Rube Marquard (26-11) faced Buck O’Brien (20-13) in Game Three of the 1912 World Series. Both pitched exceptionally well. Marquard, a left-hander who was a switch-hitter, had started off 1912 like gangbusters. He won his first 19 decisions from Opening Day on April 11 through July 3. (Boston’s Game One starter, Joe Wood, was almost as impressive in that respect, with a string of 16 consecutive victories in 1912.)
And Marquard truly should also have been credited with a 20th win in that stretch, on April 20. He entered the game in relief in the ninth inning; after he put out the fire, the Giants scored twice to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, but the scorer did not credit Rube with the victory. Even without that game, his 26 wins still led the National League.
Boston’s O’Brien, a 30-year-old right-hander, was in his second year in the major leagues; he had posted a 2.58 earned-run average, almost exactly the same as Marquard’s 2.57 ERA.
Giants right fielder Josh Devore hit a leadoff single just over O’Brien’s glove. After Devore was almost picked off first, he was cut down stealing. No one else reached base. In the bottom of the inning, Marquard kept the ball in the infield and retired the first three Boston batters.
O’Brien was touched for another leadoff hit in the second, this time a double to center by Giants left fielder Red Murray. Fred Merkle sacrificed Murray to third, and Buck Herzog hit a fly ball to right fielder Harry Hooper that got Murray home. Catcher Chief Meyers grounded out to third base to end the inning. The Giants led, 1-0.
The Giants added one more run in the top of the fifth. Another leadoff hit – another double – set them up. This time, Buck Herzog hit the ball over the third-base bag and reached second safely. Meyers hit away but produced an inadvertent sacrifice, bouncing back to O’Brien – who had to throw to first as Herzog took third.
Shortstop Art Fletcher slammed a single – his first hit of the World Series – and Herzog came home. There was considerably more action in the rest of the inning, but just the one run came in.
First baseman Jake Stahl singled in the fifth, second baseman Steve Yerkes singled in the sixth, and Stahl doubled in the seventh – making Boston’s player-manager only the second Red Sox runner to reach second base – but the Red Sox were held scoreless through seven. Stahl’s ball had nearly gone out; it hit off the top of the left-field wall and bounced back into play.
In the eighth Stahl, now acting in his capacity as manager, sent up a pair of pinch-hitters in hopes of rallying from the two-run deficit. Hack Engle pinch-hit for catcher Bill Carrigan; he flied out to left field. Neal Ball pinch-hit for O’Brien and struck out. Hooper worked a walk, but Yerkes grounded out to end the inning.
Hugh Bedient pitched the top of the ninth for Boston. He hit the first batter, Herzog, but a minute or two later, Herzog was thrown out trying to steal second base. Meyers singled to left field, but Fletcher flied into a double play, lifting the ball to Speaker, who fired the ball to Stahl at first base and doubled Meyers off the first-base bag. The score still stood 2-0, Giants. Speaker often played a shallow center field and excelled in accumulating outfield assists, setting the career major-league record with 449.
Speaker popped up to shortstop Herzog to start the bottom of the ninth. Lewis grounded to first but reached safely when Marquard failed to cover the bag in time. Boston capitalized on his mistake: Larry Gardner doubled down the first-base line; when the ball caromed away from Devore, Lewis scored from first.
On the play, a coaching mix-up hurt the Sox. Heinie Wagner began the inning coaching third, but since he was due up two batters after Gardner, Speaker came out of the dugout to fill in. When Gardner connected on his hit, both Wagner and Speaker were near third – and both attempted to direct the runners. Gardner saw the twin “coaches” first hold up Lewis and then yell at him to score. Made cautious by the confusion, Gardner had to hold up at second when he could well have taken third.1
Stahl grounded back to the mound. Gardner now dashed for third, but Marquard threw to Herzog to cut him down for the second out. A ghostwritten article appearing under Speaker’s byline a day later asserted that Gardner was nonetheless safe; he believed that Herzog had dropped the ball.2
With the Red Sox now down to their final out, Olaf Henriksen came in to pinch-run for Stahl at first base. Wagner hit a ball that Merkle misplayed, dropping it for an error, and moving Henriksen to third – and it was first and third, two outs. Wagner stole second, putting both the tying and winning runs in scoring position.
Then came the play of the game. Forrest “Hick” Cady was at the plate. It was his first time up. Carrigan had been the starting catcher but Engle had batted for Carrigan in the eighth.
Cady hit a long, uncatchable-looking drive to deep right-center field. Hundreds of Red Sox fans started home happy, glad that the Red Sox had apparently won the game. “The Boston crowd was already celebrating a second victory. … The bands were blaring, the bass drums were rumbling, and the cymbals were crashing. The grandstands were afire with waving red flags,” wrote the New York Times.3 The first rush of fans harbored a false confidence and hoped to beat the masses out of the park.
But it was a case of premature exuberance. Right fielder Devore had sprung into action with one of the greatest catches in World Series history. Tim Murnane wrote of Devore that “while under a full head of steam he leaped in the air, and, with hands extended over his head and his back to the infield, he came out of the air with the ball.”4
There were fans who truly believed the Red Sox had won – only to learn later that the 5-foot-6 “midget outfielder” Devore had saved the day for the Giants and evened the Series at one win apiece.5 Chalk one up for the little guys.
Marquard had pitched exceptionally well, wrote Hugh Fullerton, frustrating the Red Sox game plan of waiting him out; they simply “could not get two hits together.”6 O’Brien was fortunate to have given up only two runs in the game, but his totals – three walks and seven base hits – don’t look that bad in the box score. Two runs were enough.
The Red Sox likely benefited from an unusual scouting report. It had come from Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, who had won the pennant the two prior years (and would win it the following two). Stahl asked Mack to brief the Boston players on the Giants, whom the A’s had beaten in the 1911 Series. Historian Norman Macht quotes Heinie Wagner as saying, “He told us more in ten minutes than all our scouts discovered watching them for several weeks, or what we could have learned about them in a year. I doubt we would have beaten New York without the knowledge that Mack put into us.”7
That said, the Giants had won and the World Series stood even at one win per team, each team having won by one run in the opposing team’s ballpark.
The 34,624 at Fenway were a crowd, Murnane declared, that was “the largest that ever watched a ballgame in Boston.”8
The Times suggested that if the remaining games in the Series were anything like the first three, every one down to the wire, “New York and Boston will fill all the nerve sanitariums with their citizens.”9
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author relied on Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
This article is adapted from “The 1912 World Series” which first appeared in Bill Nowlin, ed., Opening Fenway Park with Style: The World Champion 1912 Red Sox (Phoenix: SABR, 2012).
1 In a bylined article, Speaker admitted this might well have been the case: “Wagner was coaching at third, and as he follows Stahl, who succeeds Gardner at bat, I started for third to relieve him in the coaches’ box. I got there at about the time Gardner made the hit, and as Wagner naturally wanted to see the play come around third, we were both there yelling at Lewis. ‘Duffy’ apparently became confused over our joint coaching. … This unfortunate incident may have spoiled a good chance to at least tie up the score.” See Tris Speaker, “Inside Story of Devore’s Last Hair-Raising Catch,” Boston Globe, October 11, 1912: 7.
2 Tris Speaker. The next day’s newspapers also saw bylined accounts of the game by Larry Doyle, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Buck O’Brien, Jake Stahl, Jeff Tesreau, Joe Wood, and Detroit Tigers manager Hugh Jennings.
3 “Giants Win, 2-1; Devore Snatches Victory in Ninth,” New York Times, October 11, 1912: 1.
4 T.H. Murnane, “Boston’s Biggest Baseball Crowd 34,624, Sees Red Sox Beaten by Giants, 2 to 1,” Boston Globe, October 11, 1912: 1.
5 “Giants Win Game, Rousing Finish,” Hartford Courant, October 11, 1912: 1.
6 Hugh S. Fullerton, “Fullerton Praises Work of Marquard,” Chicago Tribune, October 11, 1912: 3.
7 Norman Macht, Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007), 563.
8 T.H. Murnane.
9 New York Times.