June 18, 2019

Due To Darkness

March 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The 1922 World Series featured a rematch of the previous year’s championship series between the New York Giants and New York Yankees. The series also included one of the most controversial calls in World Series history, up to that point, in game two of the series.

The entire series was being held at the Polo Grounds, with the Yankees being designated the home team for game two. After giving up an early lead in the first inning, the Yankees battled back and tied the game 3-3 in the eighth inning on a Bob Meusel double. After neither team could crack the deadlock in the ninth, the game was headed for extra-innings.

Bob Shawkey, the Yankees’ starter, remained in the ball game for the tenth. He would leave his half of the inning unscathed, giving way for his offense to try and win the game in the bottom half of the 10th. Giants’ manager John McGraw also elected to keep his starter, Jesse Barnes, on for another inning. Barnes worked beautifully in the 10th; eliciting a pop-up from Babe Ruth,  a ground-out from Wally Pipp, and a foul-out from Meusel.

That would be the last play of the game.

Within moments of the final out, as the Yankees jogged out to assume their defensive positions, home plate umpire and crew chief George Hildebrand raised his hand and declared that the game had been called on account of darkness. The record crowd of 37,020 at the Polo Grounds was taken aback at first before realizing that there would be no more baseball played on that day. While some of the groaning crowd headed for the exits displeased with the outcome; others stuck around to voice their displeasure in person. With the players and umpires lodged in their locker rooms, the fans quickly found one target to air their grievances with in commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Landis, along with his wife, was situated in a field-level box along the first base line. While the commissioner himself was attempting to figure out what had transpired moments before, hundreds of fans had surrounded his area and began to shout at Landis. Amongst boos and hisses, they demanded the game to continue or for full refunds. Landis stood up and raised his hand, hoping for silence so he could address the suddenly increasing crowd. Instead, that action was met with a fresh chorus of jeers. Police officers assigned to the park then attempted to escort Landis away but he refused their help, saying “Get away from me; I’m not afraid of any crowd from New York. I’ll make my own way from the field.”

The Landis’ made their way through the crowd to the rightfield exit. The officers, who had ignored Landis’ refusal for an escort, were cut off from the commissioner in the midst of the crowd anyways. Fans continued to shout at Landis and even threw newspapers at his. “Where are the Chicago White Sox?” one man inquired within earshot of Landis. Once he got outside of the stadium, even more fans were ready to confront the commissioner. However, police subdued the crowd and Landis was able to make his way to his car and get away.

Afterwards, Landis downplayed the incident. “That happens to people everyday, doesn’t it? I know baseball fans and I was never for a moment in fear of physical harm. In fact, I ask the police not to try to pick a path for me across the field. I was perfectly able to make my own way without assistance.”

After the commissioner had exited the field, the angry crowd turned their attention to the press box and the respective teams’ clubhouses. Giants’ manager John McGraw emerged to speak to the crowd gathered outside the Giants’ locker room and told the fans that he had nothing to do with the game being called and it was as much as a surprise to him as it was to them. Later, when told that the fans were shouting at Landis for the game’s premature ending, Yankees’ slugger Babe Ruth said, “Well, I don’t blame them.”

Of course, the decision to call the game was out of Landis’ hands. When the game was called, Landis was amongst the spectators in attendance who were confused by the events, and through a statement released by his secretary, he said he had no authority to hinder the call of the on-field officials and the sole responsibility for the decision was the umpires. While many of the fans believed there was enough daylight to continue for at least another inning, the umpires had a different take.

George Hildebrand, the crew chief that ultimately called the game, had this to say after, “Several of the Yankees complained to Barry McCormick and me that the light was so bad that they were unable to see the ball. They said that the players were running a risk of being injured if the game continued beyond the tenth inning. I agreed with them and decided that the best course was to call the game.”

Bill Klem, the veteran NL umpire who had the assignment at third base during the game, said that he had agreed with Hildebrand’s assessment to call the contest. Veteran American League umpire Billy Evans was in the crowd to take in the game and he said he would have taken the same action had he be in charge. NL president Jon Heydler pointed out that with two slow pitchers, Shawkey and Barnes pitching, that it would have been hard to determine how long the potential 11th inning would have gone.

Later, both managers professed their disappointment in the game’s result. “It was a tough break not to win,” said McGraw, “We deserved to win. The pitching of Barnes and the team’s offensive and defensive work should have produced a second victory for the club if the breaks had been with us. There would have been no extra inning, no calling off of the game, if only we had received out share of baseball luck.”

“We didn’t lose yet we didn’t win,” said Yankees manager Miller Huggins, “Shawkey was really beat out of a game from which he should have emerged the victor. He pitched a wonderful game. The team showed a fighting spirit in coming from behind after that first Giant inning and squaring the score. Without detracting from the excellent pitching of Barnes, I am confident we would have won had the game progressed. I think the majority of the spectators are of the same belief.”

Later that night, Landis and the teams’ executive decided to donate the total gate of $120,554 to relief funds, including the Disabled Veterans’ Fund, so that baseball would not appear to profit from the incident. It would be the third and final tie in the history of the World Series. The Giants would win the next three games of the series to sweep the Yankees for back-to-back World Series championships.

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