Last of 4 posts about the long head-to-head rivalry of pitching greats Mordecai Brown of the Cubs and Christy Mathewson of the Giants.
When the 1916 season began, Brown was with his sixth team in in 5 years. But it was a familiar team.
In the dispersal of players after the demise of the Federal League, Brown wound up back with the Cubs, for whom he had compiled a record of 186-83, with a 1.75 earned run average, from 1904-12.
It was not, alas, a triumphant return.
He did not pitch until May 25, in the team's 34th game, and his start at Cincinnati lasted just 1 inning, during which he gave up 4 runs on 3 hits and a walk.
His next 2 appearances were in relief, on June 3 and 21, and he posted identical lines in both: 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout.
The second of those outings was at home, against the Reds. So was his second start, on June 24. He made it through 3 innings this time, but surrendered 6 runs on 5 hits and a walk.
Nearly a month passed before he stepped on the mound again. On July 19, at home, he threw 4 innings of 1-hit, no-run relief against the Giants. That earned Brown another start 4 days later.
But it was not against Mathewson. Three days later, on July 20, the Giants had traded their long-time ace to the Reds, as part of a 5-player deal.
One of the the players who went to New York was infielder Buck Herzog, who had doubled as the Reds' manager since 1914. After 2 games under an interim manager, Herzog was replaced permanently . . . by Mathewson.
The Reds were 34-49-1, in last place, when they said good-bye to Herzog. Under Mathewson, they would go 25-43-1 and occupy the cellar until the final day of the season, when a third straight win over the Pirates enabled them to tie the Cardinals for seventh, at 60-93.
On the day he left the Giants, Mathewson's record for the season was 3-4 and his ERA was 2.20. He had been sidelined until May 4 and had pitched in only 12 games. The last, on the Fourth of July, was a loss to Brooklyn in which he gave up 5 runs on 7 hits in 6.2 innings of relief.
His last win as a Giant, No. 372, also had come as a reliever, against the same opponent, on June 26, when he allowed 1 run on 2 hits in 4.1 innings.
His last start had been a complete-game, 4-0 loss to the Cubs on June 14, in which he gave up 4 runs on 7 hits.
His last win as a starter had been a 4-hit, 3-0 win at Boston on May 29. It was his 79th shutout in 551 starts for New York.
Mathewson planned on being a full-time manager in Cincinnati. His pitching days, he said, were over.
Brown's were not. He went the distance against the Giants on July 23, working around 11 hits in an 8-3 victory.
Then came 4 more scoreless relief jobs, 2 innings at Boston on July 27, 1 inning at Philadelphia on the 29th, 5.2 (with 6 strikeouts) at home against the Giants on Aug. 19 and 3.0 against New York the following day. Brown entered that game in the ninth and got the victory when the Cubs tied the score in the bottom of the inning and won on Heinie Zimmerman's walk-off single in the 11th.
Brown's numbers as a reliever stood at 0 runs, 9 hits, 4 walks and 14 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. As a starter: 13 runs, 19 hits, 2 walks and 0 strikeouts in 13 innings.
His scoreless streak in relief came to an end on Aug. 22, at home against Brooklyn, but under less-than-favorable conditions. He was rushed into the game in the first inning, with 2 runs in, 1 out and runners on second and third.
He gave up a 2-run double to the first batter he faced, then another 2-run double in the third and 2 more runs in a messy sixth that included a hit batsman, an error and a 2-out steal of home.
In 5.2 innings, Brown was charged with 4 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 6.
OLD TIMERS' GAME
Two weeks went by before Brown pitched again -- this time, as a starter, at home against the Reds.
The starter for Cincinnati: Christy Mathewson.
The date was Monday, Sept. 4, Labor Day.
The site was Weeghman Park, today's Wrigley Field, built 2 years earlier for the Federal League team and new home to the Cubs, now owned by Charles Weeghman, former owner of the Whales.
It was the first time the old pitching rivals had squared off in more than 4 years, since Mathewson outdueled Brown, 5-2, at the West Side Grounds on July 9, 1912.
It would be the last of their 22 head-to-head matchups over a dozen-plus years, beginning June 13, 1904.
Indeed, it would be the last Major League game for both men: the 636th, in 17 seasons for Mathewson and the 481st, in 14 seasons, for Brown.
Neither of their teams was going anywhere.
Winning 3 of 4 at Pittsburgh over the weekend improved the Reds' record to only 49-79, leaving them in last place, 27.5 games out of first and 7.5 behind the seventh-place Cardinals.
The Cubs' doubleheader sweep of the Cards on Sunday made them 58-69, tied for fifth with the Pirates, 18 games out of the lead and 4.5 out of fourth.
But the prospect of seeing Brown and Mathewson, one last time, proved irresistible to many lovers of baseball, even in inclement weather.
"Chicago fans turned out 17,000 strong in spite of a rainstorm to celebrate the Brown-Mathewson swan song at Weeghman Park yesterday," Sanborn wrote in the Sept. 5 Tribune, "and the Cubs and Reds celebrated by breaking even in the holiday double header, of which the battle of veteran heroes was the feature."
That crowd of 17,000 was the Cubs' third largest at home all season, surpassed only by a pair of Sunday games in the spring: 20,000 for the Pirates on May 7 and 23,000 for the Giants a week later.
In contrast, a game against the Reds on May 9 had attracted just 3,000. When the the teams met again the day after Brown faced Mathewson, attendance was 5,000. In all of 1916, the Cubs would average 5,816 customers -- and that was the third-best average among the NL's 8 teams.
'PAST MASTERS OF THE SLAB ART'
This was the headline atop Sanborn's account of the historic pitching duel:
FIRST TO CUBS
His story began as quoted above. Here is how it continued:
Mathewson emerged triumphant from his farewell engagement with his ancient and honorable rival, beating Brownie by a margin of 10 to 8. The Cubs won the curtain raiser by a score of 3 to 0.
There was nothing but sentiment to attract a crowd that overflowed the plant to see these past masters of the slab art pitch their last game against each other.
Gone are the days when they were the reliance of two great balls teams battling each other for pennants year after year. Their lots are cast with second division outfits now.
Great Masters Are Through.
Gone are the days when Matty and Brownie could give the greatest batsmen in the game a winning argument nine times out of ten and when shutout scores were frequent when they performed. All that is left to them of their wonderful prowess are their lion's hearts and their master minds.
Gone was the fearsome and deadly hook to which the veteran of the Cub slab used to mow down his antagonists in the pinches; gone was the effectiveness of Matty's far famed fadeaway.
Still a great group of baseball rooters stood in the rain for an hour before time to start the games and, soon after it was decided to play, filled the plant. The dollar sign has not driven all sentiment out of the nation's pastime.
Fans Stay for Finish.
The Cubs and Reds proceeded to knock a lot of things out of the deliveries of the great hurlers who faced them and still the fans remained to the long delayed finish of a batting fest, partly because they realized it would be their last chance to Mordecai and Christy pitted against each other on a green diamond.
Not that neither of them will pitch again, because each of them demonstrated that he has many good innings left in his arm, but that they never will hook up against each other in the same game is practically certain.
CHANGE OF HEART
In fact, neither would pitch again, period.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's report of events that afternoon at Chicago included this:
"When Matty walked into the clubhouse after the game he said to his players: 'Boys, I thought I could pitch a few more games, but I find I haven't go the stuff any more. I shall never attempt to pitch a championship game again. If I ever go into the box again I will buy every one of you a suit of clothes.'
"When Matty became manager of the Reds he at first announced that he would never pitch a game for them. But he has been working in practice and his injured back seemed to be about well, so he determined to take this one shot at the old game.
"He had no trouble in going through the nine innings and finished strong and with plenty of courage, but he is through as a big league hurler. This was the only game he ever pitched for any club except the Giants, and it will be his last."
Prior to the game, Mathewson and Brown were presented large bouquets of flowers by Weeghman, the Cubs' owner, as their teammates gathered around them at home plate and photographers took pictures of the pitchers with various dignitaries.
As they did, team employees tried to keep fans behind ropes that had been raised in the outfield to keep the spectators at bay. A rule was invoked that any ball hit on the fly beyond the ropes but short of the outfield fence would be an automatic double.
Here is more from Sanborn in the Tribune:
It was a see-saw battle of bats and wits. At first the tide favored Brown, as the Cubs gained a lead of two runs and held it for two rounds. Then the Reds got to Brownie for the lead in the third [by 3-2] and held it to the end, although the Tinkers rallied at the finish and had the tying runs on the bases in the last half round when [Fritz] Mollwitz, batting for [Charlie] Pechous, flied the game over.
This was the first substitution made on either side, although it was not expected either of the past masters would finish, the way they were being hit.
Eighteen Hits and Sixteen.
Brown was tagged for eighteen safeties while Matty escaped with sixteen off him. They had almost perfect control, issuing one base on balls apiece, and again Mathewson had a slight advantage because Brown also hit one batsman.
MOST HITS ALLOWED
The official box score shows Brown gave up 19 hits, not 18 -- 2 more than his career high of 17, in 11.1 innings of a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals in 1912. He had allowed 16 in his final Federal League game in 1915 and 15 in just 1 National League outing, a 7-6 win over Boston, as a rookie with St. Louis way back in 1903.
In his previous 240 starts as a Cub, he had allowed as many as 14 hits just once, almost 5 years earlier, on Sept. 30, 1911, in a 3-1 loss at home to the Giants. Mathewson did not pitch that day.
Mathewson gave up 15 hits, not 16, in his farewell battle with Brown and thus fell 1 short of tying his career high. Two of the 4 times he gave up 16 were against the Cubs, in 1906 and 1907, both in 8 innings. Brown had pitched a 7-hitter in the 1907 game.
REFUSES TO LEAVE GAME
Of the 19 hits off Brown, 5 were by Ivey Wingo, whom Sanborn dubbed "the most heartless cuss of the lot . . . but [the Cubs' Vic] Saier came close to Ivy in lack of consideration by smashing a home run over the wall in the ninth inning with two men on ahead of him."
One of those runners was Brown, who had singled in his last at bat, making him 2 for 4 for the day.
"Manager Tinker wanted to give him a runner," the Enquirer noted, but "Brownie shook his head, sticking to the paths and eventually scoring his run. He wanted to stay in the game to its completion and did so."
Brown had finished his start in the top of the inning after yielding a final run on Wingo's fourth hit, another single and an error.
"Matty had the enemy ten to five when he came out for his last inning," said the Enquirer. "He was tired, but game, and went at his work like a master.
"Brown led off with a single. [Max] Flack flied to [right fielder Tommy] Griffith. [Larry] Doyle singled to right. [Joe] Kelly forced Doyle at second on a grounder to the box.
"Then Saier lifted the ball over the short fence for a home run, and three runs were in, putting the Cubs only two behind.
"[Cy] Williams and [Art] Wilson singled, but Mollwitz, batting for Pechous, lifted a fly to [left fielder Greasy] Neale for the final out in the last game in which these two great pitchers will ever take part."
SUMMING IT UP
The Tribune's editorial page published an unsigned valedictory on Wednesday, Sept. 6. Here it is, in full, with the original paragraph breaks:
BROWN AND MATHEWSON
Mordecai Brown and Christie [sic] Mathewson may pitch and pitch against each other again, but for the sentimental public their Labor Day game on the north side was the close of a baseball period. It was Brown of the old Cubs and Mathewson of the old Giants. The only thing remaining of the Cubs was the name and Brown. Mathewson was in a Cincinnati uniform. All either pitcher had of his old skill was control, and yet, for the sentimental it was a great game, something in lavender, which had to be viewed in a perspective of years.
A baseball period is a short term of years and it rapidly gets into the background. Old times can be made in ten years. Antiquity is a relative things. People interested in baseball, and some that are interested do not see a game a year, look back as on something very distant to the time when they were exalted or depressed by the performances of Brown and Mathewson.
Baseball, probably more than any other sport, reveals the curious little kink in human egotism which expresses something of a person's own grandiloquence in the terms of another person's efforts. If Brown beat Mathewson, thousands of estimable householders in Chicago went home with a comfortable little glow of gratified pride in their systems and were better natured at dinner than they were when Mathewson beat Brown.
Baseball produces poor losers probably because of this element of pride. The enraged citizen has reposed a certain trust in a ball team. If it makes a poor showing the citizen feels that his confidence has been betrayed. If a club loses twenty straight games, each one of them by a small margin, each one of them fine examples of baseball playing, and each one giving the spectator every cent of his money's worth, the losing club would be laughed at or cursed wherever citizens gathered together.
Brown and Mathewson in the old days when the Cubs and Giants fought for pennants were safe custodians of the peculiar public happiness which depends upon baseball scores, and, miserable a jade as popularity is, they have been the affections of the people they thus peculiarly served.