1914 World Series
In the 1914 World Series, the Boston Braves beat the Philadelphia Athletics in a four-games sweep.
A contender for greatest upset of all time, the "Miracle Braves" were in last place on July 4, then roared on to win the National League pennant by 10-1/2 games and sweep the stunned Athletics. The Braves' relatively unknown starting trio of pitchers, with a combined career record of 285–245, outperformed the Athletics vaunted rotation (929–654) in all four games. Hank Gowdy hit .545 (6 of 11) with five extra-base hits and also drew five walks for Boston in the series and was the difference maker in Games 1 and 3.
Adding to their supposed disadvantages, the Braves arguably lacked a notable home-field advantage. They had abandoned their 43-year-old home field South End Grounds, in late summer, choosing to rent from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park while awaiting construction of Braves Field. Thus their home games in this Series were also at Fenway.
This was the first four-game sweep in World Series history. The Cubs had defeated the Tigers four games to none in 1907, but Game 1 had ended in a tie before the Cubs won the next four in a row.
In some circles, it was alleged that the A's were irritated at the penny-pinching ways of their manager/owner Connie Mack, and did not play hard. Chief Bender and Eddie Plank would jump to the rival Federal League for the 1915 season. Mack unloaded most of his other high-priced stars soon after and, within two years, the A's achieved the worst winning percentage in modern history (even worse than the 1962 New York Mets or the 2003 Detroit Tigers).
There were also rumors that this series was fixed, but no evidence has ever been advanced.
By 1914, the Philadelphia Athletics had become a World Series regular and had dethroned two of Major Leagues baseball's first post-season dynasties by beating the mighty Chicago Cubs and New York Giants on more than one occasion. Most of their success had been built on a foundation of solid "big-game" pitching. Chief Bender, a Fall Classic favorite, entered Game 1 with a Major League leading .850 winning percentage and a 17-3 record. His opponent, Dick Rudolph had won twenty-seven games for his Boston Braves. Rudolph pitched a five-hitter and teammate Hank Gowdy made a valiant attempt at a True Cycle when he singled, doubled and tripled. Boston won 7-1 and surprised the presumably overconfident A's who were heavy favorites.
The next day the "Miracle Braves" called on their other ace Bill James who had boasted an impressive twenty-six wins for his team during the regular season. The A's Connie Mack countered with the 1913 Series winner Eddie Plank and both pitched to a 0-0 standstill after eight innings. In the top of the ninth, Boston's Charlie Deal hit a one-out double, stole third and scored on a two-out single by Les Mann. In the bottom of the ninth, James walked two batters but got out of the jam by inducing Eddie Murphy to hit into a game-ending double play. James' two-hit, 1-0 victory gave Boston a shocking Series lead of two games to none.
Although the Fall Classic had shifted to Boston, the Braves were still without home-field advantage. Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox) was chosen over their own South End Grounds as a more attractive and inviting venue. Game 3 was anyone's game as the Braves and A's battled to another game extending tie at 2-2 through nine innings. Once again, "Home Run Baker" came up clutch, hitting a two run single off of the Braves starter, Lefty Tyler. The Braves answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the tenth as Gowdy led off with a timely homer and Joe Connolly produced a run-scoring fly ball later in the inning. Bill James came in as relief for Tyler and shut the Athletics out for the next two innings. In the bottom of the twelfth, Gowdy knocked a double off of "Bullet" Joe Bush (who had gone the distance) and gave way to a pinch-runner, Mann. After an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Larry Gilbert, Herbie Moran followed with a perfect bunt. Bush grabbed the ball and threw toward the third baseman in an attempt to force Mann, but his throw went wide resulting in much more than an error. Mann jumped at the opportunity and darted home for the 5-4 victory. Boston was now up three-games-to-none and the Philadelphia favorites were in serious trouble.
After failing to win with the "Big 3" - Bender, Plank and Bush, the Athletics turned to second year man, Bob Shawkey in an effort to get themselves back in the game. The Miracle Braves were on the verge of sweeping one of baseball's original dynasties and the A's were running out of options. Shawkey rose to the challenge and shutdown Boston for three scoreless innings before giving up one in the fourth. In the next inning, he helped his own cause with a game-tying double, but later surrendered two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Game 1 winner, Dick Rudolph held the A's at one and the Braves went on to a 3-1 victory and World Series sweep. The Philadelphia Athletics became the first team in World Series history to be eliminated in four games (the 1907 Tigers also went winless, but managed a tie game against the Chicago Cubs, extending the contest to five games).
Hank Gowdy was a standout for the Braves with three doubles, one triple and a homer while batting a Series leading .545. Rudolph and James, after accounting for fifty-three of the Braves' 94 regular-season victories, went undefeated while holding their opponents to a miserable .172 team mark. After their less-than stellar performance Connie Mack's Athletics began rebuilding for the future. Unfortunately, Mack's plan did not include many of the 1914 players. Eddie Collins was traded over the winter, Home Run Baker sat out the entire 1915 season in a dispute before being sold to the up-and-coming New York Yankees and both Plank and Bender went off to the Federal League. It didn't stop there, by the middle of 1915, Jack Barry, Eddie Murphy and Bob Shawkey had all been traded or sold. The underdog Braves had not only swept the American League's first real dynasty, they had destroyed it.