|Seeking to become the first team since the 1885 to 1888 St. Louis Browns to sweep four straight ML pennants, Pittsburgh's dynasty ended with a thud. In 1904, John McGraw's New York Giants devoured the rest of the NL and set a new ML record with 106 victories.
But if McGraw and Giants owner John "Tooth" Brush expected their triumph would captivate New York, they were wrong. The pair faced stiff competition for the hearts of Gothamites from the upstart New York Highlanders, who had joined the AL the previous year. Ironically, McGraw and Brush had paved the way for a rival team in New York when they conspired to kill the Baltimore AL franchise, thinking it would sink the junior circuit. AL president Ban Johnson, however, thwarted their scheme by moving the Maryland team to the Big Apple and outbidding Charlie Comiskey to furnish it with his crafty pitcher-manager, Clark Griffith.
After finishing fourth in 1903, Griffith bagged Jack Powell in a trade to team with his mound ace, Jack Chesbro. The dynamic hill duo posted an AL-record 64 wins by pitching teammates -- 41 of them by Chesbro. For a time it seemed that the pair would catapult the Highlanders to the pennant and force an all-New York World Series. By the final Friday morning of the season, however, the Boston Pilgrims held a slim half-game lead. In a schedulemaker's dream, the Pilgrims faced the Highlanders that afternoon in the opener of a season-ending five-game series in the Big Apple. New York won on Friday to go a half-game up, but Boston shot back in front by sweeping a doubleheader the following afternoon. The season came down to a Sunday twinbill, with the Highlanders needing both games to win the flag.
In the opener, New York staked Chesbro to a 2-0 lead, but Boston tied the game in the seventh. It remained 2-2 in the ninth when Lou Criger singled and moved around to third on a sacrifice and a ground out. Chesbro then uncorked the most famous wild pitch in history as Criger scampered home with the pennant-clinching run. But Boston's thrilling victory proved somewhat empty. Fearing the Highlanders would win the pennant, McGraw and Brush had earlier refused to meet the AL victor in a championship match. Both claimed they still refused to recognize the AL, but many believed the real truth was they didn't want to risk their supremacy against another New York club.
-- David Nemec & Saul Wisnia
Baseball: More Than 150 Years
IMAGE: A game at Exposition Park in 1904
Baseball: More Than 150 Years, David Nemec & Saul Wisnia
Copyright 1997 by Publications International, Ltd.
Published by Publications International, Ltd. (Lincolnwood, IL), 1997
available at ABEBOOKS