As I watched the League Championship Series for both the National and American League last week and looked ahead to the World Series, trying to predict who would make it there, I wondered how many times, if ever, the four teams left had faced one of the others in the Series.
A little research showed that the only time any combination of these teams had ever met in the World Series was in 1920, when the Indians had beaten the then Brooklyn Robins, who are now the Los Angeles Dodgers, five games to three. The Indians, playing their home games at Dunn Field, had drawn 912,832 fans that year, while the Dodgers, playing at Ebbets Field, had drawn 808,722 fans.
Baseball and the World Series had been rocked the previous year when eight players from the Chicago White Sox had been accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds. The so called Black Sox scandal resulted in the eight being banned from baseball for life and a nine game series was scheduled the next year as part of an effort to restore the public’s faith in baseball.
The Indians won the American League pennant that year with a 98-56 record behind Tris Speaker, their 32 year old Center Fielder/Manager and future Hall of Famer, who, despite his multiple duties, had managed to hit .388, second in the league behind George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns, who hit .407. The Indians had finished just two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox and three games ahead of the third place New York Yankees and their newly acquired slugger, Babe Ruth, who had hit 54 homers in his first year with the Yankees.
The Robins, started as the Superbas in 1900, became the Dodgers in 1911 and 1912, reverted to the name Superbas in 1913 and became the Robins in 1914. They remained the Robins until 1932 when they would take the name Dodgers back, permanently. They had won the National League pennant with a record of 93-61. They had beaten out the second place New York Giants by seven games. They were managed by future Hall of Famer Wilbert Robinson.
The 1920 World Series started out on October 5, in Ebbets Field, with Stan Coveleski on the mound for Cleveland against Rube Marquard for the Robins, both future Hall of Famers. Coveleski, who had won 24 and lost 14 during the season, pitched a complete game, five hitter, as the Indians won 3-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the Series.
In Game 2, Brooklyn’s Burleigh Grimes, who would also be elected to the Hall of Fame, pitched a seven hit shutout as the Dodgers won 3-0 to tie the Series at one game each. Brooklyn won Game 3 behind Sherry Smith who threw a complete game three hitter as the Robins went up two games to one with a 2-1 victory. Games 2 and 3 were played in Brooklyn.
In Game 4, with the scene shifted to Dunn Field in Cleveland, Coveleski came back with another complete game five hitter, his second of the Series, to beat the Robins 5-1 and even the Series again. The Indians beat Leon Cadore, the Robins starter, who had been 15-14 with a 2.62 ERA during the season that day. Earlier in the season, Cadore had pitched a complete game 1-1 tie against Boston, going the full 26 innings in one of baseball’s longest games ever.
With Burleigh Grimes, the winner of Game 2, back on the mound for Brooklyn, the Indians got off to a quick start in Game 5. In the first inning, they loaded the bases against Grimes and a 28 year old outfielder named Elmer Smith hit a Grimes pitch for the first Grand Slam in World Series history to put the Indians up 4-0.
They added three in the fourth when Cleveland’s starting pitcher Jim Bagby became the first pitcher in World Series history to hit a home run, a three run blast. As if these two firsts weren’t enough, there was another yet to come.
In the fifth inning, with Pete Kilduff on second and Otto Miller on first for the Robins, Clarence Mitchell hit a line drive that Indians’ second baseman, Bill Wambsganss, had to leap to catch. When Wambsganss came down with the ball, he stepped on second to double Kilduff and tagged Miller coming in from first for the first and only unassisted triple play in World Series history.
Bagby, in addition to hitting the home run, pitched a complete game, giving up 13 hits but only one run as the Indians won 8-1. The two home runs, hit by Smith and Bagby, were the only two homers hit in the Series.
The Indians’ Walter ‘Duster’ Mails started Game 6, at Cleveland against Sherry Smith Brooklyn’s winner of Game 3. The two engaged in a classic pitchers’ duel with the only run coming when Cleveland first baseman George Burns drove in Speaker, who had singled, in the sixth. Mails went all the way for the 1-0 victory, giving up just three hits while Sherry Smith gave up the one run on seven hits in a complete game loss, putting Cleveland up four games to two.
Coveleski was back on the mound for Cleveland, against Grimes for Brooklyn, in Game 7. Coveleski pitched his third complete game five hitter of the Series as the Indians won 3-0 to take the series five games to two after being down two games to one.
Cleveland’s Player/Manager Tris Speaker led his team in hitting with eight hits and a
.320 batting average. Twenty-one year old Joe Sewell, Cleveland’s rookie short stop, who would become a Hall of Famer, had only four hits in 23 at bats in the Series. He had made his Major League debut on September 10, just 29 days before the Series started. The Indians had brought him up from New Orleans in the Class A Southern Association after only 364 Minor League at bats to replace shortstop Ray Chapman, who had died after being hit in the head with a pitch earlier in the season.
The Cleveland pitching staff, led by Stan Coveleski with three complete game, five hit, wins and a 0.67 ERA, had a combined ERA of 0.89 for the Series as the Indians outscored the Robins 21 to 8.
Another future Hall of Famer, left fielder, Zack Wheat, led the Robins offense with 9-27 for a .333 average and shortstop Ivy Olson was 8-25.
This is the only time any two of the four teams in the Championship Series this year had played each other in a World Series before. Of course, when the 2016 World Series starts on Tuesday that will change. Most Red Sox fans will, I assume, be rooting for Terry Francona and his Indians to take all the marbles.