The Philadelphia Athletics, after holding off the Chicago White Sox, advanced to the World Series to face John McGraw’s National League champion New York Giants.
In 1904, the fiery Giants manager held his team out of the World Series, which began in 1903 when Boston beat the Pittsburgh Pirates. Boston won the AL title in 1904, but the Giants refused to play them.
But in 1905, the Giants agreed to play the AL champions and made short work of the A’s in a five-game win.
The 105-win Giants were led by Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson, who threw three shutouts against the A’s — 3-0 in Game 1, 9-0 three days later in Game 3 and 2-0 on one day’s rest in Game 5. The Giants outscored the A’s 15-3, giving up all three runs in the A’s 3-0 win in Game 2. Joe McGinnity, the Giants’ other Hall of Fame pitcher, blanked the A’s 1-0 in Game 4.
The A’s did not have the services of their zany left-handed ace Rube Waddell, who went 27-10 with a 1.48 ERA in 328 2/3 innings. Waddell won the pitching triple crown that year (wins, ERA and strikeouts with 287), but threw only 9 innings in four appearances over the team’s final 33 games.
So what did happen? In his biography on sabr.org authored by Dan O’Brien, Waddell and pitching teammate Andy Coakley were engaged in a friendly scuffle over a straw hat on Sept. 8. He fell and allegedly injured his shoulder. He was ineffective in three more appearances and manager Connie Mack didn’t use him in the World Series.
The straw hat scuffle, some believed, was a cover for perhaps the real reason Waddell didn’t pitch against the Giants. Rumors had gamblers paying him to sit out the postseason.
In 1906, Waddell was 15-17, but O’Brien writes that his drinking problem escalated and a rift developed between his longtime catcher, close friend and New Bethlehem native Ossee Shrecongost, who had sworn off the bottle apparently.
Waddell went 19-13 in 1907 and led the AL in strikeouts for the sixth straight season, which turned out to be his last for Mack’s A’s, who fell short late in the pennant race against the Tigers. Before the 1908 season, Mack sold Waddell to the St. Louis Browns and he pitched three seasons for them.
Shrecongost was 2-for-9 with a double while scoring two of the A’s runs in their 3-0 Game 2 win in the 1905 series. He continued with the A’s until 1908. While Waddell was sold before the season, Shrecongost started the year with the A’s and played 71 games before Mack sold him to the White Sox for a decent sum at the time of $2,400.
Shrecongost appeared in just six games with the Sox before the end of the season, which turned out to be his last.
Waddell and Shrecongost came into the majors as teammates with Louisville in 1897, then reunited in Philadelphia for six seasons.
Both wound up dying within 100 days of each other in 1914, Waddell in San Antonio ironically on April Fool’s Day and Shrecongost on July 9. Both neglected their health and it caught up to them, Waddell of tuberculosis at 37 and Shrecongost of Bright’s disease (kidney failure) in Philadelphia at 39.
Soon after both died, The Sporting Life summed up the duo: “Waddell and Schreck, when they were working right were almost unbeatable. Shreck’s most notable trait was that he was the only catcher who could make Waddell pitch his best. If their habits had been on a par with their professional skill, Rube and Shreck would probably be alive and playing ball today.”
Waddell biographer W.G. Brand offered this:
“I’ve written a novel about Rube’s wacky career and life and Ossee is certainly a main character in the Rube’s antics.”