A celebration of baseball’s first post-season championship, later known as the World Series.
While the 1903 series did much to rejuvenate flagging interest in the national pastime, most of its big names failed to deliver. Cy Young, pitching’s living yardstick, started Game One for the home-team Boston Americans, who found themselves down four runs within half an inning; the nicked-up Pittsburgh Pirate legend, Honus Wagner, drove in the first run but never really got his bat into a game after that and eventually struck out to give Boston the series, five games to three. Just like today, Masur (History/City College) assures us, owner greed was never far from the headlines; overflow ticket holders were ushered into the outfield and simply roped off against the wall. A ball into the crowd was a ground-rule triple, leading to both offensive and defensive misplays, and when Boston’s Jimmy Sebring drove one that died just short of the crowd, he parlayed it into the first Word Series homer. Another big difference: the wagering pool was in plain sight, and everybody, including players, managers, and owners, bet on games. The popular wisdom, Masur explains, held that fixing a game as intricate as baseball was impossible because you’d need players on both sides colluding, which would be obvious. Nonetheless, one of the swells cashing out the then-princely sum of $4,000 after Boston’s triumph, the author notes, was a certain Sport Sullivan. He would resurface years later—and $50,000 richer—in Chicago, indicted along with the eight White Sox players bribed to throw the 1919 World Series in an ironic example of what the author tabs as one of baseball’s most American attributes: “Teamwork matters.”
Profusely detailed rendering of the early–20th-century’s melting-pot urban society and the national sport’s place in it. (32 b&w illustrations)