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Didja ever notice the other walk-off of October 25?

Continuing along our series related to the baseball game between the Mets and Red Sox that took place on October 25, 1986.

Sometime around 3 a.m., after 482 pitches of a wacky Game 3 of the World Series, I asked a couple of folks I knew which game they considered to be crazier- the one which they had just viewed on October 25, 2005, or the one that they had the chance to view on that date 19 years previous. Both selected the one from the past, which pleased me, but it also reminded me of a blog post I wanted to write, about another baseball game that took place on an October 25.

The game of baseball was so much different in 1911 than it is today that it's staggering to think this was the same sport. Ninety four years ago there were only 16 teams, and as basketball was played in its infancy on the ground instead of the air, so too was baseball. No American League club hit more than 35 home runs. The National League had the power hitters. The Phillies slugged a major-league best 60 long balls and Frank "Wildfire" Schulte of the Cubs became the first player of the century to surpass 20 long balls (he had 21). The game emphasized speed as there was an abundance of both stolen bases (the average team has 213 that season) and errors (the average team committed 283!). The stars of the game were pitchers like Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander, and high-average hitters like Ty Cobb (who hit .420), "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Honus Wagner.

The two best teams in baseball that season were Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics and John McGraw's New York Giants, who met in the World Series that season. The Athletics featured Frank Baker, who clubbed 11 long balls that season as part of what was known as "The $100,000 infield," pitted against the speed of the Giants (347 steals) and the pitching of Mathewson and future Hall of Famer Rube Marquard. Mathewson won Game 1, but the Athletics squeaked out a win in Game 2, then beat Mathewson in Game 3 in extra innings after Baker's home run tied it in the ninth (he was aptly nicknamed "Home Run" Baker thereafter, so the story goes). After six (yes, six) days worth of rain delays, the series resumed and the Athletics moved within a win of repeating as champs after beating Mathewson again, 4-2.

Game 5 was played on a Wednesday afternoon in New York on a date that would become much more well known three-quarters of a century later. In the third inning, Athletics centerfielder Rube Oldring clubbed a Marquard pitch for a three-run home run and it looked like the Athletics would run away with a decisive win. Or maybe not. Philadelphia would not score again. The Giants got one run back in the seventh in uneventful fashion (a walk, an error, a force play and a sacrifice fly producing it) but still trailed by two against Athletics starter Jack Coombs heading into the last of the ninth.

The situation appeared pretty grim, much like it was for the Mets in the 10th inning against the Red Sox, or, if you want to harken back to a few weeks ago, to the Cardinals in the ninth inning of their NLCS Game 5 with Houston, but the Giants came up with an amazing rally. Eyewitness accounts reference that some fans headed for the exits when the inning began, not wishing to view the conclusion of an inevitable defeat. They missed something special.

New York had a runner on third with two men out and McGraw let pitcher Doc Crandall bat as his teams last hope, in what would be considered blasphemy now, but not terribly unorthodox back then. Crandall, capable with the bat (he finished his career with a .285 batting average, was sometimes used as a pinch-hitter and played 70 games at second base), delivered a double to right center, then scored the tying run when leadoff man Josh Devore singled to left.

Crandall set down the Athletics in order in the 10th and Mack, attempting to stuff this game back into its proper place in the victory column, called on usual starter Eddie Plank for relief duty. Giants second baseman Larry Doyle played the role of Ray Knight, atoning for a key error earlier in the game by doubling to start the frame. He advanced to third, sliding in ahead of the throw as Fred Snodgrass reached via bunt. With runners on the corners and nobody out, the Giants needed only a long fly to win. They got one on their second try, from Fred Merkle, he of "Merkle's Boner" fame three years previous (he cost the Giants a walk-off win with a baserunning blunder in what turned out to be a key game in a tight pennant race).

This game was not without a bizarre finish though. Doyle's "toboggan"-like slide into home (as described by the New York Times) resulted in his missing the plate, at least in the eyes of home plate ump Bill Klem. However, neither Mack nor any of his players noticed this (Doyle insisted afterwards that he touched home plate). Klem told reporters afterwards that had a member of the Athletics protested he would have called Doyle out, but since they did not, he was not obligated to do so (even back in 1911 umpires were in the middle of controversy).

Feeling rather confident, Marquard authored a column in the newspaper the next day, the headline of which read "We'll Be Champions Yet." Marquard was a Hall of Famer, but Mark Messier-like, he was not. The Athletics drubbed the Giants, 13-2 the next day to win the World Series, four games to two, leaving the events of that October 25 mostly forgotten in baseball history.

True Mettyfifths know...Other World Series games played on October 25th took place in 1981 (Dodgers 2, Yankees 1 in Game 5), 1987 (Twins 4, Cardinals 2 in Game 7), 1995 (Braves 5, Indians 2 in Game 4), 1997 (Indians 4, Marlins 1 in Game 6), 2000 (Yankees 3, Mets 2 in Game 4) and 2003 (Marlins 2, Yankees 0 in Game 6)


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