Oct. 12, 1920 – Columbus Day – was a beautiful day in Cleveland. It was sunny and approaching 70 degrees as everyone prepared for the final World Series game at League Park.
The Indians had won three straight games at home to take a four games to two lead in the World Series. A win that day would end the series. A loss would send it back to Brooklyn. Tris Speaker danced with the one that brung him, and opted to start Stan Coveleski again. It would be his third start in the series, and he’d won his previous two. Robins manager and namesake Wilbert Robinson opted for Burleigh Grimes, who had won game two at Ebbets Field, but lost game five in Cleveland. Robinson had mentioned possibly starting Rube Marquard, but the Cleveland native was in Brooklyn owner Charles Ebbets’ doghouse after getting arrested for scalping tickets.
Prior to the game, Elmer Smith received a car for his grand slam in game five, the first ever in World Series play. George Burns, a native of Niles, about 60 miles from Cleveland, received a gold watch from admirers in his hometown, and Steve O’Neill and Coveleski also received timepieces.
The first hit of the game came in the top of the third inning, when Grimes hit a chopper to Joe Sewell and legged out the infield hit. Ivy Olson hit grounder to Sewell, who bobbled the transfer, and both men were safe, with just one out. Jack Sheehan hit a grounder that grazed Olson, who was out for interference, and Grimes returned to second, where he was stranded when Tommy Griffith flied out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Larry Gardner singled and took third when Doc Johnston singled, bringing up O’Neill. Robinson instructed Grimes to pitch to him (there was some consideration of walking him to pitch to Coveleski), but with runners at the corners, Speaker called for a double steal. Catcher Otto Miller threw the ball to Grimes. Johnston stood like a statue short of second base. It looked like the plan had blown up, but Grimes heaved the ball into centerfield. Johnston was safe at second, and Gardner practically walked home, giving the Indians their first run of the day. The Tribe would score two more, but as with the Great Mails the day before, one run was all they’d need. Coveleski retired the side on four pitches in the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Jamieson got on first on an infield hit, a slow roller down the third base line, stole second and scored when Speaker tripled. And in the seventh, O’Neill doubled. Coveleski tried to sacrifice to advance O’Neill, but Grimes came up with the ball and threw to third, catching O’Neill in a rundown between second and third, allowing Coveleski to take second. He came around to score when Jamieson doubled to right field.
Fans started to realize what was happening when the first run crossed the plate. By the ninth inning, they had worked up to a fevered pitch. Griffith popped up to Jamieson for the first out of the inning. Zach Wheat swatted a single to center. Hi Myers hit a grounder to Bill Wambsganss, who tossed to Sewell to take the lead runner at first. The Robins were down to their final out, in the form of Ed Konetchy, who hit Coveleski’s 90th pitch of the day to Sewell, who charged the grounder, picked it up and tossed it to Wamby to force Hi Myers. The game was over. The Indians were champions.
The teams sprinted to the clubhouse as it seemed like every fan was determined to get on the field. Owner Jim Dunn stood at his box for the next 10 minutes, signing autographs and beaming from ear to ear. “I am the happiest man in the world today,” he told fans. “I know you are happy too. After all, it’s your team. It is Cleveland’s team more than it is mine.”
President Woodrow Wilson sent a telegram of congratulations, as did Gov. James Cox, the Dayton Democrat who was running for president. (There is no record of Warren Harding, the Republican candidate for president and ultimate winner of the election, recognizing the victory.) Speaker also received lauds from virtually every city in his home state of Texas.
With the win, not only did Coveleski fulfill Billy Evans’ prediction that he would win three games in the series, but he’d joined some rare air.
“We did our best, but we couldn’t hit Cleveland pitching,” Robinson said after the game. “That’s about all there is to say.” In seven games, the Robins could only scratch together eight runs and had a team batting average of .205.
Evans also said the World Series restored some of the public’s faith in baseball, particularly as indictments were being handed down for members of the White Sox that had conspired to fix the previous year’s Fall Classic.
The Indians players – and Ray Chapman’s widow – each received $3,986.84 as their share of the World Series money, although it was estimated that Dunn and Ebbets lost $100,000 without games 8 and 9 of the World Series. Players also got a new leather belt with a silver buckle from Rust Co. on West Sixth Street.