Pastime Portraiture: Duffy Lewis

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Duffy Lewis in 1915

Here’s another Dodgers and Red Sox Series special, harking back to the 1916 variety, and Boston’s star left fielder and 3-time World Series champion (1912, 1915 and 1916), Duffy Lewis (photo from the legendary Bain Collection, in the Library of Congress).

Of those 3 titles above, Duffy sure earned his playoff shares in ’15 and ’16 – after only hitting .188 in the 1912 Classic (this despite 3 doubles, although he had 34 at bats in what turned out to be an 8 game series) and committing a key misplay in the field (see below), he led all Boston regulars in batting average in both the 1915 and 1916 World Series, along with many clutch performances. In 1915 he almost single-handedly won the Series by himself – batting .444 with 5 RBI in the 5 games, he had the walk-off winning single in Game 3, the eventual game-winning RBI in Game 4 and an 8th inning, game-tying 2-run HR in Game 5, as Boston beat Philadelphia 4 games to 1. He nearly repeated the feat in October 1916, batting .353 in 5 games, doubling in the first run of the Series in Game 1, successfully sacrificed over the eventual game winning run in the 14th inning of Game 2, giving Babe Ruth the victory, getting 2 hits and scoring 2 runs in Game 4 and tripling and scoring the first run in the decisive Game 5, as the Red Sox won their second Championship in a row.

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Lewis in 1912

Coming up with the Red Sox in 1910, Lewis soon became 1/3 of what was to be known as Boston’s Golden (or Million Dollar) Outfield, along with Tris Speaker (in center) and Harry Hooper (in right). While they were all accomplished hitters, all of them were also exceptional defensive players, possessed with good gloves, above average throwing arms and keen awareness of the outfield. Since 1912, Lewis was often tested more than the others due to having to contend with a quirk in new Fenway Park, a 10 foot rising hill along the left field wall (the future Green Monster), often done to meet the field level with the street level beyond. Lewis was so adept at playing this hill that it became known as “Duffy’s Cliff” in honor of his mastery in scaling it to track down deep fly balls. (ironically, he would commit a key error on this hill late in Game 2 of the 1912 World Series that allowed a batter to reach that eventually scored, although the game ended in a 6-6 tie; also the hill would soon have little impact on the Red Sox in future postseasons, as their two trips in 1915 and 1916 were moved to more expansive Braves Field, and in 1918 the hill was instead utilized for overflow seating).

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The Red Sox’ Golden Outfield – L-R: Harry Hooper, Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis
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“Duffy’s Cliff”, along the left field wall at Fenway Park

The “outfield” was intact through the 1915 Championship, after which Speaker was traded to Cleveland before the next season in a salary dispute, although the Red Sox did repeat in 1916. While they won only one less game in 1917, Boston couldn’t catch the White Sox led by Eddie Cicotte’s (of later Black Sox infamy) 28-win season, and Duffy Lewis was off to the US Navy to serve in WWI for 1918 (while Boston won another title), effectively ending his Red Sox career. He was traded to the Yankees for 1919 and had a fine season, leading the majors in games played, but began to lose playing time in 1920 with the arrival of his former teammate, Babe Ruth, to New York, Ruth now patrolling the outfield with his pitching days mostly behind him. After a short stint with the Senators in 1921, he finished the year in the minors, became a manager the following season, and returned to the big leagues as a coach for the Boston Braves and then their traveling secretary (even after the move to Milwaukee) into the 1960’s.

Duffy Lewis is the only one of the “Golden Outfield” not to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, he is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, and was certainly indispensable to their Championships in 1915 and 1916. With only one more World Series title in the rest of the 20th century, his feats of October were long remembered by generation upon generation of Boston fans, and were not, or will not, soon be forgotten.

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