Those lucky Red Sox

It seems fitting that the Cubs should play a part in the Boston Red Sox saga.

The last time the Red Sox won the World Series, they beat the team with the other most storied curse in sports. On Sept. 11, 1918, Boston defeated the Cubs 2-1 to take the title in six games.

The star of the Series was a 23-year old rising star. It would be the last time Babe Ruth would be regarded as a pitcher, not a slugger.

War torn series

The World Series hardly was a priority back in 1918. The country was in the midst of World War I. The season was shortened because of war restrictions. Even then there were many people who thought the games shouldn't have been played. A story in the Sept. 12, 1918, Tribune included this reaction from a fan: "Well, it's all over. Now those fellows can go to work."

The rising Babe

By 1918, Ruth already had established himself as one of the game's top pitchers, winning 65 games over the previous three seasons. But his hitting prowess couldn't be ignored.

The 1918 season marked the first time Ruth saw extended action at the plate. He played 59 games in the outfield, hitting .300 and slugging a leagueleading 11 homers in 317 at bats.

The next season, Ruth went 9-5 as a pitcher, but his destiny was beginning to take shape as he hit 29 homers playing primarily as an outfielder.

The Series

The Cubs' home games actually were played at Comiskey Park. Officials determined that Weeghman Park, now known as Wrigley Field, was too small with an 18,000-seat capacity. So the games were shifted to the South Side facility, which held 28,000 fans.

Ruth quickly set the tone for what would be a pitching-dominated series. Referred to as "Baby Ruth" by famous Tribune columnist Ring Lardner, the lefthander threw a 1-0 shutout over the Cubs' Hippo Vaughn in Game 1.

Offense would remain scarce, as no team mustered more than three runs in any game. With Boston leading the series 2-1, Ruth struck again in Game 4. This time he did it with his bat and arm. Ruth hit a two-run triple to give Boston a 2-0 lead in the fourth. The Cubs finally got to Ruth in the eighth, tying the game 2-2. That broke his Series-record scoreless streak at 29 2/3 innings, a mark that lasted 43 years. The Red Sox, though, rallied for a run in the eighth to make Ruth a 3-2 winner.

After Vaughn won Game 5 for the Cubs, Boston's Carl Mays closed out the series with a 2-1 victory in Game 6 in Fenway Park. The Red Sox celebrated what would be their last World Series title.

What they said then

I.E. Sanborn wrote in the Tribune:

Ruth shone only as a pitcher. The powerful slugger, who has done more than any other one man to win the American League and whose swats were featured in many of Boston's games this year, was helpless as a real "Babe" in front of Vaughn's fire. Twice in three times at bat Ruth struck out.

Back then, the World Series title was Boston's fifth in five attempts. That prompted the New York Times to declare:

The 1918 triumph marks the fifth world's series that the Red Sox have brought to the high brow domicile of the baked bean. Boston is the luckiest baseball spot on earth, for it has never lost a world's series.

Obviously, that luck changed.

What they say now

Gabriel Schechter, a historian at the Baseball Hall of Fame, on Ruth:

"I think he would have been a Hall of Fame pitcher. He already had won 20 games twice. He was the best lefthander in the league. He could have been Lefty Grove. "Ruth had mainly a fastball and a curve. He had straightforward speed. He didn't strike out a ton of people, but he was dominant."

In perspective: 1918

  • The U.S. establishes time zones on March 19.
  • Red Sox great Ted Williams born on Aug. 30.
  • World War I ends on Nov. 11.

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