MLB

Dodgers, Red Sox meet in rematch from 1916

17 Comments

When you think of all of the history surrounding both the Dodgers and the Red Sox franchises, it’s rather amazing that they haven’t met in the World Series many, many times. That they haven’t is mostly a function of bad luck and bad timing.

The bad luck involved Los Angeles and Boston making the playoffs 19 and 17 times, respectively since the advent of division play yet, somehow, never getting through to the Fall Classic in the same year. When you have anywhere between four and ten playoff teams, stuff just has to break just right, I suppose, and it’s never broken right for these venerable franchises at the same time in the last half century.

The bad timing involved the franchises’ respective peaks during the pre-divisional era. During that period, the Dodgers were at their peak between the 1940s and the mid-1960s, winning 11 pennants in 26 seasons. They faced the Yankees in eight of those World Series because the Yankees were, well, the Yankees. The Red Sox only won one pennant in that span, losing the World Series to the Cardinals in 1946 and were particularly bad during the Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale era, finishing no better than fifth, and often worse, between 1959 and 1966, when the Dodgers won four pennants.

In contrast, the Red Sox were at their best during the Dead Ball Era, winning five American League Pennants — and five World Series titles, I might add — between 1903 and 1918. During that time the ancestors of the Dodgers finished in the second division in all but two seasons and only won one pennant. That one pennant, however, came in 1916, when they faced the Red Sox in World Series for the first and only time before things get underway Tuesday night.

Things were pretty different back then, obviously. For one thing the Dodgers weren’t even the Dodgers yet. At least not permanently. They went by the Dodgers moniker in 1911 and 1912, switched to their pre-1911 name, the Brooklyn Superbas for a year but then in 1914 switched to the Brooklyn Robins, after their manager, Wilbert Robinson, which they would keep until calling themselves the Dodgers once again, and forever, in the 1932 season. If you weren’t aware, nicknames were pretty fluid back then. I’ll also observe that “Subperbas” is a fantastic team nickname.

During the Series the Robins played their home games in the same field they called home in the regular season and for every season until they left for California in 1958: Ebbets Field. The Red Sox’ home games were not played in the then-new Fenway Park, however. They played their World Series games in Braves’ Field, home of the Boston Braves, because it had a larger seating capacity. Indeed, the 43,620 in attendance for Game 5 of the Series was both a record for any Series game at the time and still stands today as the largest home crowd to ever see the Red Sox play a World Series game. Fenway Park will hold only around 38,000 to this day.

There are obviously some things with which a person sent back in time to 1916 could connect, however. Chiefly its two biggest stars: Babe Ruth and Casey Stengel.

Ruth, of course, was a pitcher then, not a renowned slugger. Stengel was a 26-year-outfielder and not a crusty old manager. Stengel had four hits in the five-game series. That that tied him with a few of his teammates for the most hits on the Robins tells you just how dead the ball really was, at least when they were up to bat against the Red Sox’ formidable pitching staff. For his part Ruth appeared in only one game, Game 2, and did not get a hit, but after giving up a first inning run as the game’s starter, he shut Brooklyn out for the next 13 frames, leading the Sox to a 14-inning 2-1 victory.  That game was a long one for the time too: two hours and thirty-two minutes. Imagine such a thing!

As for the rest of it:

  • Game 1 was not as close as its 6-5 score for most of the contest, as the Robins plated four in the ninth but the Sox held on;
  • Game 3 went to Brooklyn, thanks in part to two and two-thirds innings of hitless relief from Jeff Pfeffer who, I suppose, was like a 1916 Josh Hader;
  • Brooklyn appeared like they might make a series out of it in Game 4, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead but were held scoreless for the rest of the way, with a three-run inside-the-park homer from Larry Gardner giving Boston the margin it needed; and
  • Brooklyn would scratch out only three hits in the deciding Game 5, as Boston took its fourth World Series title in the then 13-year history of the Fall Classic.

While Ruth’s Game 2 performance was something to behold both at the time and remains so from 102 years in the future, the whole thing was not all that memorable, truth be told. We’ll begin to find out Tuesday if these two can make their rematch a bit more memorable.

No, New York players do not get an unfair bump in Hall of Fame voting

Getty Images
17 Comments

Angels owner Arte Moreno said something interesting yesterday. He was talking about the retired former Angel, Garret Anderson, and said “If he would have played in New York, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”

The initial — and, I would add, the most on-point — response to this is to note that, for however good a player Anderson was at times, no definition of the term “Hall of Famer” really encompasses his legacy. He was OK. Pretty good on occasion. Nowhere near a Hall of Famer, and I don’t think you need me to go over the math to establish that. The only way Anderson would ever sniff the Hall of Fame one day is if we sent Tony La Russa back in time to manage him for several years and then brought him back from the past to strong-arme the Veterans Committee.

The more interesting question to me is the matter implied in Moreno’s comment: that players in New York get an unfair boost when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I get why he might say that and I get why people might believe it. New York gets all the press. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere and, my God, people in New York will not let you forget it for a second. East Coast Bias™ and all of that.

Except it’s baloney, at least as far as the Hall of Fame goes.

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, if you play in New York, your reputation gets elevated more than if you played elsewhere, but I think there are limits to that what that elevation gets you. You’re more famous if you knock in 100 as the third-best guy on a Yankees team or if you are involved in a notable game or series or controversy as a Met, but it doesn’t mean you get some extra helping hand from the BBWAA five years after you retire.

At least one guy I know, Adam Darowski, has taken a rough look at this on the numbers. He has determined that, by at least his measure, Yankees players are the fourth most underrepresented contingent in Hall of Fame voting. Red Sox are fifth. Mets are in the middle of the pack. It may be more useful to think of this without reference to any numbers, though, and look at it in terms of who is and who isn’t getting some sort of unfair bump.

If there was a New York Premium to Hall of Fame consideration, wouldn’t Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris, Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and a bunch of other guys of that caliber get more support than they’ve historically gotten? I’m not saying all of those guys deserve to be in the Hall, but they all have better cases than Garret Anderson and none of them got in or appear to be getting in any time soon. They are close enough on the merits that, one would think anyway, an aura of New Yorkness surrounding them would have carried them over the line, but it never did.

Meanwhile, almost all of the most borderline Hall of Famers are old, old, old timers who were either poorly assessed by the Veterans Committee or who had the good fortune of being good friends with Frankie Frisch. Again, not a ton of Yankees make that cut. A whole lot of Giants do, but I suppose that’s another conversation. The questionable Hall of Famers of more recent vintage represent guys from all over the big league map. The only Yankee I can think of in relatively recent years who raised eyebrows was Catfish Hunter, and I suspect more of that was based on his legacy with the A’s than with the Yankees, where he really only had one great season.

Here’s what I think happens, practically, with New York players: If you play in New York, merely good and notable performance makes you huge in the moment and in casual remembrance, but your historical legacy is often written down a bit as a function of overall team success. Also — or, maybe, alternatively — it’s a matter of every good Yankees era being defined by such a big meagstar — Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Jeter — that the really good, even Hall of Fame-worthy guys who played with them are overlooked to some degree. Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks even worse for them because their megastar teammate is, thanks to the rings, in some ways getting elevated by team success while the lesser stars are denigrated because of it.

Which is not to say that we should cry for New York players. Paul O’Neill will never have to pay for a steak dinner in Manhattan for the rest of his life and, thanks to all of his friends in the press, Andy Pettitte’s obituary won’t mention his PED use at all while Barry Bonds’ obit will mention it in the first graf. It’s getting to the point where if you can simply avoid infamy and not suck for a five-year stretch you can get your number retired and a place in Monument Park.

But New York players aren’t getting unfair consideration in Hall of Fame voting. Indeed, I think they’re probably getting graded a bit too harshly.