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Yankees History: The 1904 Highlanders’ Hell Week

The franchise now known as the Yankees played a lot of baseball in one early September week in 1904.

1904 New York Highlanders in Portraits

For a variety of reasons, doubleheaders are becoming rarer in modern baseball. While every team will typically still play a couple in a season, they always now happen as the result of postponements, be it because of weather or other weird circumstances.

Back in the day, not only were there more of them, but there were plenty that were scheduled to be that way. That was certainly the case in 1904, in what was the second ever season of the franchise now known as the Yankees. However, even if doubleheaders were planned, no one would have deliberately created the stretch they had to play late in the season.

Locked in a tight race for the American League pennant, the 1904 New York Highlanders won a game on September 3rd, taking a 0.5 game lead over the Red Sox with about a month left in the season. They had an off day on September 4th before welcoming the Philadelphia Athletics to town for a series.

On the 5th, the two teams were set to play a doubleheader. The Highlanders took the first, but dropped the second. As a result of that and a doubleheader sweep by the Boston Americans (now Red Sox), who they were competing with for the AL, they dropped a half game back in the pennant race.

On September 6th, the Highlanders and A’s were again set to play a doubleheader. This one came about after a game originally scheduled for April had been postponed due to weather. This time, New York took both games, flipping the AL lead again, and going back in front by half a game.

Next day, the Highlanders went back out on the road, where they headed to Philadelphia to play some road games against the Athletics team they had just played. They opened that series on the 7th, playing just one game and losing it. However, in the next two days, they were back to playing doubleheaders. More April weather led to the two teams having to play four games over the course of September 8th and 9th. The Highlanders had a bad couple days and went just 1-3 in that time. That five-game series allowed Boston to retake control and open up a 1.5 game lead.

After that, New York was set to return home to host the Washington Senators in, if you can believe this, a doubleheader on September 10th. The teams split the doubleheader. The Highlanders got an off-day on the 11th ending their crazy run of games.

From Monday, September 5th to Saturday, September 10th, the Highlanders played 11 games in six days. The first game on the 10th ended up going to extra innings, meaning they played an even 100 innings of baseball over the course of the week. Over half of those innings belonged to just two pitchers. Jack Powell made three starts over the course of the week and went eight innings in each, totaling 24. Topping him was Al Orth.

Orth’s first appearance came in a start on the 6th, where he threw a complete game. Two days later on the 8th, he made another start, and went for nine more innings. Two days after that, he came out of the bullpen and pitched two frames in the first game of the doubleheader on the 10th. For good measure, he then started the second game of the day and threw another complete game. That makes 29 innings in five days as he ended up being the winning pitcher in three of those games. Even for 1904, when pitchers went deeper into games and went on short rest more, that seems insane.

Having to go through that stretch seems like it would be a pretty big disadvantage for the Highlanders. However, Boston ended up doing something similar. They played doubleheaders every day from September 5-8, and then played a 13-inning game on the 10th. They ended up topping the Highlanders with 104 innings over the course of the week. Boston ended up winning the pennant after a wild final day of the season, when the two teams met ... for a doubleheader.

While there are plenty of things about modern baseball that I enjoy, there are things that I wish hadn’t changed. However, playing four doubleheaders in a week is something that I would prefer to stay in the past.