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Series Opened Brave New World

Celebrating its 100th birthday, Fall Classic's image has changed, but basic rules have remained intact.

October 12, 2003|From Associated Press

The World Series celebrates its 100th birthday this month, the centennial of an event born in strife and destined to become the dramatic centerpiece of the October sports calendar.

Reggie Jackson's three home runs came in the World Series. So did Bill Mazeroski's championship-winning homer. And Carlton Fisk's non-winning homer, too.

Willie Mays' catch came in the World Series. So did Sandy Amoros' catch. And Bill Buckner's non-catch, too.

Don Larsen's perfect game came in the World Series. So did Jack Morris' 10-inning shutout. And Bob Gibson's 17-strikeout shutout, too.

This autumnal drama began in 1903, when horse-drawn carriages and handlebar mustaches dotted the American landscape. Baseball was not yet the national pastime, in fact, far-removed from that status, viewed as a game for transients and miscreants, the underbelly of society.

The players were a ragtag bunch, hard-drinking malingerers who could not hold a real job in a land that was just beginning to throw off its post-Civil War shackles, moving into the expansion and opportunity of the 20th century.

In a game whose basic rules -- nine innings, three outs, four balls, three strikes -- remained intact for a century, there was precious little stability. Instead, the game became the setting for a fierce battle between the National League, established in 1876, and the American League, created in 1900.

It set up a dandy donnybrook for the hearts and minds of fans.

When the AL went shopping for players, it started in the rival NL which had an ample supply of them only too anxious to jump to the new league, especially when its teams discarded the NL's $2,400 salary cap. Two hundred dollars per month was a substantial salary in those days. Add a hundred or so on top of that and players paid attention.

The exodus was led by a fistful of future Hall of Famers, some jumping back and forth, signing with the highest bidder. Soon, it became obvious that the leagues would have to reach some understanding or spend each other into oblivion. Peace was declared in January 1903, the Americans recognized as a separate and equal major league.

But the bad feelings still ran deep. In midsummer, Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, decided to spice things up with a challenge. He approached Henry Killilea, owner of the Boston Americans, and suggested a postseason series between the winners of the two league races.

Killilea was intrigued and relayed the challenge to Ban Johnson, the man who invented the American League and masterminded its challenge to the NL. Johnson signed off on the idea with one proviso.

"You must beat them," he told Killilea.

Together, Killilea and Dreyfuss then drew up the plans for baseball's first World Series. Tickets were 50 cents for the bleachers and $1 for the grandstand. Just to make sure everything was on the up-and-up, Boston pitching ace Cy Young helped count the gate receipts and was busy doing that when he was summoned to relieve in Game 3. He had been selling tickets at the Huntington Avenue Grounds before Game 2, a little added incentive for the walk-up crowd.

The promotion was a hit. An overflow crowd of 16,242 showed up for the opening game in this intriguing matchup between the two leagues. When over 18,000 fans arrived for Game 3 and spilled on to the field, police battled to hold back the unruly mob, using bats borrowed from the two teams to restore order.

This World Series business was catching on.

Pittsburgh was the prohibitive favorite, winner of NL titles in 1901 and 1902, equipped with a lineup that included one of the best players in the game, batting champion Honus Wagner. Boston had Young, who would win 511 games, more victories than anyone in history.

The Pirates won three of the first four games of the best-of-nine series and seemed poised to claim baseball's first world championship.

Then, suddenly, Boston came back on the strong arms of Bill Dinneen and Young to win the next five games and capture the Series. Ban Johnson's new league had delivered the victory he demanded.

Dinneen and Young pitched 69 of the 71 innings in the Series for Boston. Wagner batted just .222, with just one hit in the last four games for Pittsburgh.

The eight games were played over 13 days because of rain and travel. The winners received $1,182 each and the losers got $1,316.25 because Dreyfuss turned over his share of the gate receipts to the players.

If the 2003 World Series stretches over 13 days, the players would receive $994.50 -- in meal money.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

FIRST WORLD SERIES

Game-by-game rundown of the 1903 World Series:

* GAME 1: PITTSBURGH 7, BOSTON 3.

The Pirates stun Cy Young with four runs in the first inning. Deacon Phillippe strikes out 10, Jimmy Sebring drives in four runs and hits the first World Series home run.

* GAME 2: BOSTON 3, PITTSBURGH 0.

Boston draws even on Bill Dinneen's three-hitter, and two home runs by Patsy Dougherty.

* GAME 3: PITTSBURGH 4, BOSTON 2.

Phillippe wins his second game as the Pirates score three runs early and add a late run on an error by Young, who pitches in relief.

* GAME 4: PITTSBURGH 5, BOSTON 4.

With a day off for travel and a rainout, Phillippe returns on short rest and wins again, withstanding a three-run Boston rally in the ninth inning.

* GAME 5: BOSTON 11, PITTSBURGH 2.

Young and Brickyard Kennedy hook up in a scoreless duel broken up by a six-run Boston rally in the sixth inning.

* GAME 6: BOSTON 6, PITTSBURGH 3.

Pilgrims tie the Series as Dinneen wins again despite four hits by Ginger Beaumont, who drives in two runs and steals two bases.

* GAME 7: BOSTON 7, PITTSBURGH 3.

Five of Boston's 11 hits go for triples as the Pilgrims move within one game of the championship.

* GAME 8: BOSTON 3, PITTSBURGH 0.

Dinneen's second shutout clinches the title for Boston, despite the fifth complete game of the Series by arm-weary Phillippe.

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