Tonight, the Dodgers play at Wrigley Field and go for a franchise record-tying 12th straight road win.
Those 12 straight road wins came in 1924, a year the Dodgers finished just a game and a half back of the first place Giants.
First thing to keep in mind is that in the 1920s, teams would alternate very long home stands with very long road trips. For teams like the Dodgers and Giants, they would intersperse their intracity series throughout the year.
The streak started on August 25 in St. Louis. The Dodgers had lost their previous game, 17-0, in the second game of a doubleheader. They beat the Cardinals, 5-3, behind a complete game by Bill Doak.
The next day, Burleigh Grimes went the distance in a 7-4 win.
The Dodgers went home for three games against the hated Giants at Ebbets Field and swept them. This moved the Dodgers to just four games out of first place, but still in third behind the Giants and Pirates.
Then the Dodgers started on a 11-game road trip, which would be their last one of the season, save for a stray game at the Polo Grounds. Fortunately for them, they were traveling to play seventh place Philadelphia and last place Boston. They had four straight doubleheaders scheduled from September 1-4, three in Philadelphia and one in Boston. They also would play a single game and then another doubleheader in Boston.
The Dodgers swept all three doubleheaders in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl. The Labor Day games on September 1 were easy 7-2 and 6-3 wins.
The next day was not as easy. Staff ace Dazzy Vance was knocked out after an inning and the Dodgers trailed 8-2 after three innings. However, the Baker Bowl was kind to hitters. The Dodgers scored five times in the fourth and one in the fifth to tie the game at 8-8. The Phillies scored in the bottom of the 8th to take a 9-8 lead, but the Dodgers tied it up in the 9th and won it in 10 innings 12-9. The Dodgers picked up 19 hits in the game, but just two for extra bases.
In the nightcap, the Dodgers won 4-3 in a rain-shortened game. Zack Wheat hit a 2-run homer in the 5th that proved to be decisive. The game actually ended in the 6th with the Phillies batting, but under the rules of the day, the stats for that inning didn’t count since it wasn’t completed.
Another doubleheader in Baker Bowl and the Dodgers picked up a pair of wins. They won the first game 7-6 with single runs in each of the last three innings. In the second game, Doak pitched a 2-hit shutout for a 7-0 win.
Now it was on to Boston to face the last place Braves. Vance bounced back from a poor start to go the distance, striking out 11, in a 5-1 win. In the second game, Dutch Ruether went the route and Braves pitcher Tim McNamara went 8 innings despite giving up 9 runs and 18 hits while striking out one. And the one batter he struck out was not the pitcher Ruether, he went 4 for 4. The Dodgers won 9-1.
The next day brought a single game, and a 4-0 shutout for rookie Rube Erhardt.
But another doubleheader loomed on September 6. Doak threw his second consecutive 2-hit shutout (in a three-day span!). The Dodgers won 1-0 on an RBI triple by right fielder Tommy Griffith. The Dodgers were now in first place as the Giants had lost the first game of their doubleheader in Philadelphia.
That stay in first would be short-lived. The Dodgers and Braves were tied 3-3 going to the 10th of their second game. The Dodgers scored in the top of the 10th to take a 4-3. Reliever Art Decatur, in his fourth inning, made a crucial error, and that led to two unearned runs scoring for Boston, giving the Braves a 5-4 win, snapping the Dodgers 15-game winning streak (the longest in franchise history), and 12 overall on the road. The Giants moved back into first with a 16-14 win over the Phillies.
The Dodgers, although just being a half game behind the Giants, fell all the way to third as they trailed the Pirates by .001. Pittsburgh had several more games in hand.
In their final 17 games, the Dodgers went 10-7, but that wasn’t enough to overtake the Giants, who had two games in hand and finished 12-7 over the same time period.
Vance, at age 33, turned in one of the best pitching seasons by a Dodger ever in 1924. He finished 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA (174 ERA+) and struck out 262 batters, 127 more than the runnerup, his teammate Burleigh Grimes.
Why did the Dodgers come up short in 1924? The answer: not enough offense to match the Giants. The Giants started a lineup loaded with Hall of Famers (although of dubious quality, they were still pretty good) such as Frankie Frisch, George Kelly, Travis Jackson, Ross Youngs, and Hack Wilson (then a 24-year old platoon player). The Giants lead the NL in scoring by nearly .8 runs per game. And even though Giants manager John McGraw hated home runs, his team still led the NL with 95, just three fewer than Babe Ruth’s Yankees.
After 1924, the Dodgers would not finish as high as second again until 1940, spending much of the 1930s teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and irrelevance. But for one hot streak in 1924, the Dodgers took over the National League. For a few hours.
Thanks to Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference.com, and old LA Times boxscores.
Dodgers 1924 uniforms from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Dressed to the Nines website.