Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Pennant Comes to Brooklyn - Part II

Fortunately for anyone at risk of 1916 pennant race apoplexy, the prohibition on Sunday baseball in the East, meant October 1 was a day off for the four contenders.  While the players rested, the fans and writers had time for in depth speculation about the season's final and deciding week.  Due to September rain outs, Boston and Philadelphia were forced to play six games in four days, beginning with two doubleheaders while the Dodgers and Giants had four single contests.  The math was simple – Philadelphia had to win two more games than Brooklyn, so, if,for example, Brooklyn defeated the Giants once, the Phils only had to split with the Braves.  Boston's sole chance to win the pennant was to take five of six from the Phillies while the Giants swept Brooklyn, a long shot at best.  All that was left for New York was the spoiler's role.  Added to the Phillies' burden was the injury to Bancroft, since his absence required Philadelphia to play with an infield that hadn’t played previously together.  Another unknown was how well New York would play now that their record setting streak was over with some observers suggesting a letdown was inevitable. 

Otto Rettig

Before the Dodgers-Giants series began on Monday, both teams played Sunday exhibition games.  At Ebbets Field, a game was played between Brooklyn's reserves and some September roster additions.  The Giants, however, traveled to Paterson, New Jersey to take on the Paterson or Doherty Silk Sox, a local semipro team.  The Silk Sox had enjoyed an excellent season but lost their two prior major league exhibition games to the Yankees and Philadelphia A’s.  Not surprisingly, a large crowd of 10,000 gathered to see the record-setting Giants.  With one exception, New York played their regulars, against Paterson’s star hurler, Otto Rettig, who had pitched the day before.  In one more 1916 surprise, Rettig used his “slow ball” to shut the Giants out on three hits, while striking out 13.  Predictably, some questioned New York’s effort, but they had been promised additional money for runs and home runs, none of which they collected.   Rettig would eventually enjoy an extremely brief Major League career, winning only one game, a 1922 victory over the St. Louis Browns, but an important game nonetheless since the Browns finished only one game behind the first place Yankees.

Ferdinand Schupp

After the embarrassing loss to a semi-pro club on Sunday, McGraw’s team arrived at Ebbets Field on Monday with newly discovered star pitcher Ferdinand Schupp on the mound.  After spending most of the season on the bench Schupp had been a crucial cog in the Giants 26 game winning streak, winning six straight and giving up a microscopic three runs in the process. A relatively large October 2nd, “wash day” crowd, estimated at 15,000, was on hand, although it was reported nearly half of them were rooting for the Giants.   In the top of the first, New York loaded the bases with two out, bringing Benny Kauff to the plate against Jack Coombs.  The veteran Brooklyn hurler fell behind 3-0 but came back to strike Kauff out on a slow, waist high pitch that “suddenly dropped into Miller’s big glove.” Since Brooklyn didn't figure to score much, if at all, against Schupp, it was a key out. The contest remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when with one out, Jake Daubert reached first on a ground ball that was ruled a hit, but some writers felt was an error. Daubert then tried to steal second, and while Bill Rariden’s throw to second was perfect, second baseman, Buck Herzog dropped the ball, putting a runner in scoring position.  Zach Wheat wasted no time taking advantage, “crackling a whistling single to left,” giving Brooklyn a crucial run. 

Jack Coombs

Down one run in the eighth, McGraw went to a pinch hitter for Schupp, but the Giants failed to score and the Dodgers added an insurance run for a 2-0 win.   Schupp was once again brilliant, allowing only an unearned run on four hits.   However, this was Coombs’ day, as he shut out New York on six hits, for his sixth victory over McGraw’s team since 1915.  One writer claimed it was the greatest game of “Colby Jack’s” career, validating Wilbert Robinson’s decision to pitch him in this crucial match up.  No doubt aware of the veteran pitcher's record against New York, Robinson chose Coombs,even though Larry Cheney and Sherry Smith had equal rest.  Coombs’ success in changing speeds, coupled with the off-speed success of the semipro Rettig the previous day, suggests the exhibition game might have hurt the Giants’ timing.  Some “disgruntled” Giant fans claimed New York “did not play their best” due to their friendship with Robinson.  Other observers said the Giants played as if they had a collective hangover and might have been “pulling their punches," but most writers believed Coombs was simply too dominant

Zach Wheat

When Coombs took the mound earlier that afternoon, the Dodgers were actually in second place because the Phils won the opener of their doubleheader against the Braves.  Although some thought Alexander was suffering from overwork, he pitched his 16th shutout, even though it was Alex’s third start in five days.  The loss finally eliminated Boston from the race, but that didn’t mean they would quit.  While some fans thought Grover Cleveland would start the second game as well, instead Al Demaree faced off with Ed Reulbach.  The score was 1-1 until manager George Stallings' team scored once in the sixth and twice in the seventh, while Reulbach held off the Phils.  The Braves’ win, coupled with Brooklyn’s victory, severely damaged the Phillies’ pennant hopes.  Some of the Philadelphia writers were quick to put the blame on Bancroft’s absence, but the Phils’ lack of offense was equally important.  At day’s end, Brooklyn was on the brink - if the Dodgers beat the Giants on Tuesday and the Phils’ lost twice, Brooklyn would win the pennant.  However, there was little room for error since the opposite result would put Brooklyn in second place.  Philadelphia writer Jim Nasium (pen name for Edgar Forrest Wolfe) captured the atmosphere perfectly, writing that the “nerve shattering strife for the baseball supremacy of the National League continued unabated.”

                                Team                         Win      Losses   Games Behind

                                Brooklyn                     92        59                    -

                                Philadelphia                90        59                    1

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