View Full Version : 1871 Pennant Race

Brian McKenna
02-25-2006, 02:07 PM
1871 Pennant Race
The Chicago White Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics were embroiled in a close pennant race at the end of 1871 in the National Association. On October 8th and 9th the “Great Fire” raged throughout Chicago, wiping out more than 17,000 buildings. The White Stockings lost their ballpark, Lake Front Park, equipment and uniforms. They were forced to finish the season on the road. The franchise’s entire net worth barely covered payroll.

The two teams ended in a tie and a one-game playoff was set for October 30th in Brooklyn. Philadelphia won 6-1. The devastated franchise folded and Chicago was unable to field another professional baseball team until 1874.

SABR Steve
02-25-2006, 05:06 PM
1871 is very much misunderstood. The pennant was to be decide by whichever club won the most series, or so it seemed. A series was a best of five games. Once a team won three games in a series, the remaining games need not be played. In fact were never counted.

At the time of the Chicago fire, the White Stockings had played 17 of its 24 games at home and were due for a road trip.

The game between Philadelphia and Chicago on October 30 was not a playoff game, but was in fact the fifth and deciding game of their five-game series. Philadelphia won by a score of 4-1, and thus won their series against Chicago. Before the game it was announced that whoever won the game would win the championship, although possible forfeitures had not yet been parceled out. But the New York Clipper stated that if Chicago won the match, Boston would win the pennant. Before the match, Philadelphia was 21-7, Chicago was 20-8, and Boston was 22-10.
All three had forfeitures figured in. The series records of the three were as follows: Boston 7-1, Philadelphia 6-1, and Chicago 5-0. With Philadelphia's victory the series records stood as follows: Philadelphia 7-1 (22-7), Boston 7-1 (22-10), and Chicago 5-1 (20-8). Chicago tried in vain to complete their series with Troy before the end of the season which was October 31. However, there were others that felt that most wins should determine the pennant winner. In any case, the NA awarded the first pennant officially during their November meeting. Since both Philly and Boston tied in series records, the first tie-breaker would be wins, but since they were still tied, it went to fewest losses. Harry Wright argued for his team to no avail.

The next year it was decided that most victories would decide the pennant and, in fact, it would be the rule until the early 80's, I think. Winning percentage was not yet considered. No modern reference book or even SABR reflects the above standings, as it is engaged in revisionism. By the way Boston was the true second place team, not Chicago.