Saturday, October 25, 2008
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...well sort of, the Phillies appeared in the World Series during the early part of the 20th century. The Phils lost the 1915 Series to the Boston Red Sox and legendary outfielder Tris Speaker by 4 games to 1, marking the 2nd straight season that a team from Boston beat a team from Philly for the championship. The NL's Boston Braves had swept Connie Mack and the AL's Philadelphia Athletics in the previous fall classic. It is not likely that there are too many left alive who saw or in some way experienced that 1915 Series. If you were just born that year, you are now 93 years old, so most everyone who was there is now gone. Much as with their current 2008 brethren, things started well in that 1915 Series for the Phillies. They won the first game here in Philly at the old Baker Bowl over the Red Sox by a 3-1 score behind the pitching of ace Grover Cleveland Alexander to take a 1-0 lead in the Series. The Phils got on the board first when in the 4th inning leftfielder George 'Possum' Whitted singled home centerfielder 'Dode' Paskert. The Sox tied it up in the top of the 8th, but in the Phils bottom half they manufactured a pair of runs to take the 3-1 lead. The 28-year old Alexander, who had won 31 games that season, finished up a complete game win, but not before some baseball history was made. In that top of the 9th, the leadoff batter reached on an error, and the Red Sox sent to the plate a kid pinch-hitter who they felt had some pop in his bat. It would be the first-ever World Series plate appearance in the big leagues for the 20-year old George Herman 'Babe' Ruth, and in fact it would mark his only appearance in the entire Series. Ruth was in his 2nd season with Boston, having begun with 10 at-bats in 1914 and another 92 in that 1915 season, so he had just 102 total big-league at-bats to that point. Alexander induced Ruth into an easy groundout to the first baseman, then got the final hitter on a popup to first, and the Phils had their first-ever World Series win. Little did the franchise' owners, players, and fans know that it would be 65 years before they would enjoy another. Game #2 was also at Baker Bowl, which was located in a small one-square block area bordered by Broad Street and 15th Street, and Lehigh Avenue and Huntingdon Street. Approximately 20,000 fans would pack the Baker Bowl for each of the three games that would be played there that fall, and for this 2nd game there was more history as one of those in attendance was President Woodrow Wilson, marking the first time that a U.S. President had attended a Series game. That game #2 began with the Sox scoring a run in the top of the first inning, and it would be their only run until they scored another in the top of the 9th. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they could only muster one of their own, and the Red Sox evened the Series at a game apiece thanks to that 2-1 victory. When the Series reverted back to Boston for games 3 and 4, the now famous Fenway Park was the Red Sox home, having just opened a couple of years earlier. However, the Red Sox ownership often used Braves Field, which had just opened that very year and was the home of the National League Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) for their 'big games' because Braves Field was larger and held more fans than Fenway. So the Phils never got into Fenway that year, instead playing before over 40,000 rabid sox fans at Braves Field. The Red Sox 2-1 victory in the 2nd game was exactly duplicated in those next two games, with Boston winning by identical 2-1 scores to take a 3-1 lead in the Series, which headed back to Philadelphia. Things looked good early in Game #5 back at the Baker Bowl thanks to veteran 1st baseman Fred Luderus, who doubled home a run as the Phils scored twice in the first. Boston answered with single runs in the 2nd and 3rd, but then Luderus blasted a solo homer and the Phils rallied for another in the bottom of the 4th for a 4-2 lead. That lead held all the way into the top of the 8th before Boston leftfielder Duffy Lewis cracked a 2-run homer off Phils' reliever Eppa Rixey to tie the score at 4-4 heading into the 9th. In the top of that 9th, rightfielder Harry Hooper, who would be selected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1971, broke the tie with a 1-out homer, his 2nd of the game, and the Red Sox took a 5-4 lead into the bottom where the Phils went down in order meekly. Both of Hooper's homers actually bounced over the fence in what would be considered 'ground rule doubles' today. The centerfield fence that his game-winning homer in the 9th bounced over was erected especially for the World Series to allow more seating capacity at Baker Bowl. Boston celebrated it's third World Series victory, having won the first-ever modern Series in 1903, and then again winning it in 1912. For the Phillies, that first-ever World Series win would have to wait all the way until 1980. But it was here all the way back in 1915 that the Phils got their first taste of the Series, only to fall short thanks to four consecutive 1-run losses.