October 13, 1903: Big Bill Dinneen leads Boston to a triumph in first modern World Series
The first World Series ever played was a best-of-nine competition, and after seven games, it was Boston with four wins and Pittsburgh with three. All three of the Pirates' victories went to Deacon Phillippe — Game One, Game Three, and Game Four. He had pitched Game Seven, too, but lost. With limited options available to him, manager Fred Clarke went with Philippe again in Game Eight. Boston manager Jimmy Collins countered with the 2-1 (and well-rested) Bill Dinneen. When Collins had put together the American League team in 1901, "Big Bill" — who had been a 20-game winner for the National League's Boston Beaneaters in 1900 — was a hurler the manager brought with him.
Dinneen won 21 games in 1902 and the same number again in 1903. He'd been 21-13, with a 2.26 ERA. Teammate Cy Young had been 28-9, with an ERA of 2.08, including seven shutouts; Dinneen had six.
Phillippe had been 25-9 (2.43) for the Pirates and his teammate Sam Leever had been slightly better (25-7, 2.06.) Leever hurled seven shutouts, and Phillippe had done so four times. Sixteen-game winner Ed Doheny had suffered a mental breakdown and was in an insane asylum. To make matters worse, Leever hurt his right shoulder late in the season, while trapshooting, and it was undeniably Phillippe who was the only top Pirates pitcher in condition at the end of the grueling regular season. Given the dire circumstances, Clarke was compelled to rely on Phillippe.
This game could determine the championship of the world. "The game meant something more than victory. It was a question of supremacy between two great leagues, a question which for the past two years has agitated the entire baseball world."1 Should Pittsburgh win, the Series would be even at four wins apiece. Should Boston triumph, the honor would be theirs.
Despite the importance of the game, attendance was only 7,455, way below the 18,801 of Game Three (the fourth through seventh games were played at Pittsburgh's Exposition Park), because so many large blocks of tickets had been snapped up by speculators who hoped to cash in — but, wrote the Chicago Tribune, “the public would not submit to the extortion.”2
Dinneen retired the Pirates on seven pitches in the first inning. He was perfect through the first three innings. Jimmy Sebring's slashing drive back to the mound (which he fielded and threw to first) in the top of the third split Dinneen's finger, but "despite the bleeding that continued to stain the balls he threw throughout the game, the gritty right-hander continued to pitch well."3
Phillippe was effective, too, allowing just two singles over the three frames. A walk and a single marred Dinneen's start in the top of the fourth. The Pirates might have scored. They had runners on first and third with two outs, when Wagner stole second base on the front end of a double steal, but the Bostons were wise to the play and catcher Lou Criger threw to Collins at third base and got Tommy Leach out, 2-5-2.
In the bottom of the inning, slugger Buck Freeman — Boston's right fielder, who had led the American League with 104 RBIs, hit a leadoff triple deep to center field. Freddie Parent reached first on a fielding error by catcher Ed Phelps on a ball hit in front of home plate. Freeman didn't dare attempt to score, nor did he on Candy LaChance's sacrifice bunt — though Parent took second. Hobe Ferris singled to center field and drove in both Freeman and Parent. Ferris advanced to second when Criger grounded back to Philippe. With two outs, Dinneen singled, but Ferris was thrown out at home trying to go for a third run. Right fielder Jimmy Sebring's throw cut him down. There was every anticipation that the game would be a low-scoring affair, and that staking Dinneen to a two-run lead would likely be sufficient. The Boston Post's inning-by-inning game account said, "Nobody cared that Criger followed with an out, that Dineen (sic) singled and Ferris was thrown out trying to reach home. Boston had scored two runs off the great Phillippe and everyone believed that those two runs meant victory."4
Sebring himself tripled in the top of the fifth, but there were two outs and Dinneen struck out catcher Phelps to end the threat.
Another triple set up another run for Boston in the sixth. There were two outs when LaChance tripled to right field. Ferris then singled to center — his third RBI of the game. As it transpired, there were no other runs scored in the game. Ferris alone drove in all the runs.
Phillippe hadn't pitched poorly at all. He didn't walk a single Boston batter, and one of the three runs scored off him was unearned. The problem was that Bill Dinneen simply pitched a better game. Just as he had in Game Two, he shut out the Pirates — and by the same 3-0 score. The Pirates committed three errors; Boston, none. Indeed, Boston's fielding was superlative. The Post in particular praised third baseman Jimmy Collins, who “covered acres of ground and threw as only he can throw.” The team's infield work made the Pirates “look amateurish by comparison.”5
Dinneen allowed just four hits, and the denouement was especially apt — he retired Fred Clarke and Tommy Leach on fly balls in the top of the ninth inning, and then struck out the great Honus Wagner. The Boston Herald rhapsodized about the final pitch: "No more artistic conclusion to the great series was possible. Slowly the big pitcher gathered himself up for the effort, slowly he swung his arms about his head. Then the ball shot away like a flash toward the plate where the great Wagner stood, muscles drawn tense, waiting for it. The big batsman's shoulders heaved, the stands will swear that his very frame creaked, as he swung his bat with every ounce of power in his body, but the dull thud of the ball, as it nestled in Criger's waiting mitt, told the story."6
Dinneen struck out seven and walked only two. He improved his Series mark to 3-1 with the win, finishing with a 2.06 ERA, and he remains one of the few pitchers to win three games in a given World Series.
Phillippe wound up with five decisions in one World Series, every one being a complete game. This is something we will almost certainly never see again. Phillippe posted a 3.07 ERA for the Series, but had two defeats to go with his three victories. Sam Leever was 0-2 for the Pirates and Brickyard Kennedy bore the loss in Game Five. Pittsburgh manager Fred Clarke conceded to the Boston Journal, “Boston won on its merits. We were weak in pitchers.”7
For Boston, Cy Young was 2-1, with a 1.85 earned-run average. Tom Hughes was 0-1; he had pitched just two-plus innings of Game Three before being relieved by Cy Young. In fact, Dinneen and Young had combined to pitch all but two innings of the eight games.
The first world championship in modern baseball history belonged to the Boston Americans. The Boston Journal's headline the following day indeed said it all: “Boston Americans Are Now the Champions of the World.”
The fans who were present reveled in the championship. For his part, Jimmy Collins credited the support shown the team by the Boston fans. “The support given the team by the ‘Royal Rooters’ will never be forgotten. … [N]o little portion of our success is due to this selfsame band of enthusiasts. Noise — why they astonished Pittsburgh by their enthusiasm.”8
As for the Pirates, they knew they had suffered such losses among their own pitching staff that it was impossible to put their best nine on the field at all times. The Pittsburg Post still called them "the best baseball team in the world, take it from all points," and said that as they left the field of play, they "moved proudly out of the park and to the bus. Not a man among Captain Clarke's force but felt the defeat keenly, yet every head was high in the air as with firm strides the National League champions skirted the howling mob and bid farewell. …The Pittsburgs, although not at all used to playing second fiddle, took their Waterloo philosophically and had nothing but good words for their conquerors, the umpires and the spectators." 9
Despite Tom Hughes being a 20-game winner in 1903, Collins was uncertain about the pitcher and he was sent to New York after the season, traded in December for pitcher-outfielder Jesse Tannehill. Dinneen had an even better year in 1904, going 23-14. Cy Young won fewer games in 1904, but he still won 26, with a 1.97 ERA. The Boston Americans won the AL pennant again, though it was a battle down to the final day with the New York Highlanders. John McGraw and his New York Giants simply refused to play them in the World Series.
This article appears in "Moments of Joy and Heartbreak: 66 Significant Episodes in the History of the Pittsburgh Pirates" (SABR, 2018), edited by Jorge Iber and Bill Nowlin. To read more stories from this book at the SABR Games Project, click here.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted numerous other newspapers, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Thomas Mueller for providing the Pittsburg Post.
1 "World's Champion Bostons Win 3 to 0," Boston Post, October 14, 1903: 5.
2 "World's Series Goes to Boston," Chicago Tribune, October 14, 1903: 6. "Considering the weather, the crowd of 7500 was considered extremely large," wrote the Post. "The speculators did little or no business and lost big money." See "Speculators Lost On Yesterday's Ball Game," Boston Post, October 14, 1903: 5.
3 Bill Nowlin and Jim Prime, From The Babe to the Beards: The Red Sox in the World Series (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2014), 18.
4 "World's Champion Bostons Win 3 to 0."
6 "Boston Americans Champions of World," Boston Herald, October 14, 1903: 5.
7 W.S. Barnes Jr., "Boston Americans Are Now the Champions of the World," Boston Journal, October 14, 1903: 1.
8 Bob Ryan, When Boston Won the World Series (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2003), 157.
9 John H. Gruber, "Dineen Shuts Out the Pirates," Pittsburg Post, October 14, 1003: 8.