Pirates 1904 Post-Season?
As mentioned last week, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the 1904 season on October 9th in 4th place with an 87-66 record but they weren’t done playing games. When the Pirates agreed to play the Boston Americans in the 1903 World Series it was not a popular move among most of the heads of the NL. They did not believe the American League was equal to them so they did not want to see the two leagues play for a championship thinking it would only help the AL gain more credibility. When the New York Giants were well out in front during the 1904 season they said they would not play the AL winner in a title series if they won the pennant because they would’ve already proved they were the best team in baseball just by winning the NL crown. The Giants ended up winning the title, the Boston Americans repeated as the AL champions and issued the challenge and the Giants stayed true to their word. There was no 1904 World Series.
The following season the World Series became an official event due partly to the amount of criticism baseball took from the fans and media for not playing. Most of players were not happy either, the previous WS earned each player at least an extra $1,182, doesn’t sound like much now but for an extra week of play, some players were making more than they had all season. For reference, Honus Wagner got paid a $5,000 salary for the 1903 season and the Pirates share from the WS was $1,319 per player so ever a superstar caliber player was making 1/4 of his salary for the series. You could see why the players from the Giants and Americans were not all happy. That explains why there was no WS that year but why were the Pirates still playing in mid October?
When Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss saw there would be no World Series, he decided there should be a post-season series in baseball and if no one else was going to do it from the NL then he would take matters into his own hands. He agreed to have his Pirates play the Cleveland Indians in a five game series, the Indians were picked because they also finished in 4th place in their league. So despite the fact history says there was no 1904 World Series, there was a post-season that year and it provided a very interesting matchup.
Due to how close the cities are there was somewhat of a rivalry but there had not been a Cleveland representative in the NL since 1899 and that team was the worst team in baseball history going 20-134,playing most of their schedule on the road because their 42 home games drew 6,088 fans total. The Indians were much better in the AL and much more popular than their NL predecessor, they had future Hall of Famers in pitcher Addie Joss and outfielder Elmer Flick as well as the guy some called the best hitter of the day, ahead of Wagner. In fact, in 1904 the Indians nickname for the team was still 11 years away from being in use, they were called the Cleveland Naps in honor of Nap Lajoie. In 1904 Lajoie batted .376, winning his fourth straight batting title, Wagner batted .349 winning his third batting title, and while the outcome of the series meant little to most people, there was plenty of attention given to the matchup of these two players.
The Pirates and Naps wasted no time getting the series going. The Pirates finished their schedule on the 9th of October while the Indians played a doubleheader in Detroit on the 8th to finish their season. By the 10th both teams were in Cleveland ready to play and with very little notice about the game, only 4,000 fans showed up for game one. The Pirates lead early on a two run homer from Wagner but the Naps tied it before it started to rain which forced the game to end early in a tie. Game two saw Cleveland take the early lead but the Pirates rallied back from three runs down to win by three and send the series back to Exposition Park in Pittsburgh for the final three games.
With no days off during the series, the teams picked right back up on October 12th and played a 14 inning game that was called due to darkness leaving the five game series as a best of three now with the Pirates up 1-0. The two teams played to a 3-3 tie despite the fact the Pirates had 15 hits compared to just seven for the Naps. In game four Wagner played poorly with no hits and an error while Lajoie helped his team to a 3-2 win to tie the series. Despite the matchup between these two superstar hitters, the fourth game drew very few fans and the fifth game was no different. The Pirates lost the series in game five by a 4-1 score and they managed to get just two hits in a game that had very little intensity. The two big hitters also didn’t have much of a series as Wagner hit .286 compared to .263 for Lajoie.
Unlike the World Series the prior season, these games were played more like exhibition games by the players, possibly due to the much smaller crowds which meant much less money to split amongst the players after the series. It could also be possible that since the Pirates didn’t win the NL pennant for the first time since 1900 with many of the same players on all three teams, that they just wanted to get their off-season started and had very little interest in what amounted to meaningless games. With the off-season now ready to begin, the players may have been done but the front office had some work to do to get the Pirates back to being contenders. Next week we will see how the Pirates got ready for the 1905 season.