1905 The Zero Heroes

The World Series becomes official, and the New York Giants prove their worth with a virtual two-man pitching staff of Joe McGinnity (below, left) and Christy Mathewson (below, right)—combining to completely shut down the Philadelphia Athletics in a Series triumph.

Joe McGinnity and Christy Mathewson.

In 1904, the New York Giants’ spiteful arrogance shut the American League out of the World Series. A year later, the Giants’ stunning display of pitching would shut out the junior circuit at the World Series.

From the dugout to the front office, the National League champions were as mean and malcontented as ever, continuing to use every dirty trick in the book while the rest of baseball was cleaning up its act. But after absorbing a public pounding for their refusal to play the 1904 World Series—resulting in a rare case of self-pity—the Giants decided it was a better thing to prove their worth as baseball’s best team rather than to venomously brag about it.

Prove it they would in 1905. After a thunderous romp through the regular season, the Giants paired up with the Philadelphia Athletics and knocked the AL champions down flat with, undoubtedly, the greatest exhibition of pitching ever witnessed in a World Series.

The year began with Giants owner John Brush and his testy, pesky manager John McGraw doing damage control for their World Series balk, done out of spite for Ban Johnson—the AL czar they so blatantly hated. Making up, Brush personally helped write up the rules for the modern World Series, in the process finally snuffing out whatever hot spots remained in the otherwise doused AL-NL inferno. Fans were now assured that the two leagues would advance their best into October to determine, without argument, the true champion of major league baseball.

Brush may have had further incentive for assuring the World Series, idealizing the extra income his franchise and players could accrue with an extra series of sold-out affairs. That is, of course, if the Giants made it.

Which, predictably, they would.

If any team was more modeled after the personality of the baiting, brawling McGraw, the 1905 Giants was it. McGraw would ultimately manage 33 years, winning ten pennants and three World Series titles, but he would fondly recall the 1905 edition as the best he ever led. And not just because they won, won and won again; it was because they fought, fought and fought again.

Headlining the Giants’ star antagonists at the plate was center fielder “Turkey” Mike Donlin, a talented if unpredictable sort who managed to play everyday in 1905 and place third in NL hitting at .356. In previous years, Donlin had occasionally wandered off to perform Vaudeville and led there in hitting, too—as recalled with a young actress who Donlin once slugged outside a Baltimore theater.

Ironically, no Giant punched out more opponents—legally, from the pitching mound—than the team’s least pugnacious player: Christy Mathewson.

While most ballplayers were escaping coal mines and back alleys, there was the 24-year-old Mathewson: A congenial, well-groomed, blue-eyed former class president of Bucknell University. But Mathewson’s upbringing wasn’t all that made him stand out from other major leaguers; he had also become baseball’s most unsolvable pitcher. Patient, intelligent and armed with a screwball that certainly screwed with the minds of opposing hitters, Mathewson won over 30 games for the third straight year, threw his second career no-hitterMathewson’s no-hitter would be the last laugh he would have over Brown for quite a while, losing his next nine decisions against the future Hall of Famer. against Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and the Chicago Cubs, and earned the first of five career earned run average titles at 1.28.

But even Mathewson, clean-cut image and all, couldn’t refrain from being a party to the schoolyard bully ethic for which the Giants played to perfection. When a very young lemonade vendor mercilessly heckled him during a game at Philadelphia, Mathewson staggered the kid with a blow to the mouth. Such was the effect John McGraw had on this team.

As always, the 32-year-old McGraw led by example—and in 1905, he was in top form. Umpires booted him out of 13 different games. He made a reporter pay for asking a loaded question by grabbing the man’s nose and twisting it. And McGraw ignited the year’s biggest controversy when, shortly after being ejected in a game against Pittsburgh, returned and engaged Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss in a shouting match that started with “Hey Barney!” and ended with him needling Dreyfuss with accusations of gambling and controlling umpires. A furious Dreyfuss successfully lobbied the NL to suspend McGraw 15 games for the outburst, but it got shortened when John Brush got a court injunction against the NL ruling—which they noted was handed down by league president Henry Pulliam, a former Pirates executive under DreyfussDreyfuss would never live down the incident; for years, Giants fans would harass him whenever he visited New York with cries of “Hey Barney!”).

The Pirates were no less frustrated by the Giants than their boss was. The Bucs started slow and it cost them; they quickly and fatally handicapped themselves to an 8.5-game deficit to end May, never to make it back up. Winning their second straight NL pennant, the Giants led in practically all major offensive categories, held the league’s second lowest ERA (at 2.39), struck out more batters and walked the fewest.

The Giants found a truly opposite number in the American League: The Philadelphia Athletics. The A’s were the anti-Giants, managed by the anti-McGraw, headlined by the anti-Mathewson.

Quiet and businesslike, the A’s were run by Connie Mack, who diametrically differed from McGraw as a tall, calm presence in a three-piece suit. Mack’s attitude seeped into his players, who went about their business and delivered steady and constant results minus the mean spirit. Every starting regular hit between .262 and .284, the latter number achieved by first baseman Harry Davis, perhaps the most gentlemanly of the A’s. The same could not be said for his offensive game, which harassed opponents with AL highs in 47 doubles, eight home runs, 83 runs knocked in and 92 scored.

Unlike Christy Mathewson, Rube Waddell didn't rely on a screwball; he was a screwball.Philadelphia’s starting rotation was also well balanced, with ever-consistent Eddie Plank (a 24-12 record, 2.26 ERA), 22-year-old rookie Andy Coakley (18-8, 1.84) and, in his third year, 21-year-old Chief Bender (18-11, 2.83), who was half-Native American. And then there was the ace of the A’s: Rube Waddell.

On the mound, Waddell was everything Christy Mathewson was—leading the AL in wins (27, against ten losses), ERA (1.48) and strikeouts (287). But unlike Mathewson, Waddell didn’t rely on the screwball; he was a screwball. While Mathewson was spending the off-season engaged, likely, in high societal dining with old Bucknell friends, Waddell was spending it throwing flatirons at his in-laws and then escaping town to evade authorities. Waddell’s eccentric belligerence had estranged every previous manager he played for, and although Connie Mack had always viewed him as a difficult pet project, the A’s manager became the one person patient enough to know when to give the southpaw slack and when to rein the leash back in again.

Much of the AL season’s first few months belonged to the Cleveland Naps, renamed in honor of fourth-year Clevelander and first-year manager Nap Lajoie. But Lajoie developed blood poisoning from a serious spike wound on June 30 that also poisoned his team’s pennant hopes. Lajoie’s season-ending injury plummeted the Naps from a first-place, 36-21 mark to a below-.500 finish.

The Chicago White Sox, armed with a starting rotation every bit the equal of the Athletics’, took over first and spent much of the summer fighting off Philadelphia, but ultimately lost the battle to Mack’s more multi-faceted team. Waddell was the hero on the mound, pitching 44 straight innings of shutout ball late in the year to help override the White Sox in the standings. Harry Davis, meanwhile, provided the heroics at the plate and finished Chicago off with the year’s most memorable hit on September 28. Against the White Sox at Philadelphia, Davis singled into the outfield and the ball changed direction when it struck the glove of teammate Topsy Hartsel. It was all perfectly legal in a time when players left their mitts on the field while at bat, and the topsy-turvy turnabout allowed Topsy, on second, to gain an extra base on the play and score the winning run in a game that helped Philadelphia sew up the AL pennant.

Throughout the late season, the lure of a Giants-A’s World Series had been largely built on the dream pitching duel of Christy Mathewson and Rube Waddell. Alas, it would remain a dream.

While traveling by train with his teammates in early September, Waddell decided he didn’t like Andy Coakley’s straw hat and wrestled with the rookie pitcher to get it off him. In the process Waddell damaged his pitching shoulderRumor had it that Waddell intentionally hurt himself to appease gamblers who paid him $17,000 to stay out of the World Series. Most believe the story to be without merit., and though he threw in a few games afterward, he was pained, ineffective and ultimately done for the year. He would miss the World Series entirely.

And, so it seemed, did the Philadelphia offense.

Though only 24, Christy Mathewson had long since established himself as one of baseball’s great pitchers when he took the mound for Game One. But over the next week, he would elevate his status to that of a living legend.

Only five pitchers since 1900 have won 30 or more games in consecutive seasons. Two of them—Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity—did it together for the Giants from 1903-04.

At Philadelphia, Mathewson blanked the A’s on four hits to start the World Series. In Game Three, Mathewson returned on two days’ rest and performed his idea of the status quo: Another four-hit shutout. And then in Game Five—on one day’s rest—the Giant ace gave in a little. He gave up six hits. The A’s still couldn’t score.

Mathewson’s esteemed partner in the Giants rotation, Joe McGinnity, had spent much of 1905 showing signs of exhaustion after six years of efficiently eating up innings like a lumberjack devouring pancakes. His production slowed and his ERA rose, but he still won 21 games. McGinnity showed, in the one World Series he would ever play in, that he had plenty of gas left in his tank—though his luck didn’t allow the scoreless perfection afforded to Mathewson.

McGinnity started Game Two and scattered six hits through eight innings—but the Giants defense failed him, committing two errors that led to three unearned runs. Worse, opposing A’s starter Chief Bender performed his own imitation of Mathewson and shut the Giants down on four hits. But back came McGinnity on two days’ rest for Game Four and, this time without any glitches from his fielders, got the shutout he deserved, blanking the A’s on five hits.

Healthy or injured, bribed or not, Rube Waddell wouldn’t have made a difference for the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. God Almighty wouldn’t have made a difference. Mathewson and McGinnity were simply too infallible. In five games over six days, the two Giant acesThe A’s batted just .152 with four walks against Mathewson and McGinnity. hurled 44 innings and didn’t allow a single earned run. Only one other inning was thrown by a Giant not named Mathewson or McGinnity; Red Ames, a 22-game winner during the year, pitched the final frame of Game Two because the Giants were desperate for a rally in the inning before and pinch-hit for McGinnity. All totaled, the Giants’ 0.00 team ERA in their five-game triumph over the A’s is a World Series record that will never be erased from the record books.

A year before, the Giants turned their backs on the American League and staked their claim as world champions, even as the outside majority opinion shook its fists at them. But the celebration of 1905 would be anything but bittersweet. Playing to prove their worth as the best, the Giants left almost as many doubts as earned runs scored against them at the World Series: Zero.

1906 baseball historyForward to 1906: The Hitless Wonders How the Chicago White Sox bat .230 with seven home runs all year—and still become world champions.

1904 baseball historyBack to 1904: McGraw v. Johnson The World Series becomes a casualty of a continued feud between two of the games's most powerful men.

1900s baseball historyThe 1900s Page: The Birth of the Modern Age The established National League and upstart American League battle it out, then make peace to signal in a new and lasting era.

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1905 Standings

National League
New York Giants
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies
Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Beaneaters
Brooklyn Superbas
American League
Philadelphia Athletics
Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers
Boston Americans
Cleveland Naps
New York Highlanders
Washington Senators
St. Louis Browns

1905 Postseason Results
World Series New York (NL) defeated Philadelphia (AL), 4-1.

It Happened in 1905

A Story That’s All Wet
On May 29, Brooklyn rookie pitcher
Elmer Stricklett defeats the New York Giants, 4-3. The historical significance of the game, so it has been told, is that Stricklett becomes the first major league pitcher to throw a spitball. The claim is impossible to verify and subject to criticism, since tales of spitball usage in the majors before Stricklett are widespread. There is less debate that Stricklett was a proponent of the spitter and taught it to other pitchers.

Sharing the Pain
The Boston Beaneaters suffer the embarrassment of fielding not one, but four 20-game losers on their pitching staff.
Irv Young is clearly the best of the lot, managing to win 20 while losing 21 on a team that is 51-103; the rest of the Beaneaters’ struggling four are Chick Fraser (14-21), future Hall of Famer Vic Willis (12-29) and Kaiser Wilhelm, whose 3-23 mark is punctuated with a 4.53 earned run average that qualifies as positively dreadful for the deadball era. The Beaneaters of 1905 are one of two teams in history to be saddled with four 20-game losers. The other? The Beaneaters of 1906.

The Ty is Loose
Ty Cobb, 18, plays his first major league game on August 30 at Detroit against New York, and collects his first of 4,191 career hits with a double off the Highlanders’ Jack Chesbro. The Tigers win, 5-3. Cobb is playing with conflicting emotions; just three weeks earlier, his mother had shot to death what she reportedly thought to be an intruder in her home; it turned out to be Cobb’s father.

Game of the Year
Two great American League pitchers—
Rube Waddell for the Philadelphia Athletics, Cy Young for the Boston Americans—hook up in the second game of a Fourth of July doubleheader. They both proceed to go the distance in what is, for the moment, the longest game in major league history. Waddell and the A’s emerge from the 20-inning affair as 4-2 winners at Boston, allowing 15 hits and four walks. The 38-year old Young doesn’t walk a single batter in his 20 innings of work while giving up 13 hits.

Napping on the Field
The Cleveland Naps, one of the American League’s better defensive teams in 1905, are truly awful in a record-setting display of bad fielding on September 20 against the Chicago White Sox. The Naps commit an all-time high seven errors in the eighth inning, a frame from which the White Sox will score eight runs to win the game, 9-6.

Good Arm, Bad Ames
In his first full year as a starting pitcher, the Giants’
Red Ames sets an all-time record by throwing 30 wild pitches. The frequent inaccuracies do little to spoil an otherwise impressive year for Ames, who wins 22 and loses eight with a 2.74 ERA.

Three-Baggin’ Thrice, And Doing It Twice
Numerous players will hit three triples in one game during the deadball era. But only one player,
Dave Brain, will do it twice in one year. He produces his first trio of triples for the St. Louis Cardinals on May 29 in a 6-3 win at Pittsburgh. Later, after a trade to the Pirates, he’ll smack three more triples in a 7-5 win over the Giants on August 4. For the year, Brain smartly hits 11 triples.

Gunning Them Down as Easy as 1-2-3
Veteran Chicago Cub outfielder Jack McCarthy, 36, throws out three Pirates runners at home plate in one game to tie a major league mark that had previously been set twice—but never since equaled. All three of McCarthy’s assists are pivotal in securing a 2-1 Cub win at Pittsburgh on April 26.

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