Credit: Greg M. Cooper

Red Sox B.C. (Before the Curse): The 1918 World Series

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Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States of America. The average price of an American home was $6,715.  The average car cost $360 and the average salary for the American worker was $875.  The Pop-Up toaster was invented and Congress established times zones and daylights savings time.  The year: 1918.  Also in this year, the Boston Red Sox clinched the World Series in Fenway Park; the Sox have not clinched a World Series at home since then.  Tonight, they have the opportunity to deliver an experience to the fans of Boston that only a tiny amount of Red Sox fans have experienced before.

In 1918, Major League Baseball cut the regular season short because of the U.S. involvement in World War I and the ’18 World Series remains the only series that took place entirely during September.

The American League representative, Boston, finished the shortened year with a record of 75-51 and finished 2.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians.  The Sox were led by the household names of Stuffy McInnis, Amos Strunk, Carl Mays, Hall of Famer Harry Hooper, and a 23-year old kid from Baltimore, Babe Ruth.

Although primarily a pitcher, Ruth played 57 games in the outfield during the season, mainly because his bat was too powerful not to have in the lineup.  He led the league with 11 homers on a team that hit 15 as a collective group.  As  a hurler he finished with a strong stat line of 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA while completing 18 of the 19 games he started.

On the National League side, the Chicago Cubs (84-45) finished 10.5 games ahead of the New York Giants.  The Cubs did not have many superstars on their team, although Grove Cleveland Alexander was on the roster, though he was hurt for the Series.  Fred Merkle was arguably their best position player, though his name will forever be known for one of the biggest blunders in baseball history.  The ace of the staff, lefty Hippo Vaughn, finished the season with a 22-10 record with a minuscule 1.74 ERA.

Game 1 was played on September 5th at Comisky Park in Chicago because it could seat more spectators than Wrigley Field (19,274 fans showed up).  The Red Sox came away with a 1-0 victory as Ruth pitched the shutout.

Game 2 was claimed by the Cubs as their pitcher, Lefty Tyler knocked in two runs and pitched a complete game.  Game 3, still at Comisky Park because of wartime restrictions on travel,  went to the Red Sox 2-1.  Interestingly enough, the game ended when Cubs player Charlie Pick was caught in a rundown while trying to score on a passed ball. (The 2013 series has had some interesting finishes as well).

The series returned to Boston for Game 4 and the Red Sox took a 3-1 series lead after scoring two runs on a passed ball and a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth.  Ruth earned his second win of the series and even batted sixth, the highest in a batting order that a starting pitcher has batted in any World Series game.

On September 10th, the Cubs cut the Red Sox series lead to 3-2 following a 3-0 shutout behind the arm of Vaughn.

On Wednesday September 11, 1918, 15,238 “crammed” into Fenway hoping to see the Sox clinch the championship.  Carl Mays pitched a gem and two unearned runs in the third were enough for Boston to claim the game 2-1 and the series 4-2.

The Red Sox only scored nine runs in the entire series, a record low for an eventual champion.  They also hit .186 as a team (they’re hitting .205 as a team in this years’ Series. The winning player’s share was $1,103; last year the San Francisco Giants received $377,003 each for winning the World Series.

There has since been substantial research into the accusation that the 1918 World Series was fixed.  A 2009 book by Sean Deveney The Original Curse explores this. Recently a transcript from the 1919 Black Sox trial from the testimony of Eddie Cicotte, suggests that several Cubs players threw the 1918 Series. We will probably never know for sure.

Following the 1919 season , Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee, sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000.  The Curse of the Bambino began and the Red Sox did not win another World Series until 2004.  They won again in 2007, but both of those wins were on the road.  This year, the Red Sox look to discard the Cardinals and give the home crowd a championship celebration that has been 95 years in making.

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Tags: 2013 World Series Boston Red Sox MLB Playoffs

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