Felber: Good vs. evil in Beaneaters vs. Orioles, 1897

From SABR member Bill Felber at The National Pastime Museum on February 4, 2015:

The September 27, 1897, Beaneaters–Orioles matchup was as much a morality play as a game. The home-standing Baltimore Orioles, winners of the three most-recent National League pennants, were known league-wide for their underhanded style of play. “The dirtiest ball ever seen in this country.” That’s what Boston Globe sportswriter Tim Murnane, one of the most famous reporters of the age, accused the Orioles of playing. The Orioles rarely bothered to deny the charge; indeed, they sometimes appeared to revel in it. “In professional baseball, one must concede nothing,” Orioles third baseman John McGraw rationalized.

Orioles fans didn’t mind the abuse; their heroes’ approach to winning by methods fair or underhanded had brought the city pennants in 1894, 1895, and 1896. On the morning of September 27, 1897, however, the question of a fourth straight championship remained in doubt. The Orioles led by one percentage point, .704 to .703, over their opponents that afternoon at Union Grounds, the Boston Beaneaters, the teams having split the series’ first two games. The Beaneaters presented, in the public mindset, a perfect contrast to the Orioles. They won without (usually) relying on underhanded means, brawling, or intimidation. They were also the only team with the pedigree to stop the Orioles, having won the 1891, 1892, and 1893 pennants.

On the eve of the series opener, the Pittsburgh Dispatch editorial page writer attached national significance to the outcome. “The most important point from a national standpoint is the superiority of the Bostons over the Baltimores as gentlemen,” he wrote. A Boston victory, in other words, was not only desirable from a baseball sense, but it was imperative to prevent the nation’s cultural decline.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/good-vs-evil

Originally published: February 5, 2015. Last Updated: February 5, 2015.