Ed. note: to see the previous installment in the 1914 Braves saga, click here
Three days after the regular season’s end, the 1914 World Series started on October 9 in Philadelphia. The surprising upstart Braves faced off against the defending World Champions, Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The A’s were making their fourth World Series appearance in the last five years, having won the 1910, 1911 and 1913 series. Possessing a famed “$100,000 Infield” that included Eddie Collins at
short second and Frank “Home Run” Baker at third, along with a pitching staff anchored by Hall of Famers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, the Mackmen stood as prohibitive favorites to win a fourth World Series.
Game 1, played at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, was the only snoozer of the series. Dick Rudolph pitched a masterpiece, and the Braves easily won by a score of 7-1. Possum Whitted iced the game for Boston with a 6th inning triple.
Game 2, played the next afternoon, turned into a nail-biter as Bill James and Eddie Plank matched pitch for pitch through eight scoreless innings. Third baseman Charlie Deal, playing only because Red Smith remained in Brooklyn with a broken leg, hit a double with one out. A botched pickoff led to Deal reaching third. After James struck out, Les Mann singled Deal home for the only run of the game. James made the bottom of the ninth interesting by walking two before inducing a game ending double-play.
After a Sunday off, Game 3 moved to Boston but the game was played in Fenway Park, rather than the Braves’ more usual home field of South End Grounds. Lefty Tyler started for the Braves and ended regulation tied 2-2, with all the runs coming in the first four innings.
In the top of the 10th, Home Run Baker stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and lived up to his clutch nickname with a singling home two runs. However, Hank Gowdy led off the bottom of the 10th with a solo home run, cutting the deficit in half. Following a strikeout of a pinch hitter, a walk to Moran and single by Johnny Evers left runners on the corners. Joe Connolly followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Moran to tie the score.
Game 2 starter James came on in the 11th, allowing no runs. In the bottom of the 12th, manager Stallings showed his tactical skills. Hank Gowdy started with a ground rule double. Stallings then inserted Les Mann as a pinch runner, and had Larry Gilbert pinch hit for James. Gilbert received an intentional walk. Moran then attempted a sacrifice bunt, but the pitcher threw wildly to 3b, allowing Mann to score, ending the game 5-4.
Game 4 seemed anti-climatic. Dick Rudolph started his second game, giving up a run in the 5th that tied the game. But Boston came back with two in the bottom of the fifth, and that was the end of the scoring. On October 13, 1914, the Braves won the fourth and final game of the World Series by a score of 3-1.
As improbable as the last to first finish, Boston had swept the mighty Athletics 4-0.
After season’s end, Connie Mack would trade away most of his stars (maybe that’s where the Marlins got the idea) and the Athletics would finish in last place for the next 7 seasons, 1915-1921. The A’s wouldn’t finish out of the second division or above .500 until 1925, as Mack assembled his next dynasty, the team that would win the American League crown three consecutive years from 1929-31. Even today, the A’s franchise has captured nine World Series titles, trailing only the Yankees and Cardinals.
Showing that 1914 wasn’t entirely a fluke, Boston finished 2nd in the National League the next season and then 3rd in 1916. But it was a brief flourish. Between 1917 and 1945, the Braves would have only three seasons (1921, 1933 & 1937) above .500.
But the Braves’ fortunes turned once more after the end of World War II, when the return of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain from the war gave rise to the team’s second World Series appearance and the memorable phrase “Spahn, Sain and pray for rain.” Spahn finally won a World Series ring with the Braves in 1957. Of course, Sain left his mark, too. After he had retired as a player, Sain began a long and successful coaching career, eventually returning to the Braves. Beginning in 1979, he mentored a young Braves pitching coach named Leo Mazzone. Mazzone won a ring in 1995 — the third and last world championship in Braves franchise history thus far.