Baseball fans hustled to the Huntington Avenue Grounds. Those without tickets scaled the walls to catch a glimpse of the eighth game of this championship series that pitted our Boston Americans against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League champions. Boston had won four games to Pittsburgh's three, and we needed one more victory to capture the series.
My brother, Finn McCool Connolly, and I were both diehard fans of Boston's pennant-winning, American League baseball team. We had followed the Boston Beaneaters, the city's National League team, for many years until the Americans set up shop two years previous. On a cool, cloudy day, my brother and I walked down Huntington Avenue just past Symphony Hall. It was Tuesday, October 13, 1903, and the rain had already washed out yesterday's game.
"Too bad old Cy couldn't have won this for us," said Finn. "It's up to Bill Dinneen."
Denton "Cyclone" Young was the oldest pitcher in the game. At 36, he was practically a mummy dinosaur in the baseball world. Dinneen probably was pitching better lately. But Old Cy had kept us alive in the last game, and Finn knew it as well as I did.
"Wagner's had a terrible series for Pittsburgh," said Finn. "Our pitchers have tamed his bat all season."
"Just like that 'Tessie' song that Nuf Ced McGreevey and the Royal Rooters sang out in Pittsburgh. 'Honus, why do you hit so badly?'"
"Imagine that we used to be big Beaneaters supporters, Cootch."
"The Americans have outdrawn the Beanies by almost a two to one margin," I said.
"The Beaneaters, once the terror of the National League, have gone to hell in a handbasket."
"The American League swiped their best players. Look at Boston. We got Jimmy Collins and Cy Young just to start."
"Cootch, if you're not going to pay a player top dollar, he'll jump to a new league without a ceiling of $2,400 a year. Look at Collins, he got four grand to play."
Old Cy had won twenty-eight games for the home team this year. Unfortunately, he was hammered for 12 hits in the first game of the series and lost. "Wild Bill" Dinneen, another of Boston's 20-win twirlers, won game two. Pittsburgh moundsman Charles "Deacon" Phillippe won games one and three in Boston. Phillippe got his nickname because he didn't like to pitch on Sundays.
Phillippe won his third game against Dinneen at their next stop in the Steel City. About 125 Royal Rooters boarded trains to watch the away games.
The Pilgrims rallied to win three in a row after that. The Rooters claimed their own version of "Tessie," a song from a musical show called The Silver Slipper. "Tessie" became the Rooters' calling card, lighting a spark in the Americans. Old Cy won the fifth and seventh games, and Dinneen captured the sixth.
Now today, Wild Bill faced Deacon Phillippe and hoped to win the deciding game at home.
Finn struck a match off his boots and lit a cheroot. An inspector with the Boston Police Department, he was going to the game as a fan and also in his official capacity. Both of us felt somewhat on edge about this eighth game of the best-of-nine championship.
The murkiness of the day colored my mood. I couldn't relax. I wasn't one who believed in premonitions, yet I knew something would happen today. I didn't know what.
"What's the problem, little man?" asked my brother, who was shorter than me. "You're out of sorts."
"I can't explain it, Finn," I replied. "I'm jumpy."
"You're just worried about the local nine today."
I shook my head. "I've got a feeling, Finn. I can't shake it."
I should've been thrilled for this game, but I wasn't. I had lived a quiet existence for the past 18 months, working as a probation officer at the Boston Municipal Court. I had also started serious research into the history of the Boston Irish.
Besides history, baseball was my passion. I even played ball in the Eastern League for a few seasons as a centerfielder until I realized I couldn't hit my way out of the Eastern League.
I should've been thrilled about this game, but something terrible had reared its ugly head once again...and I had gotten involved in another caper.
I, Cuchulain Connolly, am writing about this chapter of my life as an older man, a bachelor, and an Irish history professor at Holy Cross College in Worcester. That's more than forty miles away from Beantown, and more than thirty years since.
The day of the championship, there was a hubbub on the avenue. Carriages, wagons, and taxis all scurried in the direction of the ballpark. By the appearance of many schoolboys there probably would be a high rate of truancy in the Boston schools. Who knows? Maybe the teachers called in sick to see the game.
When we reached the Huntington Avenue Grounds, fans without tickets were scrambling up the walls to get into the ballpark. Finn and I were among the lucky fans possessing tickets. My brother said hello to several police officers who were on duty for crowd control, their gray domed helmets elevating their stature. As an inspector Finn was not required to wear a uniform. He usually wore black three-piece suits with a gold watch fob his wife Millie gave him as a wedding present. On his skull, Finn sported a black bowler that capped his black hair.
The two of us stood outside of the main entrance on Huntington Avenue next to a large sign for Emerson Shoes.
A young man with pimples, whom I recognized from the Boston Municipal Court, stopped us. "Need tickets?"
My brother stared at this man. "How much?"
"Mine cost a buck," replied Finn. "Three bucks is highway robbery. I'm a policeman, and if I see you anywhere near here today, I'll take you in for disturbing the peace."
The man gulped. He threw the tickets on the ground and fled. Finn picked up the four-bleacher seats. He grabbed four truants who looked like they wanted to scale the wall. Having overheard the scalper's close call, they were frightened. But my brother gave them the tickets and shuffled the boys over to the ballpark entrance.
I smirked at him. "People will get the wrong idea of the big, bad policeman, Finn."
"Shut your trap." He punched me on the shoulder.
"Just relax, Cootch," said my brother. "You have an afternoon off from your cushy job, and you're watching baseball."
My brother the police inspector thought my position as a probation officer didn't match the rigors of the Boston Police Department. We both dealt with the troubled and troubling residents of our city. Probation tried to rehabilitate those in trouble; the police tried to catch those who caused it. Finn and I had many debates about whether a convict could turn the corner. But today, we didn't give a thought to the criminal justice system. We just wanted to watch our ball club win this game in their ballpark.
Built in 1901 at a cost of $35,000, the Huntington Avenue Grounds could never match the luster of today's stadiums built in the 30s. The original South End Grounds, home of the Beaneaters, found on the other side of the New York and New Haven Railroad tracks was gorgeous with its pavilions until a fire in 1894 wrecked it. The lack of insurance money prevented the restoration of that field to its former grandeur.
The Americans' ballpark was built on a patch of ground in a section of the city known as the Village. It used to see circuses, including Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and Barnum and Bailey's Circus. During the winter, an ice skating rink was created there.
The park had a grandstand sheltered by four slightly slanted roofs. One headed towards first base; the other three roofs split towards third. High above home plate was a square box with a flat roof that housed club officials.
After waiting outside for Finn to finish smoking his tiny cigar, we sauntered inside to the field.
Every seat was taken. The overflow of fans huddled on the outfield grass. In the early days of the American League homeruns were rare; unlike today when sluggers like Ruth and Gehrig blast the horsehide with ease.
The Royal Rooters had hired a musical band of Boston letter carriers bivouacked behind home plate. Many of the Boston fans sported baseball ribbons on their coats, proclaiming their loyalty. The men in suits wore mostly derbies and bowlers, but a few fedoras and scally caps could be spotted among them.
Finn and I reached our seats in the third base side of the grandstand. As soon as we sat, I poked my brother.
"Guess who is entering the park?"
Finn searched the crowd. "Jim Curley."
Less than two weeks ago, Jim and his ally Tom Curley--same names with no relation--were convicted by a jury in federal court of defrauding the United States Government. The two Curleys were caught trying to impersonate two fellows at a postal carrier examination. Bartholomew Fahy and James Hughes had flunked the postal test and asked the Curleys for help.
"He has no shame," I said. "The first convicted member of the state House of Representatives shows up as if he doesn't have a jail sentence hanging over his head."
"He filed an appeal," said my brother.
"He's dragging his feet, Finn. You know he and his conspirators are just stalling for time before they end up in the Charles Street Jail."
Finn shook his head. "You might be right, little man. I hope not."
"I have to give him credit, though, for showing his face here in front of thousands of folks."
"Let it not be said, Cootch, that Curley is a coward."
As the home team took fielding practice that prickly nervous feeling returned to me.
"Jim Curley may be no coward, Finn, but he is a fool thinking he's got everyone bamboozled with his hijinks."
As it turned out, James Michael Curley would be lucky to survive that day's nine innings.