The bleachers of the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, during the 1915 World Series. (Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

In the early 20th century, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants had a baseball rivalry so intense, it once resulted in a riot that almost took out an umpire.

Some background: These teams did NOT like each other.

The Giants’ manager at the time, John McGraw, was a famously combative man prone to wild outbursts.

McGraw’s beef with the Phillies stretched back to at least 1906, when he and Phils infielder Phil Sentell got into a fight on the field. The animosity lingered until June of 1913, with the Phillies and Giants battling for the National League pennant.

The Giants won a tense, 10-inning game on June 30. McGraw reportedly taunted some of the Phillies players as the game wound down.

According to some accounts, McGraw’s trash talk included a jab at Phillies pitcher Addison “Addie” Brennan. Regardless of what was said, we know what Brennan did.

He knocked McGraw unconscious, sending the diminutive manager to the hospital.

Phillies pitcher Ad Brennan in 1912. (Library of Congress)

The aftermath included five-game suspensions for Brennan and McGraw.

Showing its partisanship, The Inquirer printed several letters from fans praising Brennan for his treatment of the widely despised McGraw.

One group wrote to Brennan: “The fans of Eighth and Walnut streets all join in thanking you for soundly trouncing McGraw. You saved some of the fans a job.”

Those words would echo much louder later that summer.

Fan letters praising Brennan for decking McGraw (The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 6, 1913)

In late August of that same season, the Giants returned to Philadelphia.

During the final game of a three-game series — with the Phillies seeking a sweep — the hometown team rallied from an early deficit to take an 8-6 lead into the 9th.

During that decisive inning, a Giants player complained that he couldn’t see the ball because Phillies fans in centerfield were wearing bright, white shirtwaists.

The home-plate umpire walked out to centerfield and told the fans to cover up. They jeered him.

The umpire appealed to the Phillies captain. He said there was nothing he could do.

Finally, the umpire (whose last name was also Brennan) asked a Philadelphia police officer for help with the centerfield crowd.

The officer wasn’t moved.

And so the home-plate umpire made a stunning decision: He called the game a forfeit.

The Giants won.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1913

Phillies fans went berserk. A riot broke out in the stands and spilled into the streets.

Four blocks separated the Phillies ballpark in North Philadelphia from the train station. The umpire, John McGraw, and his Giants players barely made it.

The umpire had to duck below the stands to escape the stadium. Fans hurled bottles and other missiles at him as he ran. At one point, according to The Inquirer, the ump exclaimed, “Help, they’re killing me.”

A group of Phillies fans eventually caught up with the beleaguered umpire and beat him to the ground.

He somehow managed to break away and make a mad dash for the train station.

North Philadelphia Station in 1915. (George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection/ Temple University)

Meanwhile, Philadelphia police drew their weapons to give McGraw and his team the cover they needed to escape.

According to newspaper accounts, McGraw rushed onto a departing train as angry fans trailed him.

The next day, The Inquirer wrote:

“That [McGraw and the umpire] escaped with slight injury was due only to the fortunate fact that an express train happened to be stopping at the North Philadelphia Station at the instant that they reached there with the mob at their heels.”

Maybe more amazing than the riot itself is the fact that it kind of worked.

The National League reviewed the forfeit decision — and overturned it.

In October, the Phillies and Giants resumed the game from the point where it had been suspended.

The Phillies won.


Originally tweeted by Avi Wolfman-Arent (@Avi_WA) on June 15, 2023.

Avi Wolfman-Arent is co-host of Studio 2 and a broadcast anchor on 90.9 FM. He was previously an education reporter with WHYY, where he's worked since 2014. Prior to that he covered nonprofits for the...