The 1903 World Series, the first modern World Series to be played in Major League Baseball, matched the Boston Americans against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a best-of-nine series, with Boston prevailing five games to three, winning the last four.
Pittsburgh pitcher Sam Leever injured his shoulder while trap-shooting, so his teammate Deacon Phillippe had to pitch five complete games for Pittsburgh. Phillippe won three of his games, but it was not enough to overcome the club from the new American League. Boston pitchers Bill Dinneen and Cy Young led Boston to victory.
In Game 1, Phillippe set a World Series record by striking out ten Boston batters. That record lasted barely one day, as Dinneen struck out eleven Pittsburgh batters in Game 2.
Honus Wagner, bothered by injuries, batted only 6 for 27 (.222) in the Series and committed six errors. The shortstop was deeply distraught by his performance. The following spring, Wagner (who led the league in 1903 in batting average) refused to send his portrait to a "Hall of Fame" for batting champions. "I was too bum last year," he wrote. "I was a joke in that Boston-Pittsburgh Series. What does it profit a man to hammer along and make a few hits when they are not needed only to fall down when it comes to a pinch? I would be ashamed to have my picture up now."
In this World Series, the Boston Americans came back from a three games to one deficit, winning the final four games (in a best-of-nine Series rather than the now standard best-of-seven). Such a comeback would not happen again until the Pirates came back to defeat the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series, and has happened only ten times in baseball history. The Pirates repeated this feat in 1979 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Much was made of the influence of Boston's "Royal Rooters", who traveled to Pittsburgh and sang their theme song "Tessie" to distract the opposing players (especially Honus Wagner). Boston would end up winning three out of the four games at Pittsburgh.
The Pirates' benevolent owner Barney Dreyfuss added his share of the gate receipts to the players' share, so the losing team's players actually finished with a larger individual share than the winning team's.
The Series brought the new American League prestige and proved its best could beat the best of the National League, thus strengthening the demand for future World Series competitions.
The Pirates won their third straight pennant in 1903 thanks to a powerful line-up that included legendary shortstop Honus Wagner, who hit .355 and drove in 101 runs, player-manager Fred Clarke, who hit .351, and Ginger Beaumont, who hit .341 and led the league in hits and runs. The Pirates' pitching was weaker than it had been in previous years but boasted 24-game winner Deacon Phillippe and 25-game winner Sam Leever.
The Americans had a strong pitching staff, led by Cy Young, who went 28–9 in 1903 and became the all-time wins leader that year. Bill Dineen and Long Tom Hughes, right-handers like Young, had won 21 games and 20 games each. The Boston outfield, featuring Chick Stahl (.274), Buck Freeman (.287, 104 RBIs) and Patsy Dougherty (.331, 101 runs scored) was considered excellent.
Although the Pirates had dominated their league for the previous three years, they went into the series riddled with injuries and plagued by bizarre misfortunes. Otto Krueger, the team's only utility player, was beaned on September 19 and never fully played in the series. 16-game winner Ed Doheny left the team three days later, exhibiting signs of paranoia; he was committed to an insane asylum the following month. Leever had been battling an injury to his pitching arm (which he made worse by entering a trapshooting competition). Worst of all, Wagner, who had a sore thumb throughout the season, injured his right leg in September and was never 100 percent for the post-season.
Some sources say Boston were heavy underdogs. Boston bookies actually gave even odds to the teams (and only because Dreyfuss and other "sports" were alleged to have bet on Pittsburgh to bring down the odds). The teams were generally thought to be evenly matched, with the Americans credited with stronger pitching and the Pirates with superior offense and fielding. The outcome, many believed, hinged on Wagner's health. "If Wagner does not play, bet your money at two to one on Boston," said the Sporting News, "but if he does play, place your money at two to one on Pittsburgh.
Thursday, October 1, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts
The Pirates started Game 1 strong, scoring six runs in the first four innings. They extended their lead to 7–0 on a solo home run by Jimmy Sebring in the seventh, the first home run in World Series history. Boston tried to mount a comeback in the last three innings, but it was too little, too late, as they ended up losing by a score of 7–3 in the first ever World Series game. Both Phillippe and Young threw complete games, with Phillippe striking out ten and Young fanning five, but Young also gave up twice as many hits and allowed three earned runs to Phillippe's two.
|WP: Deacon Phillippe (1–0) LP: Cy Young (0–1)
PIT: Jimmy Sebring (1)
Friday, October 2, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts
After starting out strong in Game 1, the Pirates simply shut down offensively, managing to get a meager three hits, all of which were singles. Pirates starter Sam Leever went only one inning and gave up three hits and two runs before being replaced by Bucky Veil in the second inning due to injury, who finished the game for Pittsburgh. Bill Dinneen struck out eleven and pitched a complete game for the Americans, while Patsy Dougherty hit home runs in the first and sixth innings to produce two of the Boston's three runs.
|WP: Bill Dinneen (1–0) LP: Sam Leever (0–1)
BOS: Patsy Dougherty 2 (2)
Saturday, October 3, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts
Deacon Phillippe, pitching on only one day rest, started Game 3 for the Pirates, and did not let them down as he pitched his second complete game victory of the series to put the Pirates up two games to one.
|WP: Deacon Phillippe (2–0) LP: Tom Hughes (0–1)|
Tuesday, October 6, 1903 at Exposition Park (III) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
After two days of rest, Deacon Phillippe was ready to pitch his second straight game. He threw his third complete game victory of the series against Bill Dinneen, who was pitching in his second start of the series. However, Phillippe's second straight victory was almost not to be, as the Americans, down 5–1 in the top of the ninth, staged a rally to bring the game within one. The comeback attempt failed, though, as Phillippe managed to put an end to it and give the Pirates a commanding 3–1 series lead.
|WP: Deacon Phillippe (3–0) LP: Bill Dinneen (1–1)|
Wednesday, October 7, 1903 at Exposition Park (III) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Game 5 was a pitcher's duel for the first five innings, with Boston's Cy Young and Pittsburgh's Brickyard Kennedy giving up no runs. That changed at the top of the sixth, however, when the Americans scored a then-record six runs that inning. Young, on the other hand, managed to keep his shutout intact before finally giving up a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. He went the distance and struck out four for his first World Series win.
|WP: Cy Young (1–1) LP: Brickyard Kennedy (0–1)|
Thursday, October 8, 1903 at Exposition Park (III) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Game 6 featured a rematch between the starters of Game 2, Bill Dinneen (Boston) and Sam Leever (Pittsburgh). This time, Leever would pitch the entire game, but despite throwing a complete game he was outmatched by Dinneen, who ended up with his second complete game victory of the series. After losing three of the first four games of the World Series, the underdog Boston Americans had tied the series at three games apiece.
|WP: Bill Dinneen (2–1) LP: Sam Leever (0–2)|
Saturday, October 10, 1903 at Exposition Park (III) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The fourth and final game in Pittsburgh saw Deacon Phillippe start his fourth game of the series for Pittsburgh. This time, however, he wouldn't fare as well as he did in his first three starts. Cy Young, pitching in his third start of the series, would face a much more favorable fate, holding the Pirates to only three runs.
|WP: Cy Young (2–1) LP: Deacon Phillippe (3–1)|
Tuesday, October 13, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts
The final game of the inaugural World Series started out as an intense pitcher's duel, with no runs being scored until the fourth inning—when a Hobe Ferris single scored two runners. Deacon Phillippe started his fifth and final game of the series, while Bill Dinneen started his fourth game of the series. As he did in Game 2, Dinneen threw a complete game shutout while striking out seven, leading the Boston Americans to victory, while Phillippe, who also threw a respectable game, just couldn't pitch at Dinneen's level due to wearing out his arm in the series (as a result of playing so many games in such a short time span) and gave up three runs in the defeat. Honus Wagner struck out to end the Series.
|WP: Bill Dinneen (3–1) LP: Deacon Phillippe (3–2)|