Tomorrow night, the Houston Astros will become the 25th team to participate in the World Series since 1903. Let’s take a look at the inaugural games of their 24 predecessors.
Boston (A) vs. Pittsburgh, 1903: The first three World Series, as one could probably assume, featured opponents who had never been there before. Pittsburgh prevailed in the very first such game of the 20th Century, 7-3. This game featured one of the more miserable World Series Game One first innings ever suffered by a team. Cy Young gave up three hits, his mates logged three errors and the Pirates, Honus Wagner included, stole two bases while jumping to a 4-0 lead that they never surrendered.
First batter: Pittsburgh – Ginger Beaumont, Boston – Patsy Dougherty
First pitcher: Pittsburgh – Deacon Phillippe, Boston — Cy Young
Final score: Pittsburgh beat Boston 7-4
Series outcome: Boston beat Pittsburgh 5-3
New York (San Francisco) vs. Philadelphia (Oakland), 1905: The all-shutout Series opener was won by New York, 3-0. The Athletics didn’t get their first hit off Christy Mathewson until the fourth inning.
First batter: New York – Roger Bresnahan, Philadelphia – Topsy Hartsel
First pitcher: New York – Christy Mathewson, Philadelphia – Eddie Plank
Final score: Giants over A’s, 3-0
Series outcome: Giants over A’s, 4-1
Detroit, 1907: The Tigers’ Series debut came against the Cubs and ended in a tie. The Tigers played the most World Series games in history without winning their first game. It wasn’t until Game Three of the following year (their eighth Series contest) that they finally beat the Cubs. Every other team won at least one game in their inaugural World Series.
Boston (Atlanta), 1914: While not the best single-game debut in history, it is the best overall debut in that they are the only team to perpetrate a sweep in their inaugural.
Philadelphia (N), 1915: Grover Cleveland Alexander joins fellow greats Young, Mathewson and Brown as early Series debut game pitchers and delivers for the Phils. It’s a good thing he came up big, because the Phillies won’t win another Series game for 65 years.
First batter: Milt Stock
First pitcher: Grover Cleveland Alexander
Final score: won 3-1
Series outcome: Lost to Red Sox 4-1
Brooklyn (Los Angeles), 1916: Did they talk about the misguided concept of momentum back in 1916, or were they more sophisticated than we are in 2005? If they weren’t, then momentum had to be on everyone’s lips after Game One of the 1916 World Series. Trailing 6-1 heading into the ninth, the Robins rallied for four runs. With two out and the bases loaded, Boston Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan finally pulled starter Ernie Shore and brought in Carl Mays to put out the fire. This he did, leaving Brooklyn short. In the end, there was no carryover effect as they lost the next day.
Cincinnati, 1919: As every schoolboy knows, Morrie Rath was hit by an Eddie Cicotte pitch to open the Reds half of the first as a signal to fixers that the con was on. He eventually scored the first of the nine runs the Reds would plate that day. In the top of the first, though, the White Sox had an inning that bore a good deal of resemblance to their recklessness in the early stages of the 2005 ALCS when they were burning off baserunners like so much slag. Shano Collins opened the game with a single. Hall of Famer Eddie Collins then attempted a sacrifice and Shano was forced at second. Eddie was then thrown out stealing making two baserunners–both non-fixers–into victims of small ball strategies. Of course, it’s academic when your starting pitcher is throwing batting practice for the opposition.
Cleveland, 1920: The Indians and Robins didn’t get the memo that the so-called Lively Ball era was under way. The losers in all seven games of this Series were either shutout or scored one run. In this one, Stan Coveleski bested Rube Marquard 3-1 in a battle of Hall of Fame pitchers.
First batter: Joe Evans
First pitcher: Stan Coveleski
Final score: won 3-1
Series outcome: beat Brooklyn, 5-2
New York Yankees, 1921: Here’s a trivia question I wouldn’t chastise even the most hardcore Yankee historian/fan for missing: Who was the first Yankee batter in their prolific and illustrious World Series history? Other than Frankie Frisch‘s four ineffectual hits, Carl Mays allowed just one Giant to reach base on the way to a shutout.
First batter: Elmer Miller
First pitcher: Carl Mays
Final score: won 3-0
Series outcome: lost to Giants, 5-3
Washington (Minnesota), 1924: In a baserunning blunder rarely talked about, Hall of Famer Sam Rice made a very curious decision in the 12th inning of Washington’s very first World Series game. Trailing 4-3 with one out and a runner on first, Rice hit a single to center, moving player-manager Bucky Harris to third. Rice was then thrown out trying to stretch it into a double on a throw from High Pockets Kelly. Had he stayed put, the tying run would have been on third with just one out. Instead, Goose Goslin grounded out to end the game. Who knows, perhaps Goslin’s grounder might have resulted in a double play, but still, it seems like a curious choice to make–one that would generate millions of words in modern sports pages.
St. Louis (A) (Baltimore), 1944: The Browns managed just two hits against their stadium-sharing Cardinal opponents, but it proved to be enough. In the fourth inning, Gene Moore singled and George McQuinn followed immediately with a home run that “barely reached the pavilion roof in right,” according to William B. Mead in Even the Browns. Denny Galehouse kept the Cards guessing until the ninth when he finally allowed a run but hung on for the 2-1 victory.
First batter: Don Gutteridge
First pitcher: Denny Galehouse
Final score: won 2-1
Series outcome: lost to Cardinals 4-2
New York Mets, 1969: The first debut in a quarter century found the Mets on the ropes immediately as Tom Seaver surrendered a leadoff home run to Don Buford. The Mets were trailing 4-0 in the seventh when they loaded the bases with one out but only managed a run on a sac fly. They then turned around and did something none of the other ten teams that lost their World Series debut managed to do: win the next four games.
First batter: Tommie Agee
First pitcher: Tom Seaver
Final score: lost 4-1
Series outcome: beat Baltimore 4-1
Kansas City, 1980: The 1980 World Series began with an event that would be repeated all too often throughout its six-game duration: Willie Wilson striking out. He would whiff 11 more times in the Series. The Royals did build an early 4-0 lead, but coughed it up in the third during a five-run inning capped by a Bake McBride three-run homer. Willie Aikens hit two home runs for the Royals, including a shot in the eighth that made it 7-6, which ended up being the final when Tug McGraw shut them down the rest of the way.
First batter: Willie Wilson
First pitcher: Dennis Leonard
Final score: lost 7-6
Series outcome: lost to Philadelphia, 4-2
Milwaukee, 1982: The single-greatest World Series debut game in history. The Brewers pounded the Cardinals for 17 hits and won 10-0. Paul Molitor and American League MVP Robin Yount combined to go 9 for 12 and Charlie Moore drove in four runs. Mike Caldwell gave up three hits and didn’t allow a Cardinal past second base.
First batter: Paul Molitor
First pitcher: Mike Caldwell
Final score: won 10-0
Series outcome: lost to St. Louis, 4-3
San Diego, 1984: The Padres grabbed an early lead in the bottom of the first over the heavily-favored Tigers when they rallied with two outs. The big blow was a two-run double by catcher Terry Kennedy. Padres starter Mark Thurmond helped keep things close by picking off two Tiger baserunners, but Larry Herndon‘s homer in the fifth put Detroit up 3-2. The Pads threatened with back-to-back singles to open the sixth, but Jack Morris then struck out the side. The Padres ran into two outs in the seventh.
Toronto, 1992: A Damon Berryhill three-run homer in the sixth inning decided this low-scoring affair in which both teams combined for eight hits. Joe Carter accounted for the first-ever Blue Jays World Series run with a home run off Tom Glavine in the fourth. The Jays only other threat came from two singles in the second.
First batter: Devon White
First pitcher: Jack Morris
Final score: lost 3-1
Series outcome: beat Atlanta, 4-2
Florida, 1997: Easily the best-attended World Series debut ever, with 67,245 on hand to watch the wild card Marlins take Orel Hershiser apart in the fourth inning on back-to-back homers by Moises Alou and Charles Johnson. While we may recall the creative interpretation of the strike zone of this era, there were a staggering 76 total walks in this World Series, including 12 in the opening game.
First batter: Devon White
First pitcher: Livan Hernandez
Final score: won 7-4
Series outcome: beat Cleveland 4-3
Arizona, 2001: The Diamondbacks got off to one of the best starts ever in a World Series–first timer or otherwise–by beating the Yankees on a combined score of 13-1 in the first two games. New York had just six hits in those games.
Anaheim, 2002: Only four of the Angels starters in this game played in this year’s playoffs for the team: Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, Ben Molina and Adam Kennedy. The only survivor of this contest who will be appearing in the 2005 World Series is Orlando Palmeiro now with Houston. Troy Glaus homered in his first World Series at bat and Kennedy very nearly did so in his, settling for a double instead. For want of a little more elevation the game would have been tied and the outcome different.
Houston, 2005: Roger Clemens will join a long tradition of all-time great pitchers starting for teams on their inaugural trip to the World Series. Craig Biggio can be put up against Paul Molitor of the ’82 Brewers as the best player ever to lead off for such a team. First-timers are a combined 12-11-1. The teams that won their first game took seven of 12 Series and the teams that lost their first game took six of 11 with the team that tied losing. First timers, then, are 13-11 in overall Series wins (or 10-8 excluding the Series in which both teams were playing inaugurals).
First batter: Craig Biggio
First pitcher: Roger Clemens