Max Blue / Historic Teams
[Note: This article appeared in Herb Rogoff's ONEMOREINNING]
BABE RUTH - THE BALTIMORE SLAB ARTIST
Game two of the 1916 World Series
By Max Blue
Both managers were playing it coy. Bill Carrigan of the defending world's champion Boston Red Sox, and Uncle Wilbert Robinson of the recently crowned National League champion Brooklyn club. The Brooklyns suffered from an identity crisis, nobody was sure who they were; when they won they were the Superbas, when they lost they were Dodgers, but most of the time they were the Brooklyn Robins, who in 1916 delayed their trip south for the winter long enough to play against the Red Sox in the World's Series. The managers were playing the who's-going-to-pitch game.
Game one was in the books - a 6-5 Red Sox win punctuated by a furious four run 9th inning Dodger rally that ended with the bases loaded one run shy of a tie, and with Captain Jake Daubert spitting a mouthful of Beantown dust after a head first slide trying to beat Deacon Everett Scott's eye-popping rifle throw from deep shortstop. It was the kind of play that marks the difference between champions and also-rans. The Dodgers, trying to put up a brave front, spoke of it as a win . . . "We really cracked 'em" pitcher Jack Coombs was heard to say.
So what about game two? Who would pitch? For the Sox it was almost a certainty that it would be Babe Ruth, the Baltimore slab artist, but Carrigan might go to moist baller Dutch Leonard, the other lefthander he had available. Either way the Red Sox skipper thought he was sitting pretty because he knew that Casey Stengel, the Dodgers' homerun threat, Jake Daubert, the Captain, and Zack, "Buck" Wheat, who finished second to Cincinnatti's Hal Chase in the National League batting chase, were all suckers for southpaw slants. Wilbert Robinson had informed the press that he would go with his big righthander Larry Chaney, an 18-game winning moist baller, but Hugh Fullerton, the self-styled "grandoldope" of the New York Times, knew it was a lie. Fullerton had written that it would be suicide to start Chaney, and insanity to boot when Robinson had 25-game winner Jeff Pfeffer, and World's Series veteran Long Jack Coombs rested and ready to go. Coombs, pitching for Connie Mack's first great Athletics team, beat the Cubs three times in the 1910 Series, and in 1911 outpitched the great Christy Mathewson in the pivotal game three. Long Jack was Fullerton's choice to stop the Sacred Codfish in game two. But Manager Robinson was not listening to Fullerton, who was still annoyed that Robinson had gone with the worn-out lefty Rube Marquard in game one. Fullerton was not annoyed at the outcome, he had predicted a Red Sox win, but at the fact that manager Robinson stubbornly refused to take his advice. The Sox were 8-5 favorites for the Series, partly because of the dope that Fullerton was posting in the Times. Fullerton had fearlessly predicted not only the results, but also the exact number of runs, hits and errors for each game; for the Series it was Boston in five with the Robins picked to win game three in Brooklyn.
When game two started a few minutes after 2 P.M. on October 9, a gloomy Monday afternoon with lowering clouds threatening to wash out the festivities, 41, 373 enthusiasts crowded Braves Field, about three miles west of Boston Common, eager to take in the show. Ticket speculators were having a better day than they did on Saturday, managing to get small premiums on choice seats. The game was played at Braves Field instead of the Red Sox's 4-year-old Fenway Park because Braves Field could accommodate about twice as many paying customers. The National League Braves collected a $1,000 rental fee for each game played, of which the players were required to pay 60 per cent. The remaining amount was split - 10 per cent from the National Baseball Commission, and 30 per cent from the club owners. But nobody was complaining - receipts for game one were $76,495, of which $41,303 went to the players, $13,768 to each of the teams, and $7,649 to the National Commission. Ticket prices were: boxes -$5; grandstand reserved -$3; first base pavilion reserved - $2; third base pavilion - $1; bleachers - 50 cents.
Charlie Ebbetts, head of the Dodgers, had waived his right to a coin flip to decide the location of the first two games, claiming that with the pennant race going down to the last days of the season there was no time to prepare his field for the Series. Following the custom set the previous year, it would be a seven-game series, first team to win four games declared the champion. The games would alternate between the two cities, games one, two, and five if necessary in Boston, games three, four, and six if necessary in Brooklyn. If a seventh game was required, the location would be decided by lot. No games would be played on Sunday, and no days off for travel were provided. The umpires were chosen three days before Saturday's opening game - Mr. Dineen and Mr. Connally of the American League, Mr. O'Day and Mr. Harrison of the National League. J.G. Spink of St. Louis was appointed official scorer by the National Commission, to be assisted by two scorers appointed by the Boston and Brooklyn chapters of the Baseball Writers Association.
A couple of thousand noisy cranks made the long journey from Brooklyn to lend their support to the desperately striving Dodgers. Brooklyn team president Charlie Ebbetts is not happy when the Dodger cranks are exiled to seats in the "jury box" a section of the ballpark so far out in right field that players around home plate appear to be seen in miniature. Ebbetts has made his gripe known to Red Sox president Joseph Lannin in a public shouting match in the Hotel Brunswick lobby following game one on Saturday.
Back in Brooklyn more than 40,000 fans brave the cool October winds to gather at scoreboards posted all around the borough by The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. The scoreboards feature a green baseball diamond with white bulbs at each base, on both sides of homeplate, and at each of the nine defensive positions. Lineups are listed outside the diamond, white bulbs next to each name. Red bulbs on the left and right of the diamond, and behind homeplate record foul balls. Lights are provided for every eventuality - balls, strikes, hits, runs, and errors. Western Union telegraph wires bring the action straight from the press box at Braves Field . . . lights blink on and off describing the play . . . imagination is left to the fans.
No baseball game was played on Sunday, but a different kind of action occurred that day . . . the population was astounded to learn from Monday morning headlines that a German submarine chose the day of rest to sink six ships in view of Nantucket Island, no more than 50 miles from Braves Field. The European war was coming to America.
But the game is on, and sure enough there is the 21-year-old Ruth out there in the middle of the diamond soaking up encouragement from his catcher Pinch Thomas, and his infielders, who, except for first baseman Dick Hoblitzel, are gathered around him for a final pow wow before the first pitch. Ruth dwarfs his mates - at six feet two inches and 215 pounds he is a half foot taller and 60 pounds heavier than his runty shortstop Deacon Everett Scott. Catcher Thomas, third baseman Larry Gardner, and second baseman Hal Janvrin are not much bigger than Scott, but these guys are wiry World's Series veterans . . . winners almost a year ago to the day when they beat the Phillies' great Grover Cleveland Alexander 2-1 on this same field in game three to turn the series in Boston's favor.
When all the fellows have had their say, Ruth is left alone on the mound to face the music of the Brooklyn bats. His mind briefly goes back to the year before . . . he was the best pitcher on the staff last year just as he is this year, but he never got a chance to pitch in the Series . . . he has something to prove. On the record, Ruth is by far the Red Sox best pitcher, why didn't manager Carrigan use him in game one? In 1916 Ruth pitched 323 innings to a 23-12 won-lost record with 9 shutouts and a 1.75 ERA. His best pitch is a sinking fastball, and he loves to throw that jug-handled curve.
Ruth toes the slab and quickly shoots two consecutive strikes past Robin's rookie Jimmy Johnson, the speed boy from the coast, roaming rightfield today instead of Casey Stengel who cannot find the range of port side shoots. Johnson digs in and begins to flick foul balls off Ruth's best pitches until, on a 3-2 count he nails one to deep centerfield that is pulled in by Tilly Walker after a long backward run. Tilly had plenty of room to spare because the centerfield fence is a yawning 505 feet from homeplate. Braves Field was constructed just last year according to the directions of owner James Gaffney who wanted a field with wide-open spaces that would generate plenty of triples and inside-the-park homeruns . . . he loved to see the lads run. The next batter, Captain Jake Daubert, holds no terrors for Ruth, but he gets a chance to run, vainly trying to beat the throw to Hoblitzel after his weak tap to Gardner at third. And now comes centerfielder Hy Myers . . . get ready to run, boys. Myers looks over a pitch up and out of the strike zone, Ruth has not found his touch. The next pitch floats up so gently that people behind home plate later claimed they could count the stitches on the ball. Myers unloads a murderous cut, and the resounding slap of willow meeting ball is heard all the way to Boston Common. Tilly Walker is on his horse again, but this time he can't reach it . . . the ball is over his head and bouncing toward the centerfield fence. Myers is tearing around second when Walker slips and falls, Myers is high-tailing it around third when rightfielder Harry Hooper finally gets to the ball. Myers completes his mad dash with a headlong slide to the golden dish even though the spheroid has just now reached relay man Hal Janvrin. The fairness of the Boston crowd becomes manifest when they rise to a man cheering the grinning Myers as he heads for the Brooklyn dugout. Ruth stalks the mound in a state of stunned disbelief; over the past two seasons the Baltimore slab artist has pitched a numbing 540 innings surrendering a measly three homeruns, and exactly zero in the regular season just ended. He cannot believe he has been thumped. He stands with his back to the plate looking resentfully out at centerfielder Tilly Walker.
Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson now springs his surprise . . . he sends second-rate lefthander Sherry Smith to the hill to carry the banner of Brooklyn. Smith is almost as tall as Ruth, but the Babe leads in the weight department by almost 50 pounds . . . Smith is a stringbean. Hugh Fullerton has written that Sherrod Smith is rather a joke, and according to today's dope we might expect to see Wheezer Dell on the mound for game three in Brooklyn tomorrow. On the record it seems Hugh Fullerton is being harsh . . . in 1916 Sherry Smith worked 219 innings for the Robins, he won 14 and lost 10 with an earned run average of 2.34, and pitched four shutouts. What do you want, Hughie? The Red Sox don't think Sherry Smith is a joke when he puts them down on five pitches, all sizzling speed balls, in the first inning.
Clancy Cutshaw leads off the Brooklyn second with a smash off Ruth's leg, but the Red Sox luck holds when the ball goes straight to Larry Gardner who fires to Hoblitzel for the out. Mike Mowrey continues the Brooklyn assault, and the Red Sox luck, with a stinging liner straight into the hands of second baseman Hal Janvrin. Ruth gathers himself, and on a 2-2 count whiffs Ivy Olsen on a sweeping curve to record the game's first strikeout.
With one out in the second the Red Sox get their first hit, a clean single to center by Duffy Lewis. Larry Gardner makes solid contact, but his hard ground ball though fumbled by Mowrey, is picked up by Olsen in time for a force out at second. The inning ends when Gardner strolls away from first too far, and is picked off on a splendid throw from Brooklyn catcher Mooney Miller to first baseman Captain Jake Daubert.
The Robins dodge a chance to pick up another run in the third when, with one out, pitcher Smith turns into hitter Smith, and slams a terrific drive against the rightfield fence, but loses all sense of reality rounding second base, and ignoring the frantic stop sign of Long Jack Coombs in the third base coaching box is thrown out by 10 feet trying to reach the third base. Jimmy Johnson follows with a single to center, but Smith cannot score from his seat in the dugout.
Deacon Scott leading off the third, throws the Red Sox Royal Rooters into a whirl of joy when he picks out a two ball - one strike pitch, and drills it between Buck Wheat and Hy Myers to the wall in left . . . only perfect fielding and fast chasing keeps it from being a homerun. Pinch Thomas belts Smith's next offering with fierceness on the ground toward Clancy Cutshaw who makes a wonderful stop, holds the runner at third and throws out Thomas. Next comes Ruth, batting last in the Red Sox order, with a chance to put the game back on an even level. Ruth, like Thomas, does not wait around, he goes after the first pitch, and also like Thomas hits it on the ground to Cutshaw. But this time, with Scott in his sights heading into a sure out at home, Clancy fumbles the ball; he recovers to get Ruth at first, but the score is tied at one, and will remain so for the rest of the long afternoon and into the evening.
The Red Sox miss a chance in the fifth when Ruth swipes air three times leaving Pinch Thomas stranded on third. Thomas had hit to deep left, and was tripped by shortstop Ivy Olsen halfway between second and third, an action that brought third base coach Heinie Wagner charging onto the field ready for battle. Umpire Dineen stopped the fight and awarded Thomas the extra base. The Superbas begin to slip when Ruth gains strength as the light begins to fade. They are pushed to the edge by the continuous blaring between innings of the Hubtown band blasting over and over . . . "Tessie" . . . the so-called war-song of the Royal Rooters. At long last Manager Robinson emerges from the Brooklyn dugout to plead silence from Mr. Dineen the arbiter of things happening at the plate. Dineen, too, has heard enough, and puts the damper on the music, but cannot silence the rooters who raise the roof at the band ban.
Both teams flub chances to put the game away in the late innings. The Dodgers flunk base running in the top of the eighth . . . Mowrey on second after a single and a sacrifice, mysteriously stops at third on Mooney Miller's long single to center when anyone with eyes could see he might have scored standing up. When Smith rolls to Scott, Mowrey gets in a pickle, and after a professional exhibit of dodgeball that brings the cranks screaming to their feet, is finally tagged out lunging for the golden dish by Ruth who has joined the rundown to lend support to his flagging mates.
Ruth now takes up the bat in the bottom of the eighth, and gives the crowd a thrill when he sends Buck Wheat to the wall in deep right field where the Superbas' worthy fielder hauls in his first putout of the day. Harry Hooper follows with a drive to almost the same spot with the same result, and the game heads into the 9th inning tied at one, and darkness becoming a factor. Betting under the grandstand has been hot and heavy throughout the game with the odds shifting after every inning though continuing to favor the Red Sox. But now, as the game draws to an uncertain end, a curious thing happens . . . ignoring the home team advantage stemming from the last at bat, the line has become even money and take your pick.
Ruth continues to gain strength and easily puts down the Robins in the 9th. The Red Sox 9th is a different story as Sherry Smith is put to the supreme test. He begins by getting Janvrin to hit a ball to left that Wheat handles, then drops, allowing "Childe Harold" to take second. Tilly Walker is up to bunt the runner over, but after a feeble first attempt that results in a foul pop, Tilly is unceremoniously yanked by Manager Carrigan in favor of Jimmy "Runt" Walsh. Carrigan has allowed his emotions to overcome his judgement; this move makes no sense. Walsh came to the Red Sox late in the season from the Philadelphia Athletics and has only batted 17 times for his new team. But what baffles most is that Carrigan has pulled the right-handed Tilly Walker and substituted a left-handed hitter to face the left-handed Sherry Smith. And now, instead of bunting, Walsh swings away, and raps back to the pitcher. Smith snares the bouncer and fires to Mowrey at third who puts the tag on a sliding Hal Janvrin. Umpire Quigley signals out then safe when he sees that Mowrey has dropped the ball. First and third, nobody out. Smith stays cool facing Richard "Doc" Hoblitzel the Red Sox cleanup hitter who he has avoided pitching to all day, handing him two free passes. Hobby takes a ball then hammers a drive to center that starts the crowd moving toward the exits. But ho! Hy Myers to the rescue. The Superbas hero-of-the-day snags the drive, and unloads a one-hop throw to Mooney Miller who puts the tag on Janvrin a heart-beat before the Sox second-sacker's spikes secure the sacred saucer. The hometown crowd knows baseball when they see it - they stand and cheer the alien centerfielder; it seems there will be at least one more inning.
And somehow, through the gathering gloom they manage to play into the 14th, Ruth and Smith, aided by the dusk, still firing their blanks. In the bottom of the 14tth and last inning Smith begins by walking Hoblitzel for the fourth time, Lewis bunts him to second and the stage is set for the final act. Manager Carrigan, sensing that this is it, pulls Hobby for pinch-runner "Minooka" Mike McNally, and sends up "Sheriff" Del Gainer to bat for Larry Gardner.
Only Wilbert Robinson can say why he allowed Sherry Smith, who had toiled so true all the long difficult day, to face the right-handed hitting Gainer in this crucial situation. Robinson had a benchfull of well-rested right arms that might have prevented the "Sheriff" from delivering the decisive single to left that made a winner out of the Red Sox and Babe Ruth, the Baltimore slab artist.
Glassboro, New Jersey
April 11, 2003