Any Ol’ Game: May 4, 1903 – Washington At Boston

I am so tired of World Series reruns. Is that all ESPN and MLB keep in their archives? A handful of mostly Yankees games? I just want to see a game … a regular, any ol’ game. A game that will surprise me, not because it stands the test of time, but simply because it’s baseball.

Monday, May 4, 1903, Washington Senators at Boston Americans

The American and National Leagues would play the first-ever official World Series in October 1903.

But, on May 4, you couldn’t have guessed that the Boston Americans would win that Series.

First off, the squabbling National and American Leagues wouldn’t even agree to hold an interleague championship until August.

And, second, on May 4, the Boston Americans weren’t great. They weren’t even particularly good.

Coming off of a so-so 1902 season, the Americans (who wouldn’t be called the Red Sox until 1907) were 6-7 on May 4, mired in the middle of the pack and 2.5 games back of the White Sox. The Washington Senators were 2.5 games back, too. (The Senators would finish the season tied with the Cardinals for the worst record in baseball.)

It wasn’t a particularly news’y Monday, that May 4, but this Gold Medal Flour ad on page one of The Boston Globe caught my eye.

Fun Fact: Flour — Or The Lack Of It — Is Still Front-Page News

And, There Was Root Beer, Too! And, In Teeny-Tiny Type, Something New: Triscuits!

Meanwhile, on a trip through Kansas over the weekend, a local gifted President Theodore Roosevelt with a two-week old badger.

“The little animal is as friendly as can be.”

(Ooops, sorry. Back to baseball.)

God, it was cold in Boston on May 4. Windy. Rainy, too. Game time temperature was around 49. It drizzled all afternoon.

A good day for the New England farmers, who desperately needed the rain. A lousy day for baseball.

“[I]t was only the dyed-in-the-wool through and through rooter that had the nerve to hie up to the game.” — Boston Post.

Sorry, Not Today, Ladies. Your Day Is Tuesday.

The weather was so lousy that the National League Boston Beaneaters, who were scheduled to play the New York Giants at nearby South End Grounds, cancelled their game before it even started. Most of the Beaneaters and Giants headed over to watch the Americans’ game.

Who’s The Wimpy League?

Public Domain via Boston Public Library

Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds On A Nicer Day. South Ends Grounds Can Be Seen In The Upper Right Corner.

Cy Young’s 28 wins for the Boston Americans would lead the league in 1903.

Tom Hughes, third in the Boston rotation behind Young and Bill Dinneen, would win 20.

May 4 was one of them.

Public Domain via the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Boston American’s Pitcher Tom Hughes

 (I’ll wait, while you imagine your number three starting pitcher earning 20 wins.)

Just 718 turned out for the game on that raw, windy Monday – the smallest crowd ever at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds, which averaged about 6,000.

“The 700 spectators were scattered about the park with heavy coat collars turned up, and old pneumonia chuckled and rubbed his hands with glee.” — The Boston Globe.

Tom Hughes was steady, giving up 4 runs, just 2 earned, striking out 7 and walking just 4 Senators.

But Boston’s 5’8” second baseman Hobe Ferris was the player of the game.

Boston American’s Second Baseman Hobe Ferris

The Boston Globe, 5/5/1903

Two Homers? Well, Not Exactly … 

Ferris’s solo home run to right-center in the sixth broke a 4-4 tie. That homer and a triple in the third that led to three runs, accounted for four of the Americans’ six runs.

The Boston Globe considered Ferris’s triple a home run.

It wasn’t, although he scored on the play. Let’s unpack things.

Ferris’s triple came with two-out, two-on in the third. The baseball shot its way to left field, easily scoring the two men on. Ferris scored, too, on an error, when the Senator’s left fielder Big Ed Delahanty lazily lobbed the ball to Senator’s shortstop Rabbit Robinson, who lazily didn’t bother to try to throw the runner out at home. (Depending on the newspaper you’re reading, Delahanty was charged with the error, Robinson was, or neither was.)

(On October 1, in Game 1, Ferris, himself, would commit the first error in World Series history.)

While Ferris was the primary reason the Americans won, the primary reason the Senators lost, The Washington Times would have you know, was their stupidity.

The Washington Times, 5/5/1903

“Brainless playing! Who would not rather see a comedy of errors than a game lost by stupid ball playing?”

The Senators’ three errors (or five depending on the paper) led to five unearned runs. The only earned run for Boston was Ferris’s sixth-inning homer.

The game, all the papers agree, took exactly two hours.

Washington skipper Tom Loftus called a team meeting after the game, The Washington Times reported, “and handed it out to them straight from the shoulder.”

That must have set a fire under them. The next day, another raw and wet Boston day, the Senators scored three quick runs off Boston’s Bill Dinneen in the first.

Shortly after that third Washington run, time was called on account of rain. Thirty minutes later the game was cancelled.

Sorry, Ladies.

16 thoughts on “Any Ol’ Game: May 4, 1903 – Washington At Boston

  1. It’s Bill Dinneen, Bloggess, not Deenan. Dinneen is one of several players to become a major league umpire after his playing days were over, and was the first player to both pitch a shutout in the World Series (1903) and then go on to umpire a World Series too. Eight World Series, to be exact; his fairly pedestrian pitching career (170 wins, 177 losses) spanned twelve years, from 1898 to 1909, but his outstanding umpiring career lasted 28! I think his umpiring creds combined with the uniqueness of his 40 years total in the major leagues qualify him for induction into the Hall of Fame, but maybe that’s just me.

      • Dinneen also holds the distinction of being the only player to both PITCH a no-hitter (against the White Sox (in 1905j and CALL one as an umpire. (He was on the field as an umpire for a total of five no-hitters.) Pretty unique.

  2. Great read once again! With a name like Rabbit one would think Robinson would have been quicker off the mark. I always enjoy learning a bit of history in your blog.

  3. A couple of Hall of Famers involved; Jimmy Collins for Boston and Ed Delahanty for the Senators.
    Thanks for this. Helps remind us of just another day at the ballpark. And I could sure use one of those about now.

    • I was getting tired of seeing World Series games when we all know how they’ll turn out before they even start … I just want to see a plain ol’ random game … a game so obscure or forgotten that it feels new.

      Editor/Husband and I just got back from our daily walk and I regaled him with the story of Big Ed Delahanty’s untimely — and still sort of mysterious — demise later that summer.

  4. Hobe Ferris hit one of the longest homers of his day – though of average height, he actually was a pretty fair power hitter – and it happened in New York. According to those at the game, Ferris hit a shot that left the Highlanders park, bounded down a street, and plopped into the Hudson River. (Hilltop Park is maybe a couple of blocks from the river, and it was downhill. Still – it would have required a good amount of luck to have rolled all the way down to the river.)

    I’m not saying I totally buy it, but that was the story I read and it suits me like a glass of Amaretto.


  5. Youtube has many past TV and radio games and has radio broadcasts. Really interesting to listen and pull up the team rosters and player stats and learn about players.

  6. Great again!
    I, too, am tired of ESPN’s rerun choices. With two exceptions (1991 games 6 &7), I haven’t bothered. At least back in the’50s when we only got the weekend “[NY] Game of the Week “, pretty much consisting of the Yankees, Dodgers, & Giants vs whomever, we at least got to hear Ole Diz and Pee Wee do the broadcast. But I was able to watch the Korean game today. Weird without fans, but baseball.
    Don’t you wish current game reporters were as frank about “stupid playing “?
    Can’t remember the last time I heard of someone being gifted a badger…

    • Jim Palmer, who does color for the Orioles, is pretty frank when someone does something stupid — no matter which team it is, including the O’s. It’s a breath of fresh air.

      I saw the re-broadcast of 1991/Game 7 with Morris and Smoltz doing some commentary. I will say one thing about that 1991 World Series. Game 2? Ron Gant was safe. :)

      I am taping the Korean games … since 2 a.m. starts are a little past my bedtime.

      • Perhaps tangentially,
        Re the Gold Medal Flour ad: from the Washburn-Co. of Minneapolis. Besides being the flour mill center due to local railway magnate James J. Hill (the Empire Builder) bringing in Canadian wheat, Washburn Company had other interests, as did bitter rival Pillsbury. In 1924 Washburn acquired the CBS media affiliate, whose call letters remain to this day WCCO. In 1904, Washburn opened a plant in Buffalo- see triscuits. Washburn was part of a merger with several other millers and all became part of the new General Mills. (1924).
        There’s still a Washburn high school, and the Minneapolis Millers were part of the old American Association, AAA affiliates with Boston & the Giants until 1960. Alums include Hobe Ferris, Moe Berg, T. Williams, C. Yastrzemski, W. Mays among others, 13 in HOF.

        • Your bit of flour milling history answered a question for me. My dad worked his whole life for the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul&Pacific Railroad ( aka The Milwaukee Road). One of their streamliners was called The Empire Builder, and I always wondered why. Now I know. Thanks.

          • Yep, as the founder of the Great Northern Railway Mr. Hill gained the Empire Builder nickname as a result of privately funding part of the transcontinental railroad. And now, as you noted, it’s the name for the Amtrak route between Chicago and Seattle/Portland. I bet your Dad had (has?) many stories. A reminder of Hill’s clout is the Stone Arch Bridge across the Mississippi in Minneapolis. Hill built it in 1882-1883 out of granite and limestone instead of iron and instead of a normal “shortest distance “ across design, he built the bridge 2100 feet on a diagonal route to connect two properties he already owned. While it was originally a railroad bridge, now it carries bikers and pedestrians.

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