1913 Giant Bridesmaids Again

Despite their reputation as one of baseball's most heralded teams, the New York Giants continue to find complete frustration at the World Series, while major league owners otherwise keep a weary eye on an upstart third circuit, the Federal League.

Charles Faust.

He came to the Polo Grounds one day in 1911, armed with a fortune teller’s promise of good luck for John McGraw and his New York Giants. But only if he pitched.

Unlike his namesake from medieval literature, Charles Faust wasn’t selling the devil his soul to get a spot on the Giants, but rather was coming to McGraw almost as the devil himself. And while the normally irascible McGraw found enough sense of humor in Faust’s uninvited presence to give him a tryout—where McGraw discovered no special talent—he was put on the roster anyway. Not to pitch, but to sit on the bench as a good luck charm.

Faust was employed on-and-off through the next two years as a human rabbit’s foot, needed only when the Giants were rubbing for a winning streak. He proved so successful, the team nicknamed him “Victory,” and even gave him the chance to pitchHow did Faust do? He appeared twice, allowing a run on two hits over two innings. at the end of 1911.

But when it came to the World Series, Faust brought no luck to New York—as proven by two consecutive Series defeats entering 1913. Still, McGraw gave Faust his seat on the bench, albeit less frequently.

By 1913, the Giants had such a handle on National League competition, there seemed little need for a good luck charm in the dugout. Only minor tinkeringThe Giants’ everyday lineup stayed pat, save for the inclusion of 23-year-old George Burns in the outfield. was done to the roster in sporting another try at the top. From top to bottom, the Giants’ lineup was a remarkable constant of efficiency; though leading the NL in team batting, individually they hardly dented the league’s offensive leaderboards. Every regular batted somewhere between .261 and .297, hit somewhere between two and five home runs, and stole somewhere between 22 and 40 bases. There were no superstars—or holes—to be found in the Giant batting order.

Whereas everybody chipped in on offense, the Giants’ pitching staff was impressively anchored by a genuine legend and two other hurlers at the top of their game. Together, Christy Mathewson, Rube Marquard and Jeff Tesreau ganged up to overwhelm the competition, and their efforts easily gave the Giants the league’s best earned run average, at 2.43.

Once a strikeout king, Mathewson began relying more on finesse—and walked just 21 batters in 306 innings during the year. Included in those numbers: A string of 68 consecutive innings without yielding a walk to set an all-time record among starting pitchersRandy Jones tied Mathewson’s record among starters in 1976; Greg Maddux broke it in 2001..

The National League race remained close, but for only half a season. The Chicago Cubs, with Johnny Evers replacing Frank Chance as manager, started off well but faded, facing reality as a team in transition. The Phillies, a team truly on the rise, made the last serious stab at yanking first place loose from the Giants. Powered by pitchers Tom Seaton (a league-high 27 wins), Pete Alexander (22-8), and aided by Gavvy Cravath’s major league-leading 19 home runs and 128 runs batted in, the Phillies stayed atop the standings through the end of June.

That’s when the Giants came to the Baker Bowl and wrestled first place away. The series ended with manager John McGraw taking center stage; after challenging Phillie pitcher Ad Brennan to a fight, the two met up on the field—where Brennan was joined by a horde of Phillie fans. McGraw took his punches but somehow survived, again setting the tone for his team’s fighting spirit. It was classic rogue McGraw; the Giants never looked back from that moment on, distancing themselves from the Phillies and winning their third straight NL pennant, and their fifth in ten years under McGraw.

After slipping to third place in 1912, the Philadelphia Athletics climbed back to collect their third American League pennant in four years. In doing so, manager Connie Mack had to mix up his pitching staff with a batch of very green prospects.

He couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.

Mack had his elders in the rotation in Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, and they continued to produce for him. But Mack lost former 30-game winner Jack Coombs to a season-long back injury, and he released Cy Morgan, whose one-time solid skills had suddenly eroded to nothing.

In forcing several of his younger pitchers to step up to the mound, Mack got great returns from 22-year old Bob Shawkey (an 8-5 record and a 2.35 ERA in 18 appearances), 21-year old Duke Houck and 20-year old Bullet Joe Bush (both 14-6). To accentuate the achievement of his young cadets, Mack brought up 19-year old future Hall of Famer Herb Pennock to start and win the game that iced the AL pennant for the Athletics in late September.

Mack played the relief game more, perhaps by design. No other team in the majors completed fewer games than the A’s, who had 69. Chief Bender epitomized the shared duties of the A’s staff; he started only 21 games, but also won 21, many of which were earned through 27 relief appearances. He saved a league-high 13 games.

If ever a pitcher meant something to his team, it was Walter Johnson to the Washington Senators during the 1910s. When the Big Train got the decision—usually, it was a victory—the Senators were kings. His off-days, however, transformed the team into just another ho-hum squad struggling to play .500 ball.

Philadelphia’s hitting was simply no match for the rest of the AL, leading the league in almost every offensive category. The “$100,000 Infield” was worth almost every penny at the plate, with three of its four members—Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker and Stuffy McInnis—respectively placing fourth, fifth and seventh in the AL batting race. Baker continued to live up to his nickname, leading the league in home runs for the third straight year. The A’s also got a youthful shot in the arm in the outfield—for years, the team’s relative weakness—with 21-year old Eddie Murphy (.295, 105 runs) taking over in right.

The A’s led for almost the entire season, but couldn’t leapfrog away from their closest competitors. Washington’s Walter Johnson, arguably the greatest pitcher ever to stand atop a mound, unarguably had his best year ever. With a 36-7 record, 1.14 ERA and 11 shutouts, Johnson’s staggering display was again the lone reason for Washington’s second-place standing; without him, the Senators were just another .500 team. As it was, Johnson propelled the club to within 6.5 games of the A’s at the finish.

Perhaps more startling was the descent of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox. Smoky Joe Wood, the man with the 34-5 record the year before, suffered a broken finger in spring training and couldn’t recapture his superhuman ways upon recovery. The rest of the pitching staff couldn’t step it up, and the hitting went flat. The fingers of blame were officially pointed at Jake Stahl, fired after a 39-41 start. The Sox wound up in fourth place.

Squaring off against one another in the World Series for the third time in nine years, the Athletics were labeled with the underdog tag against the Giants, winners of 101 games. Yet once more, the Fall Classic would prove a frustrating adventure for John McGraw.

Buck Herzog scores one of three tenth-inning runs for the Giants in Game Two of the World Series. It would be their only hurrah against the Athletics.

Chucking away his policy of relief, Connie Mack stayed with his starters in every game, and for good reason. The A’s used just three hurlers—Chief Bender, Eddie Plank and Bullet Joe Bush—throughout the entire series, holding the Giants to a .201 batting average. At the plate, Home Run Baker continued to be the majors’ first incarnation of Mr. October, batting .450 with yet another round-tripper. The combination of strong pitching and timely hitting gave Philadelphia an easy World Series triumph in five games.

Injuries hurt the Giants from the start. Fred Snodgrass, the championed goat of the 1912 Series, saw very limited duty due to a leg injury. Catcher Chief Meyers was lost after Game One with an injured finger.

Christy Mathewson’s last appearance in a World Series would be bittersweet. Though helping the Giants to avoid a sweep by hurling a ten-inning shutout in Game Two, he lost the Game Five clincher via a familiar theme: Lack of support.

Christy Mathewson may have won 373 career regular season games, but collecting World Series victories proved far more elusive—despite a 0.97 postseason ERA. Part of the problem: His team couldn’t hit. The Giants batted .199 when he started in the Fall Classic.

For John McGraw, the Series loss was another blow to his Giants—and perhaps more pointedly, his ego—from the circuit he once called “minor league,” a league that had once booted him out for his thug-like attitude toward umpires. A league that was now accelerating through a decade of near-domination over its elder sibling.

Charles “Victory” Faust’s presence probably wouldn’t have mattered. McGraw had let his lucky charm go during the season, never to return. The next year, Faust was admitted into an insane asylum in the Pacific Northwest, where he died at the age of 34.

While the AL enjoyed the power it had aimed for 13 years earlier—when it elbowed its way onto the major league scene—it now braced for the arrival of another brash new outfit to give it and the NL stiff competition: The Federal League.

Formed early in 1913 and initially well-financed, the Federal League took a page out of the AL’s book in gaining major league status: By playing a season of minor league ball in Midwest cities, then expanding to the East coast and declaring itself a major circuit, raiding the established leagues for talent.

When the Feds (as they were informally known) announced shortly after the 1913 season that they would not honor the reserve clause, the players who had been financially handcuffed for years suddenly saw the market for supply and demand turn sharply in their favor. Many began signing on with the FL for its inaugural 1914 major league campaign: Three Finger Brown, Hal Chase, George Mullin, Edd Roush, Joe Tinker and Ed Reulbach were among the big names who jumped. Stories circulated of Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and John McGraw being offered six-figure salaries—a staggering amount of money for its day—to join the Feds’ ranks. Neither of them came, opting to stick with the establishment rather then venture into the riches of the unknown and unproven.

Walter Johnson would eventually go as far as to sign with the Chicago ChiFeds—he even received an advance—but soon after got cold feet and allowed Senator owner Clark Griffith to match the offer. Never a big spender, Griffith came up with the cash only when White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, dreading the idea of local competition from a team featuring Johnson, helped ante up to keep the Big Train stationed in Washington.

Though the Feds were staking out unclaimed territory in Indianapolis, Buffalo and Kansas City, the other five teams would be sharing city space with NL and AL counterparts. Fans in Chicago and St. Louis now had three major league teams to choose from; in New York City, they had four to check out.

If fans in Baseball America now had their hands full with whom to follow, the owners within the three major leagues had theirs full as well—with what to do with all the fierce competition.

1914 baseball historyForward to 1914: The Miracle Braves Cellar-bound in July, the usually hapless Boston Braves perform one of the game's greatest turnarounds.

1912 baseball historyBack to 1912: The $30,000 Muffs A series of critical blunders do in the New York Giants against the Boston Red Sox at the World Series.

1910s baseball historyThe 1910s Page: The Feds, the Fight and the Fix The majors suffer growing pains as they deal with a fledgling third league, increased scandal and gambling problems, and a brief interruption from the Great War.

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1913 Standings

National League
New York Giants
Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates
Boston Braves
Brooklyn Dodgers
Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals
American League
Philadelphia Athletics
Washington Senators
Cleveland Naps
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers
New York Yankees
St. Louis Browns

1913 Postseason Results
World Series Philadelphia (AL) defeated New York (NL), 4-1.

It Happened in 1913

Ty’d Up Over Money
Ty Cobb, who’s developed into a perennial .400 hitter, is given the usual take-it-or-leave-it salary treatment from the Detroit Tigers—and decides to leave it, holding out through the first three weeks of the season as he demands a raise into five-digit territory at around $12,000. His stand gets a sympathetic response among U.S. Congressmen, who respond to the Tigers’ adamant stance by loudly questioning baseball’s reserve clause. Under pressure from other major league owners, Detroit owner Frank Navin antes up and gives Cobb what he wants. The Tigers start the year at 5-11 without Cobb, and they fare only slightly better with him, finishing with their worst record in nine years.

New Name, Same Game
The New York Highlanders officially change their name to the Yankees, lure Frank Chance out of brief retirement to manage the team, and move out of rickety Hilltop Park to share the Polo Grounds with the New York Giants. Despite all the re-branding, visions of greatness are still years away for the Yankees; they are winless in their first 18 games at home, on their way to a 57-94 record—one game out of the AL cellar—for Chance, who averaged 100 wins over his seven years with a much better Chicago Cub squad.

That Last 90 Feet is Always the Hardest
Records are set by pitchers allowing the most hits while shutting down their opponents.
Walter Johnson scatters 15 hits over 15 innings but still keeps the Boston Red Sox from crossing the plate in the Washington Senators’ 1-0 win on July 3; later on September 14, the Cubs’ Larry Cheney hurls a 14-hit shutout over the Giants, winning 7-0 to set the nine-inning record.

More of the World According to Walter
Johnson, in the midst of what is certainly his greatest year, figures in two more major league records. Against the St. Louis Browns on July 25 at Washington, Johnson enters the game in the fifth inning and proceeds to strike out 15 batters over the next 11 innings, setting a mark for a reliever in one game; the record will be erased 88 years later by another famed fastballer named Johnson: Randy Johnson. The victim of four of Johnson’s 15 K’s is St. Louis pitcher Carl Weilman, who overall strikes out six straight times during the game. Seven other players have gone down on strikes as many as six times in a major league game, but none consecutively. When the day is all said and done, the Senators and Browns draw to a 15-inning, 8-8 tie.

Jim Thorpe, All-American Utility Player
A year after wowing America with two gold medals at the Olympics and a lead role in winning the NCAA football championship for Carisle Indian School, Jim Thorpe signs on with the Giants. He’ll play little in 1913, batting just .143 with five hits, one of which is a home run. He’ll play five more years at the major league level, mostly as a part-timer, batting .252 with seven homers in 289 games.

The First Wave
With two outs in the ninth at Philadelphia and the Phillies leading the Giants, by an 8-6 score on August 30, umpire Bill Brennan declares a forfeit when Phillie fans sitting in the center field bleachers refuse to stop “distracting” batters by waving various objects. The Phillies appeal to NL President Thomas Lynch, who overturns the forfeit and gives Philadelphia the win; in turn, Lynch is overruled by the NL Board of Directors, which insists that the game must be resumed from where it was interrupted. The two teams reassemble before a scheduled October 2 doubleheader, and the Phillies get the last out to make the result official.

The Leadoff Slugger
On May 30 at Washington, Harry Hooper leads off both ends of a doubleheader for the Red Sox by hitting inside-the-park home runs against the Senators. The two round-trippers represent half of Hooper’s season home run output. Boston loses the first game, 4-3, but wins the second 1-0 as Hooper’s homer is the only tally.

Do the White Sox Get Charged With the Loss?
When the visiting Reds come to Chicago on April 29, they discover that their uniforms have been left behind in Cincinnati. They end up borrowing the uniforms of the nearby White Sox and lose to the Cubs, 7-1

The One Tener
Following the season,
John K. Tener is named NL President. A former governor of Pennsylvania, Tener also has experience as a major league pitcher—compiling a 25-31 record for Chicago and Pittsburgh between 1888-90. He’ll serve as head of the NL through 1918.

A Game Only a Deadball Era Fan Could Love
The same ball is used for an entire game in Cincinnati on June 29 as the Reds beat the Cubs, 9-6.

New Ballparks

Ebbets Field, Brooklyn What may be the most beloved and fabled of all lost ballparks, Ebbets Field was constructed in a derelict section of Brooklyn called Pigtown, but it wasn’t long before the rest of Brooklyn grew up around Ebbets Field, and soon it would become the borough’s public beacon, attracting some of the most loyal and colorful fans anywhere in baseball.

Dodger owner Charles Ebbets, who built the ballpark exclusively with his own money, had it named for him only after a local reporter suggested the idea. Originally seating 18,000, Ebbets Field initially had no bleachers behind the outfield walls—nor did it also have a press box or scoreboard, vital elements forgotten in the original design. They would all be eventually added, along with additional double-decked seating from behind left field to center, heavily cropping away the expansive outfield and turning Ebbets into a tight bandbox that easily rewarded sluggers.

Because of the minimal space allotted to the site, every seat at Ebbets put the fans on top of the action, which enhanced their experience. And just when Ebbets Field’s glory years of the 1940s and early 1950s began to ebb, it became a ghost facility—shockingly abandoned by the Dodgers in 1957; three years later, it was torn down.

Casey Stengel not only hit the ballpark’s first home run in an exhibition game against the Yankees, but also its first homer in a regular season contest; both were inside-the-park jobs.

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