Despite Fred Clarke’s claim that the 1925 Pirates were the best team he had ever been associated with, certainly high praise coming from a man whose teams had been so dominant during the first decade of the century, the Pirates were not a heavy favorite to win the World Series. Their opponent, the defending World Champion Washington Senators, figured to be less awed by the series than the Pirates, who had only one World Series veteran, Babe Adams, on the roster. The Babe was not expected to play a key role in the outcome of Series, having generally pitched in mop up roles late in the season.
Several factors seemed to favor the Senators. While the Pirates might claim the better all-around offense, the Senators had hit only four points less than Pittsburgh finishing second in the American League with a .303 average. Washington could also play a running game as they led the AL with 140 stolen bases and as Griffith Stadium had huge outfield distances, they figured to be an effective offensive team at Forbes Field. Like the Pirates, Washington’s top homerun hitter Goose Goslin had hit 18 for the season, but Goslin had led the league in triples with 20 to go with 34 doubles and a .334 average. He also stole 26 bases and knocked in 113 runs. Joining him in the outfield was Sam Rice, another future Hall of Famer, who hit.350 with 227 hits. Player-manager Bucky Harris would choose between the heavy hitting Joe Harris (.323 with 12 homeruns in 300 at bats) and Earl McNeely, a better defensive player, as his third outfielder.
Defensively, the Senators matched up favorably in the infield. Joe Judge had assumed Stuffy McInnis’s title as the top defensive first baseman in the league and was a .314 hitter with line drive power. Harris was one of the better defensive second baseman in the league and third baseman Ossie Bluege was seen as the closest thing to Pie Traynor the American League could offer in defending the hot corner. Roger Peckinpaugh was a strong defensive shortstop whose glove and clutch hitting had earned him the AL’s MVP award. Washington had two .300 hitting catchers in Muddy Ruel (.310) and Hank Severied (.355 in 110 at bats for Washington after hitting .367 in one less AB for the Browns), although neither was considered a power hitter. Ruel, in particular, was considered a better backstop than the Pirates' combination of Earl Smith and Johnny Gooch.
Where Washington seemed to have a decided advantage was on the mound. While it was thought lefthanders Dutch Ruether, a National League retread who surprised with an 18-7 mark, and Tom Zachary, a disappointing 12-15, could be handled by the brigade of high average hitters the Pirates possessed, there was doubt the Buccos would fare well against star righthanders Walter Johnson and Stanley Covaleski. While it was true The Big Train was now 37 and not as fast as he had been in his prime, Johnson could still master a game as evidenced by his 20-7 record and 3.07 ERA in a league where the average pitcher allowed over four runs per game. Covaleski, a spitballer, actually had had a bigger year than Johnson. Obtained from Cleveland after a mediocre 15-16 mark in 1924, the former coal miner had come back to lead the league in ERA at 2.84 and his 20-5 record was the best in the junior circuit. Additionally, Harris had at his disposal Firpo Marberry, one of the game’s first star relief pitchers. Marberry had gone only 8-6, but had pitched in 55 games and had tied his own major league record with 15 unofficial “saves.”
The Pirates, though, would not be pushovers. Although the Senators seemed to have an advantage on the mound, Bill McKechnie’s pitchers were riding a hot streak and especially Vic Aldridge had pitched excellently late in the season. The Pirate attack may have only bettered the Senators’ batting average by four points, but they outscored Washington 912-829. The Pirates had also collected more hits, doubles, triples, homeruns and rbi’s than the Senators. The Bucs had a faster team than Washington, although they only stole 19 more bases than the American League champs had during the season. The Pirates held a notable edge in slugging, .449 to .411, based mostly on their large advantage in extra base hits, 499-379. While everyone in Washington’s lineup, except for the catchers and Moon Harris could run, the team did not have anyone with the speed of Carey or Cuyler. The Pirates had superior defense in the outfield, despite Goslin’s powerful arm. Glenn Wright was rated slightly better than Peckinpaugh at shortstop as he possessed superior range, and as good as Bluege was at third, Pie Traynor was the player who drew the most raves from observers. In fact, of the starting nine, Pittsburghers outhit Washingtonians at every position except catcher and leftfield and the Pirate leftfielder, Clyde Barnhart, actually drove in a run more than his counterpart, Goslin. The Pirates boasted four 100 RBI men, almost half the National League’s total, to Washington’s one and both Carey and Cuyler stole over 40 bases, while Goslin and Rice topped the Senators at 26.
While acknowledging the Capital’s great one-two punch of Johnson and Covaleski, the Pirates had feasted on lefthanders all season long and it was said Pittsburghers laughed when Ruether’s name was mentioned, “Why the Pirates hit that guy the whole way out of the league.” Those supporting the Pirates also felt the Pirates of 1925 were a better team than the New York group Washington had defeated in 1924, using this as an argument against cries that the Senators' experience would be the deciding factor.
Both managers, Bill McKechnie of Pittsburgh and Harris of Washington, were considered good tacticians, although Harris’s victory over the Giants in 1924 seemed to earn him more respect at the time. In fact, as the Series opened, McKechnie appeared somewhat drawn and anxious. Pittsburgh had installed temporary bleachers in centerfield which increased seating to 45,000, as the Pirates were expecting huge crowds.
On the eve of the Series, baseball was saddened by the death of Christy Mathewson, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers and most respected gentlemen. Mathewson had suffered from pulmonary problems since he was gassed while serving in World War I. The Series combatants wore black arm bands in his honor.
While Mathewson was baseball’s greatest hurler during the last time the Pirates were in the World Series, they now had to face the man currently laying claim to the title in the opener. Walter Johnson did nothing to disparage his legend in Game 1. Johnson completely shut down the great Pirate offense, striking out 10 and surrendering only five hits. Traynor homered for the only Pirate run. Harris, starting in rightfield, was the hitting star for Washington with a homerun in the second and a rally-starting single in the fifth. Rice knocked in two in the fateful fifth with a basehit off losing pitcher Specs Meadows with the bases loaded. After loading the bases with no one out, Meadows fanned Ruel and Johnson, but the veteran outfielder Harris made sure the Pirate pitcher would not get off the hook.
Vic Aldridge bested Stan Covaleski the next day in a tight pitcher’s duel. Judge homered in the second, but Wright matched his blast with a shot of his own in the fourth. The score remained 1-1 until the eighth, when Peckinpaugh booted Moore’s grounder. Covaleski fell behind Cuyler 2-0, and the Pirate rightfielder made him pay by smashing the next delivery for a homerun and a 3-1 Pirate lead. Washington scored a run on a sacrifice fly by pinchhitter Bobby Veach, but Aldridge fanned Ruether, a good hitting pitcher sent up to pinch hit, and got Rice to ground to second.
Aldridge had escaped an earlier jam as well. In the fifth, Washington loaded the bases with no one out. McKechnie brought the infield in and Aldridge got Rice and Harris to hit groundballs which first he, then Wright, turned into forceouts at home and retired Goslin on a grounder to Grantham at first. Other small things seemed to go the Pirates way that day. In the fourth, Goslin angrily accused Smith of tipping his bat, but the umpire had not seen it if in fact it happened. In the sixth, Bluege left the game after being hit by a pitch on the left hand.
With the score 4-3 in the Senators' favor, Smith hit a deep drive to center. Rice leaped into the temporary bleachers owner Clark Griffith had had constructed and emerged with the ball. The umpire ruled that Rice had caught the ball, but the Pirates ferociously protested, arguing the umpire could not tell if Rice had a) caught the ball and b) held on the ball when he landed among the fans. The catch became the focal point of the game which held many highlights.
Game 3 was controversial even before it began. Not wanting to subject a lefthander to Pittsburgh’s attack, Harris started Alex Ferguson, a righthander who had pitched well for Washington, but the nation’s capital was the third city the pitcher had performed for in 1925 after getting hit hard as a Red Sox and Yankee early in the year. Ferguson was wild at first. He walked Moore and hit Carey with a pitch (the third time in the Series the Pirate captain had been hit by a pitch) to open the game. Cuyler flew out to Goslin for an easy out, but Barnhart hit a smash to Peckinpaugh, which the shortstop fielded cleanly and turned into an inning-ending double play. The Pirates touched him for a run in the second on Traynor’s triple and Wright’s sacrifice fly. Remy Kremer started for the Bucs and held Washington scoreless until Judge doubled in Rice in the third to tie the game. The Pirates answered immediately in the fourth on Cuyler’s double and Barnharts basehit and took a 3-1 lead when Kremer singled in an unearned run set up by a Peckinpaugh error and a Smith hit.
Goslin homered to right in the fifth to pull the Senators back to within a run and Washington staged its winning rally in the seventh. Nemo Liebold walked as a pinch-hitter for Ferguson and McNeely ran for him. After failing in a bunt attempt, Rice flew out. Harris then hit a dribbler in front of the plate which he beat out for a hit. Now the slugger Goslin tried a bunt. The move crossed up the Pirates and everyone was safe. Judge tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Harris singled to leftfield to put the Nats ahead, 4-3.
Harris then went to his ace in the hole, Marberry. He opened the eighth by fanning the first two men he faced before Smith’s drive. In the ninth, the reliever would face an even tougher test. After striking out Carson Bigbee as a pinch-hitter, Moore and Carey hit back to back singles with Moore ending up on third with only one out. Cuyler was hit by a pitch, loading the bases Barnhart fouled out to Ruel, but Marberry still had to face Traynor. Pitching perhaps too carefully, he fell behind 3-0. Harris called time and told the pitcher to throw the ball over the plate and let his fielders take care of the problem. Firpo responded with two strikes and with the count now full retired the Pirate thirdbaseman on a flyball to Rice.
Walter Johnson returned in Game 4. While he lacked his famous strikeout pitch, fanning only two, the superstar showed that he could stop a team with out mowing them down. He gave up six hits and shut out the Bucs, 4-0.
Goslin and Judge homered in the third, giving the Goose five World Series homeruns in two years. Manager Harris made two outstanding plays in the seventh and ninth innings which he turned into double plays. Yde was knocked out of the box in the third when Washington scored all their runs. Morrison and Adams shut the door, but Johnson was in command and the Pirates never seriously threatened him.
Now down 3-1, the Pirates lack of experience and failure to hit in the clutch were being expounded upon. McKechnie, under the advice of Giant manager John McGraw, decided to bench the slumping George Grantham for Game 5, replacing him with the stronger defensive player, Stuffy McInnis and chose Aldridge to start the must-win contest as Meadows was hurting. The choice did not look good in the first when Rice singled, went to second on Bucky Harris’s sacrifice and scored on Goslin’s double. After retiring Judge, Aldridge walked Joe Harris. The Pirate pitcher dodged further damage when Traynor fielded Peckinpaugh’s smash to third.
The Pirate offense began to show life in the third. Carey singled and stole second.On the play, the basestealing king was injured in a collision with Bucky Harris, but insisted on staying in the game. It would be found out after the series that Carey had suffered broken ribs in the collision. Cuyler walked and Barnhart knocked a single to score the Pirate captain and send Cuyler to third. McKechnie had the runners break and Barnhart was safe at second as Cuyler scampered back into third. Traynor then lifted a sacrifice fly to Rice and the Pirates had a 2-1 lead.
The Bucs tried to break the game open in the fourth, but Judge made robbed Carey of a hit with two on and two out. Goslin, too, was making big plays in the field, robbing McInnis and Barnhart of homeruns with running catches deep in left.
Joe Harris tied the game for Washington with a homerun in the bottom of the inning. Aldridge escaped another dagger when he struck out Covaleski and got Rice to ground out with runners at second and third in the same inning.
Desperately fighting for survival, the Pirates mounted a rally with one out. Moore walked. Carey singled and Moore scored when Cuyler followed with a hit off Bluege’s glove. Barnhart drove in Max with a basehit, but the Pirates could not put the game away as Traynor fanned and Cuyler was out on a double steal attempt.
McKechnie stuck with Aldridge despite another attack by the Senators. Leibold again was successful as a pinch-hitter, this time doubling. Rice scored him with a single and moved into scoring position on his manager’s bunt. Goslin, the deadliest hitter in the lineup, flew to rightfield and Rice moved to third after Cuyler’s catch. With the lefthanded hitting Judge up, McKechnie decided not to go to the bullpen despite the fact Aldridge’s best pitch was his curveball. The Pirate pilot proved prophet as Judge, too, flew out to right.
Harris went to Tom Zachary to pitch the eighth, the first time he had chosen a lefthander to face the Pirates in the Series. The Pirates treated him as they had National League lefthanders all year when Wright doubled and McInnis singled him home to give the Bucs a 5-3 lead.
In the ninth, Pittsburgh tacked on another run Barnhart walked and Traynor singled. Marberry replaced Zachary, but Wright singled past Bluege to score Barnhart. Aldridge pitched better the last two innings and the Pirates looted Game 5, 6-3.
Although it was noted that Covaleski had appeared tired during the game, Washington still held a 3-2 lead in games as the Series moved back to Forbes Field. In a losing effort, Sam Rice had collected two hits once again, which gave him a pair of hits in each game so far. Joe Harris was terrorizing Pirate pitching and Goose Goslin and Joe Judge were having excellent Series as well. For the Pirates, Carey was starring at the plate and on the bases and it was hoped his teammates were also ready to start hitting as they had during the regular season.
Rice was greeted with verbal abuse by Forbes Field fans for what they considered his phantom catch in Washington as Game 6 got under way. Kremer took the hill once again against Ferguson as Harris again bypassed Reuther, and got off to a shaky start, allowing a homerun to Goslin in the first and Peckipaugh’s hit and run double in the second. After moving Peckinpaugh to third with a wild pitch, Kremer retired Severeid on a flyball to shallow left and Ferguson on a fly to right.
The Pirates tied it in the third. Moore walked and was safe at second when Peckinpaugh threw too late to that base on an attempted force out on Carey’s grounder. McKechnie ordered Cuyler to sacrifice and his star followed his order perfectly. Moore scored on Barnhart’s groundout and Traynor tied the game with a basehit. Pie then stole second and went to third when Severeid made a wild throw, but died there as Wright grounded out. Moore, the only man in the Pirate lineup who failed to hit .300 during the season, contributed the biggest hit of his career in the fifth inning with a homerun to put the Pirates on top, 3-2.
Now it was up to Kremer. In the seventh, Judge hit a deep fly that Cuyler caught at the fence. In the eighth, Washington threatened when Severied singled and McNeely, pinchrunning stole second. Kremer got Leibold to popup and Rice grounded to McInnis with McNeely moving to third. Manager Harris was next up, but he sent Bobby Veach in to bat. Veach was a former AL RBI champion who swung from the left side and Harris later explained he felt the former Detroit star would have a better chance against the righthanded Kremer, but Veach grounded out ending the threat.
In the ninth, Remy would have to stop another potential rally. With one out, Joe Harris doubled to the deepest part of centerfield. The shot hit a screen and stayed in the ballpark. If he had hit the ball anywhere else, it likely would have tied the game. McKechnie again decided to stay with his starter, a man who had toiled for 10 seasons in the minor leagues before the Pirates had traded for him in 1924. Kremer proved McKechnie a smart man by popping up Judge and getting Bluege to ground to Traynor.
It rained the day of Game 7. And rained. And rained. Many thought the game never should have started, but the forecast called for rain on the ensuing days and with a big crowd expected, Barney Dreyfuss was not going to call this one. Bucky Harris had Walter Johnson ready. For the Pirates, Aldridge, the team’s best pitcher down the stretch and the victor in Games 2 and 5 would throw on just two days rest. McKechnie chose the curveballer over the more rested Morrison and Yde and quickly regretted it as throw, rather than pitch, was what Aldridge did. He gave up two hits, three walks and threw two wild pitches in the first before being relieved by Morrison, retiring just one man. The team seemed to be falling apart as Smith committed a catcher’s interference to force home a run and Moore committed an error to let in another. The Pirates would go to bat against the greatest pitcher of all-time trailing 4-0.
Johnson got through the first two innings without allowing a run.In the third, pitcher Morrison singled and Moore smashed a double off the leftfield wall to score him. Carey singled past Bucky Harris to bring home Moore and went to second when Cuyler bounced out to Peckinpaugh. The daring veteran, enjoying his first World Series after years of frustration, stole third. Barnhart then delivered another RBI single and the Pirates were back in the game, trailing by just a run.
Morrison, though, couldn’t keep the Senators at bay. Rice singled with one out and after the manager/secondbaseman struck out, Goslin singled past Traynor and took second on Barnhart’s ill-advised attempt to throw out Rice at third. Joe Harris then doubled in two when Carey became a casualty of the rain and mud as he slipped and fell.
Carey partially redeemed himself when he doubled for his third hit of the game in the Pirate fifth. Cuyler brought Carey home and the Pirates to within two with another double.
Kremer, meanwhile, had relieved and was pitching well. Washington had mounted little against him and and impending darkness complicated the bad weather. In the seventh, Peckinpaugh lost Moore’s popup in the gloom and the Pirate second baseman went to second. It was the American League’s MVP’s seventh error of the Series. Carey doubled down the leftfield line. Goslin argued the ball was foul and showed the umpire a divet in the mud where he claimed the ball had struck, but the divet did not dissuade the call. Moore scored and with Carey the tying run at second, McKechnie again had Cuyler sacrifice. Pie Traynor was up next and he ripped the ball to centerfield, tying the game and the speedy thirdbaseman set out to circle the bases. Sensing a World Championship perhaps only 90 feet away, Traynor raced past third, but a strong relay nailed him at the plate. Still, the Pirates had battled back against Johnson, the man who had won more games in his league’s history than anyone else.
Finally, Peckinpaugh gave a glimpse of the clutch play he had displayed all year as he took the lead back for Washington with a homerun off Kremer in the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, Johnson retired Wright on a popup. He then called time, as the rain was coming harder now, and asked for sawdust on the mound. Satisfied, Sir Walter induced McInnis into an easy fly. Earl Smith followed. The surly lefthanded hitter had been denied a chance to be a hero by Rice’s catch in Game 3. This time, Smith doubled and Yde was called in to pinchrun. With Kremer up next, McKechnie called on Bigbee to pinchhit. Carson had been a Pirate star a few years earlier, but his career had been greatly curtailed by sinus problems which not only caused him pain, but had affected his vision. Bigbee was able to see Johnson’s delivery well enough to line the ball over Goslin’s head for a game tying double.
Bucky Harris refused to go to another pitcher although he had Marberry seemingly available. Johnson, now finding his footing even tougher, walked Moore. Carey was next. He hit a slow grounder towards short. Peckinpaugh, respecting Carey’s speed, went for the force out at second, but his throw was high and everyone was safe. Time was called again as more sawdust was placed on the mound. Now at bat stood Kiki Cuyler, the Pirate’s MVP during the regular season. Johnson delivered and Cuyler drove the ball to the gap and all the baserunners came around. However, it was ruled that the ball had rolled under a tarp and re-emerged, so Cuyler and Carey were sent back to second and third, but more importantly, the Pirates now had a 9-7 lead. Johnson rebounded to retire Traynor and with the lefthanded hitting Rice due up and Goslin to hit third, McKechnie brought in Red Oldham.
Oldham, 31, a mid-season pickup from the minor leagues, had not pitched in the Majors since 1922 but had done a decent job down the stretch for the Bucs. Rice, who had 12 hits in the Series struck out. Bucky Harris hit the ball on the line, but right at Moore. Washington’s last hope was its best hitter, Goslin. Oldham, throwing him curves, fanned him to end the Series. Pittsburgh fans ran onto the field as even in 1925 supporters sought souvenirs, taking with them whatever they could.
There was no World Series MVP award in 1925, but the Pirates had several candidates. Tops among them were their speed demons, Carey and Cuyler. Carey, playing with cracked ribs and a torn ligament in his right side, batted .458, including four hits in Game 7. His 11 for 24 performance totaled 15 bases and he added five more trips to first on two walks and three hit by pitched balls. He also stole three bases. Although Cuyler’s average was only .269, four of his seven hits were for extra bases including his Game 2 winning homerun and his Series winning double. He tied Goslin and Joe Harris with six RBI. Moore also had hit a deciding homerun and seemed to be involved in most of the team’s rallies. He led all participants with seven runs scored. Traynor had nine hits for a .346 average and Barnhart totaled five RBI on his seven hits.
On the mound, Kremer won Games 6 and 7, the first with a route going performance and the second with three solid innings of relief pitching with only one day rest between games. Aldridge, although failing in Game 7, kept the Pirates in the Series with two complete game victories. Their contributions were all the more important as the teams’ biggest winner, Lee Meadows, was unable to pitch after absorbing the opening game loss.
McKechnie, too, won more respect, as it was felt he had outmanaged Harris. In fact, the Senators’ boss received a strong reprimand from American League President Ban Johnson who chided that Harris had lost a World Championship on “mawkish sentiment” by not removing Johnson. Harris could only answer that he had gone down with his best.
Washington faithful blamed the loss on the poor conditions under which Game 7 was played. Some impartial observers speculated that the game would have been called after nine innings if the score had been tied, and the weather is still considered the worst conditions a World Series game has been played under. Reports of the time credited Kremer with being a better “mudder” than Johnson as the pitching legend struggled to find firm footing on the
mound. Whatever the reasons, the Pirates had their first World Championship in 16 years. If Pittsburgh fans thought it was a long wait since the Pirates were last hailed as the best team in baseball, they were in for an even longer wait as a generation would pass until the Pirates would again grab baseball’s biggest prize.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 95-58
Washington Senators, 96-55
Washington Senators, Bucky Harris (player/manager)
Pittsburgh Pirates, Bill McKechnie
Cy Rigler (NL), Brick Owens (AL), Barry McCormick (NL), George Moriarty (AL)
Hall of Famers:
Pirates: Bill McKechnie (mgr.), Max Carey, Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor.
Senators: Stan Coveleski, Goose Goslin, Bucky Harris (p/mgr), Walter Johnson, Sam Rice.
By Pirates Encyclopedia
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- Bill McKechnie, Bucky Harris, Christy Mathewson, Forbes Field, Goose Goslin, Griffith Stadium, Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates, Walter Johnson, Washington Senators