October 27, 2011
I wrote the 1911 World Series piece in “present time” because I thought that would bring 1911 alive. It was fun for me to think of the Series as if it were currently going on instead of looking back on it and writing it like some boring high school history text. Of course, in reality, it took place 100 years ago, and everyone associated has long since passed away. At the time of the Series, of course they didn’t know what the future had in store for them. We do know now. Let’s take a look at what happened to some of the more notable 1911 A’s players over the ensuing years.
The Athletics were in the midst of their first of two dynasties in Philadelphia. They had won the 1910 World Series over the Cubs, and now they beat the Giants to win another. They would hit the banquet circuit pretty hard that offseason. Home Run Baker was the most sought out athlete in America. The team had a fancy dinner at the Poor Richard Club, one of the most prestigious private clubs in the company, and which met at 239 Camac (The building where they partied is still standing and contains a law office now.)
The team won 90 games in 1912, but that was only good enough for 3rd place. They rebounded in 1913, winning 96 games and crushing the Giants again in the World Series. In 1914, they returned to the Series, where they were heavily favored against the Boston Braves. They were smoked in 4 games. There were rumors that the Series was fixed, but nothing ever came of them, and it seems more likely conspiracy buffs were just as active 97 years ago as they are now. Regardless, Mack had run into financial difficulty and decided to sell off all of his best players. The result was a collapse that can only be compared to the 1998 Marlins. The A’s went from 99 wins to 43 wins. It took over a decade for the team to recover.
Home Run Baker sat out the 1914 season in a contract dispute with Mack, then was sent to the Yankees. He never replicated his success with the A’s. He did play with Babe Ruth in NY, and was perhaps a little jealous of Ruth’s celebrity. “I don’t like to cast aspersions,” Baker later confided to a reporter, “but a Little Leaguer today can hit the modern ball as far as grown men could hit the ball we played with.” He became a coach on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He and Mack apparently settled their differences, for in 1925, he sold one of his players Jimmie Foxx, to Mack for a song. Foxx turned out to be a superstar. Baker was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Eddie Collins was shipped to the Chicago in 1915, and played on the 1919 Black Sox squad. He was never implicated as being involved, and stayed in the majors until 1930. Interestingly, he came back to Philly and was a pinch hitter on their 1929 World Series winning teams. He is the only Philadelphia major pro sports player I am aware of with 4 rings in any sport with the word “Philadelphia” inscribed on the ring. According to Bill James Win Share rating system, he was the greatest 2nd baseman of all time. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.
If you want to learn about Chief Bender, check out this great interview with his biographer Tom Swift. He was part of the max exodus out of Philly after the 1914 season, playing for the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League. He returned to Philadelphia to play two years on the Phillies. After his career was done, he served as a scout for Connie Mack from 1925 to 1950. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1953, a year before his death.
Rube Oldring had an interesting mess on his hands during the 1914 World Series. He was planning to get married when his ex-wife claimed desertion. He claimed he had never been married before, though strangely he had filed twice in the 1910 census, once as married and once as single. He was heckled mercilessly by the Boston fans, and had a miserable Series. The matter was settled out of court, and he remained with his “new” wife for the remaining 47 years of his life.
Jack Coombs had one more great year left in the tank, going 21-10 with a 3.29 ERA for the A’s in 1912. He battled typhoid for two years before Mack sent him to the Brooklyn Robins (aka Dodgers). He had one last hurrah in Brooklyn, where he and Rube Marquard teamed up to lead the Robins to the 1916 World Series. Coombs was the only Robins pitcher to get a win in that Series, as they fell to the Red Sox, 4 games to 1. He later became head baseball coach at Duke University, a position he served for 23 years. Duke’s baseball field is named after him.
Eddie Plank is probably the most underrated pitcher in Philadelphia sports history. I’ll be honest, I consider myself a pretty big sports nut and I hardly knew anything about him when I started this project. Come to find out, he was one of the greatest lefties in baseball history. He won 305 games as an American League pitcher, still an AL record for a lefty, and had a career ERA of 2.35. The winner of Game 2 of the 1911 World Series, he won the deciding Game 5 in 1913 by throwing a complete game 2 hitter. Like so many others, he left town after the 1914 World Series. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1946.
As for Connie Mack, there’s not much I can say that Shibe Park historian Bruce Kuklick didn’t say in our awesome interview.