THE GREATEST GAME NEVER PLAYED
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun was shining bright;
the band was playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts were light,
and somewhere men were laughing, and somewhere children were told to refrain;
but there was no joy in the Emerald City, the great game was called, on account of rain.
(With credit and apologies to Ernest Thayer.)
It was going to be a day in Dublin which would go down in the annals of the history of Dublin’s first century. It was going to be the greatest game of baseball ever played in Dublin. It was going to be a real life major league baseball game between the Boston Braves and the New York Yankees.
During the early years of World War I, George Stallings, a Jones County, Georgia resident and manager of the Boston Braves, and New York Yankee manager, Bill Donovan, brought their respective clubs to Macon in the latter part of March to train for the upcoming baseball season. To keep their two teams in tip-top shape, Stallings and Donovan scheduled a four-game Georgia series in Macon, Dublin, Cordele, and Waycross before moving north for the regular season. The first game, to be played in Luther Williams Field in Macon on March 26, was canceled because of heavy rains. Split squads of the two teams boarded a train for a late night trip to Dublin in hopes that the field in Dublin would dry out in time for the game on Tuesday, March 27, while the remaining players stayed in Macon to get in some extra practice.
The two teams arrived at the depot in Dublin and walked the short distance up South Jefferson Street to their quarters in the New Dublin Hotel, which was located across the street from the newly built First National Bank Building.
While the players were waiting to play the game, a mayoral candidate was asked by an zealous fan of Yankee power hitter, Frank “Home Run” Baker, if he could meet his idol. All of a sudden, the candidate and more than two dozen fans enveloped Baker, who was unusually shy of crowds, although he was used to playing before thousands of fans in every game he played.
Baker, a more than modest man, was so flustered by the smothering that he ran out a side door to hide in his team’s rail car, which was parked just down the street near the train depot next door.
The primary culprit of the water logged field apparently was a minister of one of Dublin’s leading churches. At the Sunday service before the game, the preacher denounced the game as a mechanism for illegal gambling and too much of a temptation to bring into the city’s back yard. Pointing to the bankruptcies of six leading backers of the game who brought “those wicked ball tossers” to town, he began a prolonged prayer session asking God to bring down his wrath with the game’s greatest enemy - torrential rain.
And, the prayers worked. By the mid-day game time, the field was a virtual lake. The skies were clearing, but no groundskeeper alive could have removed that much water in time for the game so that the teams could climb aboard their train cars for their pre- noon departure for a trip to Cordele for a game on Wednesday afternoon.
The start of the Cordele game was delayed because of a freight train wreck on the trip, which led to the game being called after 5 1/2 innings on account of darkness. The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the 3rd inning and held the Yankees scoreless for the remainder of the game. With two consecutive rain outs, the managers played their top players. Yankee power hitters Baker and Pipp were held hitless by Boston’s Art Nehf. Boston’s first baseman, Ed Konetchy, (2-2) smashed a home run and drove in two runs. Future keystone combo Hall of Famers Rabbit Maranville and Johnny Evers were solid on defense for the winners. Yankee pitcher Ray Caldwell didn’t pitch badly, but his team could not recover from the seven runners they left on base.
The Yankees evened the series in Dothan, Alabama on Thursday afternoon with a 7-5 win behind the pitching of Bob Shawkey and the home run hitting of Home Run Baker and Wally Pipp. Braves’ hurlers, Dick Rudolph and Lefty Tyler, could not cool off the hot hitting Yankee batters.
On March 31, the Yankees, led by the shut out pitching of Ray Fisher and Ed Monroe, shut out the Braves 1-0 in Waycross to even the series at 2-2. Boston infielders Maranville and Baker garnered only one hit (Baker) between them in seven at bats.
Maranville led the Braves to a 4-3 win in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Sunday afternoon erasing a 4-4 hitting performance by Wally Pipp for the New York Americans to once again tie the series at 2-2.
Poor fielding by the Yankees wasted outstanding performances by Ray Cadwell, Wally Pipp, and Urban Shocker and led to a 6-5 loss the Boston National in Florence, South Carolina on April 3.
A 16-hit attack by the Yankees and six errors by the Braves led to a 8-3 drubbing of the Boston team, managed by Johnny Evers, in Wilmington, North Carolina on April 4.
Ironically, spring rains caused the cancellation of the last game of the nine-game series in Petersburg, Virginia, resulting in three wins for the Braves, three wins for the Yankees and three wins for the Dublin preacher and his confounded rain drops. The teams took a break to return to their home cities before beginning the regular season.
At the beginning of the 1917 season, the two teams were quite evenly matched. The Braves featured future Hall of Famer players, Rabbitt Maranville and Johnny Evers, while the pre-Babe Ruth Yankees were floundering, with the aging superstar Frank “Home Run’ Baker and a band of average, but improving, players.
The Yankees, also a sixth place in their league, faired slightly worse with a 72-81 record. Baker and Peckinpaugh led the New York hitters while Shawkey and Caldwell turned in respectable performances on the mound.
But, as they say good things come to those who wait. In the following spring, the Braves and Yankees kept their promises to their fans in Macon and Dublin by returning to the Central Georgia cities for do overs. This time there was no rain, two wins by the devil and his wretched baseball games.
Muddy Ruel, (left) the Yankees shortstop, hit a fifth-inning drive which figured in all three runs by the Yankees in a 3-0 win for the New Yorkers in Dublin on April 1. Two days later, Frank Baker led the Yankees to a 2-1 win over Boston in Macon and a series sweep of the Middle Georgia Series.
After a decade and a half, major league baseball returned to Dublin when the “Gas House Gang” version of the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Oglethorpe Petrels and the Georgia Bulldogs in 1933 and 1935.
But back a century ago, there was no joy in the Emerald City when Irish eyes were crying in the rain.
THE NEW YORK YANKEES
Playing at shortstop for the Yankees was Roger Peckinpaugh, (left) who managed the Yankees in 1914 at the age of 23, making him the youngest manager in major league baseball history. An excellent fielder, Peckinpaugh, was the MVP of the American League in 1925 and a member of the World Champion Washington Senators in 1924.
The Yankees’ greatest player was third baseman, Frank “Home Run” Baker, who was known as the greatest home run champion before Babe Ruth came along. Baker, a member of the world champions in 1910, 1911 and 1913 with the Athletics , led the American League in home runs from 1911 to 1914. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Wally Pipp, (left) the power hitting Yankee first baseman, led the American League in home runs in 1916 and 1917 and help to lead the Yankees to three consecutive pennants from 1921 to 1923, until he became famous for being replaced by Lou Gehrig.
Bob Shawkey, (left) a member of the Yankee pitching staff, was the first to pitch in the legendary Yankee Stadium in 1923.
THE BOSTON BRAVES
Chief Meyers (left) of the Braves. a native American player, hit over .300 for three straight years with the Giants who won three straight National League pennants from 1911 to 1913. He joined the Braves after being a member of the NL champion Brooklyn Robins in 1916.
Hank Gowdy, (left) the Braves catcher, the Boston Braves. was best known for being the first active major leaguer to enlist for service in World War I.
Walter “Rabbit” Maranville, known for his speed and small size, played at shortstop for the Braves. When he retired in 1935, Maranville, a practical joker who helped to lead the Braves to the 1914 World Series Championship over the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics, had played for 23 seasons in the National League, a record broken by Pete Rose some 50 years later. Maranville finished third in the MVP voting in his first full season, The following year, Maranville was the runner-up in the MVP voting to teammate Johnny Evers was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Jesse Barnes (left) began his major league career in 1914 with the Boston Braves. Later in the 1917 season, Barnes became the only NL pitcher to walk two times in one inning. He led the NL in victories in 1919 defeating the Phillies, in a 51-minute game, the shortest nine-inning game ever played. On June 26, 1924, Jesse opposed Virgil in the first pitching
matchup of brothers in major league history.
Boston pitchers Tom Hughes and Dick Rudolph were also veteran of the 1914 Miracle Braves. Rudolph was a member of the Braves team that went from last place to first place in two months, becoming the first team to win a pennant after being in last place on the Fourth of July. The team then went on to defeat Connie Mack's heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series, with Rudolph winning two of the games.
Another Miracle Brave was Johnny Evers, a three-time World Series champion in 1907 and 1908 with the Cubs and again with the Braves in 1914 when he was chosen as the MVP of the National League. Smart and surly, Evers gained baseball immortality with the Cubs as a part of the double play combination with Joe Tinker and Frank Chance, which was immortalized as "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance"Evers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.