When Cy Young and the Boston Americans took the field at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds to play the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of the very first World Series on Oct. 1, 1903, just over 16,000 fans were in attendance. It was the start of something special — for both professional and Boston baseball — and it would offer the locals a taste of what’s to come for a very, very long time.
In the top of the first, Young got two quick outs, and it seemed like the first ever World Series was off to a great start for the Boston lads. But, in what would turn out to be typical Boston postseason drama, all hell broke loose.
Tommy Leach belted a triple and scored on Honus Wagner‘s single to put the visitors up 1-0. After Wagner stole second base, Kitty Bransfield reached on error, putting runners on first and third with two outs. With Claude Ritchey up, Bransfield took off for second, and when catcher Lou Criger threw the ball away, Wagner scored and Bransfield took third to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 advantage. There were runners on the corner yet again when Ritchey drew a walk, but he didn’t last at first base long as he, too, stole second base to put two runners in scoring position — still with two outs. Jimmy Sebring then dug in and doubled the Pirates’ 2-0 lead to 4-0 with a two-run single to left field. The rally finally stopped when Ed Phelps struck out — or so it seemed. Phelps stuck out on a dropped third strike and was able to reach first base safely on yet another Criger error. Now, with runners on first and third and pitcher Deacon Phillippe up, Young got his counterpart to strike out to end the suffering after four runs, three hits and three errors.
From the very first inning of the very first Red Sox World Series game, fans were put through highs and lows, heartache and agony. They had the game’s best pitcher and were playing at home in front of some of the best fans in the country. But that all didn’t matter, apparently, because they were Boston’s team, and that’s what happens to Boston baseball squads.
Aside from a couple of triples, Game 6 of that best-of-nine series was rather uneventful. Boston won the game 6-3 behind hurler Bill Dinneen‘s 10-hit, three-run, three-strikeout performance, but it seems like that was the last time a World Series Game 6 went off without at least a few heart attacks, heartaches or hearty cheers in The Hub.
In 1912, the Sox were all but immediately out of the sixth contest of the World Series when pitcher Buck O’Brien got shelled for five runs on six hits in the first inning against the New York Giants.
In 1918, 23-year-old Babe Ruth stood in front of Duffy’s Cliff, in the shadows the of the towering, 6-year-old left field wall as his Red Sox clinched the World Series at Fenway Park — a feat that hasn’t happened since. Babe entered into the game against the Cubs as a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth and didn’t even get an at-bat in the historic victory (The Bambino, who pitched and won two games that series, only got six plate appearances, dropping a sacrifice bunt and smacking a two-run triple for his only hit to post a .200 average). The Red Sox got on the board in the third thanks to an error by right fielder Max Flack, which allowed two runs to score. Flack scored an inning later to bring the Cubs within a run, and it stayed that way for five more nail-biting innings before the Sox took the crown in front of their fans.
After a somewhat uneventful 1946 Game 6, the Sox returned to the Fall Classic in 1967. Trailing 3-2 in the series, the Sox had to win to keep their championship hopes alive. Rico Petrocelli got the fans on their feet in with a solo blast in the bottom of the second, but that elation simmered down after the Cardinals plated two in the very next inning to take the lead. In the fourth, the Sox bats eliminated Dick Hughes from the game thanks to home runs from Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith and Petrocelli to give Boston the 4-2 advantage. Fenway was rocking until Lou Brock tied it up with a two-run tater off John Wyatt in the top of the seventh. Just when fans envisioned the lead slipping away with the Cards just minutes away from celebrating on the Fenway pitch, the Sox sent 10 batters to the dish and plated four runs in one of the club’s most exciting innings played.
As if that Game 6 wasn’t exciting enough, things got even better in 1975 when pinch hitter Bernie Carbo blasted a two-out, three-run homer off Rawly Eastwick in the bottom of the eighth to tie things up against the Reds. That night would end when Carlton Fisk shoved a ball fair down the left field line, sending Boston into sheer pandemonium and the series to a seventh game.
As wonderfully insane Game 6 in 1975 was, Game 6 in 1986 was about 100 times worse, if you ask any Sox fan. With champagne on ice in the Red Sox locker room at Shea Stadium, the Sox were one out away from a World Series title. After getting Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez out on back-to-back fly balls and with a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the 10th, pitcher Calvin Schiraldi and the Red Sox let the Mets back into the game with three straight singles that cut the score to 5-4. Reliever Bob Stanley‘s wild pitch to Mookie Wilson on a 2-2 count allowed Kevin Mitchell to score the game-tying run from third base before Bill Buckner — well, you know the rest.
From the very first World Series, to the Red Sox’ sweep of the Rockies in 2007 to the heroics by David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes in the 2013 Fall Classic, baseball fans can expect just about anything from the Boston baseball club — good, bad, weird and everything in between. When things get to a Game 6, though, all bets are off. Buckle up, Boston, Wednesday night is expected to be a wild ride.