Lynch: Who’s on first? The farce that helped the Pirates set a record

From SABR member Mike Lynch at The National Pastime Museum on April 17, 2014:

On the morning of October 4, 1902, the Pittsburgh Pirates stood among the all-time great teams with 102 wins, only one victory from setting a new Major League record for wins in a single season. Only Boston’s Beaneaters of 1892 and 1898 had won as many, and the Pirates needed only to cop their final game of the ’02 campaign to become the first Major League team with 103 wins.

They’d get the record after beating the Cincinnati Reds, 11–2, but only after eight and a half innings of ball that was described as “farcical” and “disgraceful,” and had Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss accusing the Reds of unbecoming conduct. “Treated as a game of ball the story isn’t worth 10 lines,” wrote the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Reds had very little to play for. They sat firmly in fourth place with a record of 70 wins, 69 losses, and one tie. They were 32 ½ games out of first place with only one game left on their schedule. In fact, except for the Pirates, who were 27 games ahead of their nearest competitor, the Brooklyn Superbas, none of the National League teams had anything to play for.

Yet, despite a baseball diamond muddied by a steady overnight rain that was still a drizzle at noon, Dreyfuss insisted the contest be played as soon as the storm passed and his groundskeepers got the field in shape. The magnate badly wanted the wins record and was willing to do what it took to get the game in the books. The mound and home plate areas were covered by heavy canvas, and the Pittsburgh Press opined, “The field was heavy, but many a game has been played at Exposition Park when the diamond was just as soft.”

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 17, 2014. Last Updated: April 17, 2014.