Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series

By Louis P. Masur

Page 66

Still, it would take one owner to go first and display an unselfish attitude in order for the player problem to be settled. That owner was Garry Herrmann. "I am here for peace," he said, "not because it is to the advantage of the Cincinnati Club from a financial standpoint, but because the people's pastime should be placed on a higher plane." With that, he relinquished any claim to Sam Crawford, the young Cincinnati lefty who, in 1901, hit 16 home runs and drove in 104 runs, but who had signed contracts with Detroit and Cincinnati for 1903. Barney Dreyfuss then offered to give up Jimmy Sebring, whom Detroit also claimed, but while Johnson applauded the spirit of compromise, he displayed his own magnanimity in ruling that Sebring belonged to the Pirates. As a result of that ruling, Sebring would make history in the first World Series.

One by one, the delegates settled the cases of the fifteen players who were in dispute. A scorecard would show that American League teams were awarded eight players and National League clubs seven, but the numbers were deceptive. Some of the best players of the day, future Hall of Earners Delahanty, Davis, Crawford, and Willie Keeler, ended up in the American League, along with solid stars such as Kid Elberfeld and Bill Donovan. Others, such as Lajoie, were not considered in doubt by the conference and therefore remained where they were. Wid Conroy and Doc White rounded out the eight players awarded to the American League. The National League retained only two outright stars: Christy Mathewson, a remarkable talent, and Pirate Tommy Leach, considered by some "the greatest third baseman in the country." Vic Willis, Harry Smith, Frank Bowerman, Jack Warner, and Rudy Hulswitt comprised the rest.

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In Philadelphia, Connie Mack's A's were coming back from a season in which they had won 83 games and the pennant. The team featured Rube Waddell and Eddie Plank, two of the best left-handed pitchers in the game. They were joined by an eighteen-year-old who was poised to make his professional debutóChief Bender, a Chippewa Indian who was born in Minnesota and pitched at Dickinson College. Detroit was also the focus of some attention, in large part because of a press agent who accompanied the team and issued reports that had the Tigers playing in midsummer form with the batters regularly "knocking the ball away over the fence and some distance into Texas." As a result of the peace settlement, the team had acquired outfielder Sam Crawford, only twenty-three years old and already a star. "Wild" Bill Donovan, coming over from Brooklyn, promised to fill the hole created by the suicide of pitcher Win Mercer. And Kid Elberfeld, starting his third year with Detroit, was a sleek young shortstop.

The Tigers were the only American League team not to have lost a game in March. But no one really attached much importance to the outcomes of spring contests. When the Pirates lost 2-1 to the Little Rock Southern League team, in part because the players decided to swing for the fences rather than work together to manufacture runs, supporters thought "the defeat coming as it did was the best thing that could have happened." One writer put it this way: "no correct line of a ball player's ability can be secured by watching him at practice or in exhibition games. It is not until the player is up against the real thing that his strong and weak points come to the surface." No one could know for sure what the teams and players would do until the games counted for something. During the first week of April, teams headed home from training camp. A few more exhibition series and the season would start for real.

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The Giants had someone else that day as well: McGraw played George Davis at short. The action violated the peace agreement that had awarded Davis back to the White Sox in the American League, and it threatened to unleash another war both between the leagues and within the National League, where the owners in Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis declared that they would refuse to play the Giants if Davis was in the lineup. John Brush, owner of the Giants, used the trade of Kid Elberfeld from Detroit to the New York Highlanders as the excuse to break the peace treaty. Brush despised the presence of a competing American League team in New York, and he argued that the personnel on that team had been set by the terms of the peace agreement. But the Giants owner was merely looking for an excuse to play Davis, especially now that the pennant race with the Pirates was so tight. He petitioned Harry Pulliam for permission, and the National League president granted it. Baseball fans, pleased with how the season was going, denounced Brush and Pulliam for hatching a "selfish and unscrupulous scheme to abrogate the peace agreement and renew the major league war."