This article was written by Stew Thornley
Boston Red Sox ace Smoky Joe Wood started three games in the 1912 World Series and was also called on for relief in the decisive Game Eight. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
Game Seven (in the sense of an ultimate game) of the 1912 World Series was actually the eighth game, A 6-6 tie in the second game, called by darkness after 11 innings, required an extra game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants to decide the championship. The Giants, after dropping three of the first four decisions, had won the next two to tie the Series and had a chance to become the first team to win a best-of-seven World Series after having fallen behind three games to one.
It was the first World Series for the Red Sox since 1903 and the third in eight seasons for the Giants under manager John McGraw, The teams would have met in 1904 if not for the refusal of the Giants to play in the World Series,
The 1912 Giants were led by Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard, who had won 23 and 26 games, respectively, The Red Sox were best known for their outstanding outfield of Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper, Speaker was one of the best defensive center fielders ever as well as one of the top hitters in the game, The most spectacular player on the 1912 Boston team, though, was right-hander Smoky Joe Wood (with his nickname sometimes spelled “Smokey”), With a fastball rivaled only by that of Walter Johnson, Wood had a won-loss record of 34-5, He matched Johnson’s American League record, set earlier in the season, by winning 16 straight games, outdueling Johnson for his 14th straight win in one of the top moments of the first season for Boston’s Fenway Park.
Wood had three starts in the 1912 World Series, all against New York spitballer Jeff Tesreau, Wood won the first two of these games, giving the Red Sox a lead of two games to one. The Red Sox pulled within a win of the championship the next day when rookie Hugh Bedient defeated Mathewson and the Giants by a score of 2-1. Rube Marquard kept New York alive with a 5-2 win in the sixth game, the second win of the Series for Marquard, but Boston then had Wood back on the mound with a chance to finish off the Giants, However, Wood faltered and was knocked out after one inning, The Giants jumped on him for six runs, four of them earned, on their way to an 11-4 win that tied the Series at three games each,
In a syndicated (and most likely ghostwritten) column written after the game, Tesreau admitted that, even though he had won, “It was one of the worst games of ball that I ever pitched since I have been with the Giants, but I was lucky to go up against Joe Wood when he was worse, lots worse, than I was. The boys deserve all the credit for the victory, and not me, They batted Wood to a fare-thee-well in the first inning.”1
“Wood could not have gotten by in a bush league on a dark day with what he had yesterday,” wrote Giants second baseman Larry Doyle in his column, “He did not have anything on the ball and, when he tried to send up his fast one, you could count the stitches on the seams, Perhaps it was the cold weather that affected his pitching, but I think that he has a bad arm.”2 Doyle speculated that Wood’s arm problems went back to the fifth inning of the fourth game, at the Polo Grounds in New York, “It will be recalled that it was after the fifth that we began to hit him.”
Other speculation was that Wood was fine and that, after having worked only an inning in the seventh game, he would be the choice of Boston player-manager Jake Stahl to start the eighth and decisive game, Stahl kept the choice to himself until game time, having both Wood and Bedient warm up, John McGraw was even more coy, as he paraded out four hurlers – Mathewson, Marquard, Tesreau, and Leon “Red” Ames, Finally, just before the 3 P.M. start, the skippers announced their starters as Bedient and Mathewson, who was still looking for his first win in the Series, (In addition to his earlier loss to Bedient, Mathewson had pitched all 11 innings in the second-game tie.)
Despite the significance of the game, Fenway Park was far from full, The chilly weather and strong northerly winds, which blew diagonally across the field, were partially responsible for the large number of empty seats although a dispute between the Royal Rooters and Red Sox management was also a factor, The Rooters – who had been prominent during Boston’s 1903 championships – felt slighted after being denied tickets the previous day, and boycotted the final game.3
The official attendance has been recorded as 17,034, although the Boston Daily Globe reported the attendance as “the smallest of any game of the series, probably less than 23,000.”4
Both pitchers were strong in the early innings, with both overcoming errors made behind them, In the top of the first, Bedient issued a two-out walk to Fred Snodgrass, who tried to steal second on the second pitch to Red Murray, Catcher Forrest “Hick” Cady’s throw beat Snodgrass to second by a wide margin, but shortstop Heinie Wagner dropped the throw, Bedient then retired Murray on a grounder to third baseman Larry Gardner, who cut in front of Wagner to snare the ball and fired to first, where Stahl held on to the throw, despite being knocked over by a feet-first slide by Murray, In the bottom of the first, Mathewson retired the first two batters before Speaker singled to right and then tried to stretch it to a double, Josh Devore’s throw was in time, and umpire Cy Rigler called Speaker out but reversed his decision when he saw that second baseman Larry Doyle had dropped the ball, Duffy Lewis then struck out to end the inning.
With two out in the top of the second, Chief Meyers, trying to get out of the way of a pitch, instead made contact with his bat and dribbled the ball down the third-base line, right through Gardner’s legs, On by the error, Meyers went to second on a single to center by Artie Fletcher, and made it to third on another error by Gardner, With Mathewson at bat, Cady fired a pickoff throw to second, Meyers took off and was safe at third when Gardner dropped the throw from Wagner, Fletcher advanced to second on the play but both runners were stranded when Speaker hauled in Mathewson’s long fly to center.
Mathewson gave up his first walk of the Series, to Gardner leading off the last of the second inning, After Stahl forced Gardner at second, Wagner lined a single to left, prompting John McGraw to begin warming up three pitchers, Mathewson sat the would-be relievers back down by retiring the next two batters.
Boston broke through in the third as Devore walked – prompting warm-up activity from Wood and Ray Collins – and made it to third on groundouts by Doyle and Snodgrass, Red Murray then hit a long drive to left-center, Speaker made a great attempt at a catch, but the ball grazed off his fingertips for a run-scoring double,
Now holding a lead, Mathewson retired the Red Sox in order in the third, fourth, and fifth (although he allowed a one-out double in the fourth to Gardner, who was thrown out at third on the play as he tried for an extra base when his hit got away from Snodgrass), In the fifth, Mathewson needed only three pitches to dispose of Wagner, Cady, and Bedient, all on flies to the outfield.
Boston threatened with two out in the sixth, With SteveYerkes and third and Lewis at first, Lewis took off for second in an attempt to induce a double steal, The Giants saw it coming, though, Mathewson – in what today would be called a pitchout – delivered a pitch wide of the plate, Meyers fired toward second with the hope of luring Yerkes off third, The play was successful as Yerkes started to break for home, only to have Mathewson intercept Meyers’ throw and make a snap toss to third baseman Buck Herzog, who applied the tag before Yerkes could get back to the base.
The Giants tried to pad their lead, but Bedient kept his team close, Herzog led off the fourth inning with a drive to left that appeared to be good for three bases, However, the ball rolled into a triangular runway between two sets of bleachers in left field and a ground rule – in place because it wasn’t possible for a fielder to make a throw toward the infield from this area – held him to a double, Meyers sacrificed Herzog to third, but Fletcher popped out and Mathewson flied out to end the inning.
In the fifth, after Devore led off with a single and was caught stealing, Doyle hit a long drive to right but was robbed of a possible home run by Harry Hooper, who made a great running catch in front of the low fence.
Bedient was unfazed by another Boston error in the seventh, this one by Stahl, who let drop a foul popup by Mathewson, who then singled to center, Devore was unsuccessful in a sacrifice attempt, however, forcing Mathewson at second, Bedient retired Doyle and Snodgrass to end the inning.
With one out in the last of the seventh, Stahl hit a soft fly to left-center that dropped between Fletcher, Murray, and Snodgrass, Standing on first, the Boston manager decided on his next moves, He signaled to the right-field corner for Joe Wood to resume warming up, then to the dugout for Olaf Henriksen to get ready to hit for Bedient, who was due up two batters later, Stahl went to second as Wagner walked, and both runners held as Cady popped out, leaving it up to Henriksen, a left-handing-hitting Dane who had had a batting average of .321 in 37 games during the regular season, Mathewson got two strikes on Henriksen, then missed with the next two to even the count, Henriksen hit the next pitch down the third-base line into left field for a double that brought home Stahl and sent Wagner to third, Hooper flied out to end the inning but the tying run was in, and the Red Sox had their ace, Joe Wood, on the mound to start the eighth.
Wood allowed a two-out baserunner in each of his first two innings while Mathewson gave up a one-out double to Stahl in the ninth, No runs were scored, though, and the game went into extra innings.
In the tenth with one out, Red Murray doubled over Speaker’s head, the ball bouncing into the bleachers, and raced home with the go-ahead run when Fred Merkle lined a single to center. Merkle took second as Speaker fumbled the ball for Boston’s fifth error of the game, Herzog struck out, and Meyers was thrown out at first by Wood after having lined the pitch off the Red Sox hurler’s hand.
The Giants took the field in the bottom of the tenth holding a 2-1 lead, The first batter Mathewson faced was Clyde Engle, a pinch-hitter for Wood, Wood was being lifted not because of a lack of hitting ability – he had produced a batting average of .290 during the regular season and later moved to the outfield after arm and shoulder problems ending his pitching career – but because of the injury to his hand caused by Meyers’s batted ball in the top of the inning.
Engle lifted a fly to right-center, Snodgrass called off Murray and camped under the fly, only to have the ball bounce out of his glove and dribble to the ground. Engle pulled into second on the error. Hooper tried unsuccessfully to sacrifice Engle to third, then swung away and it looked as if he would bring in the tying run with a shot to deep left-center, But Snodgrass, who had just muffed an easy fly, corralled Hooper’s ball with a running catch, Engle, expecting the ball to drop safely, was unable to get back to the base in time to tag up and advance and thus had to hold at second, Yerkes walked, putting the winning run on base and bringing up Speaker.
Fred Snodgrass of the New York Giants made a crucial error in the 10th inning of Game Eight. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
Mathewson got Boston’s best hitter to pop up in foul territory, an easy play for first baseman Fred Merkle, However, Merkle hesitated, thinking that Meyers would be able to reach the ball, But the Giants catcher, charging up the line, was unable to get to the popup, which fell safely in foul territory, Given another chance, Speaker lined a hit to right field, bringing in Engle to tie the game as Yerkes hustled to third.
New York pulled the infield in as Mathewson kept his pitches low, hoping to get Lewis to beat one into the ground, But Lewis refused to swing at the low pitches and drew a walk. Mathewson again tried keeping the ball low to Gardner but fell behind in the count, With the bases loaded, Mathewson could not issue another walk, His next pitch was on the inside corner, well above the knee, Gardner made good contact with a long fly to right.
Boston fans began to cheer as soon as the ball was hit, sure that it would be deep enough to bring in Yerkes from third, Devore caught the ball and heaved it home, However, the throw was both off target and too late to stop the winning run from scoring,
The Royal Rooters were not present with their band to lead the procession across the field, but there was great joy among the fans at Fenway Park as their cheered their champions.
Christy Mathewson failed to win a game during this World Series, During the regular season, though, he had recorded his 300th win, and would register 61 more to finish his career with 372 (a total that would rise to 373 in the late 1950s when it was found that he had an additional win that had not been recorded in 1902).
His counterpart in the eighth game, Hugh Bedient, had won 20 games during his rookie season in 1912 but did not reach that level again, He pitched two more years with the Red Sox before producing a 16-18 won-loss record with Buffalo in the Federal League in 1915.
The New York Giants under John McGraw played in six more World Series, winning two of them, while the Red Sox went on to win three more world championships during the decade, all with the help of a great left-handed pitcher, Babe Ruth, Ruth moved to the outfield, switching his focus to slugging instead of hurling, and played on four more World Series champion teams, However, all were in New York as he had been sold to the Yankees by the Red Sox before the 1920 season.
T.H. Murnane, “Boston Now Supreme in Baseball World,” Boston Daily Globe, October 17, 1912, 1.
1 Charles “Jeff” Tesreau, “Sox on Run, Says Tesreau,” Boston Daily Globe, October 16, 1912, 12.
2 Larry Doyle, “Doyle Says Wood Hadn’t Even Speed,” Boston Daily Globe, October 16, 1912, 12.
3 “Sox Champions on Muffed Fly,” New York Times, October 17, 1912, 6.
4 “Red Sox Take the Championship,” Boston Daily Globe, October 16, 1912, 1.