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1903, 1912, 1915, 1916

Boston starts to build a winning tradition of its own

By Bob Richardson
Globe Staff / October 22, 2004

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In the beginning, it seemed so easy.

The Red Sox won the first American League-National League World Series, then, after being denied a chance at two in a row when New York Giants manager John McGraw refused to play, took eight years to rebuild a juggernaut that captured three Series in five years.

The Sox were involved in five of the first 15 World Series and won all five, amassing a 21-10 record and going to a do-or-die game only once (1912). Since 1918, the Red Sox have appeared in four Series, losing in Game 7 each time.

Pitching, not exactly the Red Sox' trademark most of their 103-year history, was the constant in Boston's five World Series triumphs, as indicated by a 2.01 team ERA. Some of the hurlers are familiar names even today (Cy Young, Smoky Joe Wood, and Babe Ruth), but Boston also got stellar performances from Bill Dinneen, Rube Foster, Ernie Shore, and Carl Mays.

In 1903, Boston rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates, five games to three, in the first World Series of the 20th century, a best-of-nine affair. Postseason play was common in the 19th century; in fact, the NL and American Association (then a major league) played World's Series annually from 1884-90. In 1887, they even staged a 15-game movable feast, playing Game 8 in Boston Oct. 18.

The Pirates had won three straight NL pennants and began the 1903 Series looking as though they would dominate the upstarts from the fledgling American League, founded two years earlier. However, injuries and illness had depleted the vaunted Pittsburgh mound corps, and Dinneen (three wins) and Young (two) rose to the occasion. Boston's Americans (they didn't have a formal nickname then and wouldn't become the Red Sox until the 1908 season) also got a boost from an early version of the Nation, the Royal Rooters, who trekked all the way to Pittsburgh and tormented the Pirates with variations of the popular song ``Tessie.'' After winning three straight in Pittsburgh, Boston sealed the Series on Dinneen's four-hit shutout in Game 8 back at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, located where Northeastern University is today.

The Red Sox were underdogs again in 1912, facing a Giants team that featured Hall of Fame pitchers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard. But Boston had Wood, who was 34-5 during the regular season, and perhaps the best-fielding outfield ever - Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper. In a World Series that rivals 1975's classic as the most dramatic ever, Wood beat the Giants three times, winning Game 8 (Game 2 was halted because of darkness with the score tied) in relief when the Sox scored two off Mathewson in the bottom of the 10th after center fielder Fred Snodgrass muffed an easy fly and the Giants allowed a foul popup to drop. Snodgrass, like teammate Fred Merkle, whose base-running gaffe cost the Giants the 1908 pennant, would be haunted by his mistake, termed the $30,000 Muff for the sum it cost Giants players.

Three years later, injuries had robbed Wood of his ``smoke,'' but the Sox still had Hooper, Speaker, and Lewis as well as 1912 mainstays Larry Gardner at third base and Bill Carrigan catching and managing to boot. The Red Sox dispatched the Phillies in five games as Foster won twice, including the clincher in Philadelphia when Hooper's second home run of the contest broke a tie in the ninth. The Phillies' only victory was a 3-1 triumph by Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander in the opener. The two Boston games of the 1915 World Series were played at newly completed Braves Field, where more than 40,000 turned out for each contest.

Speaker was dealt to Cleveland after a salary dispute the following season, but Gardner's two home runs, timely hitting by Lewis (.353) and Hooper (.333) and twin victories by Shore, capped by a three-hitter in the finale, helped the Sox vanquish Brooklyn, four games to one, in 1916. The Sox again borrowed Braves Field for their three home games, with average attendance exceeding 40,000. Ruth registered his first World Series victory in Game 2, shutting out the Robins after a first-inning run to win, 2-1, in 14 innings.

The Babe would win two more in 1918, then take his act to New York, perhaps leaving an 86-year curse behind.

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