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The First World Series (From the Vault)

By Harvey Frommer

The hype, hoopla and accomplishments of the 2012 baseball season will now belong to history along with the elongated play-offs and recent World Series which joins the first one that took place in 1903. The world, baseball and the World Series were very different then.

Back in the 1880s for a period of seven years there had been play-offs between the champs of the National League and the American Association. Once the play-offs went to 15 games - 1887 between St. Louis and Detroit. Pittsburgh won its third straight National League pennant in 1903. Boston won the brand new American League title that season by 14 l/2 games over the Philadelphia Athletics.    

The Pirates bragged about Honus Wagner whose .355 average earned him the batting title. Their swashbuckling manager Fred Clarke was runner-up with a .351 average. Boston boasted about two 20-game winners in Deacon Phillippe and Sam Leever.

The first modern World Series came about at the suggestion of Boston owner Henry J. Killilea and Pittsburgh's owner Barney Dreyfuss. It was called "Championship of the United States" and it was a five of nine games affair. The first game was October l, 1903 at Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds before 16,242. Deacon Phillippe pitched Pittsburgh to a 7-3 win over Boston's Cy Young.

Throughout the game and the series Boston's rabid fans serenaded Pittsburgh players with a popular song of the day, "Tessie," but they substituted their own vulgar words for the regular lyrics. The routine definitely had a negative impact on the Pittsburgh players. "It was that damn song that caused us problems," grumbled Buc player Tommy Leach afterwards.

Deacon Phillippe won three of the first four games of the series for Pittsburgh but then faltered. Boston then swept the next four games. Bill Dinneen and Cy Young won all five games for Boston in the series On October 13, only 7,455 showed up - the smallest crowd of the series. Phillippe pitched his fifth complete game of the series but lost, 3-0 to Dinneen and Boston had the championship.

Right after the game ended players from both clubs lined up for a combination team photo. It was a remarkable display of good sportsmanship considering the bitterness that had existed between the junior American League and senior National League.

An oddity of the World Series was that the losing players received more money that than the winners. Buc Owner Dreyfuss put his club's share of the gate receipts into the players' pool. Each Pittsburgh player netted $1,316 while each Boston player netted $1,182.

Deacon Phillippe - heroic in his efforts in the series with five decisions and 44 innings pitched, still World Series records, was given a bonus and 10 shares of stock in the Pirates.

Oddly enough there was no World Series played in 1904. Boston was ready, willing able. But the National League pennant winning New York Giants were not. Their manager John J. McGraw snarled: "We are the champions of the only major league." In 1905, the World Series resumed, fitted itself into its best of seven format and has been with us ever since.  

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
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Other Frommer sports related articles can be found at:   

Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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