Even though they finished fourth and traded two future Hall of Famers, a club that played more than a hundred years ago has been in the headlines all this week. Thanks to this year’s historic winning streak by the Cleveland Indians, the 1916 New York Giants are back in the news more than a century after they made history.
It’s those Giants’ 26-game winning streak that the 2017 Indians hope to match or exceed, so a long-awaited reflection on that club seems appropriate. Led by John McGraw, the club’s greatest asset was speed on base with two-time stealing champion George Burns and future Hall of Fame third baseman Bill McKechnie.
That speed helps explain a remarkable fact, beyond the mark Cleveland is currently pursuing, about the 1916 Giants. Several months earlier they had enjoyed a sixteen-game win streak, going undefeated from May 9-29.
They then began a 26-game winning streak on September 7, a 4-1 victory over the Brooklyn Robins. The Giants would not lose again until Game 2 of a doubleheader on the last day of September, an 8-3 loss at the hands of the Boston Braves.
The record 26-game mark included a 1-1 draw against Pittsburgh on Sept. 18, when future Hall of Fame legend Honus Wagner drove in the Pirates’ only run. Another player who would one day join Wagner is Cooperstown, who had been with the Giants during the first stretch, only to be traded a month before the September run.
Center fielder Edd Roush, who rarely played due to New York’s crowded lineup, was traded to Cincinnati in a deal that also saw Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson go to the Reds. Roush, of course, would be a key element of the 1919 Cincinnati team that defeated the heavily favored White Sox in the World Series, which was marred by allegations that punters paid eight Chicago players to pitch various games.
Ironically, the White Sox had beaten the Giants in the World Series just two years before that scandal, just one season after New York had its remarkable 26-game streak. Unfortunately, though, the Giants team that pulled off the streak was a long way from reaching the World Series in 2016.
Despite the two impressive streaks, New York finished fourth in the NL standings with just 88 wins, meaning nearly half of their wins came during those consecutive streaks. Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Boston finished ahead of the Giants, with the Robins winning the pennant only to fall to the Boston Red Sox four games to one in the World Series.
The 2017 Cleveland club, on the other hand, has used their current winning streak to bring them to the brink of clinching the American League Central Division championship. Not only that, but he has also awarded the Indians with the best overall record in the league, which would give them home field advantage during the playoffs.