Up Next for the Streaking Cleveland Indians: The 1916 New York Giants

by Rocco Constantino | Posted on Friday, September 15th, 2017
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New York Giants Manager John mcGraw, left, shakes hands with Christy Mathewson right) in 1916 with Buck Herzog looking on. Herzog was traded to the Giants for Mathewson and two others in the middle of the 1916 season. Photo was taken in Mathewsons return to the Polo Grounds as player/manager for the Reds.

 

The incredible winning streak the Cleveland Indians have been on the past three weeks came one strike from ending on Thursday night against the Kansas City Royals.  However, clutch hits by Francisco Lindor and Jay Bruce gave the Indians perhaps their most dramatic win of the 22 straight and their only walk-off win during the streak.  The win gave the Indians the longest winning streak since the Chicago Cubs won 21 straight in 1935.

The next milestone for the streaking Indians is the somewhat controversial 26-game winning streak put together by the 1916 New York Giants.  The issue with the Giants streak is that smack in the middle of that run is a tie game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Any controversy surrounding that tie though should be put to rest by Elias Sports and Major League Baseball, who both noted that tie games essentially do not count in team standings.  Player statistics do count, but the tie doesn’t go on the teams’ records and at the time, league rules mandated that the game be played over from the start.

With all that clarified, it’s time to dust off the ghosts of the 1916 Giants and examine their impressive streak.

The Giants streak started with a 4-1 win over the Brooklyn Robins on September 7, 1916.   In that game, Hall of Famer Zack Wheat hit a second inning solo homer for the Robins that Nap Rucker made stand up as he pitched shutout ball into the sixth.  However, the Giants rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth and Ferdie Schupp, starting just the 10th game of his career on the mound, hurled a two-hit complete game as the Giants won, 4-1.  Schupp, who won 61 games over a ten-year career, went 6-0 during the streak.

The Giants then swept a strong Phillies team in a four-game series, including winning both ends of a doubleheader on September 9.  One of the great accomplishments during this 26-game streak is that the Giants swept eight doubleheaders over those 26 games, with the streak finally coming to an end in the second game of a doubleheader on September 30.  Due to the prevalence of double headers during that era, the Giants 26-game winning streak was squeezed into 19 calendar days.  In the doubleheader sweep of the Phillies, righty Pol Perritt pitched complete game, four-hitters in each end of the doubleheader.

In the series against the Phillies, the Giants rapped the immortal Hall of Famer  Pete Alexander for 13 hits in a 9-3 victory.  That was no small accomplishment as the game came in the middle of Alexander’s incredible streak of winning 30 games or more in three straight seasons.  In 1916, the 29-year-old Alexander went 33-12 with a 1.55 ERA.

Another quirk of the Giants’ streak was that all 26 games were played at the Polo Grounds.  Travel was also much different in 1916, so homestands and road trips were much longer.  The Giants had finished a 22-game road trip by splitting a double header with the Boston Braves on September 4 and returned home for a 31-game homestand that lasted nearly the entire month of September.

After the Phillies series, the Cincinnati Reds visited the Polo Grounds for four games.  This was highly noteworthy at the time because just two months earlier, the Giants and Reds got together on a monumental trade in which the Giants shipped three future Hall of Famers to the Reds in exchange for Buck Herzog and Red Killefer.  The Hall of Famers that the Giants jettisoned were Edd Roush, Bill McKechnie and the iconic Christy Mathewson, who was at the tail end of his career.  The Reds used Mathewson as a player/manager, but he only appeared in one game on the mound for them in early September.  Incidentally, Mathewson won that start, the only appearance in his career not wearing a Giants uniform, with a 15-hit complete game against Mordecai Brown and the Chicago Cubs.

With their winning streak at 12 and the Pirates in town, the lone tie game in the streak happened.  In that game, a Benny Kauff home run gave the Giants a 1-0 lead, but a sacrifice fly by Honus Wagner drove home Max Carey in the eighth tied the game.  Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes held the Giants to three hits and the game was called after eight and a half innings and declared a tie.

After the tie, the Giants reeled off 14 more consecutive wins.  They had two one-run games during those 14 games, including a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in which the Giants scored an unearned run in the fourth.  That came in a six-game series between the Cardinals and Giants, which also saw the most dramatic win during the streak.

In the final game of the six-game set, Rogers Hornsby and the Cardinals led the Giants 2-0 going to the bottom of the ninth.  Buck Herzog, the player acquired for Mathewson, Roush and McKechnie, hit a two-run triple to tie the game and the Giants pushed across an unearned run in the bottom of the tenth for their only extra inning win in the streak.

With the streak at 23, the Giants topped the Braves in the first three games of a four-game series behind three straight shutouts.  The streak finally came to an end on September 30 when the Braves scored five times in the top of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie.

Amazingly, the Giants also had a 17-game winning streak earlier in the season.  All 17 wins on that streak came on the road.  Perhaps the most incredible thing about the streaking Giants was that aside from those two lengthy winning streaks,John McGraw’s club went just 43-66 in their other games and finished fourth out of eight teams in the National League that year.

Since the Giants historic 1916 season, only three teams have had winning streaks of 20 games.  That group includes the 2017 Indians, the 1935 Cubs and the Moneyball Oakland A’s who won 20 straight games in 2000.

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Rocco Constantino
About the Author

Rocco is the author of 50 Moments That Defined Major League Baseball (Available on Amazon now!) and former Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He is also a die hard Mets fan going back to the awful early 80's and ready for the revival. D2 NCAA softball coach and athletics administrator. Follow Rocco on Twitter @mlb100years.







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