I'M SICK of hearing about Babe Ruth's called shot, Don Larsen's perfect game and Willie Mays's catch. They're baseball's October cliches. Let's resurrect some of the oldest autumnal heroes -- fellows such as Happy Jack Stivetts, Curt Welch, Wizard Hoffer, Dirty Jack Doyle and even ax-murderer Marty Bergen.
Long before the National and American leagues met in the so-called first World Series of 1903, they were the boys of October. It's a sin to forget Welch's $15,000 slide and Bergen's moonlight bunt. And was there ever a better showdown game than the one in which Stivetts and Cy Young matched shutouts until dark?
The NL and old American Association began their World Series in 1882. Welch's slide in the rainy 10th inning of Game 6 won the 1886 title and gave the St. Louis Browns nearly $15,000. Tough old Pop Anson cried because he and his Chicagoans got nothing.
After the Association folded, the NL contrived an intramural playoff that nevertheless produced worthy deeds. In the Championship Series of 1892, Stivetts and Young opened with an 11-inning scoreless tie. The Boston Beaneaters' Joe Quinn, an undertaker and the first major leaguer from Australia, threw out Jesse "the Crab" Burkett at the plate in the top of the ninth. Then in the bottom half, the Spiders' catcher, Chief Zimmer, moved under Stivetts's foul pop-up. But King Kelly, ever the con man, yelled from the Beaneaters' bench for first baseman Jake Virtue to take it. When Zimmer and Virtue collided, the ball dropped. After a near-riot, umpire Pop Snyder (that worthy Washingtonian) fined Kelly $10 for shameless behavior.
The next day Hugh Duffy had two triples, a double, three RBIs and scored once to send the Beaneaters into the ninth with a 4-2 lead. After Peachpie O'Connor singled, fans begged Zimmer for a homer, yelling that they'd pay plenty. Some offered $25, some $50. When he tripled off the top of the leftfield fence, the Spiders came up a run short and went on to lose the series.
In 1894, when the Orioles mobbed umpire Bob Emslie in Game 1 of the NL's Temple Cup series, the Orioles' Steve Brodie saw a chance to repay Dirty Jack Doyle for some of the stuff that earned him his nickname. Brodie should have sucker-punched him harder because Doyle went on to hit .526 in that series. In Game 2, the New York Giants' Mike Tiernan had three singles, and he also had a triple, which, with him, was a sight to see because he didn't circle the bases; he turned right angles, or was it left angles?
Still, the Giants needed only two Hoosier fastballers to take the Cup. Amos Rusie, whose thunderbolts had necessitated moving the pitchers back from 50 to 60 1/2 feet, won twice, and so did Jouett Meekin. But more than 400 innings of work that season ruined Meekin's arm. By 1901 he was a guard in the Indiana Reformatory. The 1895 Temple Cup matched baseball's two toughest and orneriest teams, the Orioles and the Spiders. They opened in Cleveland's League Park, where acoustics second only to the Mormon Tabernacle made every curse audible. Game 2 matched Hoffer, the league's quickest worker, against junkballer Nig "Snail" Cuppy, who dillydallied so long between pitches that batters swung out of frustration. In the second inning, a liner nearly tore the thumb nail from Cuppy's pitching hand. Despite his bloodied hand and uniform, he pitched on and even doubled home a run that helped him win.
When the series moved to Baltimore, fans welcomed the Spiders with rotten eggs and vegetables. After the Orioles won Game 4, the rowdies got serious, stoning the Spiders as their omnibus left for the Carrollton Hotel.
In Game 5, Hoffer -- he won 30 games as a rookie that season -- matched shutouts with Young into the seventh, then Young doubled and scored. When the Spiders' playing manager, Patsy Tebeau, tripped Hoffer at first base, the teams nearly rioted because Tebeau always tripped people at first base. The Orioles lost the series but they got even the next year.
The last week of the Spiders' '96 season was rained out, and their train wrecked on the way to Baltimore. For 20 hours they were buffeted about on various coaches. When they arrived, Orioles Manager Ned Hanlon refused to let them work out at Union Park. By the time the series began, it had been a week since they'd been in uniform. Hoffer and Joe Corbett each won twice and the Orioles didn't even need a third pitcher to sweep the series.
At the post-game celebration -- the teams drank together in those days -- players filled the Temple Cup with 15 quarts of champagne. Orioles second baseman Heinie Reitz dunked his whole head into it, then flopped onto the hotel floor along with the cup. Doyle -- he'd been traded to the Orioles -- punted the cup to Tebeau, touching off a drunken football game.
Corbett, the most successful of the '90s playoff heroes, was 3-0 in Temple Cup games and hit .583. After winning 24 games in 1897, he quit baseball to help train big brother Gentleman Jim, the heavyweight. Hoffer, at 4-2 the Temple Cup's biggest winner, became a trolley operator in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In the Cup opener of 1897, the Orioles led the Beaneaters 4-3 after one inning. After the score seesawed crazily, the Beaneaters tied 12-12 in the eighth then, with the moon peeking through the dusk, Bergen bunted Duffy home with the winning run.
For once the Beaneaters almost liked Bergen, a sullen man who sometimes wandered off for days on end. In 1900 he went berserk, murdering his family and committing suicide.
In the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1900 Championship Series, Brooklyn's Joe McGinnity was trapped between third and home. In the rundown, his temple banged Pirates pitcher Rube Waddell's knee, knocking the "iron man" cold several minutes. Still, he finished pitching the game, won twice in the series and got to keep the $500 cup as his own.
So, when settling back to watch the Reds and A's, why not pop a beer and salute Sliding Billy Hamilton, who hit .500 in postseason play, or Duffy, who hit .479, or Boileryard Bill Clarke, who hit .478? They recycle well.
John Phillips works in The Washington Post sports department and is the author of "The Fall Classics of the 1890s".