September 14, 2017

The 1916 Giants: Questions About "Winning Streak" vs "Unbeaten Streak"

What is the major league record for most consecutive wins by a team? With Cleveland winning 21 games in a row, this has become an important - yet perhaps not easily answered - question., on a page titled "A breakdown of the longest winning streaks in the history of every club": Giants, 26, Sept. 7-30, 1916 (Longest in Major League history)

Jordan Bastian and Jason Beck, "With their 5-3 victory over the Tigers, the Indians set an AL record with 21 consecutive victories, surpassing the mark that the A's established 15 years ago. Cleveland moved into a tie with the 1935 Cubs for the second-longest winning streak in baseball history. ... The Major League record is 26 straight wins, achieved by the 1916 Giants, from Sept. 7-30 of that year."
It seems clear that MLB says the record is 26 wins.
Chris Cwik, Big League Stew/Yahoo! Sports: In the promo for Wednesday's game, 21 straight wins is referred to as the "modern record."
Oh. Maybe it's not so clear.

Also: Why is MLB claiming that 1916 is too long ago to be considered a "modern record" when in talking about any other hitting, pitching, or fielding record, the "modern era" is considered by just about everyone to be "since 1900"?

A couple of news outlets tried to have it both ways - or were extremely confused.
Associated Press (at
Headline: "Indians tie MLB record with 21st consecutive win"
Story: "The run has put Cleveland within five wins of catching the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 straight without a loss but whose century-old mark includes a tie."

Ed Carroll, Cleveland Jewish News:
Headline: "Chai plus three – Cleveland ties MLB record with 21st straight win"
Story: "... continued the winning ways with a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 13 for an MLB-record-tying 21st-straight victory. ... The MLB record is 26 consecutive wins ..."
Many people and organizations are on the "21" side of the fence:
Fox Sports (Twitter): "21 STRAIGHT! The @Indians tie the MLB record for most consecutive games with a win."

Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports (Twitter): "Not quite sure how anyone can say the 1916 Giants hold the record for consecutive wins. They had a tie in there. Unbeaten ≠ winning streak."

Marc Normandin, SBNation: "Cleveland has now won 21 games in a row after defeating the Tigers 5-3 on Wednesday afternoon, giving them sole possession of the American League record for consecutive victories, while also tying the MLB record. ... The 1916 New York Giants are recognized by Elias as having the longest win streak, but that's not actually true, as they have the longest unbeaten streak: There was a tie in the middle, so it's two separate, smaller win streaks interrupted by said tie."

Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue: "The Cubs won 21 straight games in 1935 on their way to a National League pennant. That's the major-league record for consecutive wins. You might have heard national media credit the 1916 Giants with a "26-game winning streak." This is wrong. The 1916 Giants did have a 26-game stretch in which they did not lose. However, there was a tie game in that string — they won 12, then had a tie game, then won 13 more in a row. That's not a "winning streak," that's an "unbeaten streak."

Tom Withers, AP/Washington Post: "[Q]uestions have arisen as to why a team that won 12 consecutive games, played a tie and then ripped off 14 more wins in a row would have the record."
But Steve Hirdt, executive vice president at the Elias Sports Bureau (the official record keeper of MLB) has the last word:
The Giants' 26-game winning streak has existed since the beginning of time. I do not know why certain people are looking at the 21 now and holding that up as the record or alternately trying to parse language so that they can somehow exclude the 26. It's the longest winning streak, it's the record for most consecutive wins, etc., because a tie game breaks neither a winning streak or losing streak for a team because it always gets replayed unless the season ends first.
(If we are being precise, then the Giants' winning streak has existed only since 1916, not "the beginning of time".)

The story being told in recent articles is that, during their long winning streak, the 1916 Giants had a game called by rain with the score tied - and the game was made up as part of a doubleheader the next day (and the Giants won both of those games). I have read that the stats from tie games did not count in a player's totals - since the game was replayed from the beginning, it was as if the game never existed - but looking at Giants outfielder Benny Kauff's 1916 game log, his stats for tie games are included in his season totals.

The Giants finished the 1916 season with a record of 86-66. That's 152 games, two fewer than the scheduled 154. During the season, they had three games end in ties, so it would seem likely that one of those tie games was not made up/replayed.

Let's first look at the 1916 Giants' second tie game. It came in the second game of a Saturday, September 2 doubleheader in Boston (5-5 after 10 innings). Sunday baseball was illegal in most cities at that time (the Giants played at home on Sunday for the first time in 1917) and the teams played two games on Monday, September 4, making up the rained out tie.

The Giants' other two ties came against the Pirates and it's probably best to look at every series the two teams played in 1916:

The Giants and Pirates first met on May 9-10-11-12 (Tuesday-Friday) in Pittsburgh. The Giants came in with a 2-13 record. They won all four games, the first four wins in what became a 17-game winning streak. (All 17 wins in that streak came during a long road trip. That remains the all-time major league record. The 1984 Tigers won their first 17 road games, but they did it over nearly two months with four homestands mixed in.)

The Pirates came to New York on Tuesday, June 6 for a four-game series. The Pirates won 3-2, but the games scheduled for June 7, 8, and 9 were rained out.

On July 6-8, 10 (Thursday-Saturday, Monday), the teams split four games in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates returned to New York in late July. On Saturday, July 29, the Giants swept a doubleheader (likely making up one of the June rainouts). On Monday, July 31, the Giants swept another doubleheader (which probably included a makeup of the second June rainout). Then the Giants lost on August 1 and won on August 2. ... Why did the teams not make up the third rainout?

Later in August, the Giants were in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won on August 24 and the Giants prevailed on August 25. On August 26, the teams played 14 innings and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. The Giants would not return to Pittsburgh again, so I think it decided to replay this game in New York. Now, including the third June rainout, there were two games to be replayed.

On September 16, the Giants swept the visiting Pirates in a doubleheader (making up the third June rainout). On September 18, there was another doubleheader (which probably included the makeup of the August 26 tie). The Giants won the first game (their 12th straight win), but the second game ended in a 1-1 tie after eight innings. The next day, the Giants swept a doubleheader (thus making up the tie from the previous day). The Giants would then win another 13 straight games. At the end of the month, in the first game of a doubleheader on September 30, the Giants would win their 26th game since their last loss, back on September 6 (which was the second game of yet another doubleheader).

If you are wondering, the Giants played 26 doubleheaders in 1916! (But that is not even close to the record for most doubleheaders in a single season. In 1943, the White Sox played 44 doubleheaders!)

If the statistics from the tie games were washed out and the games were completely replayed, then I would say that 26 games is the official record. If the Giants' game in question had lasted only three innings rather than eight, everyone would likely agree that it should not count as an actual game. However, it does appear that the stats from those tie games were included in the players' season totals. That would, in my mind, mean the games were official in some sense and thus would not count as a win.

Somewhat related: Player X has a 19-game hitting streak. He comes to the plate in the first inning and hits a sacrifice fly. In the second inning, he is hurt and has to leave the game. His hitting streak has come to an end, even though he has no official at-bats in the game.

With any luck, Cleveland will win six more games and all of this will be moot.

Fun Facts:

Cleveland has played 189 innings of baseball during its streak (August 24 to September 13). They have trailed in only 4 of those innings: one inning in Game #5 (August 28), one inning in Game #13 (September 5), and two innings in Game #17 (September 9).

Cleveland has 7 shutouts during their winning streak - more than 14 teams have had all season.

There is a book about the 1916 Giants' winning streak: "26 In A Row: The 1916 New York Giants and Baseball's Longest Winning Streak" by Alex Drude. From the book's preface: "When I was about 10 years old, I read a little blurb that the 1916 New York Giants had won a major league record 26 games in a row. I continually looked for a book on the subject but never found one. Many years later, it seemed like the streak was the only subject that baseball historians had not covered in detail. So I decided to write it myself."

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