The Red Sox had played a pair of games against the Yankees at the Polo Grounds in New York on April 17 and 20. They lost both games, 4-0 and 8-4. The first game saw former Red Sox pitcher Carl Mays throw a four-hit shutout, beating Sam Jones. The second saw Boston’s Allen Russell give up eight earned runs, while New York’s Jack Quinn allowed four.
On May 2 the Yankees visited Boston for the first time. This time Sam Jones came out on top.
With three of New York’s starting nine being former Red Sox players (Mays, Babe Ruth, and Wally Schang), a Fall River, Massachusetts, newspaper dubbed it a series between two clubs, “the Red Sox and the Sox Alumni stars.”1
The game was quite a battle, scoreless for the first seven innings and neither team making an error for the duration.
Both teams went down in order in the first, Jones inducing three infield groundouts. Each team singled once in the second.
Jones walked Mays in the top of the third, but he was the only baserunner for either team.
In the fourth, right fielder Bob Meusel singled with two outs, but third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker grounded out back to Jones, 1-3. Left fielder Mike Menosky led off with a walk for the Red Sox but was quickly erased in a double play.
Second baseman Aaron Ward singled to lead off the fifth, but Jones struck out New York catcher Wally Schang and then Mays lined into a double play. The Red Sox went down one-two-three as both teams did in the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp led off with a single to center. Meusel hit the ball hard, but right to Scott, who turned the ball into a 6-4-3 double play. Baker doubled to right, where “[Tim] Hendryx lost his fly in the sun,”2 but there was now no one on base and he was stranded on second base when Ward flied out to center. The Red Sox hit two balls to the outfield, both to center fielder Tom Connelly.
Mays had faced only 22 Red Sox batters through the first seven innings. Still, neither team had scored.
In the eighth, Tom Connelly walked but he never moved past first base.3
In the bottom of the eighth, first baseman Stuffy McInnis led off with a single to left field. Red Sox shortstop Everett Scott bunted back to the pitcher, sacrificing McInnis to second base. Then center fielder Shano Collins put the first run of the game onto the board with a double to left-center, easily scoring McInnis. Catcher Muddy Ruel’s groundout allowed Collins to take third, but Jones was up and he fouled out to catcher Schang.
New York’s left fielder, Babe Ruth, led off in the ninth. Ruth had struck out in the fourth inning, that plate appearance bracketed by inning-ending groundouts in the first and sixth. Both groundouts were attributed to what we might call a “Ruth shift,” reportedly derived by McInnis, in which the infielders all played on the outfield grass, the shortstop more or less behind second base and both the second baseman and first baseman in short right field.4
In the top of the ninth, The Babe homered “far into the right-field bleachers,”5 tying the score at 1-1. It was his sixth home run of the season. Gene Mack’s sports-page cartoon in the Globe shows it as landing not that deep, five or six rows deep in what is now Fenway Park’s section 1.6
With one out, Meusel doubled to center, but was tagged out between second and third, when he tried to stretch it to three bases, with a relay throw that went 8-4-5. Baker flied out.
Meusel had been the batting star for the Yankees, with three hits, but “it was the trick of fate against the Yanks that all Bob’s three blows were wasted and his own failure to hit came at a time when a hit probably would have broken up the ball game.”7 O’Leary of the Globe ascribed his single in the fourth to a low throw that perhaps should have been scored an error on Vitt.
The Red Sox came up in the bottom of the ninth. Third baseman Ossie Vitt grounded out short to first and Menosky flied out to center. Del Pratt, who had come to the Red Sox from the Yankees in a six-player December 1920 trade (along with Ruel), doubled to the scoreboard in left and right fielder Hendryx won the game with another drive to left-center. The Globe said the ball went between Connelly in center and Ruth in left and neither could get to it, “a legitimate two-bagger, but he stopped running after passing first base and so got credit for only a single.”8
At the time, there was a berm in left field in front of the wall, known as Duffy’s Cliff, and that’s where both balls were hit.
Jones had a 2-1 win. Mays was the hard-luck loser; he’d only given up five hits in the game, while Jones had given up seven. Jones had walked two, Mays only one. Mays struck out no one; Jones struck out four.
Both the Boston Globe and New York Times accounts detail several impressive fielding plays.
Ruth had been accorded a “big welcome from the Hub fans, who appear to be as strong for the Batterin’ Babe today as when he was battling of the honor of the Hub. … The home fans also gave Frank Baker quite a welcome, this being his first game since 1919.”9
The game was played in a brisk 1 hour and 25 minutes and likely pleased most of the large number of fans reported in attendance, some 11,000, according to the Boston Globe.
In June, the Yankees returned to Fenway Park and split six games with the Red Sox. At the end of the month and into early July, the Red Sox were swept in four games at the Polo Grounds.
By season’s end, the head-to-head record for the two ballclubs was 15-7 in favor of the Yankees. New York won the American League pennant 4½ games ahead of second-place Cleveland, the 1920 pennant winner. The Red Sox finished 75-79, in fifth place and 23½ games behind the New York. The Yankees played a best-of-nine World Series against the New York Giants, with every one of the games played at their shared home, the Polo Grounds. The Giants prevailed in eight games, five wins to three. The same two teams battled it out in 1922, with the Giants winning the World Series again. In 1923 the Yankees won their first World Series, this time playing their home games at brand-new Yankee Stadium and beating the Giants. The Red Sox sank to the bottom of the standings — eighth place –in both 1922 and 1923.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 “Red Sox Down Mays, Braves Overwhelmed,” Fall River Daily Evening News, May 3, 1921: 9.
2 James C. O’Leary, “Babe Does His Stunt, But Sox Win in Ninth,” Boston Globe, May 3, 1921: 9.
3 Connelly played in only five major-league games, one in 1920 and four in 1921.
4 The defensive positioning was described in several newspapers. See, for instance, “Red Sox Work Out Defense Against Babe,” New Castle (Pennsylvania) Herald, May 3, 1921: 13.
5 “Ruth’s Homer Fails to Rescue Yankees,” New York Times, May 3, 1921: 23.
6 Gene Mack, Boston Globe, May 3, 1921: 9. O’Leary’s game story quantified the number of rows.
7 “Ruth’s Homer Fails to Rescue Yankees.”
8 James C. O’Leary.
9 “Ruth’s Homer Fails to Rescue Yankees.”