1903 World Series

The 1903 World Series, the first modern World Series to be played in Major League Baseball, matched the Boston American League club against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a best-of-nine series, with Boston prevailing five games to three, winning the last four.

Pittsburgh pitcher Sam Leever injured his shoulder while trap-shooting, so his teammate Deacon Phillippe had to pitch five complete games for Pittsburgh. Phillippe won three of his games, but it was not enough to overcome the club from the new American League. Boston pitchers Bill Dinneen and Cy Young led Boston to victory.

In Game 1, Phillippe set a World Series record by striking out 10 Boston batters. That record lasted barely one day, as Dinneen struck out 11 Pittsburgh batters in Game 2.

Honus Wagner, bothered by injuries, batted only 6 for 27 (.222) in the Series and committed six errors. The shortstop was deeply distraught by his performance. The following spring, Wagner (who led the league in 1903 in batting average) refused to send his portrait to a "Hall of Fame" for batting champions. "I was too bum last year," he wrote. "I was a joke in that Boston-Pittsburgh Series. What does it profit a man to hammer along and make a few hits when they are not needed only to fall down when it comes to a pinch? I would be ashamed to have my picture up now.

In this World Series, the Boston Americans came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit, winning the final four games (in a 5-of-9 Series rather than the now standard 4-of-7). Such a comeback would not happen again until the Pirates came back to defeat the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series, and has happened only ten times in baseball history. The Pirates repeated this feat in 1979 against the Baltimore Orioles.

Much was made of the influence of Boston's "Royal Rooters," who traveled to Pittsburgh and sang their theme song "Tessie" to distract the opposing players (especially Honus Wagner). Boston would end up winning three out of the four games at Pittsburgh.

The Pirates' benevolent owner Barney Dreyfuss added his share of the gate receipts to the players' share, so the losing team's players actually finished with a larger individual share than the winning team's.

The Series brought the new American League prestige and proved its best could beat the best of the National League, thus strengthening the demand for future World Series competitions.


Earlier post-season contests

The winners of the National League and American Association had played post-season contests from 1884 to 1891 called "The Championship of the United States" and "World's Championship Series". The Series ended when the American Association folded in 1891. The National League did hold a series of post-season contests on and off between its first and second place finisher for the rest of the decade. The Brooklyn Dodgers (then called the Superbas) and Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished first and second in 1900, played a five-game playoff in Pittsburgh that the Dodgers won three games to one.

A new league

In 1901, Ban Johnson, president of the Western League, a minor league organization, formed the American League to take advantage of the National League's 1900 contraction from twelve teams to eight. Johnson and fellow owners raided the senior circuit and signed away many star players, including Cy Young and Jimmy Collins. Johnson had a list of 46 National Leaguers he targeted for the American League; by 1902, all but one had made the jump.. The constant raiding, however, scotched the idea of a championship between the two leagues. Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, whose team ran away with the 1902 National League pennant, was open to a post-season contest and even said he would allow the American League champion to stock his roster with All-Stars. However, Johnson had spoken of putting a team in Pittsburgh and even attempted to raid the Pirates' rosters in August 1902, which soured Dreyfuss. At the end of the season, though, the Pirates played a group of American League All-Stars in a four-game exhibition series, winning two games to one, with one tie.

The leagues finally called a truce in the winter of 1902-03 and formed the National Commission to preside over organized baseball. The following season, the Boston Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates had secured their pennants by September. That August, Dreyfuss challenged the American League to an eleven game championship series. Encouraged by Johnson and National League President Harry Pulliam, Americans owner Henry J. Killilea met with Dreyfuss in Pittsburgh in September and instead agreed to a best-of-nine championship, with the first three games played in Boston, the next four in Pittsburgh, and the remaining two (if necessary) in Boston.

One significant point about this agreement was that it was an arrangement primarily between the two clubs rather than a formal arrangement between the leagues. In short, it was a voluntary event, a fact which would result in no Series at all for 1904, and eventually to the formal establishment of the Series as a compulsory event starting in 1905.

The teams

The Pirates won their third straight pennant in 1903 thanks to a powerful line-up that included legendary shortstop Honus Wagner, who hit .355 and drove in 101 runs, player-manager Fred Clarke, who hit .351, and Ginger Beaumont, who hit .341 and led the league in hits and runs. The Pirates' pitching was weaker than it had been in previous years but boasted 24-game winner Deacon Phillippe and 25-game winner Sam Leever.

The Americans had a strong pitching staff, led by Cy Young, who went 28-9 in 1903 and became the all-time wins leader that year. Bill Dineen and Long Tom Hughes, right-handers like Young, had won 21 games and 20 games each. The Boston outfield, featuring Chick Stahl (.274), Buck Freeman (.287, 104 RBIs) and Patsy Dougherty (.331, 101 runs scored) was considered excellent.

Although the Pirates had dominated their league for the previous three years, they went into the series riddled with injuries and plagued by bizarre misfortunes. Otto Krueger, the team's only utility player, was beaned on September 19 and never fully played in the series. 16-game winner Ed Doheny left the team three days later, exhibiting signs of paranoia; he was committed to an insane asylum the following month. Leever had been battling an injury to his pitching arm (which he made worse by entering a trapshooting competition). Worst of all, Wagner, who had a sore thumb throughout the season, injured his right leg in September and was never 100 percent for the post-season.

Some sources say Boston were heavy underdogs. Boston bookies actually gave even odds to the teams (and only because Dreyfuss and other "sports" were alleged to have bet on Pittsburgh to bring down the odds). The teams were generally thought to be evenly matched, with the Americans credited with stronger pitching and the Pirates with superior offense and fielding. The outcome, many believed, hinged on Wagner's health. "If Wagner does not play, bet your money at 2 to 1 on Boston," said the Sporting News, "but if he does play, place your money at 2 to 1 on Pittsburgh.


AL Boston Americans (5) vs NL Pittsburgh Pirates (3)
Game Score Date Location Attendance
1 Pittsburgh Pirates - 7, Boston Americans - 3 October 1 Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds 16,242
2 Pittsburgh Pirates - 0, Boston Americans - 3 October 2 Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds 9,415
3 Pittsburgh Pirates - 4, Boston Americans - 2 October 3 Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds 18,801
4 Boston Americans - 4, Pittsburgh Pirates - 5 October 6 Exposition Park III 7,600
5 Boston Americans - 11, Pittsburgh Pirates - 2 October 7 Exposition Park III 12,322
6 Boston Americans - 6, Pittsburgh Pirates - 3 October 8 Exposition Park III 11,556
7 Boston Americans - 7, Pittsburgh Pirates - 3 October 10 Exposition Park III 17,038
8 Pittsburgh Pirates - 0, Boston Americans - 3 October 13 Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds 7,455


Game 1

Thursday, October 1, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts

The Pirates started Game 1 strong, scoring six runs in the first four innings. They extended their lead to 7-0 on a solo home run by Jimmy Sebring in the 7th, the first home run in World Series history. Boston tried to mount a comeback in the last three innings, but it was too little, too late, as they ended up losing by a score of 7-3 in the first ever World Series game. Both Phillippe and Young threw complete games, with Phillippe striking out 10 and Young fanning 5, but Young also gave up twice as many hits and allowed 3 earned runs to Phillippe's 2.

Game 2

Friday, October 2, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts

After starting out strong in Game 1, the Pirates simply shut down offensively, managing to get a meager 3 hits, all of which were singles. Pirates starter Sam Leever went only one inning and gave up 3 hits and 2 runs before being replaced by Bucky Veil in the second inning due to injury, who finished the game for Pittsburgh. Bill Dinneen struck out 11 and pitched a complete game for the Americans, while Patsy Dougherty hit home runs in the first and sixth innings to produce 2 of the Boston's 3 runs.

Game 3

Saturday, October 3, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts

Deacon Phillippe, pitching on only one day rest, started Game 3 for the Pirates, and did not let them down as he pitched his second complete game victory of the series to put the Pirates up two games to one.

Game 4

Tuesday, October 6, 1903 at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

After two days of rest, Deacon Phillippe was ready to pitch his second straight game. He threw his third complete game victory of the series against Bill Dinneen, who was pitching in his second start of the series. However, Phillippe's second straight victory was almost not to be, as the Americans, down 5-1 in the top of the ninth, staged a rally to bring the game within one. The comeback attempt failed, though, as Phillippe managed to put an end to it and give the Pirates a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Game 5

Wednesday, October 7, 1903 at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Game 5 was a pitcher's duel for the first five innings, with Boston's Cy Young and Pittsburgh's Brickyard Kennedy giving up no runs. That changed at the top of the sixth, however, when the Americans scored a then-record 6 runs that inning. Young, on the other hand, managed to keep his shutout intact before finally giving up a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. He went the distance and struck out four for his first World Series win.

Game 6

Thursday, October 8, 1903 at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Game 6 featured a rematch between the starters of Game 2, Bill Dinneen (Boston) and Sam Leever (Pittsburgh). This time, Leever would pitch the entire game, but despite throwing a complete game he was outmatched by Dinneen, who ended up with his second complete game victory of the series. After losing three of the first four games of the World Series, the underdog Boston Americans had tied the series at three games apiece.

Game 7

Saturday, October 10, 1903 at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The fourth and final game in Pittsburgh saw Deacon Phillippe start his fourth game of the series for Pittsburgh. This time, however, he wouldn't fare as well as he did in his first three starts. Cy Young, pitching in his third start of the series, would face a much more favorable fate, holding the Pirates to only three runs.

Game 8

Tuesday, October 13, 1903 at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, Massachusetts

The final game of the inaugural World Series started out as an intense pitcher's duel, with no runs being scored until the fourth inning - when a Hobe Ferris single scored two runners. Deacon Phillippe started his fifth and final game of the series, while Bill Dinneen started his fourth game of the series. As he did in Game 2, Dinneen threw a complete game shutout while striking out seven, leading the Boston Americans to victory, while Phillippe, who also threw a respectable game, just couldn't pitch at Dinneen's level due to wearing out his arm in the series (as a result of playing so many games in such a short time span) and gave up three runs in the defeat. Honus Wagner struck out to end the Series.

Composite Box

1903 World Series (5-3): Boston Americans (A.L.) over Pittsburgh Pirates (N.L.)

Series statistics

Boston Americans


Note: G = Games played; AB = At Bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting Average; HR = Home Runs; RBI = Runs Batted In
Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Jimmy Collins 8 36 9 .250 0 1
Lou Criger 8 26 6 .231 0 4
Bill Dinneen 4 11 2 .182 0 0
Patsy Dougherty 8 34 8 .235 2 5
Duke Farrell 2 1 0 .000 0 0
Hobe Ferris 8 31 9 .290 0 5
Buck Freeman 8 31 9 .290 0 4
Long Tom Hughes 1 0 0 .000 0 0
Candy LaChance 8 25 6 .240 0 4
Jack O'Brien 2 2 0 .000 0 0
Freddy Parent 8 31 9 .290 0 4
Chick Stahl 8 33 10 .303 0 3
Cy Young 4 15 1 .067 0 3



  • Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series. 1st ed. New York: St Martins, 1990. (Neft and Cohen 3-8)
  • Reichler, Joseph, ed. (1982). The Baseball Encyclopedia (5th ed.), p. 2112. MacMillian Publishing. ISBN 0-02-579010-2.
  • Forman, Sean L. 1903 World Series. - Major League Statistics and Information.. Retrieved on 2007-12-07..

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