It had to do with the New York Yankees.
The Americans’ 1904 home opener began auspiciously on May 2, as player-manager Jimmy Collins raised the World Champion flag at the Huntington Grounds before the game. The team had come off a successful road trip with a 10-2 record. Their boisterous Irish fan club, The Royal Rooters, cheered them on from their customary seats along the third base line.
The Americans lost that game, 3-0, to the Philadelphia Athletics. But three days later their ace pitcher Cy Young threw a perfect game against the A’s, the first in American League history.
The Americans played well that season, led by Young’s pitching and hitting by Buck Freeman, Patsy Dougherty and Chick Stahl. But a controversy erupted when the team traded Dougherty to the New York Highlanders, now the Yankees, for the mediocre Bob Unglaub.
The trade foretold the Curse of the Bambino and the storied rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees. That season the New York team challenged Boston for the pennant, and a tight race came down to the last two games – a doubleheader that New York had to sweep.
The Highlanders won the first game behind 41-game winner Happy Jack Chesbro, who also pitched the second game. In the top of the ninth, with the score tied 2-2, a spitball got away from Chesbro, allowing Lou Criger to score the go-ahead run from third base. It was the most famous wild pitch in history.
The Americans won the game and the pennant, ending the 1904 season with a 95-59-3 record. There would be no World Series that year, though. The New York Giants, who led the National League, refused to play. The Giants were still angry that the upstart American League had established the Highlanders franchise in 1903.
The “Bible of Baseball,” The Sporting News, declared the Americans world champions by default.
This story last updated in 2022.