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Fall Classics: The Best Writing about the World Series' First 100 Years

Overview

Long before there was the Super Bowl, the NBA Championship, the Final Four, or the World Cup, there was the World Series. In the beginning, men in derbies sat in the outfield and marveled at Mathewson and McGraw. Today, fans congregate in sports bars, staring at screens big enough to see which players have shaved that day.

For a century, the World Series has captured the nation’s imagination. The drama has included Willie Mays’s catch, of course, and Reggie Jackson’s home runs, ...

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Fall Classics: The Best Writing about the World Series' First 100 Years

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Overview

Long before there was the Super Bowl, the NBA Championship, the Final Four, or the World Cup, there was the World Series. In the beginning, men in derbies sat in the outfield and marveled at Mathewson and McGraw. Today, fans congregate in sports bars, staring at screens big enough to see which players have shaved that day.

For a century, the World Series has captured the nation’s imagination. The drama has included Willie Mays’s catch, of course, and Reggie Jackson’s home runs, and the gratifying day when Walter Johnson finally won. But the plot lines have also featured the audacious fixing of the 1919 Series and the unlikely heroics of various journeymen never much heard of before the span of a few brilliant autumn days, and never much heard of since. There has been one perfect game. There have been any number of perfectly inexplicable managerial decisions, not all of them made by managers of the Red Sox. There has been drama, comedy, and pathos.

Fall Classics is a collection of the best writing about the World Series in its first hundred years. Certainly it is a kind of history of the event. It is also a catalog of the work of some of the most accomplished and entertaining writers of the past century, since the World Series has drawn to itself not only our best sports scribblers, but many writers who wouldn’t have dreamed of writing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Final Four, or even the Super Bowl.

Here you’ll find Jimmy Breslin telling Damon Runyon’s fantastic story of how he got the scoop on where Grover Cleveland Alexander spent the first innings of a seventh game he eventually won. (Hint: It wasn’t the bullpen.) Satchel Paige recalls his experience of finally getting to pitch in the Series in 1948. Red Smith writes about Willie Mays’s last hurrah with the Mets in 1973 against the A’s. And Peter Gammons and Roger Angell give their takes on the two most famous game sixes of all, Gammons on 1975 and Angell on 1986.

The games and the memories go on. For every fan whose heart yearns for a bleacher seat, a ballpark frank, and a slice of October Americana, Fall Classics is a treasure.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400049004
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/24/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

BILL LITTLEFIELD is the host of the radio show Only a Game. He has written articles, reviews, and essays for a number of publications, most recently the Boston Globe. Bill’s commentaries, written and voiced, have won numerous Associated Press Awards. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Mary Atlee, and their two daughters, Amy and Alison. He is the author of several books, including the baseball novel Prospect.

RICHARD A. JOHNSON is the curator of the Sports Museum at the Fleet Center in Boston and author of A Century of Boston Sports and The Boston Braves. He is coauthor with Glenn Stout of Red Sox Century and Yankees Century as well as biographies of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1903
Pittsburgh a Winner in the First Clash
Tim Murnane

Boston Beaten By a Score of 7 to 3

"Cy" Young Is Off Edge And Is Bumped Hard

More Than 16,000 Persons See Opening Contest

Boston the favorite in the Game Scheduled for Today

With Cy Young in the box and more than 16,000 persons looking on, the Pittsburgh club won from Boston by a score of 7 to 3 in the first game in the series for the world's championship at the Huntington Avenue grounds yesterday.

The crowd, which encircled the field, was held well back by ropes and a small army of policemen, and the best of order prevailed. Both teams received liberal applause for good work.

The Boston players evidently were a little nervous, as is usually the case with teams on the home grounds in an important series. As the game progressed, however, Collins' boys got into their stride, and played grand ball when it was too late to overtake the Pirates.

Cy Young was hit hard. He fell considerably short of his best work, lacking speed, his winning ingredient. With Young off edge, the home players were carrying a big handicap.

Phillippe was in rare good form, but weakened perceptibly as the game drew out, withering under a brace of triples by Freeman and Parent, and finishing at a much slower clip than the one at which he started, although he had no trouble with O'Brien and Farrell, who were sent in to bat for the Boston battery in the ninth when there were two men on bases.

Pittsburgh had all the luck and a shade the better of the umpiring, as Connolly favored Phillippe on strikes, while O'Day had no close plays on the bases.

The Boston infield outplayed Pittsburgh's. Ferris, after making two bad fumbles and giving the visitors four runs at the start, pulled himself together, and, with Collins and Parent, put up a superb article of baseball.

Criger, who's probably the greatest catcher living, had a bad day, making two poor throws to second and having a passed ball on a third strike.

But for the misplays of Ferris and Criger and the bad piece of fielding by Freeman in allowing a line hit to pass under him for three bases, the Pittsburgh men would have another story to send home.

Because the Boston boys failed to play up to their natural gait from start to finish, and slipped a shoe in the first game, it need not be assumed that it will occur again.

Fred Clarke carried off the honors of the day in left field. He covered ground like a cyclone, and three times pulled in line drives that were marked for three bases. His marvelous work cut off at least three runs, and the chances are that not another man playing ball today would have connected with any one of the three great running catches made by him. It was ground covering with a vengeance. He was off with the swing of the bat besides pretty nearly calling the turn on the batsman.

Beaumont and Stahl made clever catches, but outside this work of Clarke and Beaumont, and two pretty plays by Ritchey the visitors were not offering anything sensational in the way of fielding.

Ferris, Parent and Collins played fast ball, one play by Criger to Ferris and back to the plate, where they got their man was a classic.

Phillippe apparently took things easy, as he well might, with the start of four runs in the first inning. These runs were started after two men were out and Cy had two strikes on Tommy Leach. The latter and Sebring did the hitting for the Burgers, the little third base man clipping off four safe ones, which is pretty good work for a light batsman.

Sebring got in one clean hit and two lucky ones. LaChance failing to go out and stop his first grounder, and his home run coming from a Texas leaguer; Stahl thinking the ball would roll into the crowd and failing to go after it, thus making a gift of a run.

The crowd had little chance to cheer until "Buck" Freeman lined one up against the right fence in the seventh, and Parent followed with one into the crowd in left field for three bases. The cheering was like the roll of thunder, and was tuned up for business when shut off by one of Clarke's great running catches clear over in center field.

After the game one club looked just as good as the other, the difference yesterday was in the pitchers' box, and it's not often that Uncle Cyrus fails to send the money, even if he is a bit fat.

Into the Crowd--Three Bases

After making ground rules, giving three bases for balls hit into the crowd on fair ground, Tommy Connolly took his place behind the bat and Hank O'Day on the bases. Here was a pair of umpires who know their business, and the players never undertook to question their decisions.

Cy Young started off by disposing of the clever Beaumont on a fly to Stahl. He then forced Fred Clarke to pop up a weak fly to Criger. Leach was in for two strikes and then cast one of Young's straight ones past Freeman for three bases. Wagner threw his bat at the wide-out curve and sent it safe to left, Leach scoring. On the first ball pitched the Pittsburgh man was off for second like a shot and landed safely, as Criger was a bit slow and Ferris was very much surprised.

It was evident that the visitors were going to force Criger to show his speed, and by so doing they made the Boston man look like a fur overcoat in July.

Bransfield hit a merry grounder at Ferris, and after evading several stabs the ball rolled up Hobe's sleeve, while Bransfield was safe at first. Bransfield went down to second, and Criger threw the ball out to center, Wagner scoring and Bransfield going to third. Ritchey drew a pass, and off he went to second. This time Criger made a bluff to throw down and turn the ball to Collins, but Bransfield was hugging the base. Sebring came in with a timely line single to left, and two runs were scored. Phelps struck out, but got first on Criger's passed ball. Phillippe, the ninth man up, fanned, and the home team started in on a big contract.

Dougherty and Collins struck out. Stahl scratched a single to left, and Freeman flied out to right.

Beaumont Strikes Out

Beaumont opened the second inning with a strikeout. Clarke hit one down the left line and was thrown out by Dougherty while trying for two bases. Leach flied out to left.

Phillippe got a round of applause by striking out Parent, LaChance and Ferris, the only men who went to bat in Boston's half.

In the third Collins made a fine catch of Wagner's fly. Bransfield lined one to right that Freeman came in for and then allowed to go through him to the crowd for the three bases. Bransfield scored on Sebring's single past LaChance.

Boston went out in order.

Beaumont opened the fourth with a grounder that was fumbled by Ferris. Clarke and Leach singled, scoring Beaumont. Wagner flied out to Parent, and Bransfield forced a man at second, Ferris making a clever running assist.

Collins hit a ball into the crowd along the left line but was called back and then hit a fierce liner that Clarke made a grand catch of. Stahl flied out to center. Freeman hit one too warm for Bransfield. Parent hit to Leach and the ball was thrown wild, but luckily for Pittsburgh it hit the fence back of first base. LaChance flied out to Ritchey.

In the fifth Collins made two fine assists to first. Phelps singled; then Phillippe flied out to Ferris.

Boston went out in order.

With two out in the sixth Leach singled and Wagner drew on base on balls only to be forced by Bransfield, Ferris making another fine assist. For the fourth time, Boston went out in order.

In the seventh Parent made a pretty assist off Ritchey.

Sebring hit a weak fly over Ferris that rolled nearly to the ropes, the Boston outfielders taking their time in fielding it and permitting a home run.

Freeman hit the fence in right for three bases and scored on Parent's drive into the crowd in left for three sacks. LaChance made a fine bid for a hit, but Clarke was there for a great catch. Ferris was hit by a pitched ball. Then the Boston battery turned in a double strikeout.

Parent made a grand assist of Beaumont in the eighth. Clarke flied out to Freeman. Leach hit for three bases and Wagner drew a pass. Then the best play of the game took place. Wagner started for second and Criger drove the ball to Parent but Ferris saw Leach start for home and intercepted the ball and lined it back to Criger for an out.

Boston went out in order.

Brief Rally in the Ninth

The visitors went out in order in their half of the ninth.

For Boston, Freeman was safe on Wagner's fumble. Parent singled. LaChance made one more fine try for business, but Clarke again came across the field like a flash and took the ball over his head. Ferris dropped one safe and center and Freeman scored. O'Brien was sent up for Criger, and struck out. Farrell hit the ball to the pitcher and was thrown out at first, and the game was over.

The crowd gathered on the field and many good-sized bets were paid over.

The Pittsburgh players were surrounded by their friends and escorted to their carriages, a well pleased lot of ball players, while the Boston men looked anything by discouraged over the loss of game number one. The score:

Pittsburgh AB R BH TB PO A E

Beaumont cf 5 1 0 0 4 0 0

Clarke lf 5 0 2 2 3 0 0

Leach 3b 5 1 4 8 0 1 1

Wagner ss 3 1 1 1 1 2 1

Bransfield 1b 5 2 1 3 7 0 0

Ritchey 2b 4 1 0 0 1 2 0

Sebring rf 5 1 3 7 1 0 0

Phelps c 4 0 1 1 10 0 0

Phillippe p 4 0 0 0 0 2 0

Totals: 40 7 12 22 27 7 2

Boston

Dougherty 1b 4 0 0 0 1 1 0

Collins 3b 4 0 0 0 2 4 0

C. Stahl cf 4 0 1 1 2 0 0

Freeman rf 4 2 2 4 2 0 0

Parent ss 4 1 2 4 4 2 0

LaChance 1b 4 0 0 0 8 0 0

Ferris 2b 3 0 1 1 2 4 2

Criger c 3 0 0 0 6 1 2

Young p 3 0 0 0 0 1 0

*O'Brien 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

Farrell 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

Totals: 35 3 6 10 27 13 4

*Batted for Criger in the ninth. Batted for Young in the ninth.

Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Pittsburgh 4 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0-7

Boston 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1-3

Home run, Sebring. Three base hits, Leach 2, Bransfield, Sebring, Freeman, Parent. Stolen bases, Wagner, Bransfield, Ritchey. Bases on balls off Young, Wagner 2, Ritchey. Struck out by Young, Beaumont, Clarke, Ritchey, Phelps, Phillippe. By Phillippe, Dougherty, Collins, Stahl, Parent, LaChance, Ferris 2, Criger, Young, O'Brien. Hit by pitched ball by Phillippe, Ferris. Umpires, O'Day and Connolly. Attendance: 16,242.

From the Hardcover edition.

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