Imagine Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer riding long winning streaks. Imagine Dave Roberts agreeing to move Kershaw’s start up by a day so the two could face each other in an epic showdown—during the regular season. Imagine Scherzer warming up on the sideline before the game with fans lined up on either side, close enough to critique him, as he fired pitches to a catcher.
The 8×10 photo of one of the most memorable pitching matchups ever actually belonged to Wood, resting in a scrapbook for decades. It’s among the featured lots in RMY’s December Premier Auction, slated to close Saturday night.
Bullpens, at least those we know today, were non-existent in big league ballparks a century ago. Security was, to be kind, a little loose. It wasn’t unusual for clubs to turn the outfield into an overflow section, seating fans behind a rope that a day earlier had been in play.
Johnson had won 16 consecutive games as the 1912 baseball season played out. His streak had ended during a relief appearance days earlier but clearly, the Big Train was at the top of his game. The young Wood was creating excitement of his own during the first season of Fenway Park, the new home of the Red Sox. He’d reeled off 13 straight heading into the afternoon showdown with Johnson.
The photo shows a runway of sorts, created to allow Wood to get his arm ready while hundreds line the path. Above the dugout sits a megaphone, likely the one used to announce the lineups to the massive crowd that gathered in the stands and in the makeshift seats just inside the foul lines and in the outfield.
Both pitched well, but Wood would strike out the last four batters of the game and get support from back-to-back doubles by Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis for the game’s only run. Wood’s streak had reached 14 straight. It would end in his next start but he’d finish the season with 34 wins and the Red Sox captured the 1912 World Series championship.