“It was a masterly drive by a wonderful batsman, and it sent a thrill of insane pleasure down the spine of every living Quaker sympathizer and a majority of the fans present.” – Tim Murnane, Boston Globe, October 18, 1911, describing Frank Baker’s home run in Game Two of the World Series.
Albert Pujols hit that dramatic home run on Monday to force Game Six. In doing so, he joined a select group of other major league players who have hit memorable post-season home runs. The sportswriters, concentrating on recent history, listed familiar others like Fisk and Gibson.
But what about the first post-season home run hero?
In Game One of the 1903 World Series, the Pirates Jimmy Sebring hit the first home run in (official) World Series play. A game later, the Red Sox Patsy Dougherty became the first player to hit two homers in a World Series. Both feats (Sebring’s and one of Dougherty’s was inside-the-park) were impressive but did not receive major headlines.
The Pirates player-manager Fred Clarke, still a feared slugger at age 36, became the second player to hit two home runs in a World Series when he did it in 1909. His solo shot in Game One gave Pittsburgh a one all tie with Detroit in a game the Pirates won 4-1. His three-run shot in the seventh inning of Game Five gave Pittsburgh a 7-4 lead. Pittsburgh won 8-4.
Clarke’s two round trippers were newsworthy but Babe Adams, the Pirates rookie pitcher, grabbed the headlines by giving up just 4 earned runs in 27 innings and winning all three starts against Ty Cobb and the vaunted Tigers.
Two Octobers later, the Athletic’s Frank Baker emerged as the first home run hero in the World Series. Timing is everything they say, and Baker had it. His two homers came at a time when the stature of the World Series was growing. Historian Freb Lieb:
“By 1911, the World Series had developed from a postseason event – of concern largely to the interested cities – to something like the great national spectacle that it is today. The country virtually shut up shop to await the result of these crucial tussles between Mack and Mac.” (The Story of the World Series, Fred Lieb, 1949).
This showdown was an opportunity for the A’s to redeem themselves after their humiliating loss to the Giants in 1905. Christy Mathewson, who gained fame by shutting the A’s out three times, was back on the mound for Game One. Matty was his masterful self once again, winning this one by giving up just one run. A record crowd of 38,821 Polo Grounders watched the Giants win 2-1. (The previous record was 30,915, 1909, Game Two at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh).
Baker, born and raised on a Maryland farm and playing in his third full major league season, had led the league with 11 circuit shots. A rising star, he was part of Connie Mack’s famed “$100,000” infield.
In Game Two at Philadelphia’s three-year-old beauty Shibe Park, Baker came to the plate in the sixth with the game tied at one and Eddie Collins on second. Rube Marquard, as directed by McGraw before the game, carefully threw him a pair of loops for strikes. The next one was a fastball that the left handed hitting Baker smashed over the 12 foot right field fence. According to Tim Murnane of the Boston Globe, the ball “bounced into the street beyond.” The two-run shot concluding the scoring as the A’s won 3-1.
The following day, the two teams met at the Polo Grounds for Game Three. Mathewson, whose ghostwriter questioned why Marquard had thrown a belt-high fast ball to Baker instead of another curve, took a 1-0 lead into the ninth. With one out and no one on, Baker pulled a Mathewson fast ball and hit it into the right field grand stand. As Leib noted, “Today a home-run into those same stands is considered little more than an oversize bunt. But in 1911, it still was a prodigious clout."
The game went into extras. Philadelphia scored two more times off Mathewson (both unearned) in the 11th to win 3-1. (Marquard’s ghostwriter, in turn, critisized Mathewson).
Pujols’s home run came with his team just one out away from their season being ended. In Game Five of the 1911 Series, the Giants faced the same situation. Back at the Polo Grounds, they trailed 3-1 and were down to their last out in the ninth.
The Retrosheet account.
Herzog grounded out (shortstop to first); Fletcher doubled to left; Meyers grounded out (shortstop to first) [Fletcher to third]; Crandall doubled to center [Fletcher scored]; Devore singled to left [Crandall scored]; Devore was caught stealing second (catcher to second).
The Giants then won it in the tenth. With Doyle on third and one out, Fred Merkle hit a fly to right that scored Doyle.
In Game Six, the A’s powerful lineup scored 13 times against three Giants pitchers to give the A’s their revenge.
As Rich Westcott documents in the first chapter of his book, Great Home Runs of the 20th Century, Frank Baker helped change the way people viewed the home run. It soon came to provide many a thrill to baseball fans. And when they come in October, with everything on the line, there is nothing more dramatic in all of sport.
New York Times
Cohen, Richard and David Neft (Text by Jordan Deutsch), The World Series.
Hynd, Noel. The Giants of the Polo Grounds.
Leib, Fred. The History of the World Series.
Payne, Marty. Home Run Baker. SABR’s Baseball Research Journal 2000.
Westcott, Rich. Great Home Runs of the 20th Century.