Memory Lane

If you think Game 7 of the World Series is going to be crazy, you should have been there for Game 8

October 30, 2019
World Series: Boston Red Sox v New York Giants
FPGMANHATTAN, NY - OCTOBER 1912: Members of the Boston Red Sox line up for batting practice before one of the World Series games against the New York Giants circa October 1912 at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, New York. The Sox went on to win the series, defeating the New York Giants. (Photo by FPG/Getty Images)

Good morning, baseball fans. It's October 30th, All Hallow's Eve, and across the nation—nay, THE WORLD!—baseball nerds are waking up with a smile on their face and a pep in their step, because it's officially bonus baseball day. After 162 regular season games, four weeks of postseason, and six rounds of World Series ball, things are all knotted up between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, which can only mean one glorious thing: World Series Game 7, AKA the best thing in professional American sports.

In the long (longgggg) history of Major League Baseball, there have been 39 World Series Game 7s—some of them classics (1960, 2016) and some of them not (1956, 1985)—but tonight has all-timer potential. On one side you have Max Scherzer and on the other Zack Greinke, two of the most dominant aces of their era. You have Juan Soto and Alex Bregman, who might carry their bats to the moon if they hit one out tonight. There's the looming specter of Davey Martinez's blow-up following a bogus interference call in Game 6. There's Kate Upton and a Houston furniture mogul "Mattress Mack" who has an estimated $22 MILLION ACTUAL U.S. DOLLARS riding on this sucker. But if you think all that sounds wild, then you should have been there for World Series Game 8.

Yes, we said "8."

The year is 1912. The Titanic has just sunk, the Republic of China has just formed, and the term "World War" doesn't exist yet. It's a time of booming industry and bottomless hope, especially for fans of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants, who have turned up to the Polo Grounds in Manhattan for Game 1 of the 1912 World Series. Under the rising skycrapers of New York City, Red Sox Smokey Joe Wood—owner of a ridiculous regular-season record of 34-5—pitches the favored Red Sox to Game 1 victory by a score of 4-3. That's where things get weird...

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"Smokey" Joe Wood

The following day, the teams reconvened at Fenway Park for Game 2. First pitch was scheduled for 2 p.m. ET (what a time to be alive) and Boston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, with a little help from one of Art Fletcher's three errors on the day. Despite the defensive horror-show, the Giants chipped away, eventually tying the game with a three-run eighth. Red Sox reliever Charley Hall walked three consecutive batters to load the bases in the ninth, but somehow escaped. The game was headed to extras.

After the Giants took the lead 6-5 in the top of the 10th, all hell broke loose in the home half when New York sent starter Christy Mathewson, who had already pitched a complete game, back out to the mound. Red Sox star Tris Speaker promptly smacked an extra-base hit into the centerfield gap. Speaker roared around the bases before being tackled by Giants third baseman Buck Herzog (baseball names just aren't what they used to be, let me tell you) in an effort to prevent an inside-the-park home run. Undeterred, Speaker scrambled to his feet and headed for home. The throw came in and there was a play at the plate, but Giants backup catcher Art Wilson dropped the ball and, just like that, the game was tied. Many people in the stadium claimed Speaker hadn't touched first base, but on appeal the umpire ruled that he had and the game continued. As the eleventh inning wore on, darkness fell on the unlit stadium, eventually forcing Game 2 to be ruled a 6-6 tie.

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World Series grandstands at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, New York.

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Over the next five games—amidst game-fixing rumors and protests by Red Sox fan group the Royal Rooters for the team double selling their seats— the teams played to a three-game-apiece stalemate. World Series Game 8 was born. With homefield settled on a coin flip, a half-full Fenway Park played host to the only Game 8 in the history of the World Series' seven-game format on Wednesday, October 16th, 1912, eight days after the series had began. The game, as if by fate, went to extra innings once again, with Giants taking the lead 2-1 in the top of the inning. Needing just three outs to win the marathon World Series, the Giants' Fred Snodgrass then dropped a routine fly ball by the Red Sox' Clyde Engel (what did we tell you about baseball names!) in what soon become known as the "$30,000 Muff."

After the Giants walked the winning run aboard, ol' Tris Speaker, who you may remember from Game 2, stepped to the plate and promptly popped one up in foul territory. As first baseman Fred Merkle, pitcher Christy Mathewson, and catcher Chief Meyers all converged on the ball, however, there was confusion and the ball fell harmlessly to the Fenway dirt. "You just called for the wrong man and it's gonna cost you the ball game!" Speaker shouted, before driving home the tying run and eventually leading the Red Sox to the first of their four World Series titles in the next six years (and the only ever in an eighth-game elimination scenario.)

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Fred Snodgrass, Josh Devore, Red Murray and Beals Becker of the New York Giants.

And that, kiddos, is the story of the craziest baseball game, and, perhaps series, you've never heard of. Sure, there weren't bikini models debating baserunner interference calls on Twitter or furniture moguls betting the GDP of Latvia on a single game. They didn't play loud and the game was not for the kids, but in the 110-year history of the World Series, there has been no weirder, wilder, more poorly lit and/or error-strewn championship take-all than World Series Game 8.

*Yes, baseball neckbeards, we know there have been other Game 8s in World Series history, but all occurred in the nine-game Fall Classic format, so please save the whining for your Subreddit cronies.

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