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Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series

Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series

by Louis P. Masur

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A suspenseful account of the glorious days a century ago when our national madness began

A post-season series of games to establish supremacy in the major leagues was not inevitable in the baseball world. But in 1903 the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates (in the well-established National League) challenged the Boston Americans (in the upstart American


A suspenseful account of the glorious days a century ago when our national madness began

A post-season series of games to establish supremacy in the major leagues was not inevitable in the baseball world. But in 1903 the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates (in the well-established National League) challenged the Boston Americans (in the upstart American League) to a play-off, which he was sure his team would win. They didn't—and that wasn't the only surprise during what became the first World Series. In Autumn Glory, Louis P. Masur tells the riveting story of two agonizing weeks in which the stars blew it, unknown players stole the show, hysterical fans got into the act, and umpires had to hold on for dear life.

Before and even during the 1903 season, it had seemed that baseball might succumb to the forces that had been splintering the sport for decades: owners' greed, players' rowdyism, fans' unrest. Yet baseball prevailed, and Masur tells the equally dramatic story of how it did so, in a country preoccupied with labor strife and big-business ruthlessness, and anxious about the welfare of those crowding into cities such as Pittsburgh and Boston (which in themselves offered competing versions of the American dream). His colorful history of how the first World Series consolidated baseball's hold on the American imagination makes us see what one sportswriter meant when he wrote at the time, "Baseball is the melting pot at a boil, the most democratic sport in the world." All in all, Masur believes, it still is.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the heart of this book by Masur (1831: Year of Eclipse) are eight in-depth, almost play-by-play, retellings of the games of the 1903 World Series between the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though the accounts of 100-year-old games can become tedious ("In the second inning, both teams went down easily"), for the most part Masur's storytelling skills ("He walked slowly, but not because of age. Pitchers always had a deliberate way about them") keep the book moving. Interspersed among the game recaps is a closely considered, detailed account of how the World Series was invented. Punctuated by chapters with titles like "War," "Peace," "Winter" and "Spring," Masur's presentation of the violent birth of the fall classic as the result of a bitter war between the established National League and upstart American League takes on a decidedly Yeatsian tone. Thankfully, the dense, political nature of these chapters is balanced by more colorful tales of the era, like Pittsburgh manager Fred Clarke being "pummeled" black and blue by an opposing player and the New York Giants' Christy Mathewson winning three games of a four-game regular season series versus the Pirates that demonstrate how much and how little the game has changed over the years. Despite a summer release in honor of the Series's centennial, Masur's work is a prime example of a winter baseball book: a story to stoke the fire of baseball lovers whose hope of a World Series title has become every fan's entitlement for the past century. Illus. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Drawing on newspapers of the day and archival materials, Masur (history, CCNY) presents the story of the initial World Series pitting pennant winners from the rival National and American leagues. In interspersed chapters, the author focuses on each of the eight games between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) and broader developments affecting the National Pastime. The game-by-game accounts compel the reader's attention, and the examinations of the battles between the two circuits, the carving out of the so-called National Agreement, and the 1903 pennant races are intriguing, too. As related by Masur, early 20th-century major league baseball seems both familiar and somewhat distinct from the contemporary version. The Pirates' ace pitcher, Deacon Phillippe, threw five complete games in the span of 13 days only to be outpitched by Boston's Bill Dinneen, who was backed by the great Cy Young. Masur provides texture for the first World Series, highlighting the fans overflowing onto the playing field, inclement weather conditions, and seemingly ever-present gamblers. Somewhat greater analysis of those events would have been welcomed, but this remains an enjoyable read. For public libraries.-R.C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A celebration of baseball’s first post-season championship, later known as the World Series. While the 1903 series did much to rejuvenate flagging interest in the national pastime, most of its big names failed to deliver. Cy Young, pitching’s living yardstick, started Game One for the home-team Boston Americans, who found themselves down four runs within half an inning; the nicked-up Pittsburgh Pirate legend, Honus Wagner, drove in the first run but never really got his bat into a game after that and eventually struck out to give Boston the series, five games to three. Just like today, Masur (History/City College) assures us, owner greed was never far from the headlines; overflow ticket holders were ushered into the outfield and simply roped off against the wall. A ball into the crowd was a ground-rule triple, leading to both offensive and defensive misplays, and when Boston’s Jimmy Sebring drove one that died just short of the crowd, he parlayed it into the first Word Series homer. Another big difference: the wagering pool was in plain sight, and everybody, including players, managers, and owners, bet on games. The popular wisdom, Masur explains, held that fixing a game as intricate as baseball was impossible because you’d need players on both sides colluding, which would be obvious. Nonetheless, one of the swells cashing out the then-princely sum of $4,000 after Boston’s triumph, the author notes, was a certain Sport Sullivan. He would resurface years later—and $50,000 richer—in Chicago, indicted along with the eight White Sox players bribed to throw the 1919 World Series in an ironic example of what the author tabs as one of baseball’s most American attributes: "Teamworkmatters." Profusely detailed rendering of the early-20th-century’s melting-pot urban society and the national sport’s place in it. (32 b&w illustrations)

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Autumn Glory

Baseball's First World Series

By Louis P. Masur

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2004 Louis P. Masur
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-2214-6

Autumn Glory
"THE MOST PERFECT THING IN AMERICA"HE WANTED TO HOLD THE BALL IN HIS HAND. He walked slowly, but not just because of age. Pitchers always had a deliberate way about them. In his playing days he stole a few bases, but foot speed wasn't his gift. What he remembered well, what he could never forget, was the hard feel of the ball in his right hand and the sound it made as it sped toward the plate. How he loved to throw. Out after out, inning after inning, game after game, year after year. The pitches mounted, but his arm stayed strong through twenty-two seasons in the major leagues. He pitched into his forties. He had memories of General Grant, and now General Eisenhower was President. So much had changed, but the game had remained the same.Cy Young came to Yankee Stadium on September 30, 1953, to throw out the ceremonial opening pitch of that year's Fall Classic, commemorating the golden anniversary of the first World Series, played in 1903. He was eighty-six years old. Bill Dinneen, who had been his teammate on the Boston Americans then, stood to his left. Seated to his right was Fred Clarke, the manager and leftfielder of the opposition Pittsburgh Pirates, one of the finest teams at the turn of the century. Tommy Leach, the third baseman on that team, was also in attendance. He recalled the first World Series as "the wildest World Series ever played." Honus Wagner, star shortstop on the Pirates, was invited, but he was too ill to travel from his home in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Two years later, Young would make a pilgrimage to Pittsburgh to see Wagner and participate in the unveiling of a statue of him outside of Forbes Field. Within months of that visit, both men would be gone.Seeing the immense crowd and feeling the excitement in the air, Young, Dinneen, Clarke, and Leach could have smiled knowingly, for the celebratory scene was eerily like the one fifty years earlier when it had all begun. In the fall of 1953, fans were filling Yankee Stadium to capacity; in the fall of 1903, the crowd at the Huntington Avenue Base Ball Grounds in Boston overflowed onto the field. In the fall of 1953, talented players--Mantle, Berra, Reynolds, Snider, Robinson, Erskine--amazed the fans with their ability; in the fall of 1903, players every bit as good--Young, Dinneen, Collins, Wagner, Clarke, Phillippe--thrilled crowds of thousands. For a long week in both years, interest in world events yielded to baseball.Baseball as a game was no different in 1953 than it had been in 1903. And it is essentially no different today. The pitcher stands 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate. Ninety feet separate one base from another. It is a perfect distance. So many times the runner is safe or out by a matter of inches. The field is green and the grounds are vast. It seems like too much space for only nine players to cover. The game comes down to the ball: throwing it, hitting it, catching it. How simple it has always seemed, but it never has been. Thousands of fans crowd the stadium. They follow the home team's every move, feeling brighter with a victory and dimmer with a loss. A journey from April through October leads either to a world's championship or to nowhere, hopes realized or expectations dashed. Winter is for dreaming.So it has been since 1903, when the National League andAmerican League ended two years of warfare and the champions of each league faced off in October for the World Championship Series. Baseball as we know it dates from that 1903 season. To be sure, there are differences of degree in the game. The equipment is better. The players are stronger. Some rules have been varied. But Cy Young could walk to the mound tomorrow and throw blazing strikes. Honus Wagner could smash a double into the gap, or fire from deep in the hole to nab a runner by a step. And just like every other player in the last hundred years, they would play all season for the chance to compete in October. But at the start of the 1903 season they did not know what awaited at the end--and now, because of that season and what their teams did, everyone knows.The story of the first World Series is the story of the birth of baseball as a modern game, as an American ritual. The day after the Yankees lost the Series in 2001, in the last inning of the seventh game, a middle-aged man declared that the trauma he had suffered as a child, watching his Brooklyn Dodgers lose repeatedly to their rivals from the Bronx, had at last been alleviated. Such is the place of the Series in the life of every baseball fan. On October 30, 2001, in Game Three of that same Series, played at Yankee Stadium in the midst of a national crisis, the President of the United States strode to the mound and threw a strike for the ceremonial first pitch, and millions of Americans breathed more easily. Such is the place of the Series in the life of the nation.Just a few years after the first World Series in 1903, a writer remarked that "when thirty thousand people in a single city shut up shop and forsake their work and everything else to watch the final struggle between the leaders at the season's end, it is small wonder." Rather, it would be remarkable if people acted any other way. Autumn had quickly become World Series time, and the postseason championship games had come to stand for "the very quintessence and consummation of the Most Perfect Thing in America"--baseball.Copyright © 2003 by Louis P. Masur

Excerpted from Autumn Glory by Louis P. Masur. Copyright © 2004 Louis P. Masur. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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Meet the Author

Louis P. Masur, a professor of history at City College of New York and the editor of Reviews in American History, is the author of 1831: Year of Eclipse (H&W, 2001). He lives in New Jersey with his wife and children.
Louis P. Masur is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in American Institutions and Values at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He is the author of many books including 1831: Year of Eclipse; Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series; The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph that Shocked America; and Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision. His most recent book, The Civil War: A Concise History, will be published in 2012.

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