So The Last Post-Season Doubleheader Was…

The latest weather forecast here in soggy New York suggests nothing worse than showers for Saturday night’s resumption of Game One of the American League Division Series between the Tigers and Yankees. Of course, that’s what they said Friday night as well, and the “showers” turned into rain so hard that it was literally bouncing back up off the seats and even the field at Yankee Stadium. From what I can tell, the four key parties – the Yanks, the Tigers, TBS, and MLB – all had forecasts suggesting any rain could be played through (if they hadn’t, you would have expected Jim Leyland and maybe even Joe Girardi to switch starters and hold back their aces – maybe starting relievers with starting experience like Phil Coke – in anticipation of the deluge).

In any event, just in case the game is again delayed until Sunday, MLB is reportedly prepared to play a day-night doubleheader, which is already being portrayed as an all-time historical first. Technically it wouldn’t be. Back in the 19th Century when major league baseball (then comprised of the National League and its junior rival, the American Association) was still experimenting with the idea of post-season championships, their champions played a 15-game “World’s Championship Series” with stops in a mind-boggling ten different cities. Sure enough, on Thursday, October 20, 1887, the NL Champion Detroit Wolverines and the AA-winning St. Louis Browns were scheduled to play a World’s Series game in Washington. They were rained out. So instead, on the 21st, they met up in a game that started at some point in the morning, and then the two teams traveled by train to play in Baltimore the same afternoon.

1887 World Series Scorecard - Detroit on the left, St. Louis on the right

It’s the only time the same two teams have played two post-season games in the same day, and on top of the bizarre concept, the afternoon game, played at Baltimore’s Union Park, cinched the Series for Detroit. The Wolverines, on a four-hitter by starter Lady Baldwin and a two-run homer by Larry Twitchell, pounded St. Louis 13-3 to win Game 11 and take an 8-to-3 lead in the best-of-15. The concept of ending the series once it was mathematically impossible for the other team to win was not yet locked in place, so the teams got back on the train and played Game 12 anyway the next day in Brooklyn. In fact they played the series right to the end as scheduled, with a game each in Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. Attendance was what you’d expect: they drew 378 fans in Chicago for the meaningless Game 14, and just 659 for Game 15 as St. Louis fans came out to watch their team which had already lost the Series!

When I first mentioned on Twitter that there had previously been a post-season doubleheader – in 1887 - I got a lot of guffaws in return. Baseball has pretty much erased the pre-1903 history of post-season championships. But as the scorecard shows, it was called “The World’s Championship Series” and it pitted the teams that had won the pennant races in each of the two major leagues. It may have been far from a final product, but to my mind it — and the ones that preceded it in 1884, 1885, and 1886, plus the ones in 1888, 1889, and 1890 — count (although the weather turned so bad, and the fans so disinterested, that they abandoned the 1890 series with Brooklyn and Louisville tied at two wins apiece).

So if the Tigers wind up playing a post-season split doubleheader on Sunday, not only won’t it be the first such event in baseball history, it won’t even be the first such event in Detroit baseball history.

History has already been made in this Series, of course: the game is the first to be suspended, rather than canceled, under the policy adopted in the middle of the 2008 World Series after the torrent that hit Philly during Game Five. But also, even as people officially connected to the game were telling each other that MLB had called it a night, a historic and amazing announcement was being made in the Yankee Stadium Club: “We have no information yet about any postponement of tonight’s game! Please do not spread rumors, gossip, or innuendo about a cancellation.”

Seriously? What were they going to do to us? Make us go sit outside? Cancel the game on us? Tape over our mouths? Screw up ticket distribution by turning the scheduled start of Game 2 into the resumption time of Game 1? Was Bud Selig going to slap everybody for innuendo-mongering?

I think they were just trying to sell one more round of drinks.

The suspension announcement came about five minutes later.

Interior of the scorecard, obviously long glued in a scrapbook. Near as I can tell, this is from Game 9 in Philadelphia, won by Detroit 4-2 on a tiebreaking single in the 7th from Charlie Bennett, for whom Detroit's stadium would later be named. Early games of the Series drew more than 6,000 fans, but by the time of this one in Philadelphia on October 19, fatigue was setting in and only 2,389 showed. The Doubleheader would be played two days later.

 

18 Comments

Good stuff. Thanks for the extended response.

Lady!? Pronounced “Laddie” or like it’s spelled? I guess everyone didn’t get a manly nickname like Old Hoss or Death To Flying Things.

Thanks, Keith. Excellent info.

I would’ve loved to see the Yankees actually try to enforce their plea against the “spread of rumors, gossip, or innuendo.” It must really frost them that they don’t have complete control over what people say, text or tweet while in the confines of Yankee Stadium. You may be among their early victims, but they can’t punish everyone they believe to have committed a horrible misdeed against the club by reporting something he or she saw while at a game. Sheesh.

To my mind, the ones that preceded it count, too, Keith. At that moment in history, they were certainly as real as any game is in the now present moment. I am still baffled by the fact that the game will not resume with EXACTLY the same people on the field in PRECISELY the same positions. I do not know the rules and am trying to learn how that works. The word SUSPENDED suggests that everything is left just as it was until they return and then play resumes. The word DELAYED seems to suggest the same. But I am sure there is a rule out there about not being allowed to use the same pitcher a second time in a pennant playoff. I just need to find it. I LMAO at your response to their final announcement. “Go sit outside,” is just great as I can still see all those drenched die-hards drudging up the stadium steps. I see the cancellation as it might appear on an airport screen. Tape on a New Yorker’s mouth…on your mouth…is just an impossibility. But oh, the sticking! After all the TV coverage of Derek Jeter’s thoughts on his position at short stop and the physics of the pitch that turned a bartending/cell phone selling Axle Man into a pennant pitcher, they showed a shot of a bazillion wet fans all smushed together like Bourbon Street Mardi Gras…where are those wet tickets now? But the best image is Bud Selig trying to get around to all those peeps, slapping each face, possibly with unsold five dollar hot dogs. Lady? You see a lady? History, rather, history, you are as lovable as KO himself! Here’s to tonight’s game. May it be a rainy night…only in Georgia! Thanks, Keith! Your memorabilia is the best!

Sorry, make that Ax Man.

And make him the World Series winning pitcher as well!

The usual argument for ignoring the 19th century World Series is that they weren’t really a championship in the modern sense, but rather a series of exhibition games. This is not completely indefensible, as evidenced by their playing out the series even after the result had been determined. But there is also the stark fact that they were presented as the world’s championship. So, as you say, while the idea was not yet completely worked out, it clearly was regarded as more than just a post-season exhibition to eke out a bit more gate money.

Furthermore, the same argument can be made for the 1903 WS, as shown by the absence of a 1904 WS because one team didn’t want to do it. Not until 1905 was the WS formalized between the two leagues.

So what this leaves us with is three candidates for first World Series: 1884, 1903, and 1905. 1903 has the weakest claim. Any coherent argument for it has to thread the needle of explaining why it, like later WS, was official enough while, unlike earlier WS, was not too unofficial. It may be possible to arrive at a principled case for this, but in practice most people just stare blankly at any mention of major league baseball before 1901.

As a final note, as late as 1920 baseball histories routinely listed the 19th and 20th century WS together. The perception at the time was that the 1903 series was a revival of an established practice. At some point in the 1920s or 1930s baseball collectively forgot its earlier history, or that it even had an earlier history. We can see this in the early inductees into the Hall of Fame, which constitute the best players from within the professional careers of the baseball writers of the day. Some effort has been made since to go back and fix this, but with some very strange decisions both of omission and commission.

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