New York Highlanders pitcher Jack Chesbro’s wild pitch in the top of the ninth inning in the first game of an October 10, 1904 doubleheader with the Boston Americans allowed the winning run to score in a 3 to 2 game, and ended the first great American League pennant race, Boston winning the championship by 1 ½ games over New York.
But, ten years later, Chesbro’s manager, Clark Griffith, put the blame for losing the game, and the pennant, squarely on another member of the team.
Griffith told Stanley Milliken of The Washington Post:
“Players are often of the opinion that they know more than their manager, and simply on this account New York lost a pennant to Boston in 1904.”
“It was either Boston or New York, and as fate would have it, the schedule brought us together. I sent in Jack Chesbro, who at the time was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball. ‘Big’ Bill Dinneen worked for Boston, and when he was right had few superiors.”
Griffith said the moment that lost the pennant came when “Dinneen began to weaken,” and allowed two runs—Griffith, in his ten-year-old recollection incorrectly said it was the seventh inning; it was actually the fifth. Dinneen had just walked “Wee Willie” Keeler and “Kid” Elberfeld, forcing in a second run and loading the bases. With two out, and 2 to 0 lead, Griffith picked up the story:
“Every man that went to the bat (in the fifth inning) had instructions to wait ‘em out.
“(Jimmy) Williams, my second baseman was also sent up with the same orders. But he thought he knew more than his manager. He did not even look over the first ball, but banged away at it, thinking perhaps he might clean the bases. What happened? Well, he rolled weakly (to Dinneen) and the side was retired. There is no telling how many men Dinneen would have walked.”
Chesbro’s wild pitch was merely a footnote in Griffith’s story, and he failed to mention Williams’ throwing error in the seventh that allowed two runs to score. The pennant, according to Griffith, was lost because Williams failed to listen to his manager; a widespread problem in baseball according to the manager:
“Not only on this occasion but on many, have I seen a player go directly against the orders of his manager and bad results follow. Of course, we all have different ideas regarding what is to be done at the critical moment, but brains count in baseball just as much as it does in any other walk of life.
“Give me a bunch of ballplayers with superior brains but not as much actual playing ability as opponents and I will win just as many games as they do.“
Despite Williams’ thinking he “knew more than his manager,” he remained as Griffith’s second baseman for three more seasons.