Cleveland Goes Wild as City Hosts its First World Series Game
Vince Guerrieri | On 10, Feb 2015
It was a party nearly 20 years in the making on Oct. 9, 1920. The Fifth City would host its first World Series game as the Indians hosted the Dodgers at League Park.
“Two Ohioans are running for the presidency,” the Plain Dealer wrote, referring to James Cox of Dayton, the Democratic nominee, and Warren Harding, a Republican from Marion. “No one in Cleveland cared.”
Game time was 2 p.m., but the gates opened at 10 a.m., with 9,000 general admission seats available. They sold quickly, and the bleachers filled up by 10:30 a.m. A packed house of 25,734 would watch Stan Coveleski match up against the Dodgers’ Leon Cadore. Among the crowd were about 50 people who were present at a dinner when Jim Dunn bought the Indians. Most of them were employees of the Carlin Rivet Works; owner Anthony Carlin had sponsored the banquet. At it, Dunn promised he would bring a World Series to Cleveland, and everyone in the room would be his guest at the first game. It took four years, but he made good on the promise.
Some of those without tickets took to nearby rooftops. Boys climbed trees to look into the ballpark. One enterprising person with money to burn circled League Park in an airplane.
“Brooklyn takes its championship baseball as an incident,” Damon Runyon wrote. “Here it is an event. People in the streets talk baseball. They are excited, worked up.”
Speaker continued to tell anyone who would listen that he believed the series would not return to Brooklyn. The Dodgers held a two games to one advantage (Coveleski pitched the Indians to their only win at that point), but the Grey Eagle was confident the Indians would win four straight to take the best-of-nine World Series. “We have just begun to fight,” he said.
Coveleski said he needed two runs, and he’d take care of the rest. Sportswriter-turned-umpire Billy Evans was covering the game, and he repeated his pre-series prediction that Coveleski would need to win three World Series games for the Indians to have any chance to win the series. Coveleski got two runs from the Indians – in the first inning.
Charlie Jamieson led off the bottom of the first with a screaming comebacker. Starter Leon Cadore caught the ball for an out, but the Plain Dealer’s Henry Edwards said it put the fear of God into him.
Bill Wambsganss walked, and advanced to second on Speaker’s single. Wamby came around to score on a single by Elmer Smith, and Speaker moved to third, scoring on a sacrifice by Larry Gardner. Doc Johnston struck out to end the inning.
The Indians picked up right where they left off in the second inning. Joe Sewell, who was having a difficult World Series, led off by slamming a single into the right field wall. Steve O’Neill hit a slow roller to shortstop Ivy Olson, but legged it out to beat the throw, and Cadore was chased, replaced by Al Mamaux.
Mamaux got out of the jam by striking out Coveleski, and Jamieson hit another screaming drive to left field, which was caught by Hi Myers, who doubled up Sewell to end the inning. Myers’ catch drew a standing ovation from the crowd, highly partisan to Cleveland. Mamaux gave up back-to-back singles by Wamby and Speaker to start the third, and he was lifted, for Rube Marquard, who was release from jail earlier that morning. Marquard gave up a single to pinch-hitter George Burns, who took second on a fielding error by Zack Wheat as Wamby and Speaker scored. Marquard then struck out Gardner, and pinch-hitter Smoky Joe Wood flied out to end the inning.
The Robins got on the board in the fourth, as Jimmy Johnston singled and then scored on Tommy Griffith’s double. It was the only run Coveleski would give up that day, scattering five hits. “He is a mighty pitcher,” Runyon wrote.
The Indians tacked on one more run in the sixth with singles by Coveleski, pinch-hitter Joe Evans, and Wamby. With the 5-1 victory, the Indians had knotted up the series.
Henry Edwards of the Plain Dealer called the game the turning point of the series. Evans said it was a showcase for Coveleski’s brilliance as a pitcher.
“If Speaker is hard pressed for pitchers, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he made four starts in the series,” Evans said of Coveleski after the game.
But Wheat, in his column, remained optimistic about the Robins’ chances, saying they would win the next three to end the series. “We are going back to Brooklyn,” he said, “but we are not going to take the Cleveland team with us. We are going back with the world’s championship.”
If Indians fans were overtaken with “the contagion of enthusiasm,” as the Plain Dealer wrote, for Game Four, they would be absolutely delirious after Game 5.
History would be made.