With Red Sox in Philly, we recall money grab that may have cost Phillies 1915 World Series


The Phillies and Boston Red Sox will renew their interleague rivalry with a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park today. The teams split a two-game series at Fenway Park last month. Boston holds a commanding 44-29 advantage over the Phillies all-time in interleague play, but the Sox are having a season to forget at 14-28.

The Phillies, 20-17, are 11-3 in their last 14 games and in line to make the postseason for the first time since 2011.

If they keep winning.

The Red Sox have been visiting Philadelphia since 1901, but that was to play the Athletics. Their first trip to Philadelphia to play the Phillies came in the 1915 World Series.

That was a memorable one and it has some relevance to this pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

In an effort to recoup lost revenues, Major League Baseball will play an expanded postseason next month. Sixteen teams, up from the usual 10, will qualify for the postseason, making it a more lucrative event.

Maximizing postseason revenues is nothing new for baseball owners — it's the reason baseball added the wild-card in 1994 — and the idea goes all the way back to the 1915 World Series.

Looking to sell more tickets and make more money, the Red Sox moved their home games from Fenway Park to nearby Braves Field, a larger venue.

According to reports from the time, Phillies owner William F. Baker had a chance to do something similar and play his team's home games at Shibe Park. He declined and played the series at the smaller Baker Bowl, his team's regular home park, which stood on North Broad St. between Huntington and Lehigh.


But Baker was still intent on making as much money as he could off World Series home games. That's why he roped off part of the outfield at Baker Bowl, allowing for temporary seating to be installed and more fans to attend.

The money grab may have cost the Phillies the series.

Led by the pitching of eventual Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Phillies opened their first World Series appearance with a victory in Game 1 then lost four straight one-run games to the Red Sox.

Rube Foster, a 19-game winner for the Sox, beat the Phillies in Game 2 and the Game 5 clincher at Baker Bowl. 

Some big names were associated with that World Series.

Woodrow Wilson was in the seats for Game 2, becoming the first President to attend a World Series game, starting a tradition that's still around today.

The Red Sox' pitching staff also included a 20-year-old lefty named Babe Ruth. He won 18 games during the regular season in 1915 but made just one appearance in the World Series – as a pinch-hitter. Ruth would go on to play in 40 more World Series games, mostly with the New York Yankees, and club 15 homers. He played his final game at Baker Bowl in 1935, at the age of 40, as member of the Boston Braves.

But we digress.

In the 1915 World Series, the Phillies came home from Boston for Game 5 trailing three games to one. They received a bad break when Alexander could not pitch because of a sore arm. They received another tough break — actually three of them — when Boston hitters smacked three ground-rule home runs to clinch the series with a 5-4 win.

You've heard of ground-rule doubles, but home runs?

They became a thing in the 1915 World Series because of the temporary seating that Baker had added to the ballpark's spacious left and center fields so he could increase the capacity of his 20,000-seat ballpark and make more money. Boston's Duffy Lewis hit one ball into the temporary seating area and Harry Hooper hit two of them there, including the decisive blow in the top of the ninth inning. All three became ground-rule homers as the Red Sox "powered" their way to the title in the old yard on North Broad Street.

Hooper, who matched his season total with those two homers in Game 5 of the 1915 World Series, went on to coach baseball at Princeton and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1971.

Baker, who named his ballpark after, well, himself, was known for selling off top players and erecting a high wall in right field to deny Chuck Klein home runs so he wouldn't have to pay the future Hall of Famer big bucks back then. Baker's money grab in October 1915 reinforced his reputation as a cheapskate. He was hammered by the sporting press of the day.

In an alternate universe, Game 5 of the 1915 World Series would have been played with left and center fields wide open and the drives by Duffy and Hooper would have stayed in the yard. The Phillies might have won Game 5, kept the Series alive and then who knows? Maybe they wouldn't have had to wait 62 years to win another postseason game and 65 years to win their first World Series.


So welcome back, all ye Harry Hooper descendants from Boston.

This time, you'll have to hit the ball over the wall.