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The World Series

The veteran Boston Pilgrims pitcher Cy Young threw the first pitch of the first World Series. "That was probably the wildest World Series ever played," recalled Tommy Leach, who played third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series in 1903. In that series, the Pirates of the National League lost to the Boston Pilgrims of the newly formed American League. Cy Young won two games for Boston during the series.

Cy Young
Cy Young Facts
Cy Young

Though Young achieved fame nearly 100 years ago, his name is still well known today. He played 22 years in the major leagues and credited his longevity as a player to off-season farm work chopping wood and doing heavy chores. After retiring from baseball, he returned to life on the farm. In 1955, at the age of 88, he was honored at the Little League World Series. He threw out the first pitch—a perfect strike.

Why did baseball grow in popularity after the first World Series?
Crowds gather at the 1903 World Series.

Sixteen thousand enthusiastic Boston fans showed up for the first game of the first World Series. "The fans were part of the game in those days," Tommy Leach explained. "They'd pour right out onto the field and argue with the players and the umpires." Fan interest turned the first World Series into a great success. More than 100,000 spectators poured into the ball parks to witness the eight games, bringing in receipts of more than $55,000.

Spectators at the 1903 World SeriesEnthusiastic Boston fans may have been instrumental in their team's victory. The better-rated Pirates had beaten the Pilgrims three out of the first four games and appeared to be about to clinch the best-of-nine-games series. In the fifth game, the Boston fans, who called themselves the Royal Rooters, changed their luck by altering the lyrics of a popular tune, which began, "Tessie, you make me feel so badly." Each time the Pirates' star shortstop, John Peter "Honus" Wagner, got up to bat, the Royal Rooters shouted, "Honus, why do you hit so badly." The shaken Pirates lost their momentum, and Boston won baseball's first World Series.

John Peter 'Honus' WagnerIn his lifetime, Honus Wagner stole over 700 bases and led the league in batting eight times. The bowlegged, barrel-chested player could also field brilliantly in any position. Tommy Leach, Wagner's teammate on the Pirates, recalled the great shortstop in these words: "He just ate the ball up with his big hands, like a scoop shovel, and when he threw it to first base you'd see pebbles and dirt and everything else flying over there along with the ball."

As baseball grew in popularity, team owners began to build modern steel-and-concrete parks to replace the original wooden structures. The Philadelphia Phillies opened their iron and brick park in 1895. Between 1909 and 1915, almost every club in the major leagues came to occupy a new fireproof park. One addition, covered dugouts, protected vulnerable players from debris-throwing fans.

Credits: Cy Young © Bettmann/Corbis; Roller Coaster © Culver Pictures; Cy Young © Bettmann/Corbis; Aerial shot 1903 World Series-Huntington Avenue Grounds. National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, New York; Spectators, 1903 World Series-Huntington Avenue Grounds. National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, New York; Honus Wagner © Bettmann/Corbis.

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These topics correspond to chapters in the Patterns of Interaction series (McDougal Littell, 2005).