April 13, 1911
Yankees 3, Athletics 1
UPDATED - SEE BELOW
The Athletics fall to 0-2 in the second game of the season. Can't seem to track down a box score or much info on this game, so let's look at the starters.
Ray "Pick" Fisher got the start for the Yankees and Jack Coombs took the hill for the A's. Both were New Englanders who attended colleges that often played each other - Middlebury (my brother's alma mater) for Fisher and Colby for Coombs. If you were to ignore their five-year age difference, it's fun to imagine them as college opponents as well. They'll end up facing each other once more in 1911.
Fisher had a funny up-and-down career, mostly with New York, ending up roughly a league-average pitcher* (106 career ERA+).
Coombs had a funny career as well. It's mostly average except for a ridiculously good year in 1910 in which he led all of baseball with 31 wins**. He posted a 1.30 ERA (182 ERA+...not too shabby) and led baseball with 13 shutouts. He also won three games for the Athletics in the 1910 World Series, the kind of things that gets you voted WS MVP these days***.
He promptly fell back to earth in 1911, though that year was odd in its own way. He did manage to once again lead all of baseball in wins, this time with 23, but he somehow managed to do so while leading both leagues in earned runs as well (132). Looking ahead, it's a safe bet that Coombs will get some decent run support for the rest of the season. Stay tuned for future starts.
Both men later became college coaches and ended up with college fields named after them (University of Michigan for Fisher and Colby and Duke for Coombs). Fisher's wikipedia page is a pretty good read; the man led an interesting life. He holds the distinction of being one of the 17 grandfathered spitballers as well as one of the few ball players to be reinstated to baseball after a lifetime ban (so there's hope for Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe yet). He also coached Gerald Ford in football and, in probably his most significant contribution to Philadelphia baseball, mentored HOF pitcher Robin Roberts.
* In what was probably his best year (1915), he had the ignominious distinction of giving up the most home runs in the AL. A whopping 7, can you believe it?
** Look at his bWAR for the 1908 through the 1912 season: 1.3, 2.8, 9.2, 2.1, 1.5.... that's quite a bell curve.
*** Though this feat has only happened once since 1968 (by Randy Johnson, who collected his third win in 2001 as a reliever in Game 7), it was downright common in the early days of baseball. Coombs was the fifth pitcher to win three games in a World Series, and he played in the 7th one (though the first two to do it did so when the WS was a best of nine series).
I got the NYT search feature working again (had trouble with it last night) and dug up a box score for the game:
As it turns out, "The Chase [Yankee's manager] combination outplayed the Mack aggregation at every point and deserved the victory." Of course, this is the deadball era we're talking about, which means that rather than being a rout, we had a game that was tied 1-1 going into the 8th inning. During that frame, the visitors put together a double followed by a triple with a throwing error to seal the deal.
We're just two games in, but things are not starting off well for our heroes in the Mack aggregation.
Once again, the full account of the game is a great read.