magee to the defending World Series champion Boston Braves for players to be named later, and cash.

Magee had debuted with the Phils a decade earlier in 1904 at just age 19. Over that next decade, Magee became one of the best players in baseball. He won a batting title in 1910, and led the NL in RBI that year for one of four times in his career, three of those wearing the Phillies ‘P’ on his cap.

The 1914 season may have been the best of his career. He hit for a .314/.380/.509 slash line during baseball’s Dead Ball Era, tying a career high with 15 homers and producing a league leading 103 RBI. He also led the National League in hits, doubles, and total bases. Magee finished 7th in the NL MVP voting that season.

However, Magee had also just turned 30 years of age, and for years while benefiting from his tremendous baseball skills, the Phillies had also been putting up with his hot temper, one that led to numerous ejections and suspensions, including a famed 1911 incident in which he had actually punched out an umpire.

In Magee’s SABR bio, Tom Simon quoted a 1908 Philadelphia Times article: “That he is one of the most hot-headed players in either big league is admitted; it couldn’t be denied, because the records, showing how often he has been suspended for scrapping with the umpires, speak for themselves.”

Magee also had a massive ego, and thought himself the best man to take over as Phillies manager when the club ownership decided to move on from Red Dooin, who had been the skipper for five seasons. When owner William F. Baker decided to hire former Phillies player Pat Moran as skipper, it was a blow to that massive Magee ego.

Magee began to lobby for a trade to a winning team. So the team decided to deal away what they saw as a troublemaker, albeit a talented one, who was also aging, while they could still get some value in return. The Braves were the champs, had a talented roster, and in the end sent the Phillies a pair of players to complete the Magee deal.

One of those was a utility player named Oscar Dugey, who would amount to little. But also sent to the Phils was a hustling 25-year old named Possum Whitted, who would become the Phillies starting center fielder for the next three seasons.

Under Moran, the 1915 Phillies bolted out to a white-hot start, winning their first eight games, and 11 of their first 13. The club held first place until the end of May, but then a slump dropped them into 2nd place. In mid-June, a stretch during which they lost six of eight games dropped them a season-high 4 1/2 games out in the National League.

From that point on, the Fightin’ Phils would battle back, reclaiming first place on July 13th. They would never yield the top spot in the standings again that season. The team would win 21 of their final 27 games, and slowly pulled away in the NL race.

On Tuesday, September 28th at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn against the Robins (later the ‘Dodgers’, and now the Los Angeles Dodgers), the Phillies clinched the franchise’ first-ever National League pennant with a 6-4 victory.

Led by future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, known as Old Pete Alexander at the time, and often simply called “Alex”, the Phils’ pitching staff allowed the fewest runs in the National League. Alexander won the pitching “Triple Crown”, leading the league in Wins (31), ERA (1.22), and Strikeouts (241) that season.

In addition to the 28-year old Alexander, the Phillies staff featured tough, young 25-year old righthander Erskine Mayer, who won 21 games with a 2.36 ERA.

In addition to that leading 1-2 punch, the rotation included steady 30-year old righty Al Demaree, who went 14-11 and pitching 209.2 innings. Talented, young 24-year old lefty Eppa Rixey fashioned a tidy 2.39 ERA and won 11 games. 5th starter George Chalmers went 8-9 with a 2.48 ERA. The club also received 8 strong starts from George McQuillan, obtained in a mid-August trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In those pre-closer days, the relief innings needed were usually filled by the starting pitchers who might be available on any given day, each of them recording at least one Save in their official records.

Only four men pitched out of the bullpen for the Phillies that season, and three of them were kids: 23-year old Joe Oeschger, 22-year old Ben Tincup, and 20-year old Stan Baumgartner, who despite his being the youngest appeared in the most games (14) and tossed a pen-high 48.1 innings.

Offensively, the 1915 Phillies were led by right fielder Gavvy Cravath, who had finished 2nd in the NL MVP voting for that Phillies 2nd place team in 1913, and who would receive MVP votes in the next three seasons as well, including in that 1915 campaign.

In 1915, the man nicknamed “Cactus” hit for a .285/.393/.510 slash line with 24 homers, 31 doubles, 115 RBI, 89 runs scored, and a .902 OPS. In most of those categories, Cravath led the league, though his numbers were undoubtedly inflated thanks to Baker Bowl’s generous hitting dimensions.

In center field, Whitted showed his worth in the Magee trade as he hustled his way to a team-high 24 stolen bases, and his 43 RBI were fourth on the club. In left field, Moran platooned the lefty-swinging Beals Becker and righty Dode Paskert, the two combining for 14 homers, 89 runs, and 74 RBI.

Around the infield, the 1915 Phillies started Bobby Byrne at 3rd base for most of the season. However, Byrne suffered a late-season injury, and was replaced for the final month and most of the World Series by backup Milt Stock. Both men were light hitters, so the loss didn’t hurt the Phillies at all.

At shortstop was a switch-hitting 24-year old rookie named Dave Bancroft, who was just beginning what would become a Hall of Fame career. In that freshman season, Bancroft hit just .254 and led the league by being thrown out stealing 27 times.

Still, his 85 runs scored and 143 hits were 2nd on the club only to Cravath. Bancroft would become known as a defensive whiz at shortstop from that point and right through his career spanning the entirety of the 1920’s. He played with four teams, none for longer than the parts of the first six seasons which he spent in a Phillies uniform.

The 2nd baseman was another slick fielder named Bert Niehoff. At 31, Niehoff was the senior man on the infield for the Phillies. While a light hitter, he was also a clutch hitter, and finished 3rd on the team with 49 RBI.

Perhaps the most underrated player in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise handled the duties at 1st base. That would be Fred Luderus, the starter at that position for more games than any player in franchise history until Ryan Howard came along over this past decade.

Luderus hit for a .315/.376/.457 slash line with a team-high 36 doubles. He was 3rd on the club with seven homers, 2nd with 62 RBI, and his .833 OPS was also 2nd on the club to only Cravath. Luderus fashioned a career with the Phils that is clearly deserving of a place on the Wall of Fame.

The catching for that 1915 Phillies club was handled by two men, regular starter Bill Killefer, who was a 27-year old with no power, but who was an excellent handler of pitchers and defensive backstop. His backup was Ed Burns, who was the same age and pretty much a carbon copy as far as playing ability goes.

That was the team that won the 1915 National League pennant by 7 games over Magee and the Braves, and which advanced to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Facing them would be another team from Boston, the American League’s Red Sox. The Red Sox were a team with no power whatsoever. The entire team hit just 14 home runs all season, and 4 of those were hit by a 20-year old pitcher by the name of Babe Ruth.

What those 1915 Red Sox could do was run, and pitch. Their offense was led by a trio of 27-year old outfielders including future Hall of Fame center fielder Tris Speaker, who hit .322 with 29 steals and 108 runs, and was one of three Boston players with at least a dozen triples.

Left fielder Duffy Lewis hit .291 with a team-high 31 doubles and 76 RBI. The right fielder was another future Hall of Famer, Harry Hooper, who had perhaps his worst statistical season that year. Still, Hooper was 2nd on the club with 22 steals, and hustled his way to 90 runs scored and a team-high 13 triples.

On the mound, the 1915 Boston Red Sox came at opposing teams with one of the greatest starting pitching rotations, at least over one season, in the history of baseball. It was this starting rotation made up of three righthanders and a pair of southpaws that would ultimately prove too much for the Phillies to overcome.

At the front of that dominating quintet of arms was 27-year old Rube Foster, who had gone 19-8 with a 2.11 ERA over 33 starts. Ernie Shore went 19-8 with a 1.64 ERA over 32 starts. Then came the lefties, with the rookie Ruth making 28 starts and going 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA. His lefty partner was Dutch Leonard, who went 15-7 with a 2.36 ERA over 21 starts. Finally, Smoky Joe Wood received 16 starts but appeared in 25 games, going 15-5 with a 1.49 ERA.

Pitching in five games for the Red Sox that year in what was already his 4th season in the big leagues was a 21-year old who had been a member of the Philadelphia Athletics staff when they lost the World Series the previous year. That young pitcher would go on to fashion a Hall of Fame career over 22 seasons, 11 of them with the New York Yankees. But Herb Pennock would not see action in the 1915 World Series.

The Red Sox had gone 101-50, winning the American League pennant by just 2 1/2 games over the Detroit Tigers. They didn’t clinch until Leonard shut out the Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader by 2-0 at the Polo Grounds on October 6th, giving the Bosox a 3 game lead with just 2 remaining.

So these were the two clubs that moved into the World Series to face off against one another. For a 2nd straight season, it would be Boston against Philadelphia for the world championship of baseball. But this time, instead of the Braves against the Athletics, it was the Red Sox against the Phillies.

While the Phils were in what would become later known as the Fall Classic for the first time, it was the Red Sox’ 3rd visit to the postseason. Boston’s AL entry had won both the first-ever 1903 World Series by 5-3 over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then the 1912 World Series by 4-3 over the New York Giants.

The locations for the games were determined when Phils’ owner Baker won a coin toss over Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin. Baker chose to have the first two games in Philadelphia, while Lannin chose to have his team’s games played not at Fenway Park, but instead at the National League Braves Field, which was brand new and held more spectators.

This was the setting for Game 1 of the World Series at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia on October 8th, 1915. With a packed crowd of 19, 343 fans in attendance at Broad and Huntingdon Streets, Moran sent out his ace Alexander to start the opener. Red Sox skipper Bill Carrigan countered with Shore.

Alexander hadn’t started a game in 10 days, and the rust showed a bit. He allowed 8 hits to the usually weak Red Sox lineup. Hugh S. Fullerton, a writer with the New York Times, later reported that “Alexander pitched a bad game of ball. He had little or nothing. He was tagged hard, and the only times at which he showed his prowess were on the two occasions on which the Red Sox threatened him. Then he fell back upon his curve and stopped them, and finished breezing along easily and seemingly without tiring himself at all.”

The game was scoreless through three innings, thanks in part to Alexander picking off Boston 1st baseman Dick Hoblitzell at 1st with Boston runners at the corners and two outs in the 1st inning.

Meanwhile, as Fullerton reported it, the Phillies “did not hit Shore at all“, their “few and scattered hits were of the accidental variety.” In fact, through those first three innings, the Phils managed just two walks and an infield single by Alexander himself.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Phillies broke through with the first run of the game. Paskert led off with a looping single to right, “a dropping handle hit that fell safe back of first base” as described in Fullerton’s account. Cravath then sacrificed Paskert to 2nd, and the Phillies’ left fielder moved to 3rd base on a ground out.

It was then that the game’s first key hit came, with Whitted proving his worth by hustling out a grounder to 2nd for a base hit, allowing Paskert to score with the run that put the Phillies ahead by 1-0.

Alexander continued to move workmanlike through the Boston lineup into the top of the 8th, allowing a hit each inning, but keeping the Red Sox off the board and maintaining the slim lead.

In that top of the 8th, however, his luck ran out, and Boston broke through for the tie. With one out, Speaker drew a walk. Alexander then recorded the 2nd out, and though Speaker moved up to 2nd base on the play, ‘Old Pete’ seemed ready to again maneuver his way out of an inning. However, Lewis ripped a game-tying RBI single to left, scoring Speaker to make it a 1-1 ball game.

The Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 8th having registered just three hits off Shore. But with one out, Shore made the mistake of walking the light-hitting Stock. When Bancroft followed with an infield single, the Phillies were threatening. Clearly struggling, Shore then walked Paskert to load the bases.

Cravath then did what the best hitters on a team do, he got the key run home. It was only with a ground out to shortstop, but it was enough to bring home Stock with the go-ahead run. Now up 2-1, Luderus came to the plate with runners at 2nd and 3rd. He grounded back towards Shore, and the ball apparently changed directions off the edge of the dirt cutout which existed at the time between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.

As Fullerton recounted the play, the ball “rolled straight toward him, struck the side of the scalped spot, and rolled past his feet for a base hit that yielded the third (run).”

With the Phillies now leading by 3-1, Alexander took the mound for the top of the 9th and struck out the leadoff hitter. Pinch-hitter Olaf Henriksen then reached on an error, and the Red Sox brought the tying run to the plate.

At that point, Carrigan decided to give his biggest threat a shot as a pinch-hitter. and sent to the plate the young George Herman Ruth. It would prove to be the Babe’s only appearance on this, his first-ever World Series, and it would not prove memorable. The future ‘Sultan of Swat’ grounded out meekly to 1st base. Alexander then retired Hooper on an easy pop out to 1st to end it.

The Phillies had won the first-ever World Series game in franchise history, holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against the Red Sox. Their ace Alexander got the win, and the fans at Baker Bowl filed out happily awaiting the next day’s Game Two.

Unfortunately for the Phils and their fans, that would be the last Phillies win of the series. The next day, the Red Sox would score a run in the top of the 9th to steal a 2-1 victory and tie the series. Back in Boston, they scored in the bottom of the 9th to win Game 3 by an identical 2-1 score and to take a 2-1 series lead.

In Game 4 in Boston, the Red Sox held off a late Phillies rally to again win by the very same score of 2-1, opening up a 3-1 series lead. The series returned to Baker Bowl for Game 5, and the Phils finally solved the Boston pitching, taking a 4-2 lead into the 8th. But the Red Sox rallied, scoring twice in that 8th to tie, and a run in the 9th that would clinch the World Series victory.

The Phillies won Game 1 of the World Series, 2-1 behind the legendary Grover Cleveland Alexander. It thus becomes our Phillies Fall Classic I in this 14-part series. But it would take another 65 years before the franchise would win another World Series game, and thus provide us with Phillies Fall Classic II. We’ll take a look at the next two games in this new TBOH series tomorrow.

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