After the Pirates barely held on to a 5-4 victory in game four to take a 3-1 lead in the best of nine series, they turned to Brickyard Kennedy to start game five against the great Cy Young. Kennedy had started just one game since August 9th and that was the last game of the regular season. He was a veteran of 12 seasons and 187 career wins. Game five of the 1903 World Series took place on Wednesday October 7th, which just happened to be Kennedy’s 36th birthday. The Pirates were reluctant to turn to him but with a two game lead in the series and their top three pitchers from 1903 unavailable, it was either Kennedy or one of a handful of unproven younger pitchers.
The two teams kept the same lineup for game five as they used the previous two games except for, of course, the starting pitchers. To this point only the Pirates had used more than eight position players to start, in game two they went to backup catcher Harry Smith for one game. On that Wednesday afternoon, 12,322 fans showed up to Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, many of them hoping to see their hometown Pirates move within one win of taking the series but they would have to overcome the pitching matchup as they took on the all-time winningest pitcher in baseball history. The lineups were as follows.
Ginger Beaumont CF
Fred Clarke LF
Tommy Leach 3B
Honus Wagner SS
Kitty Bransfield 1B
Claude Ritchey 2B
Jimmy Sebring RF
Ed Phelps C
Brickyard Kennedy P
Patsy Dougherty LF
Jimmy Collins 3B
Chick Stahl CF
Buck Freeman RF
Freddy Parent SS
Candy LaChance 1B
Hobe Ferris 2B
Lou Criger C
Cy Young P
Kennedy did not have an easy first inning despite retiring the leadoff hitter. Jimmy Collins, the manager of the Americans and a future Hall of Famer, would triple with one out. Chick Stahl followed him with a grounder to SS where Honus Wagner decided to go home to cut down the runner. They knew with the mismatch on the mound that they needed to prevent any runs they could and it paid off as Collins was called out to keep it scoreless. After a Buck Freeman walk and Freddie Parent infield hit the Americans had the bases loaded with two outs. Kennedy was able to escape any damage with a pop out to 3B but he worked hard in that first inning.
The Pirates came back with a two out single of their own by Tommy Leach but he was left stranded when Wagner grounded out to end the inning. In the 2nd inning, Kennedy had the bottom of the order and he quickly put them away including his first strikeout which came from Hobe Ferris, followed by Cy Young ending the top of the inning with long flyout to RF.
In the bottom of the 2nd the Pirates managed another single off Young, this time it was Claude Ritchey with an infield hit with one out. He made it to 2B on a groundout from Jimmy Sebring but Eddie Phelps grounded out to end the inning, keeping it scoreless after two.
In the 3rd inning, Jimmy Collins reached again with a one out hit, this time a single to CF. Stahl popped up to Phelps for the second out so Collins took it upon himself to get into scoring position for the AL RBI king, Buck Freeman by stealing 2B. Freeman was unable to bring him home though, as he was Kennedy’s second strikeout victim of the game.
In the bottom of the inning Kennedy led off and doubled over Stahl’s head in CF. Ginger Beaumont fouled out to the catcher for the first out and Fred Clarke grounded out to 2B for the second out. Tommy Leach would fly out to LF to end the inning and despite that lead off double, Kennedy never moved from second base.
The fourth inning saw both pitchers work through the middle of the lineups quickly as no one reached base. Young was able to retire Wagner for a second time, this time with his first strikeout of the game. The two pitchers were just as good in the fifth inning but they had to work a little harder as both teams committed errors which allowed a baserunner but neither teams scored. The game remained scoreless to this point.
In what was a fairly well played game up to this point with good pitching from both side so no one likely could have predicted what was about to happen to the Pirates in the 6th inning. Stahl led off with a flyball to Fred Clarke out in LF which was dropped. Freeman then lined a single to LF and Parent tried to bunt the two runners over but everyone was safe when Honus Wagner dropped the throw from Leach. The bases were now loaded with no outs due to two errors by two future Hall of Famers.
Kennedy was a little unnerved by what had transpired and he would walk Candy LaChance for the first run on the game. Hobe Ferris followed with what could’ve been a double play ball to Wagner but he threw the ball away for his second error of the inning. Two runs scored and there were still no outs, and no one warming up in the bullpen. Kennedy was finally given an out as Lou Criger sacrificed the runners to 2B and 3B with Cy Young coming up. Normally a team wouldn’t bunt runners over for the pitcher but Young batted .321 in 1903, which was 129 points higher than Criger batted on the season. The bunt would matter little when it was all said and done because Young tripled to make it 5-0 so the runners would’ve scored from 1B and 2B anyway.
Kennedy was obviously tiring but at this point he wasn’t coming out and things got worse with the next batter as Patsy Dougherty made it back-to-back triples to bring home Young with the sixth run. Brickyard finally settled down and retired the last two batters with no more runs but the damage was done. Thanks to three errors, two by Wagner, the Americans plated six unearned runs. The Pirates also showed very little life in the bottom of the inning as Clarke, Leach and Wagner went down in order bringing the tired Kennedy back to the mound quickly.
The seventh inning was a sure sign of the fatigue and at this point Kennedy was taking one for the team. He allowed a walk, three singles and a triple which was hit by Dougherty, his second one in the last two innings. The Americans would score four more runs, breaking it wide open with a 10 run lead now at the 7th inning stretch. Young retired the Pirates lineup in order in the 7th and he had not allowed a hit since Kennedy’s leadoff double in the third inning.
The Pirates finally went to the bullpen for the 8th inning bringing out Gus Thompson. He made his major league debut on August 31st of that season and went 2-2 3.56 in four starts and one relief appearance, all after the season was safely wrapped up for the Pirates so this was a big step for the 26 year old righty even if it was during a blowout. The first batter he faced was Chick Stahl who greeted him with a triple and then scored on a groundout by Freeman for Boston’s 11th run. Thompson allowed another single but no more runs, striking out Hobe Ferris to end the inning.
Young extended his hitless streak to 4 2/3 before allowing a two out infield single to Ginger Beaumont in the eighth. He got Clarke to groundout to SS but Parent booted it for an error. Tommy Leach stepped to the plate and finally got the Pirates on the board, hitting his 3rd triple of the series to score both runners. Wagner grounded out to end the inning, leaving him 0-4 on the day with two errors. The score was 11-2 at that point and that’s where it would stay as the Americans took game five.
Young threw a complete game with no earned runs or walks allowed, the Pirates managed just six hits. Kennedy allowed just four earned runs and took the loss. Thompson threw 2 innings to finish the game. For Brickyard Kennedy it would be a sad end to his major league career that day. He pitched another five years in the minors near his hometown in Ohio but for the four time 20 game winner, that World Series loss would mark a tough ending to an otherwise very good career. For Gus Thompson it would be his last game with the Pirates although he got an extended look with the dismal 1906 Cardinals where he went 2-11. Thompson pitched in the minors until 1910 and he even had a 26-8 season in 1909.
Game six was set for the next day in Pittsburgh, a rested Sam Leever was going to give it a shot with his sore arm against Bill Dinneen, who Leever faced in game two and who was also the loser of game four. The Boston Americans looked to tie the series up while the Pirates looked to rebound from their poor overall performance in game five. If the Pirates could win both games they would win the series on their home field while the Americans needed just one win to ensure the series would return to Boston.