October 15, 1925: Pirates come from behind to beat Senators, Walter Johnson in muddy Game 7
More than 40,000 fans filled Forbes Field on a cloudy, wet Thursday afternoon for Game Seven of the 1925 World Series, the Pirates faithful hoping the home team would complete an unlikely comeback against the Senators. Walter Johnson stood in the way. The Washington fireballer had already won Games One and Four, allowing just one run on 11 hits in 18 innings, and he would take the ball for Game Seven. But the Corsairs had regained Series momentum, having won Game Five in Washington and Game Six in Pittsburgh to tie the Series at three games each. Rain had dogged the Series all week and it returned shortly after Game Six ended, falling until midmorning Thursday. A mist lingered through the early afternoon, but 10 minutes before Game Seven’s scheduled 2:00 p.m. first pitch, strong rain again pelted Pittsburgh and puddles formed across the infield. At precisely 2:35 p.m., Commissioner Kenesaw Landis postponed the tilt.1
The damp conditions continued into Thursday, but the grounds crew worked through the morning, burning gasoline and spreading sawdust to dry the infield. Peering through a veil of fog, 42,856 hardy fans huddled in their seats for Game Seven.2 They were rewarded with one of the most thrilling games in World Series history.
Washington’s Sam Rice poked Pittsburgh starter Vic Aldridge’s third pitch of the game into center field for a single. After retiring Bucky Harris on a fly out, Aldridge threw a wild pitch on a 2-and-0 count, allowing Rice to take second. Two pitches later, Goose Goslin walked. Again behind on a 2-and-0 count, this time to Joe Harris, Aldridge bounced another wild pitch, which moved Rice to third and Goslin to second. Harris walked on the next pitch to load the bases with just one out. Aldridge then issued a walk to Joe Judge and Rice trotted home for the game’s first run. Next, Ossie Bluege nearly homered to left, the ball striking the top of the screen so hard he was held to a run-scoring single. Pirates skipper Bill McKechnie had seen enough, and Aldridge’s day ended after just one-third of an inning with the sacks packed, his team trailing by two runs. Johnny Morrison took the ball for the Bucs and Washington’s Roger Peckinpaugh welcomed him with a hard grounder to shortstop Glenn Wright, who fired the ball to catcher Earl Smith for the force at home. But Harris was ruled safe due to catcher’s interference by Smith against Peckinpaugh. All runners advanced one base, Peckinpaugh was awarded first. The Senators’ lead increased to 3-0, the bases still loaded, still just one out. Morrison then induced a groundball to second from Muddy Ruel, but Eddie Moore bobbled the ball and Judgescored Washington’s fourth run.
Pittsburgh had battled back from three games to one to reset the Series; now, to win it, they’d have to climb out of a four-run hole against Walter Johnson. The mist became a sprinkling rain. Eddie Moore led off with a bunt. Johnson, 37 years old and nursing a sore leg, fielded the ball cleanly and retired Moore with a crisp throw. Working very slowly, the Big Train then went after Bucs captain Max Carey , who doubled to deep right field on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.3 With Carey on second and the Pittsburgh crowd energized, Johnson dispatched Kiki Cuyler with three fastballs. Clyde Barnhart fell behind 0-and-2 on a pair of heaters before waving at a wide curve to end the inning.
Morrison got the quick inning he needed in the second, retiring the Senators in order. With one down in the Pittsburgh second, Wright singled to center. Stuffy McInnis followed with a bingle up the middle. But Smith grounded to Harris, who tagged McInnis and fired to Judge for an inning-ending 4-3 double play. The Bucs had collected another two hits but still had no runs on the board. The rain persisted. According to the New York Times , “It was so dark the serried rows of fans in the far right field grand stand were just one inky blur.”4
Judge led off the third with a single. After a Bluege popout, Peckinpaugh knocked a low fly into shallow right-center. Moore and center fielder Carey raced toward it, but it was Cuyler who dived between his teammates and snared the ball as he hit the ground with a splash. In his haste to double off Judge, Cuyler threw wide of first and the Senators first baseman advanced to second. That was as far as he’d get.
Finally, the Pirates drew blood in the bottom of the third. Moore followed Morrison’s leadoff single with a double to left, scoring the Bucs pitcher. Carey singled on the next pitch and the fans erupted. At 4-2, the Pirates were back in the game. McKechnie ordered a hit-and-run5 and Carey advanced to second on Cuyler’s groundout. Carey stole third without a throw, and he scored easily when Barnhart blooped a single to right. The inning concluded with the Senators’ lead shaved to 4-3.
The visitors responded in the fourth, scoring two runs on singles from Rice and Goslin and a Joe Harris double. 6-3 Senators. Sprinkling rain fell from the dark, low sky, muddying the basepaths and mound, and slicking the outfield grass.6 Pittsburgh left a man on first, and did not score in its half of the fourth frame.
Pirates reliever Ray Kremer kept the Senators in check in the fifth, too. Carey smacked the first pitch of the home half of the inning into right-center for a double, and Cuyler followed with a double to deep left. Carey crossed the plate for the fourth Pittsburgh run. Johnson recovered and the score remained 6-4 in favor of the Senators through six.
The rain intensified as the seventh inning began,7 and the Senators were retired in order. The home seventh opened with a Peckinpaugh error on a fly so high off the bat of Moore that he reached second base. Carey then lashed his third double of the game and Moore scampered home to again cut the Washington lead to one. Cuyler sacrificed Carey to third. After Barnhart was retired on an unproductive groundout, Pie Traynor laced a shot to right. Carey plated the tying tally and watched as Traynor raced around the bases with an inside-the-park home run in mind. The on-target relay from Joe Harris to Bucky Harris to Ruel prevented Carey’s completion of the circuit, but the Pirates had leveled the score to 6-6 through seven.
The Senators retook the lead in the eighth on Peckinpaugh’s redemptive solo home run into the temporary left-field seats in front of the scoreboard, but that’s all Washington could muster in its half. Johnson retired Wright on a foul pop in steady rain. After missing with his first pitch to McInnis, the Big Train asked home-plate umpire Barry McCormick to allow more sawdust for the muddy mound. When the arbiter assented, Johnson filled his cap with the stuff and personally groomed his station.8 Two pitches later, McInnis flied out. Earl Smith doubled to right and gave way to pinch-runner Emil Yde. Pinch-hitter Carson Bigbee doubled to left, tying the score. The rain-soaked Pittsburgh faithful erupted with raucous cheering. Moore walked on seven pitches, bringing the red-hot Carey to the dish. The Pirates rally appeared to die when he grounded to Peckinpaugh, but the Washington shortstop’s toss to second was wide — his eighth error of the Series — and the bases were loaded with two outs.
Cuyler took Johnson’s first pitch for a ball. The umpires paused the game again while more sawdust was applied to the mound. Kiki fouled off four pitches and then sliced the next one just inside the first-base bag, down the right-field line. Pirates reliever Tom Sheehan, who was warming up next to the line, insisted that none of the Pirates in foul territory touched the ball. “Joe [Harris] came over and fielded the ball,” he said, “but the sphere was all over mud and it was hard to handle.”9 Cuyler circled the bases, beating the muddy ball home. Forbes Field rang with an ecstatic din while the umpires huddled. Determining the ball had struck a Pirates reliever, they sent Carey back to third and Cuyler to second. The eighth ended on Barnhart’s subsequent fly ball, but the Pirates had scored three and enjoyed their first lead of the day, 9-7.
It proved sufficient. With rainwater “coursing over the brims of felt hats”10 in the stands, Red Oldham took the mound for the top of the ninth and retired the Senators in order. Damon Runyon described the scene: “As the game ended, at least 20,000 of these well soaked spectators poured out into the muddy field, and surrounded the red-coated bandsmen, who shook the water out of their instruments, and blared ‘There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.’…”11 Indeed there was. Across the city, Pittsburgh fans took to the streets to celebrate their team’s second world championship, partying into the wee hours Friday.12 It had been a Game Seven and a World Series for the ages, and the Pirates had come from behind to capture both.
- Related link: "A Dark, Rainy Game Seven: The Pirates Defeat the Big Train in the 1925 World Series," by Gary Sarnoff
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 identified in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 James C. Isaminger, “Unbeaten Hurlers to Battle Today in Game to Settle Baseball Championship,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 15, 1925: 18.
2 “Facts and Figures About World Series,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 16, 1925: 18.
3 “Step-by-Step Account of Pirates’ Victory March,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 16, 1925: 12.
4 “Crush at the Gates Too Much for Police,” New York Times, October 16, 1925: 15.
5 “Step-by-Step Account.”
9 Charlie Doyle, “World’s Series Chillysauce,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 16, 1925: 13.
10 “Crush at the Gates.”
11 Damon Runyon, “Pirates Should Take Rank with Greatest of Clubs, Runyon Says,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 16, 1925: 13.
12 “Roar of Victory, Din of Celebration Encompass City as Tribute Is Paid to Greatest Ball Club in World,” Pittsburgh Press, October 16, 1925: 1.