At the turn of the century the Pirates were the best team in the National League. They featured some of the games best players and were a strong force to be reckoned with. In 1903 the Bucs would be the first National League team to play in the World Series, facing the Boston Americans of the upstart American League.
The 1903 team was led by the star shortstop Honus Wagner. The Flying Dutchman led the National league in batting with a .355 average, 4 points higher than his teamate and manager Fred Clarke. Clarke led the National league in slugging, OPS and doubles. Complimenting Wagner and Clarke was outfielder Ginger Beaumont, who led the league in hits and sported a .341 batting average.
Also helping to power the offense were third baseman Tommy Leach, who hit .298, catcher Ed Phelps, first baseman Kitty Bransfield, second baseman Claude Ritchey, and outfielder Jimmy Sebring.
The pitching staff featured a pair of workhorses that led the way for the Pirates. In righthanders Sam Leever, 2.06 ERA, and Deacon Phillippe, 2.43 ERA, the Pirates got 50 wins from the two of them. Leever sported the better winning percentage as he went 25-7 to Phillippe's 25-9. Balancing out the starters was lefty Ed Doheny who would pick up 16 wins.
The rest of the regular pitching staff featured a handful of righthanders that sported some great baseball names. You had Bucky Veil, Cy Falkenberg, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Brickyard Kennedy. If anything the names may be the best of any Pirate staff.
The Pirates would have easily been considered the strong contenders for the National League pennant going into the season as they had won it the past two seasons. Their main competition would come from the New York Giants, who featured Christy Matthewson. On June 6th the Bucs would tie the Chicago Cubs for first place and would not look back as they would cruise to the National League pennant, besting the Giants by 6.5 games.
In September of 1903 it was agreed between Barney Dreyfuss and Henry Killea, that the Americans and Pirates would play in the first ever World Series, a nine game series. The first three in Boston, then four in Pittsburgh, and two more in Boston. Going into the series some thought the matchup was even as the Americans featured a strong pitching staff led by Cy Young, Bill Dineen and Tom Hughes. Many thought that they could slow the powerful Pittsburgh lineup, but as it turns out injuries and other problems besieged the Pirates.
Honus Wagner had nursed a bad thumb all season and had injured his leg in September, some thought he might not play at all in the Series. Sam Leever hurt his arm in a game, and hurt it more by competing in a trapshoot competition. Otto Krueger, the Bucs utility player off the bench was beaned in a September game and was ineffective in the series. The most bizarre was Ed Doheny being admitted to an insane asylum prior to the World Series.
Despite the ineffectiveness of their leader Honus Wagner, the Bucs behind Deacon Phillippe took Game 1 behind the first ever World Series home run by Jimmy Sebring. Boston would take Game 2, as Sam Leever left in the second inning of the game that Bill Dineen would win 3-0.
In Game 3, Fred Clarke went to Deacon Phillippe on one day rest to go up against Tom Hughes. Phillippe did not let Clarke down as he pitched yet another complete game for a Pirate win. When the Series shifted to Pittsburgh Clarke again asked Phillippe to pitch, his third start in four games. Deacon took the mound again and went nine innings to win his and the Pirates' third game.
In Game 5 Brickyard Kennedy would go up against Cy Young, with Young besting Kennedy for the American's second win in the Series. The next day Sam Leever, feeling slightly better to pitch, took the mound. Leever would go the distance, but Boston's Bill Dineen got the best of him.
Deacon Phillippe would be the only other pitcher that the Pirates would trot out in the World Series. He threw back to back complete games, but lost both. He was bested by Cy Young in Pittsburgh and Bill Dineen in Boston. Honus Wagner, heckled by the Boston fans all Series, struck out to end it.
Despite the fact that Pittsburgh had lost, Barney Dreyfuss gave the players his cut from the gate receipts and the Pirates ended up with more money than Boston's players. Wagner would take a lot of the blame for the loss, as he thought despite the injuries he still should have been able to perform better. He only batted .222.
This Pirates team is a big part of history, as they were in the first World Series. They had a great number of stars, both offensive and defensive, as well making them a really great team.