Indians hold the record? Not so fast
I blame Pol Perritt for giving up Honus Wagner’s sacrifice fly. I blame Art Fletcher for not reaching base before Benny Kauff’s inside-the-park home run.
Events from 101 years ago Monday led to a tie game that has become the focus of a debate with the Cleveland Indians compiling a historic win streak.
The Indians won 22 in a row, passing the 1935 Chicago Cubs on the all-time list, before falling to Kansas City on Friday. The 1916 Giants won 26 in a row, but a tie came 12 wins into the streak and was followed by another 14 straight wins.
John McGraw’s Giants, two months after they traded legendary pitcher Christy Mathewson, tied the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-1 on Sept. 18, 1916, the Giants’ Kauff and the Pirates’ Wagner driving in the runs. So is that a 26-game win streak? Or simply a 27-game unbeaten streak?
Giants fans can rest assured their team, even though it was in a different city in a different era and with different rules, holds the record.
Here’s why: In those days, a tie was replayed at a later date from scratch, not from the point the game was called (as is the case nowadays). That particular game, the second of a doubleheader, was called after eight innings because of darkness and rain — remember, the first game under the lights wasn’t played until 19 years later. So the next day, the game was replayed as the opener of a doubleheader.
The Giants won 9-2. The tie had no bearing on the winning streak. In some ways, it’s as if it never happened.
“There is no ambiguity on this,” John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, said in a phone interview. “The rules are clear.”
Then again, the rules were different then. Because we can’t apply today’s rules to yesterday’s events, at least in baseball, the tie didn’t interfere with the Giants’ win streak.
Here’s the twist: Though the tie didn’t count for or against either team in the standings, the players’ and teams’ statistics did count. No pitcher got a W or L or even T. But the stats were calculated into their ERAs, and that inside-the-park homer was one of Kauff ’s nine homers that year and 49 in his career.
(Kauff ’s career ended in 1920 because he was charged with auto theft and got suspended by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Kauff went to court and was acquitted, but Landis didn’t believe Kauff was innocent and refused to reinstate him.)
“Present-centric folks see a game that’s concluded today for curfew or electrical failure and resumed later, and they say why didn’t they do that then?” Thorn asked. “They don’t realize there were no lights. There was a need for the visiting team or home team to catch a train (to reach the next city in time).
“The idea of hanging around was not always possible. Some games started at 3, sometimes 4, in the heart of summer. They could be completed in less than three hours. Today, of course, that would be an upset.”
Indeed, the average time of games during the Giants’ streak was a ridiculous 1 hour and 44 minutes.
Technically, with player and team stats counting, ties were considered official games — “without a resulting decision,” Thorn said — even though they were replayed. That way, teams didn’t need to refund fans their money or provide rain checks.
“That’s part of the joy in baseball,” Thorn said, “that it hasn’t always been the same. In minute and significant ways, baseball has changed.”
By the way, two popular statistical websites present ties differently. Retrosheet.org includes them in its standings and baseball-reference.com does not. All that matters in this case is Elias Sports Bureau, baseball’s official stat keeper, which says the 1916 Giants hold the record for longest win streak.
The Indians are No. 2. They own the American League record (previously belonging to the 2002 A’s), not the majorleague record.
Streak numbers: In the Indians’ 22 straight wins, perhaps the most mind-boggling statistic is that they trailed just eight of 199 innings.
Also, they outscored their foes 142-37, out-slashed them .306/.385/.552 to .208/.251/.289, posted a 1.58 ERA, had a plus-105 run differential and did it all despite Andrew Miller appearing in one game and Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis appearing in no games.
The Indians have come a long way since losing five of six in the Bay Area — three in Oakland, two in San Francisco — after the All-Star break. They had fallen to 48-45, and their lead in the AL Central was a half-game.
Manager Terry Francona held a team meeting to fire up his players, and the Indians have gone on a 44-12 run in which they built a 14-game lead heading into Saturday night. Duffy’s future: The sad story of Matt Duffy could take a better turn. The Rays’ infielder won’t get into a game this season because of heel issues, but at least he got on the field recently to take grounders and batting practice and wasn’t restricted.
Duffy, who won a World Series ring with the 2014 Giants and was dealt last summer to Tampa Bay for Matt Moore , is targeted to get some offseason reps, starting with instructional league, with the hope he won’t be restricted in spring training. Ode to Cha Cha: During Frank Robinson’s visit to San Francisco on Wednesday, he recalled playing against a young Orlando Cepeda.
“He killed us. We could do nothing with him,” said Robinson, who played for the Reds when Cepeda emerged in 1958. “I said, ‘Wow this guy is something. I hope he’s not going to be around very long.’ But he was, and he was a tremendous hitter, a good clutch hitter with good power and good instincts at the plate, and a good defensive player. He was hard to handle.”
Happy birthday, Orlando. He turns 80 Sunday.
Player/manager John “Muggsy” McGraw’s 1916 Giants won 26 in a row, but a tie came 12 wins into the streak.