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For decades 1904 stuck out on Major League Baseball record books as the only year after 1903 there was no World Series. Three years after the publication of this book in 1991, they called off another. That time the reason was a players' strike. In 1904, the story was more complicated.
Benton Stark sheds some light on the episode with a book that focuses on three running narratives. One is about the National League's champion New York Giants, a foul-tempered lot led by hothead manager John McGraw. Another is about another franchise then based in Manhattan, the American League New York Highlanders, doughty and sympathetic underdogs for whom pitcher Jack Chesbro won an incredible 41 games that year. Finally, there's the back-office power plays, especially those between Giants owner John T. Brush and American League president Ban Johnson.
The result isn't quite as tangy or revealing a period baseball history as, say, "Eight Men Out". Stark wastes a lot of pages of his short book on tangents like the origins of baseball and New York City's social disparity. But once the 1904 season begins, Stark's narrative clicks into a higher gear. The Giants cruised to a commanding lead of their League, while the Highlanders, later to become the Yankees, were in a three-way race against the Boston Pilgrims (later Red Sox) and Chicago White Sox.
Meanwhile, talk grew in city papers of the Giants and Highlanders facing off in the World Series, talk the Giants tried hard to ignore. They were the established team; the Highlanders rank newcomers.
"McGraw's winning at-all-costs philosophy couldn't tolerate the notion of being second best in anything, least of all in the esteem of his team's hometown baseball enthusiasts," Stark writes.Read more ›
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