Prior to the start of Game Two of the 1918 World Series, Fred Mitchell, manager of the National League pennant-winning Chicago Cubs, recalled George “Lefty” Tyler’s previous World Series appearance. Mitchell earned his current position at the helm of the Cubs from successful work with his pitchers, especially Tyler, during his tenure in Boston. During Game Three of the 1914 World Series, he watched as Tyler surrendered four earned runs in 10 innings. Though Tyler failed to record the win, the Braves outlasted Philadelphia Athletics starting pitcher Bullet Joe Bush by plating the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning to claim a 3-0 Series lead. The two pitchers matched up again nearly four years later with Tyler donning the Cubs’ home whites and Bush the Boston Red Sox’ road grays.
With war raging across Europe, the escalating international conflict cast a dark shadow over the 1918 season. Major-league club owners debated whether the regular season should end in early September .1 Ban Johnson, the president of the American League, contemplated opening dialogue with President Woodrow Wilson’s administration for guidance about baseball’s role.2 Ultimately, the issue was decided by Secretary of War Newton Diehl Baker Jr., who ruled in late July that major-league players were officially exempt from the government’s “work or fight” mandate until September 1. The season would end then and be followed immediately by the World Series.3 In the shortened season, the Cubs won the National League pennant with a record of 84-45 with 2 ties after 131 games, 10½ games ahead of John McGraw’s New York Giants (71-53).4
Winning four World Series in four chances (1903, 1912, 1915, and 1916), the Red Sox owned more championships than any other major-league team. The Cubs were looking for their third World Series title after securing the franchise’s fifth pennant. The Cubs had earned both previous championships more than a decade earlier (1907 and 1908).
In addition to the World Series opening on its earliest date, the best-of-seven format would change to eliminate unnecessary rail travel.5 The Series would open with three games in Chicago and the final four games (if necessary) in Boston. The Cubs’ home since 1916, Weeghman Park, was not capable of accommodating more than 16,000 spectators; all games in Chicago would relocate to the South Side’s American League venue, Comiskey Park. With a seating capacity of 30,000, Charles Comiskey’s ballpark previously hosted three games of the 1917 World Series between the White Sox and Giants.6
On Thursday, September 5, the Red Sox won the World Series opener behind George Herman “Babe” Ruth’s six-hit, 1-0 shutout. The Cubs needed to win Game Two if they wanted to seize a Series lead before games shifted to Fenway Park. Tyler knew that Chicago’s hopes rested on his 28-year-old left arm. During his debut season with the Cubs, Tyler won 19 games and lost 8, and compiled a radiant 2.00 ERA in 269⅓ innings. He wrestled with control issues as a Boston neophyte, but when Mitchell became the Braves’ pitching coach, Tyler blossomed.7 When asked about his rotation, Mitchell said, “The pitching staff is what has carried the Cubs through a successful season, and will, I hope, enable them to still retain the championship of the world in the city of Chicago.”8
At game time, Chicago’s temperatures reached the mid-60s and the ballpark was only two-thirds full. Despite the demand for greater seating capacity, only 20,040 fans passed through Comiskey Park’s turnstiles for the game.
Tyler opened the game by walking Harry Hooper, the Red Sox right fielder, on five pitches. He discovered his groove against Dave Shean and fanned the second baseman. Home-plate umpire George Hildebrand called Shean out for interference with Cubs catcher Bill Killefer, and Killefer doubled off Hooper attempting to swipe second base. Amos Strunk popped up to shortstop Charlie Deal to retire the side.
Bush, despite yielding a leadoff single to right fielder Max Flack, successfully navigated the bottom of the first. Bush nailed Flack advancing to second on a Hollocher groundball back to the mound. Center fielder Strunk intentionally dropped Les Mann’s fly ball and nailed Charlie Hollocher for the second out attempting to advance to second. Center fielder Dode Paskert ended the inning by flying out to left field.
In the second, the Red Sox’s first two batters reached base: George Whiteman walked and when Stuffy McInnis bunted, batterymates Tyler and Killefer collided. Everett Scott’s sacrifice moved both runners to scoring position. Second baseman Charlie Pick fielded Fred Thomas’s groundball and nailed Whiteman racing for home. Tyler escaped the inning with no runs scoring by inducing Sam Agnew to pop out to Flack in foul territory down the right-field line.
Chicago’s first baseman, Fred Merkle, labeled for an absent-minded play 10 years earlier that cost his Giants the pennant, walked to lead off the Cubs’ second.9 Pick beat out a bunt toward third base. With runners on first and second, Deal, the Cubs third baseman, popped out to Shean at second. Killefer slammed Bush’s pitch into right field, plating Merkle to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead and advancing Pick to third.
During his first regular season with the Cubs, Tyler had 21 hits in 100 at-bats with 8 RBIs. In the 1914 World Series, he had three plate appearances against Bush and failed to get a hit. This time, with two runners in scoring position, Tyler singled to center field driving home Pick and Killefer. Strunk’s throw to the plate was too late to nail Killefer, but Agnew’s relay to Shean nabbed Tyler advancing to second. The Cubs led, 3-0. Flack singled with two outs, but Shean ended the rally when he tagged Flack on an attempted steal.
Tempers erupted after the inning. Rather than vent his frustration toward the umpires, Red Sox coach Heinie Wagner, spewed venom at Tyler and Cubs coach Otto Knabe. Knabe, who loved to dispute during his playing days, accepted Wagner’s challenge. As a player, Knabe’s trademark was his trickiness and aggressiveness, and he seemingly could not take the field without wrangling with one of his opponents.10 Words turned to fists as the two coaches approached the Cubs’ dugout.11 Cubs pitcher Claude Hendrix and teammates separated Knabe and Wagner.12 The two teams rapidly doused the skirmish with the sole result being “a badly soiled uniform for Wagner.”13
From the third inning through the eighth, Tyler and Bush hung zeros on the scoreboard. Bush allowed only four baserunners during those innings. Merkle reached base on an error in the fourth and advanced to second, but failed to score. Hollocher started the sixth inning with a triple, but was thrown out at the plate on Paskert’s grounder. Bush walked two in the bottom of the seventh, but kept the Cubs scoreless.
Tyler matched his mound counterpart’s production. He walked Bush in the third, but ended the frame unscathed. Bush again reached first in the fifth, on an infield error, but failed to advance beyond the initial sack. Shean singled and failed to score in the sixth, and Wally Schang and Hooper singled in the eighth. For those six innings, the Cubs hurler did not allow a runner to advance beyond second base.
Needing only three outs to even the Series at a game apiece, Tyler surrendered a leadoff triple to Strunk in the ninth. Boston finally ended the shutout when Whiteman also tripled. Whiteman held at third when McInnis grounded out to Tyler. Tyler walked Scott to place runners on the corners. Red Sox manager Ed Barrow inserted Jean Dubuc as a pinch-hitter for Thomas, but Tyler fanned him for the second out. Schang popped out to shortstop to end the game.
“Today’s game was a tough one to lose, especially as we nearly broke it up in the ninth inning,” said Barrow. “The Cubs had the better of the breaks, I think, and piled up a lead in the second inning too great for us to overcome.”14
Mitchell expressed relief. “We are on even terms with Boston,” he said. “The Cubs certainly recovered their batting eye, and they are confident of retaining it. Tyler pitched a wonderful game, and never was in danger, except in the ninth, when he grooved them over for Strunk and Whiteman. Those two triples saved Boston from a shutout.”15
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and SABR.org.
1 “World’s Series Planned,” Boston Post, July 27, 1918.
2 “May Ask President,” Boston Post, July 20, 1918.
3 Peter Golenbock, Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 172.
4 Chicago Tribune Staff, The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-by-Decade History (Midway: Chicago, 2017), 37.
5 James Crusinberry, “Cubs May Play Red Sox Squad on South Side,” Chicago Tribune, August 25, 1918.
6 “Open Series in Comiskey Park,” Decatur (Illinois) Herald, August 29, 1918.
7 Sean Deveney, The Original Curse: Did the Cubs Throw the 1918 World Series to Babe Ruth’s Red Sox and Incite the Black Sox Scandal? (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010), 64.
8 Fred Mitchell, “The Strength of the Cub Machine: Why I Believe We Are Capable of Making a Powerful Bid for the World’s Championship,” Baseball Magazine, Volume 21, Issue 6, (October 1918): 463.
9 “Fred Merkle has Succeeded in Living Down Famous Boner While With Giants,” Chicago Eagle, August 3, 1918.
10 “Knabe’s Famous Rough Tactics,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 8, 1918.
11 Raymond Phelon, “Free-for-All Fight in World Series Battle,” St. Louis Star and Times, September 7, 1918.
12 “Cubs Check Foe in Second Game of Title Series,” New York Times, September 7, 1918.
13 I.E. Sanborn, “Drumfire Blows by Locals Force Foe to Retreat,” Chicago Tribune, September 7.
14 “Cubs’ Task Now Easier,” New York Times, September 7, 1918.