1903 World Series

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The 1903 World Series, the first modern World Series to be played in Major League Baseball, matched the Boston Americans against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a best-of-nine series, with Boston prevailing five games to three, winning the last four.

Pittsburgh pitcher Sam Leever injured his shoulder while trap-shooting, so his teammate Deacon Phillippe had to pitch five complete games for Pittsburgh. Phillippe won three of his games, but it was not enough to overcome the club from the new American League. Boston pitchers Bill Dinneen and Cy Young led Boston to victory.

In Game 1, Phillippe set a World Series record by striking out ten Boston batters. That record lasted barely one day, as Dinneen struck out eleven Pittsburgh batters in Game 2.

Honus Wagner, bothered by injuries, batted only 6 for 27 (.222) in the Series and committed six errors. The shortstop was deeply distraught by his performance. The following spring, Wagner (who led the league in 1903 in batting average) refused to send his portrait to a "Hall of Fame" for batting champions. "I was too bum last year," he wrote. "I was a joke in that Boston-Pittsburgh Series. What does it profit a man to hammer along and make a few hits when they are not needed only to fall down when it comes to a pinch? I would be ashamed to have my picture up now."[1]

In this World Series, the Boston Americans came back from a three games to one deficit, winning the final four games (in a best-of-nine Series rather than the now standard best-of-seven). Such a comeback would not happen again until the Pirates came back to defeat the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series, and has happened only ten times in baseball history. The Pirates repeated this feat in 1979 against the Baltimore Orioles.

Much was made of the influence of Boston's "Royal Rooters", who traveled to Pittsburgh and sang their theme song "Tessie" to distract the opposing players (especially Honus Wagner). Boston would end up winning three out of the four games at Pittsburgh.

The Pirates' benevolent owner Barney Dreyfuss added his share of the gate receipts to the players' share, so the losing team's players actually finished with a larger individual share than the winning team's.

The Series brought the new American League prestige and proved its best could beat the best of the National League, thus strengthening the demand for future World Series competitions.


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