1903 World Series

In the final four weeks of the season, when it looked likely that Pittsburg and Boston would each win the pennant in their respective leagues, Barney Dreyfuss of the Pirates spoke with Boston owner Henry Killilea about having a postseason playoff between the two champion teams. Actually making the arrangements for what became the first “World Series” was an on-again/off-again matter for quite some time, but they came to agreement on September 26 and five days later the first game was held at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds. Tickets were $1.00 apiece for the better seats.

Boston’s 28-game winner Cy Young took the mound, and promptly surrendered four runs in the top of the first. Only three of the seven runs were earned, but Deacon Phillippe and the Pirates got the 7-3 win. Phillippe had won 25 games in the regular season. But were gambling interests involved? Gambling on games was common at the time. Glenn Stout and Richard Johnson suggest in Red Sox Century: “The very first game of the very first ‘world’s series’ was, in all likelihood, thrown by Boston.” If so, perhaps it was a case of spotting the Pirates a game, while some of the Bostons cashed in a bit. Save for – perhaps - Tom Hughes’ start in Game Three, the rest of the series seems to have been played without a suggestion of underhandedness.

Bill Dinneen (21-13 in the regular season) won Game Two, throwing a three-hitter as Boston shut out Pittsburg, 3-0. Left fielder Patsy Dougherty hit two solo home runs, one each off starter Sam Leever and reliever Bucky Veil.

Phillippe came back after just one day of rest and vanquished Boston again, 4-2, in Game Three. It was the 20-7 Hughes who started for Boston, but only lasted two-plus innings, leaving after the third run scored in the top of the third. Cy Young could have used another day off, but he was pressed into service and threw the final seven innings. The massive crowd – double the park’s capacity – had spilled onto the field, behind ropes, and the proximity of the crowd probably hurt the Americans; balls hit into the crowd were ruled doubles and doubles hurt Hughes.

After three games, the series moved venue to Pittsburg’s Exposition Park. After two days off, it was Phillippe again and he ran his record to 3-0 in just the first four games, beating Dinneen, 5-4. A three-run Boston rally in the top of the ninth made it a close game, and seemed to be inspired by the team’s band of boosters, the Royal Rooters, who loudly and incessantly sang their own tailored version of the popular song of the day, “Tessie” while mocking the Pirates. Even years later, Pirates players said it got on their nerves. A new Boston baseball tradition was born.

Pittsburg did hold a three-games-to-none edge, however. Cy Young beat Brickyard Kennedy in Game Five, when the Boston offense broke a scoreless tie with six runs in the top of the sixth, adding four more in the seventh. The 11-2 final brought things a bit more even – and Boston tied the series at three games apiece with a 6-3 win behind Dinneen on October 7. Leever was the loser.

The first World Series was a best-of-nine one, and so Cy Young’s 7-3 win over the previously-undefeated Deacon Phillippe in Game Seven (the final game in Pittsburg) saw Boston take a lead, with potentially two games in Boston for the championship. The Pirates had hired their own band, and the fans for both sides were raucous. Dreyfuss, anxious to win, promised his players that if they prevailed, he would give them 100% of the take.

At the Huntington Avenue Grounds on October 13, the park was at least one-third empty. Speculators had bought up huge allotments of tickets, hoping to cash in, but the Boston fans declined to get scalped. Big Bill Dinneen allowed just four hits, and Pirates committed three errors. A two-run single by Hobe Ferris in the bottom of the fourth was all that proved necessary, but the final was 3-0 and Dinneen’s record went to 3-1, while Phillippe’s dropped to 3-2, and Boston rejoiced with the World Series win. Boston manager Jimmy Collins, thinking of “Tessie” and the support of the fans, said, “The support given the team by the ‘Royal Rooters’ will never be forgotten…no little portion of our success is due to this selfsame band of enthusiasts. Noise – why they astonished Pittsburg by their enthusiasm.”


By Bill Nowlin
1903 World Series, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates


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