Mails Proves Greatness, Blanks Robins
Vince Guerrieri | On 20, Feb 2015
Game 6 marked the first World Series game played in Cleveland on a workday. But thousands of people had made plans to be at League Park or someplace that wasn’t work to get regular results from the game.
The box office at League Park opened at 9:30 that morning, and by 10, crowds were starting to fill in the stands – four hours before the scheduled start time. Within an hour of that, boys were climbing trees around the ballpark for a vantage point to see some of the game, and rooftops along Lexington Avenue started to fill with fans. C. A. Reichheld, president of the Acme Awning Co., said the roof of the building was reserved for employees and their friends. “If we let everybody up who wants to get up the building would have collapsed long ago,” he said.
Once again, former Cleveland mayor and then-Secretary of War Newton D. Baker was in the stands. This time he was accompanied by Myron Herrick, the U.S. ambassador to France. Herrick, a Lorain County native, had served as a Cleveland councilman and was governor. Warren Harding, the Marion native running as a Republican for President in 1920, was Herrick’s lieutenant governor.
Prior to the game, Bill Wambsganss and Elmer Smith were honored at home plate with gold watch fobs. The day before, each had made baseball history, Wamby with what remains the only unassisted triple play in World Series history, and Smith for hitting the first grand slam in the Fall Classic.
The Great Mails was the starter for the Indians. Duster Mails had been bought from Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League earlier that year, and went 7-0 in eight starts for the Indians, an invaluable help for a team that needed every win they could get. And Mails, who had bestowed his superlative nickname on himself, wasn’t lacking in confidence in general, or as he got his first World Series start.
“Brooklyn will be lucky to get a foul tip off me today,” Mails said before the game. “If Spoke and the boys will give me one run, Cleveland will win.”
Mails got his one run in the sixth. Speaker hit a two-out single, and Burns came to the plate. Speaker used Burns to spell Doc Johnston, usually against left-handed pitchers. Burns sized up southpaw Sherrod Smith, and hit a double into the left field power alley, which rolled all the way to the wall. Burns rolled into second with a double, and Speaker wheeled home from first.
“I shot over a fast one to Burns and he happened to catch it square,” Smith said afterward. “But just let me pitch to that fellow again.”
Sportswriter-turned-umpire Billy Evans said some fans tried to grab the ball as a souvenir. Had interference been ruled, Speaker would have held at third. Brooklyn protested that the ball was touched by a fan, but umpires disagreed. The run counted, and the fans roared their approval.
“Everyone knows it’s the winning run as soon as Speaker arrives,” Damon Runyon would write for the next day’s paper. “Against Sherrod Smith’s great left handed pitching another left-hander is pitching with even greater effectiveness. This is Walter Mails, nicknamed ‘Duster.’”
Mails was right. It was the only run he would need. He was able to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, and threw a three-hit shutout, a performance that to that point had been surpassed just twice in the World Series – with two-hitters thrown on back-to-back days in the 1906 Fall Classic. Fred Charles of the Plain Dealer called it “one of the prettiest games of baseball ever played on any diamond.” Mails had pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings in the World Series – no mean feat for a man who had essentially been picked up off the discard pile earlier that year.
“I would pitch my arm off for Tris Speaker if need be,” Mails said after the game, and Speaker was thrilled with his pitcher’s performance, saying he “proved himself 18 carats fine.” He also had high praise for Burns.
“Has he ever rose to the occasion any more successfully he did today when he rapped one of Sherrod Smith’s best offerings to the center-field bleachers for two bases and scored me all the way from first,” Speaker asked after the game. ”The best of it was he told me he was going to do it.”
Both Robins manager and namesake Wilbert Robinson, and outfielder Zack Wheat reminded everyone that the Indians would have to win five games. Their backs were against the wall, but they thought they could still win the World Series.
“I’ll pitch either Rube Marquard or Burleigh Grimes tomorrow and either one of them can stop Cleveland,” Robinson said. Wheat promised that if Stan Coveleski pitched Game 7, he’d get knocked out of the box.
The Robins would get that chance.