The first World Series was played in 1903 when the Boston Americans of the American League defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League five games to three. The stage was set for another “world’s championship” match-up in 1904 as the season was drawing to a close. In the American League, the Boston Americans were in a fight for the pennant with the New York Highlanders, with both teams agreeing to play against the National League if they became champions. But, the National League’s New York Giants owner John Brush, and manager John McGraw, would have nothing to do with it. The Giants, who finished 116-47, refused to play the junior league, which was eventually won by the Americans. Boston finished their year at 95-59, but a title defense would not be allowed. Brush and McGraw refused to play the series due to a grudge with Ban Johnson, the American League president. There’s a great write-up about this dispute at thisgreatgame.com.
In this Series Scenario, however, we’re going to change that. What if the series had been played? Were the Giants really the better team, or would the Americans defend their title as world champions? The American League Champion Boston Americans will play a best of seven series against the National League Champion New York Giants to decide who the best team of 1904 was.
The 1904 World Series begins with Game 1 in New York with a pitching match-up for the ages: Boston’s 37-year-old ace, Cy Young (26-16, 1.97) vs. 23-year-old phenom Christy Mathewson (33-12, 2.03). The Americans score quickly, with LF Kip Selbach scoring on SS Freddy Parent’s single in the top of the 1st to make it 1-0, Boston. New York answers in the bottom half of the inning, as Cy Young gives up four straight base hits to start the game. The Giants can only get one across the plate and it’s tied 1-1. Boston 2nd baseman Hobe Ferris leads off the 2nd inning with a triple. Cy Young helps his own cause, hitting a sacrifice fly deep enough to score Ferris and give the Americans a 2-1 lead. The pitchers would settle down and silence the bats until the bottom of the 7th. With Giant’s 3rd baseman Art Devlin on 2nd base, catcher Frank Bowerman connects on a 1-2 pitch for a base hit into left center. Devlin gets waved around 3rd as CF Chick Stahl gets the ball and throws it home. The play at the plate…and he’s called OUT!!! The Americans keep their lead and ride the momentum, scoring two runs in the top of the 8th. New York adds a run, but Boston holds on for the 4-2 win to take Game 1.
The Game 2 match-up pairs Boston’s Bill Dinneen (23-14, 2.20) vs. New York’s Joe McGinnity (35-8, 1.61). Neither team scores in the 1st inning, but that changed in the bottom of the 2nd. Dinneen gives up five straight hits to start the inning and his defense commits two errors, leading to five runs scored by the Giants. New York would add another run in the 6th inning to make it 6-0. The Americans manage only four hits against McGinnity and the Giants tie the series.
Game 3 takes us to Boston for three games. New York’s Dummy Taylor (21-15, 2.34) is set to start against Boston’s Norwood Gibson (17-14, 2.21). New York starts the scoring in the first half-inning, scoring two runs off Gibson. Giants’ 1st baseman Dan McGann adds a two RBI single in the 4th inning to make it 4-0. A 49 minute rain delay in the 6th inning only added to the Boston’s crowds woes, as those who stayed watched New York add another run in the 7th. Boston manages only three hits in the 5-0 loss, as the Giants take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 features a rematch of the Game 1 starters, with Christy Mathewson vs. Cy Young. As one could imagine, it was a pitcher’s duel in Boston. The only runs scored are in the bottom of the 2nd inning, as American’s 3rd baseman Jimmy Collins crosses the plate after Giant shortstop Bill Dahlen flubs a ground ball. Cy Young helps his own cause with an RBI single to make it 2-0 Boston. Two runs is all Young would need, as he strikes out 11 on his way to the victory!! The series is now tied 2-2.
Game 5 brings Joe McGinnity and Bill Dinneen back to the mound for the Giants and Americans. New York won the first match up of these two pitchers in Game 2 and they are looking for him to bring back a win and the series lead with the series moving back to New York for Game 6. The Giants scored the first run in the top of the 1st inning, as left fielder Sam Mertes crossed the plate after Boston catcher Lou Criger let a ball get past him. But Boston would answer in the bottom of the 1st, as they hammer McGinnity and score three runs to take a 3-1 lead. Both pitchers would settle in, and there would be no more scoring until the top of the 6th, when Mertes would cross the plate on Billy Gilbert’s sac fly to center. Boston would carry that 3-2 lead into the 9th inning. Pinch hitter Jack Dunn would get on base courtesy of Boston shortstop Freddy Parent’s throwing error. Dunn would move to 3rd on a ground out by Dan McGann. Boston 3rd baseman Jimmy Collins throws the ball away on yet another Americans error, which allows Dunn to tie the game 3-3. Dinneen gives up back to back singles, allowing Giant’s center fielder Roger Bresnahan to score, giving the Giants a 4-3 lead. McGinnity holds on in the bottom of the 9th and the New York Giants take the game and a 3-2 series lead!!!
The series returns to New York for Game 6 and the Americans turn to Norwood Gibson to extend their season against the Giant’s Dummy Taylor. Boston is hoping the rematch of Game 3 goes better than it did the first time around. There is no scoring until the 3rd inning, when Boston catcher Lou Criger hits an RBI single to score Gibson from 2nd and give the Americans an early 1-0 lead. But New York would answer in the bottom half of the frame on Roger Bresnahan’s RBI single to tie the game 1-1. The Giants would score again in the bottom of the 5th, plating two runs for a 3-1 lead. The Americans don’t give up, though, they get even. Boston scores a run on Giants 3rd baseman Art Devlin’s throwing error to cut the lead to 3-2. The next batter is right fielder Buck Freeman, who hits a double into left center to score two runs and gives the Americans the 4-3 lead. New York manages to get a man to 3rd base in the bottom of the 9th, but he never crosses the plate and the Boston Americans tie the series up at 3 with the victory!!
So here we are. Game 7. It all comes down to one game. Cy Young vs. Christy Mathewson, a match up that hasn’t favored the Giants in this series. The momentum has shifted to Boston. Can they keep it going and upset the Giants at home? The Americans think so and they strike fear into Mathewson early. After striking out lead off hitter Kip Selbach, Mathewson gives up singles to Chick Stahl and Freddy Parent. Buck Freeman steps up and hits a triple on a 3-2 pitch to score both runners. Freeman would later score on a sac fly, giving the Americans a 3-0 lead. The Giants manage to score a run in the bottom of the 3rd, but the second base runners gets thrown out at the plate. Americans lead it 3-1. The score would remain the same until the 9th inning. Boston’s Chick Stahl hits a triple to score two runs, making the Americans lead 5-1. New York manages a run in the bottom of the 9th, but they can do no more. 5-2 is the final. The Boston Americans defend their World Championship crown and defeat the New York Giants 4 games to 3!! Cy Young is named the World Series MVP after posting a 3-0 record, all complete games. Young struck out 20 and walked none while posting a 1.33 earned run average.
While the Boston Americans won this series scenario, how accurate was the replay? I simulated this series 100 times, and although it was close, the 1904 New York Giants won the best of 7 match up 54% of the time. Interestingly enough, 32% of the series went the full seven games. Suffice it to say, it is a shame this series never happened. It had the makings to be one of the greatest World Series of all time.