We're really talking about 1918 again? YES. And here's why.
Paul B Kelley photo
Yes — the Red Sox are on the verge of winning a World Series crown at Fenway for the first time since 1918.
You’ve heard of that distinguished year, no doubt, without end, amen, up until 2004, when the Sox finally broke through and ended 86 icy years of dashed hopes, bad tidings and being ill with want.
While 1918 was a banner year for the Boston Red Sox, who led the American League with a 75-51 record and claimed their third World Series title in four years by handing the Chicago Cubs a 4-2 loss in the Fall Classic, it wasn’t a great year if you skipped a flu shot, charged out of the trenches on the Western Front or your last name happened to be Romanov.
Thanks to the government mandating a shortened season that ended on Labor Day thanks to America’s entry into World War I, the championship set was played from Sept. 5 through 11, making it more of an Indian Summer series than a Fall Classic. It marked the only time in MLB history that the World Series was played in September.
Despite the Red Sox winning it all, it wasn’t a great World Series overall for the bottom line.
The gate take from receipts plummeted from $152,889.00 in 1917 to just $69,528.00 — the lowest tally since 1910 — and attendance dropped from 186,654 in the six-game series one year before to 128,483 in 1918.
The winner’s share of the total prize pool was $1,102.51, while the losers went home with $671.09.
One year later the winners pocketed $5,207.07 apiece, with the losers taking $3,254.36.
Players threatened to strike due to the low gate receipts, and there were whispered rumors that — much like their south-side brethren one year later — the series was fixed and a handful of Cubs players had conspired to throw games, but no concrete evidence ever came to light.
The rosters of both teams read like a casting call for Boardwalk Empire — Boston had first baseman Stuffy McInnis, righthanded forkballer Bullet Joe Bush, southpaw Dutch Leonard, shortstop Heinie Wagner and some brash young pitcher and outfielder going by the name of "Babe". The Cubs, meanwhile, were home to backstop Rowdy Elliott, righthander Speed Martin, outfielder Dode Paskert and lefthander Hippo Vaughn.
Ruth went 2-0 in the series and put up a 1.06 ERA, allowing only two runs on 13 hits while walking seven and striking out four in 17 innings. Righty Carl Mays won the other two games for the Sox, giving up two runs on 10 hits while striking out five in 18 innings as the Sox won despite being outscored 10-9 and out-hit 37-32 in the series.
To this day, it marks the fewest runs scored by a winning team in World Series history.
While Mark Vandeusen a.k.a. @LucidSportsFan today decried the abundance of talk surrounding the significance of the Sox possibly winning it all for the first time at home since Sept. 11, 1918 in a blog entry, an argument could be made that there’s one final turn of the key yet to come for Boston baseball fans.
We shook off 86 years of disappointment and ended a so-called curse on the road in St. Louis in 2004. We proved it wasn’t a one-off just three years later, sweeping the Rockies in Colorado to win a second title.
But Red Sox Nation has yet to see their beloved Sox don the crown in the shadow of the mighty Green Monster and between poles both Pudgy and Pesky. There’s something to be said for home, and how it’s truly where the heart of this Nation lies.
That heart will be pumping hard on Wednesday. Teeth will be bared. Fists will be clenched.
Count them: 37,400 faithful disciples, all hanging on every pitch and waiting to carve that one last, definitive notch on the belt — all waiting for the day our Sox hold the trophy high for everybody in that “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark”, as John Updike wrote in his eloquent requiem for Ted Williams’ last at-bat in 1960, to see. To revel in. To share our fervent loyalty to this team with our brethren for the first time since 1918 in our own cathedral.
Significance of winning it at home? I’d say there’s plenty.
Keep the Faith. Drink the Dirty Water. Connect with me on Twitter: @jan_doh.