My Grandfather, the 1912 World Series, and Harry Hooper’s Catch; Plus, a Couple of My Own Favorites

 

 

In the 1912 World Series, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants four games to three, with one tie.

The eighth and final game was played on Wednesday, October 16, 1912, at Fenway Park in Boston. The attendance was 17,034. The location of the game was determined by a coin toss, which the Red Sox won.

In the game, Boston rallied for two runs in the tenth inning to win the game and the Series, thanks to two costly Giants fielding misplays.

In the fifth inning, Giants second baseman Larry Doyle hit a long drive to right but was robbed of a possible home run by Red Sox outfielder Harry Hooper, who made a great running catch in front of the low fence.

My paternal grandfather, Thomas Gordon Smith, witnessed the catch, as he told me years afterward.

Hooper’s catch was described as follows by Red Sox pitcher Smoky Joe Wood, their ace (who pitched in the game in relief), in an interview for the classic book by Lawrence Ritter (who “moonlighted” as a finance professor at the New York University school of business) The Glory of Their Times:

Larry Doyle hit a terrific drive to deep right center, and Harry ran back at full speed and dove over the railing and into the crowd and in some way, I’ll never quit figure out how, he caught the ball — I think with his bare hand. It was almost impossible to believe, even when you saw it.

This accords with what my grandfather told me. “I was at the World Series game when Harry Hooper caught the ball and fell into the stands,” he said.

To return to the overall game, and its dramatic denouement.

Smoky Joe Wood, who had taken a pounding on the mound the day before, entered the game in the eighth inning in relief of the Boston starter, Hugh Bedient. Christy Mathewson was pitching for the Giants.

The game went into extra innings with the score tied at 1-1. The Giants scored a run in the top of the tenth inning, making the score 2-1 in their favor. They were three outs away from a World Series victory.

In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Red Sox rallied for two runs to win the game.

The last half of the tenth featured a famous misplay, “Snodgrass’s muff.”

Red Sox pinch hitter Clyde Engle (batting for Smoky Joe Wood) led off with an easy fly ball to Fred Snodgrass in center field. Snodgrass dropped the ball, and Engle reached second base. The next day’s New York Times described the play as follows: “And now the ball settles. It is full and fair in the pouch of the padded glove of Snodgrass. But he is too eager to toss it to [left fielder Red] Murray and it dribbles to the ground.”

The next batter was the above mentioned Harry Hooper, he of the miraculous fifth inning catch. He flied out to deep center — Snodgrass making a fine running catch, right after his error — but Engle advanced to third.

Red Sox second baseman Steve Yerkes was walked by Mathewson, putting the winning run on base.

The next batter was center fielder Tris Speaker (a future Hall of Famer). He lifted a foul popup on the first base side, but Giants first baseman Fred Merkle, pitcher Mathewson, and catcher Chief Meyers allowed the ball to fall untouched in foul territory. Snodgrass later claimed that Red Sox bench jockeys had disrupted the players’ timing.

Given new life, Speaker singled home Engle to tie the game 2–2, Yerkes advancing to third. Mathewson walked the next batter, left fielder Duffy Lewis, intentionally, loading the bases.

The next batter, Red Sox third baseman Larry Gardner, flied to Josh Devore in right field deep enough for Yerkes to tag up and score, and the Red Sox won the game and the Series.

The Boston outfield consisted of Duffy Lewis, left field (famous for “Duffy’s Cliff”); Tris Speaker, center field; and Harry Hooper in right. It is considered one of the best outfields of all time.

(How is it that the Red Sox seem to usually have great outfields? They had a pretty good one in the fifties when I was a young fan: Ted Williams in left; Jimmy Piersall in center; and Jackie Jensen in right. Then, later, there were the outfields comprised of Red Sox stars such as Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans, in various combinations.)

From a Wikipedia article, at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1912_World_Series

Fred Snodgrass’s error went down in history as “the $30,000 muff”, a reference to the difference in the winning and losing shares, $29,514.34. (Note: this figure was calculated with respect to the total amounts of the two teams’ shares.) After the series, Snodgrass tried to explain, saying “I didn’t seem to be able to hold the ball. It just dropped out of the glove, and that was all there was to it.”

Christy Mathewson later wrote that “As I look back upon the 1912 series, when we lost to the Boston Red Sox, I see it was the same. Pitchers, outfielders, the whole team collapsed under the strain.”

My grandfather was age 27 at the time of the final game of the 1912 Series. He was employed as a bank teller in Boston. See photo below.

 

 

T. Gordon Smith.JPG

 

 

Addendum:

Harry Hooper’s catch is not often written about, but it was one of the all time great catches.

I would like to mention two of my favorites.

Opening day at Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967 pitted the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox. Rookie Billy Rohr was the Red Sox starter; it was his first Major League game. He was pitching a no hitter thought eight innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, left fielder Tom Tresh led off for the Yankees. He hit a long drive to left field. Left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, who was playing shallow, made a remarkable over the shoulder, tumbling catch to preserve the no hitter.

Yastrzemski’s catch is viewable on YouTube at

 

 

Unfortunately, Rohr lost the no hitter when the next batter, Elston Howard, singled.

Then there was the catch that Dwight Evans made in Game Six — game six of the 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, that is.

In the top of the eleventh, with Ken Griffey on first, Joe Morgan hit a deep drive to right field that looked to be headed over the fence. Evans, however, made a spectacular catch near the visitors’ bullpen to rob Morgan of a homer, then he made one of his herculean throws to double Griffey off first. The first baseman was none other than Carl Yastrzemski.

Evans’s catch is viewable on YouTube at

 

 

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     December 2016

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. He hosts separate websites devoted to the authors Theodore Dreiser and Pitirim A. Sorokin and to classical music as well as family history/genealogy.
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2 Responses to My Grandfather, the 1912 World Series, and Harry Hooper’s Catch; Plus, a Couple of My Own Favorites

  1. William Carron says:

    Great story Mr. Smith. I remembered reading about game eight of the 1912 World Series. I did not know that Harry Hooper made a great catch. Many people do not realize that Harry Hooper played in the 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918 World Series which were won by the Red Sox.

    William Carron

  2. Thanks for the response, Mr. Carron.

    I didn’t realize that Harry Hooper played in four World Series. I did not even know that the Red Sox were in the Series in all these years. I see that they won all four of them. I also didn’t know that Hooper is in the Hall of Fame.

    Harry Hooper had a career total of 2,466 hits and a career batting average of .281. He had 75 home runs for his career and 375 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.

    There is a bio of Harry Hooper at

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Hooper

    Some interesting facts:

    Hooper was a college grad, very rare among ballplayers at the time, and not common among the general population. My grandfather had to quit school at an early age in order to get a job and help support the family. “Hooper’s two older brothers had been forced to quit school early to work on the family farm, but Hooper showed an affinity for school, especially in math. One of Hooper’s teachers helped to convince his parents to allow Hooper to attend a high school in Oakland. After graduating from the high school affiliated with Saint Mary’s College of California, Hooper graduated from college there with an engineering degree. While he had not been a great student at Saint Mary’s, he had been excited about playing college baseball there.”

    “Hooper became known for talking Boston manager Ed Barrow into converting Babe Ruth from a pitcher to an outfielder.” I never knew that.

    “Following his retirement from baseball, Hooper moved to Capitola, California. He was … appointed postmaster in Capitola in 1933. He held that position for 24 years.”

    It is odd, but few accounts of the 1912 series even mention Hooper’s great catch. The Wikipedia entry doesn’t mention it.

    I would opine that the eighth game of the 1912 Series ranks way up there among the most exciting games ever — more exciting than the famous Sixth Game.

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