Phillies, Red Sox franchises go back, back, back

Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched for the Phillies against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the 1915 World Series. (Daily News file photo)

OCT. 8, 1915, was some day. In Isolationist America, Game 1 of the World Series between the Phillies and Red Sox was played here in Baker Bowl.

It would turn out to be one of the most tightly contested Fall Classics in baseball history - each of the Boston victories in a 4-1 Sox triumph was decided by one run.

For the opener, an SRO crowd of 19,342 was shoehorned into the Dump on the Hump, which had fully recovered from a 1903 grandstand collapse that took 12 lives and injured hundreds.

In the real world across the Atlantic, the Battle of Loos had ended inconclusively despite 75,000 British and German casualties.

The Phillies' pitcher that day was the best in baseball, maybe the best the game had produced to that time. Grover Cleveland Alexander had gone 31-10, winning a third of the Phillies' games. He won 33 and 30 in 1916-17. Then cash-strapped owner William Baker traded him to the Cubs for $50,000 in cash and a couple of palookas.

Alexander was drafted and fought in Argonne, where he was shell-shocked, gassed and lost much of his hearing. Before the Great War, he drank because he enjoyed it. After the war, he drank to forget. Somehow he managed to win 373 games. His role was played in a sanitized movie about his career by a future president of the United States.

Old Pete won Game 1, 3-1, pitching without his best stuff, according to newspaper accounts. New York Times ball writer Hugh Fullerton wrote he was "lucky to win. He had nothing."

Whatever, he came back on 2 days' rest and lost a Game 3 duel with Dutch Leonard, 2-1, in Braves Field.

Braves Field? Don't let anybody lecture you about the purity of the game back in the day. The Red Sox opted to play the Series in rented Braves Field because it held 40,000 fans.

Alexander sold for cash . . .

Fenway given the fiscal finger . . . Even then, it was all about the Benjamins. Or maybe the Lincolns in 1915.

The Red Sox and Phillies didn't play again for 82 years. When the Lords of Baseball voted to introduce interleague play as the next step in Bud Selig's relentless move toward One Major League, a DH game with NBA-type playoffs involving lots of lousy teams, they had to root around to create some rivalries. The Atlanta Braves vs. Red Sox was a natural, forget that the original Braves had never played the Sox in anything more than charity exhibitions.

But the Red Sox had no National League geographic rival. After the 1915 triumph, they won again in 1916 and '18, then waited until 1946 to win another pennant. They lost to the Cardinals in a famous Series and waited until 1967, when The Impossible Dream team captured the hearts, minds and hangovers of New England. That was the October of "Lonborg and Champagne, Hey!" Everybody wore a badge proclaiming, "Yaz Sir, That's My Baby."

When it was over, Bob Gibson's Cardinals had won a tremendous World Series in seven.

And that was it until sacked Phillies manager Terry Francona and dumped (for very little) righthander Curt Schilling finally reversed The Curse that had hung over the American League's eternal bridesmaid since owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees so he could bankroll a Broadway flop called "No, No, Nanette."

The Phillies and Red Sox have played 43 times since interleague play began. Boston holds a 26-17 advantage going into the three-game Bank renewal that begins tonight.

It would be historically correct if the Phillies could once again confront the first-place Red Sox with baseball's best pitcher.

But the rotation is the rotation and Roy Halladay, now 10-3 with a complete-game ratio from the 1980s, did his thing Sunday. He will watch Charlie Manuel's suddenly pitcher-short staff go against the best team in the American League with Cliff Lee, rookie righthander Vance Worley and Cole Hamels. (C'mon, Charlie, save the Kendrick or Hamels, huh? gamesmanship for Tito. America wants to see Hamels vs. Lester. So do you.)

As scant as the interleague reunions have been between the 1915 Series rivals, there are some historic ties and newsworthy events binding two franchises holding baseball's hottest tickets. The Red Sox' unprecedented sellout streak is closing in on 700 games. The Phillies are at 166, representing back-to-back summers of the green snow. Here are some worth remembering:

* The greatest hitter in Philadelphia history, A's Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, hit 222 of his 534 career home runs with the Red Sox and was a Ted Williams teammate in 1941, when The Thumper batted .406. Old Double X finished with the Phillies in 1945, playing part-time first base and pitching some knuckleball relief.

* Three Phillies pitchers who achieved either success here or enduring notoriety for harvesting his glory elsewhere wound up in Boston.

Ferguson Jenkins, brilliant with the Cubs after the infamous 1966 trade featuring Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl, was 22-21 in two seasons with Boston between Texas Rangers tours. Fergie bounced back from those subpar performances with an 18-8 with the Rangers at age 35.

Rick Wise, traded to the Cardinals in 1972 for some guy named Steve Carlton, was a career-best 19-12 with the Red Sox in 1975.

Last but not least, Curt Schilling, he of the bloody sock and foot-in-mouth disease, will have a statue in front of Fenway someday. His 6-0 postseason record for the Red Sox at ages 37 and 40 are the stuff of legend.

* In 2001, the Phils split the first two interleague games in Fenway, then lost, 5-4, in the rubber match. Scott Rolen was 0-for-4 with three Ks in the middle of an unproductive 3-4-5 engine room. I was at Tropicana Field in St. Pete the next day. Larry Bowa told me, "The middle of the batting order is killing us. Scott Rolen is killing us." The manager said it. I wrote it. Rolen was steamed. Bowa denied saying it. A couple of Bowa suck-up beat writers accused me of making up the quote.

It was all downhill for the All-Star third baseman after that. But it was on Bowa and Rolen, not me. If you don't mean it, don't say it to a guy wearing a press pass.

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