The National League and the American League were still at war, but as the season progressed there was talk of holding a postseason matchup between the pennant winners in each league.
The Boston Americans seemed to have matters under control from early on. As early as June 23, they took over first place and never relinquished the lead, finishing 14 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Athletics and 47 ½ games ahead of last-place Washington.
The Pittsburg Pirates won the NL flag, and - despite some stops and starts toward a playoff series – the first World Series was held in October 1903.
In Boston, there was really no contest as to which team in the two-team town was winning out. Building on their first very successful two campaigns, there was a head-to-head jousting for attendance on April 20, which was a combined Opening Day/Patriots Day twin bill at the two ballparks, which were almost literally next door to each other, with some train tracks in between. Four major-league games in one city, all before darkness fell, saw both Boston home teams win the first game from a Philadelphia rival and lose the second.
The 10:00 a.m. first game at the Huntington Avenue Grounds remains the earliest start of any major-league game since the start of the 20th century. The Americans drew 8,376 and 19,282, while the Nationals drew 1,827 and 8,867.
Games in the early 20th century sometimes featured some real fireworks – literally. On Evacuation Day (June 17), the Boston Globe's Tim Murnane wrote, "Every time a good play was pulled off in favor of the home team, the rattle of small guns, firecrackers and the jingling of bells livened up matters.” On Independence Day, July 4, it was a morning/afternoon doubleheader which featured "hundreds of firearms" being discharged according to the Boston Post.
There was apparently an innovation at the ballpark: "A fine large score board is in operation at each game and the scores of the games away are bulletined as they are received," reported the Boston Herald. A couple of umpires seemed to find trouble traveling. For part of the July 4 game and all of the July 8 game, Cy Young himself had to stand in and umpire.
The September 5 game stood out when Patsy Dougherty hit three triples all in one game, a record still standing. The Boston team as a whole knocked out a still-record total of 113 triples during 1903 – in part because of the practice of letting overflow crowds onto the outfield, behind ropes. Balls hit into the crowd were often deemed ground rule triples.
It was as late as September 12 that the first official announcement of the dates and arrangements for the postseason games between Pittsburg and Boston was made, and only finally affirmed on September 28 – three days before the World Series began.
Indicative of the looseness of planning more than 100 years ago, both the visiting St. Louis Browns and the Bostons simply decided to end the season a day early, advancing the September 29 game and making a doubleheader on the 28th.
Bill Dinneen pitched the final game, his sixth shutout of the season and the 20th shutout for the Boston staff. Dinneen was 21-13, with a 2.28 ERA. Cy Young was 28-9, with a 2.03 ERA, and Long Tom Hughes was the third 20-game winner, 20-7, with his ERA at 2.57.
In December, Hughes was traded to New York for Jesse Tannehill, who had by far the better year in 1904. Freeman’s 13 homers (seven of them inside-the-park home runs) and 104 RBIs led the league in both categories. Patsy Dougherty led the team in batting with .331 and scored a club-high 107 times.
On September 30, the contracts for the Boston ballplayers had expired. Consequently, they were under no agreement that would pay them for postseason play. Boston owner Killilea offered to extend the contracts by two weeks to pay them for participating in the World Series, but the players sought more and stated their refusal to play without adequate compensation. Matters were worked out.By Bill Nowlin
- Bill Dinneen, Buck Freeman, Cy Young, Jesse Tannehill, Patsy Dougherty, Tim Murnane, Tom Hughes