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Row, Row, Row On August
2002-09-01 02:43
by Mike Carminati

Row, Row, Row

On August 12, the Oakland A's lost a close ballgame to Toronto's Esteben Loaiza and his newly minted cut fastball, 2-1. The Blue Jays beat the A's for the fifth straight time and sixth in seven overall. The A's had lost 2 straight, and their third in five tries. Their record since the All-Star game was 18-13, alright. But the A's had fallen 2.5 behind the Angels in the AL wild card race and 4.5 behind the Mariners for the AL West lead. This was only a slight improvement for the A's since the break when they were 5 games behind the Mariners in the AL West and 3.5 games behind the Red Sox for (but only two behind the Angels) in the wild card. It seemed that no matter how well they played A) the Angels played better and B) Seattle had too far a lead.

As of today they are 3.5 games ahead of the Angels and 5 ahead of Seattle for the AL West lead. And all it took was 16 straight wins.

The A's have just scored 3 in the bottom of the eighth to break their tie with the Twins. Should the A's win and extend their winning streak to 17 games, they would be one of 10 major league teams to have won this many in a row (the 1916 Giants won 17 and 26 in a row) and would be the last since the 1953 Yankees to do so.

Does a streak as long as this guarantee, or at least correlate to, postseason success or even a first-place finish? I took the 14 teams that have won at least 16 consecutive games and checked out their fates. Here goes:

Team            Consec. Ws              W   L  PCT POS  GB  Postseason
1916 Giants     26 (plus one tie) & 17 86  66 .566  4    7 
1935 Cubs       21                    100  54 .649  1   +4  Lost WS
1906 White Sox  19 (plus one tie)      93  58 .616  1  +13  Won WS
1947 Yankees    19                     97  57 .630  1  +12  Won WS
1904 Giants     18                    106  47 .693  1  +12  No WS
1953 Yankees    18                     99  52 .656  1  +8.5 Won WS
1907 Giants     17                     82  71 .536  4 25.5 
1912 Senators   17                     91  61 .599  2 14 
1931 Athletics  17                    107  45 .704  1 +13.5 Lost WS
1909 Pirates    16                    110  42 .724  1  +6.5 Won WS
1912 Giants     16                    103  48 .682  1 +10   Lost WS
1926 Yankees    16                     91  63 .591  1  +3   Lost WS
1951 Giants     16                     98  59 .624  1  +1   Lost WS
1977 Royals     16                    102  60 .630  1  +8   Lost ALCS
Total                                1365 783 .635   
Per 162 games                         103  59 .635   

Of the 14 teams, eleven finished first, one second, and 2 fourth (both Giants teams). Their cumulative record projected to 162 games is 103-59. They finished an average of 4 games ahead of the competition-8.5 if you take into account just the teams that finished first-meaning that the streak did play some part in their finishing first. They won a total of just four World Series and lost 6 World Series (the 1904 Giants were left out as there was no World Series in 1904) and one League Championship Series. Four World Champions out of the list of 14 teams? Not so impressive.

Of these teams the 1916 New York Giants are by far the oddest. They have the longest streak and qualify for the list for two separate streaks, but they are one of two teams to be included that finished fourth. As a matter of fact half of their win total is derived from their two streaks. They would be 43-66 without those two streaks. So I investigated further.

First the 1916 Giants presaged the 1979 Pirates and any of a half-dozen or so teams today who have more than just the home and away jerseys. The Giants had four jerseys and three-well, I'll let Marc Okkonen from Baseball Unifoems of the 20th Century describe it-"provided the ultimate-an almost plaid effect with a crossing of multiple fine lines of purple" and purple hose. Wow, and you though the Diamondback unis were ugly. This sartorial trailblazing was abandoned after one season.

Their season is almost nearly as strange:

- On April 23 with a record of 1-5, the Giants are trailing 8-1 in the first inning of an exhibition game with the Long Branch Cubans at West Side Park, Jersey City, when rain ends the game sparing them embarrassment.

- They do not collect their second win until the 11th game of the season; their third win comes in their 16th game.

- They then proceed to win 16 more in a row for 17 in total. The streak starts May 9 and goes to May 29, inclusive. The 17 wins are all on the road. The Giants move from eighth (last), 8.5 games out, to second, 1.5 game out, during the streak.

- On June 22, they lose to the Braves at home, 3-1 in eleven innings for their third straight loss. They are 25-24 in third place, 5 games back. In the eleventh the Braves execute a triple steal with Johnny Evers the lead runner (the NL's only triple steal in extra innings)

- The Giants lose three of four games to the Dodgers in consecutive doubleheaders (June 24 and 26). The only win is for Christy Mathewson who relieves Bill Perritt, and it proves to be his last in the majors. Also, three fans are arrested in the game for not throwing back foul balls (see the Angels fans the other day just wanted to comply with the law). In the process the Giants fall into fourth place, 6.5 games out.

- The lose both ends of a doubleheader to the Phillies on June 29 and to the Dodgers on July 4, both at the Polo Grounds.

- On July 20 the Giants trade three future Hall of Famers in Christy Mathewson, Edd Roush, Bill McKechnie (Hall of Fame manager) for former Giants Buck Herzog and Red Killefer.

- On July 26, they lose to Cincinnati 4-2 at home for their third loss in a row. Their record is 39-43. They are in fifth, 9.5 games back.

- On July 31, New York beats Pittsburgh at the Polo Grounds in both ends of a doubleheader for the second time in a row to complete a six game winning streak. They are now 45-43 in fourth place, 8.5 games back.

- On August 14, the Phillies behind future Hall of Famers Peter Alexander and Eppa Rixey sweep both ends of a doubleheader from the Giants in the Baker Bowl. They are now 52-49, in fourth, 11 games out.

- On August 20, the Giants fall below .500 again (53-53, fourth place, 14 games behind) losing to the Cards in St. Louis, 5-0. They will remain below .500 until their next streak. They also trade Fred Merkle of "Merkle's Boner" fame to Brooklyn.

- On September 6, the Giants split a doubleheader with the Robins (soon to be Dodgers) at the Polo Grounds, with Rube Benton pitching both games. The Giants end the day 59-62, in fourth place, 13.5 games out and playing out a string. The Phillies, in the midst of an eight-game win streak, are in first, followed closely by the Robins half-game back and Braves, one game back. The next day, the Giants defeat the Robins 4-1 to start their 26-game win streak.

- September 9 Pol Perritt takes both ends of a doubleheader from the Philles, 3-1 and 3-0.

- September 13, they defeat the Reds in both games of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. They are nine games out. The Phillies and Robins are tied for first (Philadelphia leads by percentage points) and the Braves are one game back.

- September 15, The Giants-Reds game is called in the fourth with the Reds winning 2-0.

- September 16, 18, and 19, they win five of six games from the Pirates in three sets of doubleheaders at the Polo Grounds. The second game on September 18 is called after eight innings tied 1-1.

- September 23 the Giants defeat the Cardinals 1-0 and 6-2 to extend their win streak to 21 games breaking the record set by Providence in 1884. They are now 80-62 in fourth, seven games out.

- September 28 the Giants take their fourth straight doubleheader defeating the Braves 2-0 and 6-0 at the Polo Grounds. They are 84-62, in fourth place, 4.5 games out with eight games left. Also, the Phillies defeat the Robins 8-4 behind Pete Alexander. The Phillies are now a half-game out of first behind the Robins. The Braves are 4 back and the Giants 5. The Giants can still win the pennant if all things go in their favor.

- September 30 is another doubleheader for the Giants again against the Braves. In game one Rube Benton takes another no-hitter into the eighth but then gives up the only Braves hit of the game to Ed Konetchy. The Giants score their third straight shut out of the Braves, 4-0. The Braves and Giants are in a virtual tie for third with Boston ahead by percentage points.

- They lose the second game 8-3 to end the streak. Oddly, this streak came all at home while the first was entirely on the road. They are now 85-63, in fourth place, 4.5 games out with six games left. The Robins and Phillies play a doubleheader at Ebbet's Field. Brooklyn takes the first game to go up by 1.5 games but lose the second to go up by just one half again. The Braves and Giants remain 4 and 5 games back respectively. The best that the Gainst can now hope for is a tie with the Robins, but the Giants will now finish the season in Brooklyn. The Phillies and Braves will duke it out in the Baker Bowl to end their years.

- In their next game October 2 against the Robins, they lose 2-0 to fall to 85-66, in fourth place, 5.5 games out. They are officially eliminated from the pennant race. The Braves and Phillies split. Brooklyn leads, the Phillies are one game back, the Braves 4.5, and the Giants 6. The Braves mathematically can still force a tie for the pennant.

- On October third, manager John McGraw leaves the bench after five innings in disgust. His Giants lose 9-6 and he is convinced that they did not put in their best effort in order to help the Robins, a team with many ex-Giants on their roster. When Boston sweeps Philadelphia, the Robins are said to clinch the pennant. (Mathematically, the Phillies could still have tied the Robins, but since they had lost some games to ties during the season, they were eliminated. If that happened today, the teams would be forced to re-play the tie games. I am not sure if that rule was in place in 1916. If so, the Robins did not in actuality clinch until the last day of the season.)

- October 5: The Giants are beaten by Brooklyn 7-5 to finish the season 86-66 in fourth, 5.5 behind the pennant-winning Robins. In the World Series the Robins lose to Babe Ruth and the Red Sox in five games. The Red Sox play their home games in Braves Field, preferring it to Fenway Park because of the additional seating.

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