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1920 Dodgers: The World Series begins

100 years ago this week, a Fall Classic in Brooklyn

View of Fans for World Series Game

The 1920 Brooklyn Dodgers made the World Series for the second time in five years, and face a first-time pennant winner in the Cleveland Indians.

For the second year in a row, and for the third time ever, this World Series is best-of-9, with the first three games at Ebbets Field, followed by four games in Cleveland before the final two games, if necessary, back in Brooklyn.

There were understandable concerns about gambling this year, especially after pitcher Eddie Cicotte last week admitted to the White Sox cheating scandal in the 1919 Fall Classic to a grand jury. On an off day last week, when the Dodgers’ opener against the Giants was rained out, outfielder and team captain Zack Wheat, pitcher Al Mamaux, and third-string catcher Zack Taylor gave statements to the Brooklyn district attorney, per the Indianapolis Star (1):

Later when Mr. Lewis was asked if anything of a suspicious nature had been unearthed, he replied, “Absolutely nothing.” The district attorney said he was satisfied that the players were strictly “on the level” and that his purpose in examining the players was simply to find out if any attempt had been made to approach them.

President Ebbets said that as many players as he could communicate with would go to the district attorney’s office tomorrow and that by Saturday all members of the team will have appeared before the prosecutor.

Game 1

Facing a Cleveland offense that scored the most runs in the majors and loaded with good left-handed hitters, including Tris Speaker, their best player, Brooklyn opted for left-hander Rube Marquard as the Game 1 starter on Tuesday. Indians lefties went 1-for-13 in the game, but unfortunately for the Dodgers, Cleveland has a bunch of good right-handed hitters, too.

It was the right-handers that struck first, in the second inning. George Burns singled on a pop fly in short right field, then scored when first baseman Ed Konetchy’s errant throw to second found its way to the outfield.

Smoky Joe Wood walked and Joe Sewell singled later in the inning, followed by catcher Steve O’Neill doubling home the second run. O’Neill doubled home Wood again in the fourth.

Zack Wheat doubled to lead off the seventh, then scored on a pair of groundouts, but that was the only damage done against Indians starter Stan Coveleski, who pitched a complete-game win.

Final score: Cleveland 3, Brooklyn 1

Game 2

The Dodgers went with their best pitcher in Game 2 on Wednesday, and were not rewarded with another stellar effort from spitballer Burleigh Grimes. The right-hander scattered seven hits and four walks but kept Cleveland off the board for his sixth shutout and 26th complete game of the season.

Grimes, who hit .306(/.358/.432) with 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBI during the regular season, singled and scored in the third inning, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

It was right fielder Tommy Griffith who drove home Grimes, and Griffith who singled home another run in the fifth inning. Zack Wheat doubled home Brooklyn’s first run.

Staked to a 3-0 lead, Grimes faced trouble late, allowing two hits in the seventh inning and walking the bases loaded in the eighth. But he held Cleveland to 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position to prevail and even the series.

Final score: Brooklyn 3, Cleveland 0

Game 3

Brooklyn tabbed another lefty for the third game, picking swingman Sherry Smith, who was excellent with a 1.85 ERA during the regular season but in a swingman role. This was only his 14th start of the season.

But it worked. Smith allowed only three hits, and the only run charged to his ledger was unearned, when Wheat muffed Speaker’s double in left field in the fourth inning.

The Dodgers chased Cleveland starter Ray Caldwell after just five batters. A walk, error, and two singles plated two runs, and that proved to be enough. Wheat atoned for his error with a three-hit game.

Final score: Brooklyn 2, Cleveland 1

Game 4

Brooklyn showed off its pitching depth by starting Leon Cadore, he of the 26-inning game five months earlier, in Game 4 on Saturday in Cleveland. Unfortunately he lasted only into the second inning, allowing four singles and a walk to his seven batters faced, and two runs.

Coveleski, who won Game 1 for Cleveland, came back and did the same in Game 4 with another complete game. Griffith got him for an RBI double in the fourth inning, but that only trimmed Brooklyn’s deficit to 4-1. The Dodgers didn’t score again.

Indians second baseman Bill Wambsganss scored twice and drove in a run, collecting his first two hits of the series, in what is sure to be his main contribution to this Fall Classic.

Marquard, the Game 1 starter, pitched three innings in relief in this one, but his day was much more eventful before the game. The left-hander was arrested for scalping tickets outside of the drably named League Field in Cleveland.

From the Reading Times (2):

Marquard was arrested at the Hotel Winton on Saturday by Detective Soukoup, who swore out an affidavit that Marquard had offered to sell him six tickets for the World Series games in Cleveland for $350. At the end of the trial Judge Silbert said: “I am satisfied that Marquard has violated the law and the spirit of the law, but I believe he has been punished enough by being written up more than any presidential candidate and feel this has been a lesson to him.”

Another account of the trial saw the judge use more colorful language (3):

In imposing sentence, Judge Silbert said: “You acted like a real rube and I am fully convinced of your guilt.”

He called Rube “a real rube.” Respect.

Marquard was convicted a few days after the arrest but only fined $1 plus costs. National League president John Heydler said the league would take no further action against Marquard, but Dodgers owner Charles Ebbets vowed that he would never pitch for the Dodgers again.

True to his word, Ebbets traded Marquard that December to Cincinnati.

Final score: Cleveland 5, Brooklyn 1

Up next

With the series tied 2-2, we are guaranteed at least three more games. It would take a clean sweep of those three in order for this series not to be decided in Brooklyn. Grimes faces off against 31-game winner Jim Bagby in Game 5 on Sunday, a rematch of Game 2 in Brooklyn, won by the Dodgers.

  1. “New Yorkers will assist in scandal quiz,” The Indianapolis Star, October 1, 1920.
  2. “Rube in bad with base ball kings,” Reading Times, October 14, 1920.
  3. “Find Rube guilty: Marquard pays fine on scalping charge,” The Topeka State Journal, October 12, 1920.