In 1912, Rube Marquard led the New York Giants to the National League pennant by going 26-11 with an ERA of 2.57 over 294.2 innings. Along the way, he won 19 consecutive games–a record that has stood for more than a century. Marquard had a legendary season, and he was a legendary character. Ronald T. Waldo details the bizarre ending to Marquard's winning streak below. From Characters from the Diamond: Wild Events, Crazy Antics, and Unique Tales from Early Baseball. ©2016 Rowman & Littlefield. Used with permission of the author.
While the main story line from the afternoon should have revolved around the Cubs ending Marquard’s winning streak, a perceived jinx perpetrated by a demented woman seemed to grab the headlines. While a large crowd was in attendance watching New York and Chicago battle, much of the attention was directed at a woman perched in a tree outside the ballpark, overlooking the playing field. Her shrill shrieks and screams could be plainly heard at recurrent intervals throughout the game.
“Take him out; knock the cover off the ball; come on you Cubs,” shouted the woman at crucial junctures of the contest.
In addition to taunting Marquard throughout the game, the female onlooker emitted long, piercing yells and waved a big shawl. When Rube was removed from the contest at the end of the sixth inning and walked dejectedly toward the Giants clubhouse, he had to hike near the vicinity of where the crazy spectator was perched in the tree. She looked down at the beaten pitcher and shouted, “Oh, you big bum. I’m certainly glad you got yours.”
After the game ended, the crowd filed out of the ballpark and there was another gathering almost as big at Polk and Wood streets. The demented woman was yet again the center of attention, entertaining the mob with more jeers, jibes, and roasts. The local fire department was eventually called, and the rabble-rouser, identified as Mrs. Mary Porter, was forcibly carried down a ladder and taken to the detention hospital for the insane. In New York’s locker room, Marquard explained how the lady in the tree played a big part in rattling him throughout the afternoon.
“That poor woman certainly proved to be a jinx,” said Marquard. “Her shrill shrieks affected me more than the cries of all the fans inside the park bleachers.”
Oddly enough, some people believed that Rube could have possibly followed the same path as the woman had his winning streak continued. Players from Brooklyn’s squad commented after Marquard had made it nineteen wins in a row that a few more consecutive victories would have made him a prime candidate for the bughouse. They also observed how nervous he had been when the two teams had met in the game on July 3. Marquard even claimed that the ordeal really started troubling him as the winning streak continued.
“Did you ever work at a given task until you felt it was ‘getting’ to you – that you couldn’t think of anything else when you were awake and that your sleep was troubled with dreams of it?” pondered Marquard. “Of course, I want to win every game I pitch, just as does every pitcher who has the good of his team at heart, but to be candid, I’m glad that streak is over. It was getting on my nerves. Why, several nights I went to bed and the moment I closed my eyes the air became full of baseballs, gloves, and bats. I could see players running to me as though they were going to annihilate me. When I would finally get to sleep, I was pitching ball all night. When I awoke in the morning I felt as if I hadn’t rested a bit.
“I want to tell you that the strain of such a performance is awful. It isn’t so bad when you’re out there pitching. It’s after the games and at nights when it gets you. When you are on the mound your mind is taken up with your work, and you don’t worry. Why, when I had won my eighteenth straight game I wanted to go back the next day and try it again. I couldn’t get away from the feeling that I ought to pitch at once, for fear something might happen to me.”
Nearing the culmination of what was possibly the defining moment of his baseball career, Rube Marquard was beaten down by the mental strain so much that he could not enjoy his record-breaking achievement.