The Chronicle-Telegraph Cup
Before the beginning of the modern day World Series in 1903, two attempts were made to establish a playoff system in baseball to determine a world champion. Between 1894 and 1897, the first and second place teams in the National League played off for the pennant in the Temple Cup before that format was eventually abandoned.
In 1900, the Brooklyn Superbas won the National League pennant by 4.5 games over the runner-up Pittsburgh Pirates. However, many Pittsburgh baseball fans believed that their favorite squad was better than the Superbas, despite trailing them in the regular season standings. The Pirates did hold the upper hand on the season series against the Superbas, winning 10 of a possible 19 with one tie. While Brooklyn led the league in many offensive categories, Pittsburgh fans claimed that their squadâ€™s superior pitching, which led the NL in ERA, SO, and WHIP, would oust the Brooklyn team in a series.
Eventually, the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph offered to award a silver cup, which cost $500 to construct, to the winner of a best-of-five series between the two teams. All five games would take place in Pittsburgh and the trophy would simply be called the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup. The first game of the series would take place on October 15th and it would feature a Hall-of-Fame pitching match-up. The Pirates would send NL ERA leader Rube Waddell to the hill and Brooklyn countered with NL wins leader Joe McGinnity.
4,000 fans arrived at Exposition Park for the first game of the series and they witnessed the Superbas taking a 5-2, game one victory. Brooklyn shortstop Bill Dahlen and catcher Deacon McGuire each had extra-base RBIs in a three-run third inning that allowed Brooklyn to strike first blood. By the time the eighth inning rolled around, Brooklyn had a 5-0 lead but a scary moment would happen shortly thereafter. McGinnity got caught in a rundown between second and third base when he tried to elude Waddellâ€™s tag. In doing so, his head caught the side of Waddellâ€™s knee and he crumpled down on the infield grass for several minutes before eventually staggering off to the mound to finish the game.
Up to that point, McGinnity had only allowed three hits but the Pirates started a bit of a rally in the ninth, collect a hit batsmen, a base on balls, and two hits. It was enough to score two runs and spoil McGinnityâ€™s shutout, but it wasnâ€™t enough to come back and win the ballgame.
Game two took place on the very next day and fielding blunders played a big part in the outcome for Pittsburgh. Piratesâ€™ starter Sam Leever allowed the gameâ€™s first run to score, when he threw away a comeback hit to the mound. Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Brooklyn starter Frank Kitson threw a wild pitch in the fourth inning, allowing Honus Wagner to score from third base. Brooklyn added three more runs in the sixth inning, all thanks to a couple of throwing errors by Pirates three-bagger Jimmy Williams and a miscatch on a play at the plate by catcher Jack Oâ€™Connor. Tom Oâ€™Brien scored once more for Pittsburgh in the eighth but the damage had been done and Brooklyn found themselves in position to sweep the Pirates on the next afternoon.
Errors had played a big part in the outcome of the first two games. The Pirates had already committed 10 errors compared to only one by Brooklyn. Jimmy Williams had contributed with four throwing errors in the second game alone. If the Pirates were going to extend the series, they were going to have to get sharper.
The tables were turned the very next day, when it was Brooklynâ€™s turn to butcher up on defense. Brooklyn made three errors in the field and they were all very costly. Superbasâ€™ starter Harry Howell allowed ten runs in the contest, but only three were earned as Pittsburgh shaved off elimination and put themselves back into the series with a 10-0 victory. Piratesâ€™ leadoff man Tommy Leach led the way for Pittsburgh, accumulating four hits and scoring four runs. All of Pittsburghâ€™s 13 hits were singles.
Brooklyn third baseman Lave Cross hit a triple in the second inning and he was the only Superba player to reach third base the entire game. Pittsburgh starter Deacon Phillippe pitched very well, going the distance and striking out five, only allowing six Brooklyn hits. In order to force a fifth and final game though, Pittsburgh was going to have to get by â€˜Ironâ€™ Joe McGinnity.
While Brooklyn sent their ace, McGinnity, to the mound for the fourth game, Pittsburgh did not counter with their best, game one starter Rube Waddell. Instead, Sam Leever would start on only a dayâ€™s rest, having pitched in the second game of the series. It didnâ€™t start good for Leever as Fielder Jones scored the first run of the game for Brooklyn in the first inning. The Superbas expanded their lead to four runs in the fourth inning when an error by Leever allowed the inning to open up.
Brooklyn added one more in the fifth before Pittsburgh relieved Leever with Waddell. It was just too late; the teams traded runs in the sixth and by the time the ninth rolled around, it was all over. Brooklyn captured the Cup in a 3-games-to-1 series victory over Pittsburgh. McGinnity again pitched brilliantly for Brooklyn, going the distance and allowing only one run, on a passed ball charged to Duke Farrell in the sixth.
The next night, the Brooklyn Superbas were presented with the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup inside the Alvin Theatre in downtown Pittsburgh. William J. Diehl, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, presented the silver trophy to Brooklyn captain Joe Kelley. As a token of their appreciation, the Brooklyn squad voted to award McGinnity with the trophy based on his contributions in the series. The Cup now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
The difference in the series really came down to defense. Piratesâ€™ third baseman Jimmy Williams (7) made more errors throughout the series then the entire Brooklyn team (4). In fact, Pittsburgh committed 14 errors over the course of the four games. In fact, the series would have looked a lot different had the defense been sharper on both sides. While each team surrendered 15 runs in the series, only 5 and 3 runs were earned runs charged to Pittsburgh and Brooklyn pitchers, respectively.
It would be the last championship appearance for Brooklyn for 16 years, when they finally went on to the World Series. They would not win the championship again until 1955. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh won the next three National League pennants and in 1903, they took part in the first-ever modern day World Series. They would lose 5-games-to-3 to the Boston Pilgrams.