By Tom Ruane
This article is a continuation of the Retro-Review articles. As with the other pieces, this is not intended to be a proper history of the decade. Instead, each review contain a summary of the year's pennant races and postseason as well as a collection of things that interested me while I was helping to proof the box scores for that year and generate the html files for our web-site.
In addition, from time to time I will be focusing on a few of the statistical discrepancies from these years. These are cases where the data being displayed on Retrosheet's web-site differs from either the current official statistics or what was considered official at the time. In many cases, it is unclear which version is correct, but in many others the official view is pretty obviously wrong and at some point ought to be corrected.
Many of the footnotes in the text below simply list a source for a quote or fact, but the cases where they contain additional information (and might be worth clicking on even if the sources don't interest you) are marked with a "+" following the superscript.
Of course, like the earlier articles, this one would not have been possible without the work of dozens of Retrosheet volunteers who worked on digitizing the major league box scores for the 1910s.
Similar articles on the 1900s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s are also available on our web-site.
Yearly links: 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
A note on the scope of the data presented in these articles:
As of this writing, the data used in these articles does not include any of the Negro Leagues that are now considered by MLB to be part of the "Major Leagues" as of December 2020. These leagues are the Negro National League from 1920 to 1931 and 1933 to 1948, the Eastern Colored League from 1923 to 1928, the 1929 American Negro League, the 1932 East-West League, the 1932 Negro Southern League, and the Negro American League from 1937 to 1948.
This omission is not in any way a reflection upon the major league status of those leagues (or for that matter any additional leagues that may come under the Major League umbrella in future years), only that I did not have access to data associated with these leagues while I was researching and writing these articles. In light of this, any data presented in this article, as well as my use of the term "major leagues," should be viewed in light of this omission.
The most tied game in major league history.
We'll get to the pennant races (or what passed for pennant races) in 1910 shortly, but I'd like to start my review of the year by talking about the Giants' game on September 7th. Christy Mathewson shut out Boston on six hits, striking out eleven and walking none, while the Doves' Sam Frock pitched almost as well, the only two runs scoring as a result of two errors in the eighth.
The problem, and the reason I'm starting the review here, is that the official dailies for that game have Frock's statistical line for the day (8 innings pitched, seven hits and two runs allowed, three walks and five strikeouts) on both his and Mathewson's official sheets. So while the Giants pitcher was credited with both a victory and a shutout that day, his other totals were incorrect. Now this was not a particularly unusual error for league officials to make. For example, on the same day, Brooklyn's Elmer Knetzer was given Philadelphia's Eddie Stack's stat line for their game. But what makes the error in Mathewson's line significant is that he officially finished 1910 with 184 strikeouts, one behind Earl Moore's league-leading 185. Fixing the mistake above, correcting Mathewson's total to 190, gives him his sixth strikeout title, breaking a tie with Amos Rusie for the most times leading the NL (a mark that would be tied by Pete Alexander in 1920 and broken by Dazzy Vance eight years after that).
And it looks like Mathewson led the NL in innings pitched that year as well. In most reference books, Nap Rucker is shown as leading Mathewson (320 1/3 to 318 1/3), but once you add an inning to the Giants pitcher's total for the September 7th game, and subtract a total of 2 1/3 innings from three different games in which Rucker was credited with finishing innings that were cut short by walk-off hits, Mathewson ends up leading the league 319 1/3 innings pitched to 318.
Now are we sure that the current strikeout or innings pitched totals for Mathewson, Moore and Rucker are correct? Not at all. At this point, all we know is that the data associated with a handful of games are wrong. Detailed play-by-play accounts as well as other research might uncover other changes down the road, and may even restore Moore and Rucker atop the leaderboards. All we can say at this point is that based upon the current state of research, Mathewson led the NL in 1910 in both strikeouts and innings pitched.1+
The season started on April 14th, with president William Howard Taft and Walter Johnson ("the twinkling luminaries of the day")2+ stealing the show in Washington, Taft by becoming the first president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season, and Johnson by pitching a one-hitter, the only hit a double that would have been an easy fly to right were it not for the crowd on the field. On the same day, Frank Smith would start the White Sox off with a one-hitter as well. Smith had been the busiest pitcher in the AL in 1909, leading the league games, games started, complete games, innings pitched, hits allowed and strikeouts, while finishing with a 25-17 record. Johnson's one-hitter was the beginning of a season that was very similar to Smith's previous effort, one in which he also went 25-17 while leading the league in all of the same categories.3+
By mid-July, it was clear that there would not be a rematch between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers in the fall. By June 23rd, the Pirates were already in third place, nine games behind the Chicago Cubs. And while the Tigers were only a game behind the Philadelphia Athletics that day, they immediately began a 4-13 slide, culminating with a four-game sweep in Philadelphia that left them ten games back on July 12th. Both teams' pitching took a step backward that year, with Detroit's George Mullin, Ed Summers and Ed Killian all pitching worse than they had the year before, and the Pirates unable to make up for the loss of Vic Willis, sold to the Cardinals prior to the season, the ineffectiveness of Nick Maddox, who suffered with arm troubles, and the return to earth of Babe Adams, who gave up more twice as many runs per game as he had a year earlier. As a result, both teams dropped to third-place with nearly identical records of 86-67 (the Pirates) and 86-68 (the Tigers).
In their place were two teams familiar with winning pennants, the Cubs (who won their fourth in five years) and the Athletics (winning their third, but first since 1905). Philadelphia became the first AL team with 100 or more wins, as Jack Coombs and Chief Bender combined to go 54-14 while allowing just 2.04 runs scored per game over 603 innings. Once again, Eddie Collins anchored the best infield in baseball, while Rube Oldring and Danny Murphy had fine seasons in the outfield. The surprising New York Highlanders, who had finished in last place just two years earlier, were in first place as late as June 15th, and moved past the Tigers into second. Russ Ford, a pitcher with three innings of prior major league experience, was the ace of their staff by confounding hitters with his soon-to-be illegal emory board ball on his way to a 26-6 record.
For the second straight year the Cubs won 104 games, but this time it was enough to win the pennant easily. Outfielders Solly Hofman and Frank Schulte were the hitting stars while King Cole, who had debuted at the end of 1909 by pitching a six-hit shutout (and getting three hits himself), was the best pitcher on the staff that season, going 20-4 while allowing only 2.40 runs per game, the lowest in the league. Mordecai Brown wasn't far behind, permitting 2.90 runs per game, on his way to a 25-14 record. By failing to win the pennant in 1910, the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first champion to fail to defend their title at least once since the 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
In 1909, Pirates manager Fred Clarke made a bold move by starting Babe Adams, a relative novice despite having the best season on the pitching staff, in the opening game of the World Series. This time around, Cubs manager Frank Chance had a similar opportunity, with newcomer King Cole having the best season on a staff loaded with veteran starters responsible for two previous World Series titles. I wasn't surprised that Chance didn't begin the series with Cole on the mound. Managers tend to go with the players that have already proven they can handle the pressure of a big game, and despite winning his last two starts, Cole had given up 15 hits in one and ten walks in the other. Brown, the team's best pitcher since he arrived in 1904, had recovered from a bad September by pitching back-to-back shutouts to end his regular season.
What is surprising to me is that Cole, at least if you go by the press coverage leading up to the games, wasn't even in the discussion of who should pitch in the series, much less who should start the opening game. The Chicago Daily Tribune ran photos of Ed Reulbach, Orval Overall, Mordecai Brown and Jack Pfiester under a caption "Group of Pitchers Upon Whom Manager Chance Will Rely in the World's Series," and center fielder Solly Hofman, in a series preview on the same page wrote: "But I can assure the fans of Chicago that the pitchers Chance will use--Overall, Brown, Reulbach, Pfiester, and possibly Richie--are as good as they have ever been, and will show to as good advantage as they have in the past."4
The last time the Athletics' Connie Mack had been in a World Series, his team was beaten by the Giants' two-man pitching staff of Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity. So while Chance had a choice of six or seven pitchers to choose from, Mack knew he was going to rely on Jack Coombs and Chief Bender as much as possible throughout the series and, as it would turn out, they would be the only pitchers of his to appear that fall.
The series started in Philadelphia and the Athletics held serve through the first two games, winning the opener 4-1, with Overall lasting only three ineffective innings while Bender was pitching a three-hitter, and the second 9-3, as they battered Brown for for nine runs in seven innings, helping to take the pressure off a shaky Coombs, who gave up a career-high nine walks, and only some excellent infield play, especially by Eddie Collins, and some clutch pitching, allowed him to hold the Cubs to just three runs.
The series shifted to Chicago for the third game and the teams were greeted by miserable weather. Once again, the Cubs' starting pitcher, this time Ed Reulbach, pitched poorly. He was removed after a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the second, but his replacement, Harry McIntire, was even worse, retiring only one of the five batters he faced. The last of those was Danny Murphy, and his three-run homer put the Athletics up 7-3. The onslaught continued against Jack Pfiester, and by the time the Cubs were able to score again, courtesy of a two-out two-run wild pitch in the eighth, the visitors had a 12-5 lead. Jack Coombs, pitching with only one day of rest, again wasn't particularly sharp, giving up three runs in the early going and those two meaningless runs later on, but once again, with the support of his teammates, both in the field and at bat, he didn't have to be.
After the first two losses, it had been suggested that Chance might even start McIntire in one of the remaining games. But after the third loss, and with McIntire's poor performance in the last game, Chance finally turned to Cole, but it didn't seem like anyone was enthusiastic about his prospects. First, from Chance: "People have been asking why I didn't pitch Cole. I didn't pitch him because I didn't think he would be as good as the men I did pitch. But now I know he can't be any worse than they have been. So I am going to answer my critics by starting him in this crucial game."5 And a sportswriter in The Chicago Daily Tribune: "If Floyd Kroh had behaved himself and stuck, we would be thinking of him in this crisis, but as he is not available, Cole is the one to lead the forlorn hope."6
Cole went out and pitched a decent game, allowing three runs in eight innings, but his team still trailed the Athletics by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth, with Chief Bender on the mound, three outs away from Philadelphia's first World Championship. Frank Schulte led off with a double and was sacrificed to third. Frank Chance was then hit by a pitch but denied first base by umpire Tommy Connolly, who ruled that the Cubs' manager hadn't tried to avoid it, a decision that worked in Chicago's favor when Chance hit the next ball for a triple, sending the game into extra-innings. After Brown pitched his second scoreless inning in the top of the tenth, the Cubs forced a game five when Jimmy Archer hit a one-out double and scored on Jimmy Sheckard's two-out game-winning single.
Fresh off his relief win the day before, Mordecai Brown started the next day against Coombs, who was making his third start of the series. Philadelphia held a slim 2-1 lead in the late innings when Brown, for the second time, ran out of steam and was pounded by the Athletics. In his game two start, he gave up six runs in the seventh; this time, he surrendered five runs in the eighth. In both games, he was left in to eventually retire the side, and by the time he coaxed Jack Lapp to tap back to the mound for the third out, the Cubs trailed 7-1 and the series was pretty much over.
The heroes of the series were clearly the Athletics' offense. The team hit .322 against seven Cubs pitchers with 19 doubles and an average of seven runs per game. Three regulars (Eddie Collins, Frank Baker and Danny Murphy) batted .400 or better. Murphy knocked in at least one run in every game and his nine RBIs are a record for a five-game series (although to be fair, Lou Gehrig also knocked in nine runs in a four-game series in 1928). Even the Athletics' two pitchers hit well, with their seven hits as many as the best hitter on the Cubs (Frank Schulte).
Despite his three wins in the series, Coombs actually pitched worse than he had at nearly any point during the regular season. Apart from his first two starts of the year (both losses), he hadn't allowed as many as ten runs in three straight starts all year. Highlights from his regular season include three separate scoreless-innings streaks of 27 innings or more, including an AL-record 53 from September 5th to 25th (broken in 1913 by Walter Johnson). He also set the AL record that still stands for the most shutouts in a season (13). His ten wins that July is also an AL record, and he pitched better in both August and September. On August 4th, he battled Ed Walsh to a 16-inning scoreless draw, and during his eleven-game winning streak that August and September he allowed only five runs in 103 1/3 innings.
It might not be apparent from his won-lost record of 18-20, but Ed Walsh had another great year in 1910. He pitched a 1/3 of an inning less than Walter Johnson and gave up five fewer runs. He also had multiple long scoreless inning streaks, the first starting with the 16-inning draw with Coombs, and the second ending in the same double-header that saw Coombs' record 53-inning streak come to an end. Walsh had a losing record because his White Sox were a really bad hitting team. Although they didn't score the fewest runs, they do have the distinction of having the lowest OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) since 1893. Here are the five lowest:
Year Team OPS AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR BB HBP 1910 CHI A .536 .211 .275 .261 5024 456 1058 115 58 7 403 44 1908 BRO N .543 .213 .266 .277 4897 375 1044 110 60 28 323 29 1909 WAS A .551 .223 .276 .275 4983 382 1113 149 41 9 321 42 1908 STL N .554 .223 .271 .283 4959 372 1105 134 57 17 282 45 1910 STL A .556 .218 .281 .274 5077 454 1105 131 60 12 415 36
You have to go all the way down to 22nd place (the 1972 Rangers) before you come to a team that didn't play between 1902 and 1910. And the next two teams on the list that didn't play during the first half of the Deadball Era are the 1963 Colt .45s (in 25th place) and the 1943 Athletics (in 34th).
The major leagues may have been denied a great pennant race in 1910, but they did have a close (and weird) batting race, one that was still controversial a hundred years later. That March, the Chalmers Motor Company decided to award a $1500 automobile to the major league player with the highest batting average, an award Ty Cobb would have won two of the previous three years (in 1907, by .0009 over Honus Wagner) had it existed. As the season progressed, it became clear that Cobb's principal competition would come from Nap Lajoie, who freed from the responsibilities of managing Cleveland, was having his best year since 1904 (not coincidentally, the year before he became player/manager). Here are the averages of the two players at the end of each month as well as before the last day of the season:
---- Cobb ---- --- Lajoie --- Month AB H AVG AB H AVG June 249 96 .386 221 87 .394 July 349 135 .387 343 124 .362 August 443 162 .366 473 168 .355 September 487 182 .374 563 209 .371 October 8 508 194 .382 584 219 .375
The Tigers played a game in Chicago on October 9th while Cleveland had a double-header in St. Louis. With a seven point lead in the batting race, Cobb decided to play it safe and sit out the game (as he had the day before). No two sources completely agree on the stats of the two players entering the game, but the feeling was that Lajoie needed to be perfect in either seven or eight at-bats to take the title. Lajoie tripled his first time up and then, noticing how deep rookie third-baseman Red Corriden was playing, laid down bunts in his eight other plate appearances that day (seven to Corriden and one to shortstop Bobby Wallace), reaching base each time. Apart from one play that was ruled a sacrifice and an error by Corriden, Lajoie was credited with hits in the other seven, apparently giving him the batting title and automobile.
The games that day were either a "shameless exhibition of lying down in order to make possible the Frenchman's great batting record,"7 or just good old common sense. From St. Louis Browns president Robert Hedges: "Corriden played way back in the grass every time Larry went to bat, as if fearful lest the Cleveland slugger might line-drive in his direction."8 After all, don't most third-basemen play in shallow left field whenever a good right-handed hitter is up? The general consensus, at least among most Detroit and St. Louis observers, was summed up by this local sportswriter: "For some reason Cobb is not popular in St. Louis while Lajoie is held in high esteem and with the leniency of the official scorer, Lajoie has been able to fatten his batting average beyond the pale of discretion and, it is figured, has won the prize."9
By October 15th, league president Ban Johnson said the their official figures showed that Cobb led the majors despite any possible shenanigans by the Browns, and besides, the league's investigation (which consisted of interviews with the players, manager, umpire and official scorer) found no evidence of wrongdoing, a sentiment echoed by Hedges: "The investigation has proved beyond doubt that there is none guilty of misconduct or dishonesty. But I positively will not permit anything to occur at my park, even through error of judgment alone, that would allow the finger of suspicion to be pointed against any one connected with the St. Louis Browns in any capacity. As for O'Connor, he is hereby tendered his unconditional release."10
So in other words, no one did anything wrong, but we're firing the manager behind all that not-wrong doing just to be on the safe side. Oh, and Chalmers decided to give cars to both players.
Cobb's 1910 batting title remained unchallenged until 1981 when Len Gettleson noticed that someone had entered Cobb's line for the second game of the September 24th double-header twice,11+ a mistake that, once fixed, gave Lajoie the highest batting average in the league. Major League Baseball opposed making any changes to Cobb's record (a controversy that resulted in Bowie Kuhn's famous assertion that there should be a "statute of limitations" on correcting baseball's historical record), and in 2015, when Ichiro Suzuki got his 4191st hit (counting both the major leagues and his time with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan) MLB was still including Cobb's two extra hits from that game in 1910.12+
After attending the Senator's opening-day game, president William Howard Taft was the guest of honor on May 4th in St. Louis to watch the Cardinals host the Cincinnati Reds. Both of the starting pitchers had trouble locating the plate, and Taft "gave up in despair and left the grounds long before the second inning was over.... No one blamed him for going, and his example was followed by many others who did not care to see the national game spoiled by the inaccuracy of a few alleged twirlers."13 He picked a fine time to leave because in the bottom of the next inning, Cincinnati pitchers Walt Slagle (making his only major league appearance) and Harry Coveleski combined to walk eight more, five with the bases loaded, as the Cardinals scored seven runs without a hit to take a 12-0 lead.
The day got better from there for the president, who went from Robison Field to Sportsman's Park and caught the end of an exciting 14-inning battle between the Browns and the Cleveland Naps, one that ended in a 3-3 tie. Cy Young started and ended that game three wins shy of 500, a milestone he finally reached on July 19th against the Senators, in another exciting back-and-forth extra-inning affair.
The 16 walks the Cardinals drew on May 4th was the most in the majors since 1903, but it was not unusual for the Cards to walk a lot. They led the majors by a wide margin in 1910, and their 4.28 walks per game was the second highest of the Deadball Era (to the 1915 Tigers' 4.37) and the highest since the 1894 Washington Nationals (4.67). They were back at it on June 1st, coaxing 11 passes from three Philadelphia pitchers. Miller Huggins led the way with four walks, and with two sacrifice hits as well, was one of only four players since 1901 with six or more plate appearances and no at-bats. They are:
Player Date Team AB R H RBI BB HBP SH Miller Huggins 1910- 6- 1 STL N 0 1 0 2 4 0 2 Billy Urbanski 1934- 6-13 BOS N 0 1 0 0 4 0 2 Jimmie Foxx 1938- 6-16 BOS A 0 2 0 0 6 0 0 Bryce Harper 2016- 5- 8 WAS N 0 1 0 0 6 1 0
Heinie Wagner had the only multi-homer game in the majors back in 1907, and I pointed out in my review of that year what an unlikely candidate he was for that distinction. Well, only one player in the AL had a multi-homer game in 1910, and he was also someone you wouldn't have guessed. On September 17th, Detroit pitcher Ed Summers bounced two balls into the stands for home runs, the first and last of his career. His four RBIs were also a career high, given that he never drove in more than a single run in any other game.
He was the first player in major league history to hit his only career home runs in a multi-homer game, although Harry Wright deserves some mention for hitting all four of his career home runs in two two-homer games in 1873 and 1874. It would happen again in 1912 when Jack Lelivelt made a circuit of the bases twice during the last game of the season, his only homers in 1154 career at-bats. It has happened 13 times since the end of the Deadball Era, which is more than I thought I'd find, and the complete list is in the footnotes.14+
On April 20th, Addie Joss pitched the first no-hitter of the year. He had also pitched the last no-hitter as well, at the end of the 1908 season. Here are the pitchers that had two no-hitters with no intervening ones:
Game 1 Game 2 Player 1908-10-02 1910-04-20 Addie Joss 1938-06-11 1938-06-15 Johnny Vander Meer 1951-07-12 1951-09-28(1) Allie Reynolds 1960-09-16 1961-04-28 Warren Spahn 1967-08-06 1967-08-25(2) Dean Chance 1973-05-15 1973-07-15 Nolan Ryan 1974-09-28 1975-06-01 Nolan Ryan 2012-09-28 2013-07-02 Homer Bailey
The first of Dean Chance's no-hitters above lasted only five innings, so if that makes a difference to you, feel free to ignore it. Addie Joss' season would be cut short by elbow problems and he made what would be his last major league appearance on July 25th, although he was able to start against the Reds in that fall's Ohio Championship series. The next spring, he fainted while training in Chattanooga and died on April 14th of tubercular meningitis.15
Jim Scott entered the game on October 8th with two outs in the top of the first with the White Sox already losing to the Senators 2-0. He retired the side and then proceeded to pitch eight more hitless innings. The Senators added another run in the sixth on an error, two sacrifices with a stolen base in between, and held on to win 3-2, giving Scott a no-decision for his efforts. But that got me to wondering if that was the longest hitless relief outing since at least 1901, and it turns out he's tied for the second longest with both Herb Pennock in 1917 and Bob Milliken in 1953. In first place (and I admit that I was a little embarrassed when I ran the query and saw the answer) is Ernie Shore's 1917 "perfect game." Pennock also got a no-decision, but both Milliken and Shore were rewarded with wins.
In the second
played the most tied game in major league history.
Each team had 13 hits and eight runs. They both committed two errors. And walked
three times. And had five strikeouts. The fact that they each had 27 putouts isn't
so remarkable, but they also had 13 assists each.
And no other two teams since at least 1901 have ever been so well matched.
During the previous off-season, there was a proposal under consideration
by both leagues to extend the regular season to 168 games, eliminating the
World Series. The feeling among supporters of the plan was that, while
this would hurt both pennant winners financially, it would aid the other 14
teams. By the end of 1909 the AL had rejected the plan for a longer season,
even if the World Series was retained, and the NL eventually relented, but
adopted a schedule that didn't end until
forcing the 1910 series to begin on the 17th, or later than any previous
World Series game. The
on October 15th was the only regular season game so late in the year since
the 1899 season, and there hasn't been a regular season game as late as October
10th since the end of the
Federal League season.16
Speaking of proposals under consideration, that August there was a
mention in The Sporting Life of a proposed trade between the Senators
and Tigers. Detroit manager
"... recently turned down an offer for Tyrus Cobb, which if it had gone
through would have completed one of the greatest deals of base ball
of Washington, offered to trade for Cobb, Johnson and
his star battery;
another good pitcher, and
outfielder. Jennings, however, thought Cobb was greater than all
four put together, and too big a drawing card to let go under any
It certainly would have been one of the biggest trades in history.
Of course, such a trade could have had profound effects on the
careers of all the players involved, but on paper at least, the trade
might have been pretty even, and could have turned out well for Detroit.
And finally, something caught my eye while reading "Condensed Dispatches" in the
March 5, 1910 edition of The Sporting Life:
"Thomas Ruane, manager of last season's St. Aloysius Club, in the
Catholic Temperance League, of Scranton, Pa., was killed February 24
in Bellevue colliery by a mine motor."18
Since my father's family was from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of
Pennsylvania, there's a good chance my namesake is a distant relation.
That might be where I got my interest in baseball (if not temperance).
Over the previous seven years,
the average team in each league had scored between 3.33 and 4.10 runs a
That would change with the introduction of the cork-center ball, a livelier
baseball that was either secretly introduced in the 1910
or (not-so-secretly) at the start of 1911. It was coincident with a dramatic jump
in offense, especially in the American League, where scoring increased by more
Both the Philadelphia
batted over .290 as a team, and the league's batting average
The National League saw only a modest increase in batting average
but their home runs went from 214 to 316, nearly a 50% increase. The Boston
pitching staff allowed 1021 runs, 304 more than the league's worst NL staff in
1910, a statistic so out of place in the Deadball Era that I wrote an
article about it.22
looked ready to reclaim their title when they got off to a torrid start in 1911. By
they had a 27-5 record, nine and a half games ahead of the second place Chicago
and twelve games in front of defending champion Philadelphia
who were in fifth place, at 13-15.
The largest deficit any team had been able to overcome up to that point
was nine games (by the 1890 Louisville
In the second game of their August 13th double-header, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn played the most tied game in major league history. Each team had 13 hits and eight runs. They both committed two errors. And walked three times. And had five strikeouts. The fact that they each had 27 putouts isn't so remarkable, but they also had 13 assists each. And no other two teams since at least 1901 have ever been so well matched.
During the previous off-season, there was a proposal under consideration by both leagues to extend the regular season to 168 games, eliminating the World Series. The feeling among supporters of the plan was that, while this would hurt both pennant winners financially, it would aid the other 14 teams. By the end of 1909 the AL had rejected the plan for a longer season, even if the World Series was retained, and the NL eventually relented, but adopted a schedule that didn't end until October 15th, forcing the 1910 series to begin on the 17th, or later than any previous World Series game. The game on October 15th was the only regular season game so late in the year since the 1899 season, and there hasn't been a regular season game as late as October 10th since the end of the 1914 Federal League season.16
Speaking of proposals under consideration, that August there was a mention in The Sporting Life of a proposed trade between the Senators and Tigers. Detroit manager Hughie Jennings "... recently turned down an offer for Tyrus Cobb, which if it had gone through would have completed one of the greatest deals of base ball history. Manager McAleer, of Washington, offered to trade for Cobb, Johnson and Street, his star battery; Gray, another good pitcher, and Milan, his star outfielder. Jennings, however, thought Cobb was greater than all four put together, and too big a drawing card to let go under any circumstances."17 It certainly would have been one of the biggest trades in history. Of course, such a trade could have had profound effects on the careers of all the players involved, but on paper at least, the trade might have been pretty even, and could have turned out well for Detroit.
And finally, something caught my eye while reading "Condensed Dispatches" in the March 5, 1910 edition of The Sporting Life: "Thomas Ruane, manager of last season's St. Aloysius Club, in the Catholic Temperance League, of Scranton, Pa., was killed February 24 in Bellevue colliery by a mine motor."18
Since my father's family was from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania, there's a good chance my namesake is a distant relation. That might be where I got my interest in baseball (if not temperance).
Over the previous seven years, the average team in each league had scored between 3.33 and 4.10 runs a game.19+ That would change with the introduction of the cork-center ball, a livelier baseball that was either secretly introduced in the 1910 World Series20 or (not-so-secretly) at the start of 1911. It was coincident with a dramatic jump in offense, especially in the American League, where scoring increased by more than 25%.21+ Both the Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers batted over .290 as a team, and the league's batting average increased from .243 to .273. The National League saw only a modest increase in batting average but their home runs went from 214 to 316, nearly a 50% increase. The Boston Rustlers' pitching staff allowed 1021 runs, 304 more than the league's worst NL staff in 1910, a statistic so out of place in the Deadball Era that I wrote an article about it.22
The Detroit Tigers looked ready to reclaim their title when they got off to a torrid start in 1911. By May 19th, they had a 27-5 record, nine and a half games ahead of the second place Chicago White Sox, and twelve games in front of defending champion Philadelphia Athletics, who were in fifth place, at 13-15. The largest deficit any team had been able to overcome up to that point was nine games (by the 1890 LouisvilleColonels and the 1906 White Sox), but the Athletics made short work of it, going on a 34-7 tear over the next six and a half weeks, and by July 4th had a half-game lead over the Tigers. Detroit started their own streak that same day, winning 13 of 14, and two weeks later, after sweeping both Philadelphia and Boston in four-game series, the Tigers were once again in command in the AL, with a five and a half game lead over the Athletics, and on a pace to win 109 games.
On offense, the Tigers were led by Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford and Jim Delahanty, who were having the best seasons of their careers. Cobb was hitting an incredible .445, including a 40-game hitting streak. After the team's 83rd game that day, the three were on a pace to finish with these stat lines:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG Cobb 154 612 167 273 48 30 9 173 80 .445 .496 .667 Crawford 154 583 122 221 35 13 7 135 46 .379 .454 .520 Delahanty 150 553 95 197 28 19 6 122 22 .356 .436 .508
Their two best pitchers to that point were veteran George Mullin, who was 10-5 and had allowed 3.89 runs per game, and Ed Lafitte, who after a brief trial with the Tigers at the end of 1909, had spent all of 1910 going 23-14 for Rochester of the Eastern League. Added to the back of Detroit's rotation at the start of 1911, Lafitte won his first four starts, and his win on July 17th raised his record to 10-2 with the lowest runs allowed average (3.70) on the staff. But that was as good as it got that year for Detroit, who would have a losing record the rest of the way, finally being eliminated when they lost to the Athletics on September 26th.
So what went wrong down the stretch for Detroit? One of the bright spots for the team during their 27-5 start had been the play of first-baseman Del Gainor, who came from Fort Wayne of the Central League and was hitting .369 (with a .901 OPS) when his wrist was broken by a pitch from Jack Coombs in the first inning on May 20th. George Moriarty was spiked by Bert Daniels on August 8th and missed nearly four weeks. Donie Bush hit only .213 after July 18th, and Ty Cobb, while he was still the best hitter in the league and finished with career highs in run scored, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage, saw his OPS drop from 1.163 to .990.
The pitchers didn't see their performance fall off as much as the hitters, but much of that was due to a dramatic reversal of form on the part of Ed Lafitte . Here are his splits before and after that day in July:
G GS CG SHO IP H R BB SO W L RA < 7-18 17 12 11 0 116.2 112 48 37 40 10 2 3.70 > 7-18 12 8 4 9 55.1 93 65 16 23 1 6 10.57
Philadelphia finished the year with 101 wins, one less than the AL record they had set the previous year, and for the first time an AL team had the best record in the major leagues. They did it by scoring the most runs in the league and allowing the fewest. I mentioned above that the team hit .296. That included five regulars hitting .310 or higher, with Eddie Collins, Frank Baker and Danny Murphy being joined by 21-year-old Stuffy McInnis and Bris Lord, who came over from Cleveland in a mid-season trade the year before and had the best year of his career in 1911. Rube Oldring came close to joining his teammates, his average dropping below .300 on September 25th, and back-up catcher Jack Lapp hit .351. On September 22nd, with Lapp behind the plate and Jack Coombs on the mound, the only player on the field that day for Philadelphia with a batting average below .300 was shortstop Jack Barry.
The two best pitchers on their staff were Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, who combined to go 40-13 while allowing 2.87 runs a game. But their worst starter was the one who led the team in innings pitched (with 80 more than anyone else), and the league in games won. After being the best pitcher in baseball the year before, Jack Coombs allowed more than twice as many runs as he had in 1910 despite pitching fewer innings. Even with that, he still allowed fewer than the league average (4.44 compared to 4.65) and benefited from the best run support in the league. His stats for those two years:
Year G GS CG SHO IP H R BB SO W L RA RS 1910 45 38 35 13 353 248 74 115 224 31 9 1.89 3.89 1911 47 40 26 1 336.2 360 166 119 185 28 12 4.44 6.57
On the same day that the Detroit Tigers began their descent out of the AL pennant race, the surprising Philadelphia Phillies were a game and a half ahead of the New York Giants in the National League. After spending the previous six years on the fringes of the first division, their rise had been led by rookie sensation Pete Alexander on the mound, and Fred Luderas at the plate. Alexander, who had been drafted the previous fall after going 29-11 for the Syracuse Stars of the New York State League, was leading the league on July 19th in complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts and wins. Luderus, who had come over from the Cubs the previous year in a trade for Bill Foxen, was getting a chance to play regularly for the first time and was second in the league in hits and slugging percentage, third in batting average and first in home runs by a wide margin (14-9).
The Phillies headed to St. Louis for the start of a twenty-game road-trip on July 24th. The Cardinals had been nothing but bad luck for Philadelphia in 1911. They were playing the Cards when John Titus, their right fielder, fractured his ankle on May 23rd, and on July 10th when left fielder Sherry Magee was suspended for the remainder of the season for attacking umpire Bill Finneran.23 And so it seemed fitting that it was a St. Louis runner, Rebel Oakes, who slid into Red Dooin, the Phillies player-manager (and a .319 hitter), in the fourth inning of the third game of the road trip, breaking the catcher's leg and ending his season.
John Titus was able to resume playing left field on August 6th and Sherry Magee's suspension was lifted in time for him to play on August 16th, but by that time Philadelphia had already completed the 6-13 road trip and was in fourth place (where they would end the season). Unlike the AL, however, when the early season leader faded from view, there were three teams ready to take their place. Here were the top three teams (and they should all look familiar) on August 21st:
Team G W L T PCT GB CHI N 107 64 40 3 .615 - NY N 108 66 42 0 .611 - PIT N 111 67 43 1 .609 -
Eight straight wins in late August and early September, starting with the last three games of a four-game set with the Pirates and including Rube Marquard's two-hit win followed by his back-to-back one-hit shutouts, put some distance between the Giants and their competition, and when they left for their own lengthy road trip on September 10th, they had a game and a half lead on the Cubs. The trip got off to a great start when New York clobbered the last-place Boston Rustlers in four straight by a combined score of 37-18. Pittsburgh was their next stop, and the victory tour continued with a three-game sweep of the Pirates followed by a 5-2 mark against the Cards and Reds. All this while the Cubs were playing no better than .500 ball and the Pirates were dropping out of contention. By the time New York arrived in Chicago for their four-game set, the Cubs were seven and a half games behind and needed a sweep to keep their faint hopes alive.
The Cubs won the first two, beating Marquard 8-0 behind Lew Richie's shutout, and Mathewson 2-1 behind King Cole's five-hitter. Despite the promising start, Sam Weller of the Chicago Daily Tribune tried to dampen any enthusiasm on the part of the local faithful when he wrote: "... yesterday's victory put the Cubs within five and a half games of their rivals. Possibly some of the more enthusiastic of the fans may have their hopes stimulated through that. If they can imagine the Cubs winning nine straight and the Giants losing eight out of fourteen, they can also imagine the Cubs winning the flag. But it takes some imagination."24 The Giants put those hopes (and that imagination) to rest by beating Chicago in the last two games of the series, the finale a reversal of the opener, with Rube Marquard pitching a shutout to defeat Richie. It was the start of an eight-game Giants winning streak that included a pennant-clinching shutout by Christy Mathewson on October 4th.
There were several reasons for the Giants' success in 1911: Chief Meyers, who became the best-hitting catcher in the majors, Larry Doyle, who led the majors in triples and had the second highest slugging percentage in the league, Christy Mathewson, who continued being, well, Christy Mathewson, as well as the July trade with the Boston Rustler's to re-acquire Buck Herzog, a move that allowed manager John McGraw to replace Art Devlin with Herzog at third, and move Art Fletcher to short, replacing Al Bridwell. But perhaps the biggest was the play of Rube Marquard, who for the previous two years had been derided as the "$11,000 Beauty" because of the outlandish price the Giants paid for the pitcher back in 1908 and the apparent lack of return on that investment. But after going 9-18 over his first two years (plus one start at the end of 1908), Marquard finally turned into one of the best pitchers in the NL, giving New York two formidable pitchers at the top of their rotation as he combined with Mathewson to go 50-20.
The last time the Giants made it to the World Series, back in 1905, they also faced the Athletics, winning in five games behind Christy Mathewson's three shutouts. Apart from Red Ames, Mathewson was the only player from the previous squad to appear in 1911, but he picked up right where he left off in the opener, holding the Athletics to six hits and a single run, defeating Chief Bender, the same pitcher he'd beaten in his previous World Series start, 2-1. In the second game, Eddie Plank returned the favor, holding the Giants to one run, the difference in the 3-1 Philadelphia victory a two-run homer by Frank (soon to be Home Run) Baker in the bottom of the sixth.
Back in New York for game three,25+ Jack Coombs allowed only two hits in regulation, but they were bunched in the third along with a force-out to provide the game's only run up until the ninth, as Mathewson was once again in command. He was two outs away from his fourth shutout in five World Series starts when Frank Baker hit his second home run in as many games and the score was tied. Sloppy fielding netted Philadelphia two runs in the top of the eleventh. Eddie Collins gave one of them back in the bottom half with a two-out error of his own before Beals Becker, who had reached on the error, was caught stealing second to end the game.
And then the rains came. Six days of rain.
Given a week of rest, both managers started their game one pitchers, and this time Bender got the best of Mathewson, holding the Giants scoreless after a two-run first, while Mathewson gave up a single and four doubles in the fourth and fifth innings, good enough for four runs and the game. The Giants faced elimination the next day, trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth when relief pitcher Doc Crandall doubled with two outs to knock in Art Fletcher, and Josh Devore singled in the tying run to send the game into extra-innings for the second time in the series. Athletics' pitcher Coombs hurt himself running out a single in the top of the tenth and had to leave the game, which ended in the bottom half when Fred Merkle hit a game-winning sacrifice fly off of Eddie Plank.
Hopes of the Giants extending the series another day didn't survive a four-run Philadelphia rally in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by the first "Little League Home Run"26+ in World Series history. With runners on first and second and no one out, Jack Barry sacrificed along the first-base line. Red Ames fielded the ball and threw wildly to first, the ball careening off of Barry's head and into right field where it was retrieved by Red Murray, who threw past third-base. By the time the ball finally came to rest, three runs were in and the rout was on. The last two Philadelphia runs of the 13-2 debacle came in the bottom of the seventh, when with runners on second and third and one out, Rube Marquard threw a wild pitch, and instead of chasing after it, catcher Chief Meyers stood behind the plate glaring at his pitcher while both runners scored.
The Cubs Frank Schulte hit 21 homers in 1911, the most since Buck Freeman's 25 in 1899. The other four players with as many as 20 homers prior to Schulte all played for the Chicago White Stockings in 1884 when their home field, Lake Front Park, had a right field fence less than 200 feet away (and the four combined to hit only seven of their 95 homers away from their cozy home field). Schulte was the first player since Harry Stovey in 1889 to hit ten or more homers on the road. Ed Lennox would do it next in 1914 with the Pittsburgh Rebels of the Federal League, before Babe Ruth did it in 1918 (when all 11 of his home runs were hit on the road), 1919, 1920 and so on and so on.
The Giants scored 13 first-inning runs on May 13th, putting the home fans at ease and giving manager John McGraw a chance to rest some of his regulars. Red Murray, Art Devlin, Chief Meyers and Christy Mathewson, left after one inning (Mathewson getting the win despite facing only three batters), and an inning later Fred Merkle joined them in the clubhouse, having already knocked in a career high seven runs (on a three-run homer, a three-run double and a bases-loaded walk). Rube Marquard picked up an eight-inning save for his efforts that day (he wouldn't join the starting rotation for good until May 24th) and his 14 strikeouts were the most by a reliever since at least 1901. Walter Johnson, with 15 strikeouts on July 25, 1913, and Randy Johnson, who fanned 16 in 2001, are the current AL and major-league record-holders.
The New York Highlanders probably didn't make any new fans with their 18-12 victory over the St. Louis Browns on September 28th. The sub-heading on the article in the next day's New York Times read "Hilltoppers Win Worst Game of Season with Few Persons Viewing the Travesty," and it began: "Twenty-nine hits, thirty runs, twenty bases on balls, fifteen stolen bases, and eleven errors... were crowded into eight and one-half innings at the Hilltop yesterday...."27 Any guesses on how long it took for all those hits, runs, walks, stolen bases and errors? Two hours and fifteen minutes. It probably seemed a lot longer.
Despite the poor reviews, the 15 steals by New York set the AL (and post-1901) single-game record, breaking the mark of 13 steals by the Washington Senators in 1907 against the Highlanders (and catcher Branch Rickey). The NL record of 17 stolen bases was set by the New York Giants in their 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on May 23, 1890, while the all-time record of 19 steals came a little more than a month earlier when the Athletics of Philadelphia routed the Syracuse Stars 17-6 on April 22, 1890.
Despite Bris Lord's good year for the Athletics in 1911, Connie Mack couldn't have been happy with the trade that brought him to Philadelphia. On July 23, 1910, he sent Morrie Rath, along with a player to be named later to Cleveland for Lord, and then a week later, gave the Naps the rights to Shoeless Joe Jackson to complete the deal. So while Lord was having a good year with the Athletics in 1911, hitting .310 with a .784 OPS, Jackson was turning into the league's best hitter not named Ty Cobb. There were twelve seasons during the Deadball Era where a player had an OPS of 1.000 or higher (400 plate appearances minimum) and Jackson had three (from 1911 to 1913), Cobb had five (1910 to 1913 and 1917) and the other four were Nap Lajoie (1901), Ed Delahanty (1902), Tris Speaker (1912) and Babe Ruth (1919).
I mentioned above that Rube Marquard threw a two-hitter followed by back-to-back one-hitters in 1911. He was the first pitcher since at least 1901 to allow two hits or fewer in three consecutive complete-game starts. It has been done only once since, by 40-year-old Eddie Plank in August 1916. Plank also pitched two hitless relief innings during his low-hit game streak.
And speaking of Rube, probably few people were happier than he was when the news broke that the Pittsburgh Pirates had purchased Marty O'Toole from the St. Paul Saints of the American Association for $22,500, the highest price ever paid for a player, and more than twice the $11,000 Marquard had cost the Giants.28+ O'Toole pitched his first game with the Pirates on August 30th, walking ten and striking out nine in a five-hit 6-4 win over Boston, the first of three straight complete-game victories. Control problems as well as the high expectations because of his high price tag dogged O'Toole for the rest of his relatively short career. Although there were some good moments (he pitched three consecutive shutouts near the end of 1912, part of six he would throw that year), he finished with a 25-35 record during his time with the Pirates.
On September 7th, Pete Alexander pitched the first one-hitter of his career, defeating Cy Young and the Boston Rustlers 1-0. In later years, this game would became central to a story Cy Young would tell about the end of his career, one that was uncritically parroted by Bob Broeg in a biographical essay that appeared in a 1971 issue of The Sporting News: "His last big league game actually was a mighty good one. He lost to a brillant Philadelphia rookie, 1-0. 'I always said I'd quit when the kids could beat me,' he would explain in later years, giving as a punchline the name of his young opponent--Grover Cleveland Alexander."29
But Young pitched for almost a month after that game, picking up his last win, a 1-0 shutout, on September 22nd, and instead of his career ending in a well-pitched loss to a future Hall of Fame pitcher, Young faced Brooklyn's Eddie Dent in his final outing on October 6th. It was tied at three when he took the mound in the bottom of the seventh, and then this happened: pop out, triple, single, single, single, single, double, double and double. Orlie Weaver came on at that point and retired the side. Eddie Dent picked up his first (of four) major league wins that day, and at the start of the game, Young and Dent set an all-time record for the largest difference between the career wins of the two starting pitchers: 511.
Alexander's 28 wins was the most by a true rookie pitcher since Joe McGinnity also won 28 for Baltimore in 1899, and the last rookie with more was Bill Hoffer, who won 31 for Baltimore in 1895. Vean Gregg, also a first-year pitcher in 1911, was leading Alexander in wins 23-22 on September 4th when his season ended due to a sore arm. No true rookie has won as many as 23 games in a season since, although Reb Russell won 22 with the Chicago White Sox in 1913, and Boo Ferris and Larry Jansen each won 21 games in their first major league seasons, Ferris with the Boston Red Sox in 1945 and Jansen with the New York Giants in 1947.
On May 26th, Boston's Cliff Curtis got his first win of the season after five losses, beating Brooklyn 7-2 and breaking a 23-game losing streak stretching back to June 8, 1910.30+ Curtis would hold the major league record for losses in a row until June 27, 1993, when Anthony Young lost his 24th straight decision, a streak that would reach 27 before the Mets rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth on July 28, 1993 to change what would have been another loss into Young's first win in more than 15 months.
In case you were wondering if umpires sometimes made mistakes, the morning game in Pittsburgh between the Pirates and Cubs on May 30th was thrown out for what must be termed "umpire incompetence." With one out and Dave Shean on first in the Cubs half of the eighth: "Archer hit a pop fly to Wagner, who missed it intentionally, hoping to work in a double play as Archer did not run to first. Wagner picked up the ball and tossed it to Miller [at second], but Archer wised up in time to go to first and prevented the trick." Pretty simple: now there are two outs with Archer on first.
Not so fast. Umpire Jack Doyle ruled Jimmy Archer out because Wagner dropped the ball intentionally, and so Shean should still be on first. At this point, Doyle's partner Bill Klem overruled Doyle, pointing out that since Wagner never momentarily held the ball, he couldn't have dropped it intentionally, and so Archer was once again entitled to first. And then this happened: "Archer started back to first, but before he got there, Wagner ran over and tagged him with the ball. Whereupon Umpire Klem declared Archer out, too and so the side was out."31
Klem's argument was that Archer should never have left the bag because he should have known that Doyle's ruling was wrong and ignored the call, waiting until it was corrected by a more experienced umpire. Cubs manager Frank Chance protested the game, and league president Tom Lynch agreed, citing both Doyle's original mistake in calling Archer out, and Klem's subsequent mistake in doing pretty much the same thing.32 By the time Lynch's ruling was announced on June 7th, Jack Doyle had already been fired for not knowing the rules, while Bill Klem would one day end up in the Hall of Fame. Doyle was in his first (and last) season as an umpire, and at the time he was fired had already ejected 11 players in 42 games, a pace that if maintained across an entire season could have resulted in 40 ejections over a 154-game season, more than the record 33 tossed by Mal Eason in 1914.33+
Larry McLean of the Reds was coming off the best season of his career heading into contract negotiations for 1911 and wanted his team to know he was unhappy with a temperance clause in his previous contract that called for a $25 fine every time he had a drink. This time, in addition to the $25 fine, he wanted to be paid a quarter every time he was offered a drink and refused: "I will pay for a man to go around with me, eat with me, sleep with me, and be with me all the time to see that I don't take a drink and to get the correct number of times I am asked to take a drink a day. This may sound foolish, but it is on the level. I am tired of having other people dictate terms to me and now I'm going to start dictating a bit. I will have the contract drawn up and then submit it to the managers of the Reds."34
Since he ended up playing for them again in 1911, I can only assume that once he sobered up, he reconsidered submitting that contract to the Reds.
In a pre-season note in The Sporting Life, under the heading "Unfair To Pitchers": "A volunteer assistant to the members of the rules committee opines that batting would be helped greatly by excusing the pitchers from taking their turns at the plate. There isn't much chance of this suggestion being carried out, so there is little need for the slabmen to worry. The rulemakers know how dear to the heart of almost every pitcher is his turn at bat and also that the public likes to see twirlers face their own kind whether they are good hitters or bad ones."35
Finally, I wanted to talk about a discrepancy having to do with Cubs left fielder Jimmy Sheckard, who led the NL that year in runs scored, on-base percentage and set a major league record with 147 walks. Babe Ruth would break the ML mark when he drew 150 bases on balls for the Yankees in 1920, but his NL record would last until Eddie Stanky walked 148 times for the 1945 Dodgers.But there are several questions surrounding Sheckard's total of 147. There are five different games where we believe he had one more walk than what appears on his official dailies. To take just one example, on September 8th, his daily sheet shows him with four at-bats and no walks or sacrifice hits. But he batted second in the order that day, and it is clear from the players who hit after him that he almost certainly had five plate appearances. He might've been hit by a pitched ball (since those were not included in the dailies) and there is even a remote possibility that he reached base due to catcher's interference or his place in the order was skipped at some point because the team batted out of turn. In this case, the box scores list two other players as having been hit by a pitch and there is no indication of catcher's interference or any mention of the team batting out of turn. There is, however, a clear indication in the detailed box score printed in The Chicago Daily Tribune the next day that Sheckard was walked once during the game.36
The other four cases are similar in nature and in none of these games are we certain that our assumptions are correct, only that there is a strong likelihood they are. Even if we are correct in just two of the games, Sheckard's total jumps to 149 and remains the NL mark far beyond Stanky's 148 walks in 1945 or Jim Wynn's matching total in 1969, only falling in 1996 when Barry Bonds was passed 151 times. And if we are correct about four or five of the games, his total isn't eclipsed until Mark McGwire's 162 walks in 1998.
Former umpire Hank O'Day, last seen in these reviews calling Fred Merkle out at second base in 1908 and once described in The Sporting Life as "one of the most quaint characters that ever paraded on a diamond,"37 took over the reins as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1912 and had a glorious first five and a half weeks, culminating in a 4-3 extra-inning win on May 19th in front of a Sunday afternoon crowd of 27,000. The win landed them in first-place with a 22-6 record. Spirits were high in Cincinnati as "those Reds of Hank's cleaned up again on the chesty champions from Gotham, and went to first place in the league race, shoving the Giants behind them and breezing to the front like a stake-horse running away from a selling plater."38+
Unfortunately, there were three more games to play against the Giants and the Reds' Cinderella story came to an end as the "chesty champions from Gotham" won all three (including Rube Marquard's eighth-straight win, a 3-0 shutout). The Reds then went on the road for a brutal four week, 8-16 trip that took them out of contention and into fourth place, leading to this subheading in The Sporting Life: "Very Large Gobs of Gloom Gathered En Tour."39
Their fall came on the heels of an injury to Johnny Bates, their leading hitter, who sprained his ankle severely on May 18th and was out for nearly a month, but their hot start was fueled, in part, by a 10-1 record in one-run games, and any special skill they might have had in this area disappeared after that, as they went 20-27 in one-run games the rest of the year. O'Day would return to umpiring after 1912 only to be coaxed back to the managerial ranks in 1914, this time replacing Johnny Evers at the helm of the Chicago Cubs for a year.
The Giants kept on winning after leaving Cincinnati, going 20-4 in May, and 22-4 in June. When they wrapped up their 16-game winning streak on July 3rd, their record was 54-11 and they had a sixteen and a half game lead over the second-place Cubs. Not counting the National Association or Union Association, it's the best record in major league history after 65 decisions. Since then, the best has been the 51-14 record by the Seattle Mariners in 2001.
While their pitching staff, led by Rube Marquard, who had already set a major league record by winning his first 19 decisions, was slightly better than any other team in the NL, their hot start was primarily due to all the runs they scored. In the previous article, I mentioned that the 1021 runs allowed by the Boston Rustlers in 1911 was a statistic that looked out of place in the Deadball Era. Well, through their first 66 games, the 457 runs scored by the Giants were the most runs scored to that point in a season during the Deadball Era, and since then, only the 1930 and 1936 Yankees, as well as the 1950 Red Sox, scored more than that through their first 66 games.
Three of their regulars, Chief Meyers, Larry Doyle and Fred Merkle were hitting over .370 and Merkle's OPS of .988 was the lowest of the three. The team was batting .308 and had already scored 110 more runs than the second best team in the league. And then a weird thing happened: over the rest of the season, the Giants went from scoring 6.92 to only 4.16 runs per game. Scoring did drop across the league in the second half of the season, but if you remove the Giants from the equation, the NL went from scoring 4.87 runs a game through July 3rd, to 4.23 after. So the Giants turned from historically great, to a below average hitting team overnight (the night of July 3rd to be exact). And it wasn't as if the team was beset by a rash of injuries. Up and down the lineup, almost every Giants hitter was worse.
Rube Marquard finally lost his first game of the season on July 8th, and he would struggle through the second half, following his 19-0 start with a 7-11 finish, with his ERA going from 1.63 to 3.70, a slump he would blame on the mental fatigue caused by the strain of his long winning streak.40 With the offense sputtering and Marquard fading, the Giants treaded water through the rest of July and August, and by August 30th, their huge lead had been cut to just four games over the Chicago Cubs. But Giants' rookie right-hander Jeff Tesreau's had already started a modest seven-game winning streak of his own, including a no-hitter on September 6th, on his way to a 17-7 record and a league-leading 1.96 ERA, while Christy Mathewson was winning five straight, and by the time Chicago came into New York for their last meeting of the year, the Giants were back to a double-digit lead and manager John McGraw was already getting ready for the World Series.
The Chicago Cubs' regular third-baseman, Jim Doyle, died in February of appendicitis, and two games into the season, chronic headaches forced Frank Chance to the sidelines for the rest of the year. Mordecai Brown only managed to pitch in 15 games before a badly wrenched knee ended his season in July. Despite these setbacks, the Cubs once again found themselves in a pennant race, if only briefly, thanks to a great season by Heinie Zimmerman, who led the league in hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage, as well as the best two months of the best season of Johnny Evers' career, who during the team's 45-16 run in July and August, hit .414 (with a .486 on-base percentage), and Larry Cheney, who made his major league debut in a brief trial the previous September and took over Brown's role as the staff's ace, going 26-10 in 303 1/3 innings while leading the league with 28 complete games.
The Chicago White Sox that year were the AL version of the Cincinnati Reds, but without the "umpire as manager" angle (although Jim Callahan, the White Sox manager, also had a pretty interesting story to tell).41+ On the same day that the Reds were riding high with a 22-6 record, the White Sox were a half-game better at 23-6, good for a five and a half game lead over the Boston Red Sox. In addition to Ed Walsh, who was 7-2 and on his way pitching 393 innings, Callahan's team was counting on pitchers like Joe Benz, who had allowed just 9 runs in his seven starts so far, and Frank Lange, third on the team with 5 wins despite allowing 4.81 runs a game. And while Walsh, who at 31 was having his last good season, continued to pitch well all year, Benz and Lange would go a combined 12-26 the rest of the year.
When the White Sox finally dropped out of first place on June 10th, they were replaced by the Boston Red Sox, the team Chicago had edged out of the first-division by the narrowest of margins (.5099 to .5098) in 1911. There were several reasons Boston was better in 1912, including a fine season from Vermont's own Larry Gardner, having a healthy Heinie Wagner at shortstop all year, and 20-win seasons from two relative newcomers, Buck O'Brien, who had an excellent trial the previous September, and Hugh Bedient, who made his major league debut in April.
But by far the two biggest reasons were Tris Speaker and Smoky Joe Wood. Speaker batted .383 while leading the league with 53 doubles and a .464 on-base percentage, winning the AL Chalmers Award as the league's most valuable player. Wood was one of the two best pitchers in baseball that year, finishing with a 34-5 record, including 16 wins in a row from July 8th to September 15th. He led the AL in complete games, shutouts and wins. Having Wood on the mound every fourth day was a big reason why Boston lost as many as three games in a row only once up until the day they clinched the pennant (after which they immediately lost five straight).
While Boston was replacing Chicago at the top of the league, an even more surprising team was moving in the same direction. On May 24th, the Washington Senators started a lengthy road-trip with a five-game series in New York, losing to the Highlanders in all but the last game. They next visited Boston, and played the Red Sox in back-to-back double-headers, losing the first three games before Walter Johnson pitched a five-hit shutout to salvage the finale. At this point, the Senators were in sixth-place, and had they been able to finish the season there, it would have been their best showing in ten years, since they finished sixth in each of their first two seasons in the league.
But at this point, Washington departed to visit the league's four western teams (or what passed for "western" in 1912), and by the time their last game with the Naps was cancelled by rain on June 16th, the Senators had set a major league record with 16 straight road wins and were in second place, a game and a half behind Boston.42+ In the past, the Senators might have considered the rain-out a moral victory, but now they were disappointed at losing the opportunity to sweep Cleveland in four games instead of just three. And it would be an understatement to say that the fans in Washington were pleased: "The team's great work, which is causing immense crowds to stand for hours in pouring rain before the newspaper score-boards, cheerfully smashing one another's hats and pummeling one another with joy, and giving lifelike imitations of wild Indians and raving lunatics, this great work of the team is the talk of the whole baseball world, and is so well known as scarcely to require repetition."43
In addition to a pitching staff that allowed only three runs a game, their western winning streak featured Clyde Milan's 15 stolen bases to go with a .354 batting average and a .815 OPS, as well as hot streak by Ray Morgan, who would hit .364 in the 15 games with a team-leading 1.017 OPS. And while Milan would continue to play well all year, Morgan would struggle the rest of the way, hitting only .191 after the team returned home from the west, eventually losing his second-base job at the end of August to Frank LaPorte.
After winning their first game after returning as heroes, the Senators lost back-to-back double-headers to the Philadelphia Athletics, dropping them back to fourth place. Despite these losses as well as another four straight to the Athletics ending on July 1st, Washington refused to go away, and despite never coming as close as five games of the lead again, battled Philadelphia for the second spot over the last two and a half months, finally securing the runner-up position when they took two of three from the Highlanders in the last series of their year, while the Athletics were dropping two of three to the Red Sox.
The biggest star in the Senators' rise into the first division was Walter Johnson, who went 33-12 while leading the league with 303 strikeouts and allowing the fewest runs per game (2.17 to Smoky Joe Wood's 2.72). But it wasn't a one-man show. In addition to the play of Clyde Milan in center, they got a good season from newcomer Eddie Foster at third, as well as having a fine number two starter in 24-game winner Bob Groom. It was the first time two second-division teams had finished 1-2 the next year since 1890, when the American Association's Louisville Colonels took the pennant after finishing last in 1889 while the Columbus Solons were improving from sixth to second-place. It would not happen again until 1926 when the New York Yankees went from seventh to first while the Cleveland Indians were going from sixth to second.
It was a disappointing season for the Athletics, who despite still having the best infield in baseball, as well as another fine season from Eddie Plank, had pretty much nothing else go right for them in 1912. Danny Murphy was injured sliding on June 3rd, an injury that wasn't considered serious at first, but would not only end his season, but his time as a regular with the Athletics. Bris Lord suffered through a mediocre season before manager Connie Mack dispatched him to the Baltimore Orioles of the International League in an August trade. Rube Oldring was injured in July and missed nearly three weeks, only to be suspended in early September along with Chief Bender for all but the last week of the season. And finally, Cy Morgan, who went 15-7 in 1911, pitched a one-hitter in his first start of the season, but won only twice more before he was sold to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association on July 15th.
Rube Marquard was the New York Giants winningest pitcher in 1912, but there were a lot of reasons not to start him in the first game of the World Series. Of course, there was his losing record over the second half of the season, but a bigger reason was the availability of Christy Mathewson, a veteran big-game pitcher if there ever was one, and so it wasn't surprising when John McGraw bypassed Rube and sent out... rookie Jeff Tesreau? As expected, Smoky Joe Wood took the mound for the Red Sox and it was a close, exciting game, one that Boston led 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth before three singles with one out brought the Giants within one with the tying run on third and the winning run on second. Wood then struck out Art Fletcher and Doc Crandell (who was on in relief of Tesreau) to lock up the win for Boston.
The second game was a eleven-inning tie that featured six Giants errors, leading to all of the Boston runs off Mathewson, a New York rally that started when Duffy Lewis dropped a fly ball to open the eighth, and Boston coming back to tie the game in bottom of the eighth and tenth innings, the final run coming when Tris Speaker tried to stretch his one-out triple into a homer and was safe when catcher Art Wilson dropped the ball. The Giants tied the series the next day in a close pitchers' duel that ended in a scenario identical to game one: two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the home team down by a run with runners on second and third. This time, the Giant's Rube Marquard was on the mound instead of Boston's Wood, and this time the batter (Hick Cady) lined to right for the final out.
The next two games were well-pitched low-scoring games, with Boston taking both. The first was a rematch of the game one starters, Wood again winning, this time 3-1, while the second saw Mathewson going up against rookie twenty-game winner Hugh Bedient. The Giants ace held the Red Sox to just five hits, but two of them were back-to-back triples by Harry Hooper and Steve Yerkes that led to two third-inning runs, while Bedient was holding the Giants to three hits, the only run off him scoring on a two-out seventh-inning error by Larry Gardner.
Looking to end the series, Buck O'Brien started for the Red Sox in game six and was called for a balk with men on first and third and two outs in the bottom of the first. He seemed to collapse after that, giving up four straight hits with a double-steal mixed in, good enough for five runs and the game. Ray Collins replaced him after the inning and held the Giants scoreless the rest of the way, only intensifying the second-guessing of manager Jake Stahl's decision to stick with O'Brien in the first. Stacked to a large lead, Rube Marquard coasted to an easy win and it was on to game seven. This time it was Wood's turn to blow up in the first, and before the Boston fans were settled in their seats, he'd given up seven hits and six runs. Reliever Charley Hall came on in the second and wasn't much better, allowing Jack Tesreau to pick up his first (and last) World Series win in a 11-4 walk.
And so the stage was set for one of the most dramatic games in World Series history, with Hugh Bedient facing off against Mathewson. The Giants struck first when Josh Devore led off the third with a walk, scoring two outs later on Red Murray's double. That slim lead lasted until the bottom of the seventh when Olaf Henriksen, pinch-hitting for Bedient, collected the most important hit of his career, a double with two outs to tie the game. In the top of the tenth, Wood, on in relief, gave up Murray's second double of the game before Fred Merkle singled in the go-ahead run, a hit that could have gone a long way to erasing the memory of his base-running blunder four years earlier.
Clyde Engle then led off the bottom of the tenth by hitting a lazy flyball to Fred Snodgrass in center field that was dropped. A second fly ball to Snodgrass was caught before Steve Yerkes walked to move Engle into scoring position. Speaker then hit a foul pop up that Merkle failed to pursue and Meyers couldn't reach, before singling in the tying run and, when both runners advanced on the throw home, Duffy Lewis was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing Larry Gardner to the plate for the biggest at-bat of his major league career. Ahead in the count 2-1, Gardner hit the next pitch from Mathewson to deep right field. Yerkes scored after the catch, and the series was over.44+
Pirates center fielder Chief Wilson set a major league record by hitting 36 triples in 1912. It was very similar to his 1911 season, if he had hit 36 doubles and 19 triples instead of the other way around.45 As it was, he hit six triples in a five-game stretch that June and was in the middle of hitting five triples in five games on August 26th when he tied and then broke the major league record, previously held by Dave Orr in 1886 and Heinie Reitz in 1894. When he hit his 33rd the next day, he had 16 more triples than Red Murray, the person with the second-most in the NL. He was helped by his home park, as 24 of his 36 triples were hit in Forbes Field, and as Mark Armour pointed out in his SABR biography of Wilson, even without his 36 triples, the Pirates would have still led the NL that year.
The two best hitters in baseball were once again Ty Cobb and Joe Jackson. For the second straight season, Cobb hit better than .400, while Jackson just missed his second straight .400 season, finishing with a .395 average. In addition to having the third (Cobb) and fifth (Jackson) highest batting averages of the Deadball Era (and along with Nap Lajoie's 1901 season, their 1910 seasons round out the top five), they also had the two highest monthly batting averages since at least 1901 (70 at-bats minimum). The top ten:
Player Year Month G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SB AVG OBP SLG OPS Shoeless Joe Jackson 1912 June 29 102 28 54 16 8 1 22 7 4 .529 .568 .873 1.440 Ty Cobb 1912 July 30 127 33 67 11 8 3 21 9 15 .528 .562 .811 1.373 George Sisler 1920 June 29 114 33 60 9 3 4 27 13 9 .526 .578 .763 1.341 Ty Cobb 1918 July 25 96 17 50 4 4 1 20 10 7 .521 .566 .677 1.243 Shoeless Joe Jackson 1916 June 24 86 18 44 10 3 1 10 10 4 .512 .571 .733 1.304 Todd Helton 2000 May 23 82 32 42 7 0 11 26 18 0 .512 .588 1.000 1.588 Rogers Hornsby 1924 Aug 29 106 29 54 13 2 8 22 15 0 .509 .570 .896 1.466 Shoeless Joe Jackson 1912 Sept 25 83 24 42 6 4 0 23 14 3 .506 .598 .675 1.273 Shoeless Joe Jackson 1913 May 27 97 24 49 10 7 1 23 16 4 .505 .579 .784 1.362 Harry Heilmann 1927 Aug 28 97 28 49 9 3 5 22 19 1 .505 .586 .814 1.401
But what people remember most about Cobb's season was not his incredibly hot July (a month that included a total of 14 hits in back-to-back double-headers on the 17th and 19th), but rather his trip into the third base pavilion of New York's Hilltop Park in the top of the fourth inning on May 15th to administer a beating to a fan who, from all accounts of the players and fans of both teams, most certainly deserved it. Prior to taking the law into his own hands, Cobb had unsuccessfully attempted to have the abusive fan removed from the park.46 League president Ban Johnson announced that he was suspending Cobb indefinitely pending an investigation of the incident, whereupon his teammates sent a telegram to Johnson saying that they "refuse to play in another game after today until such action is adjusted to our satisfaction."47
The strike was on. Detroit manager Hughie Jennings, once he realized that he couldn't persuade his team to show up for Saturday's game, rounded up a group of local players to avoid a forfeiture, and the 15,000 Philadelphia fans that day were treated to a game between the defending champion Athletics and a group of players who, for the most part, were getting to live the dream of being major leaguers for a day (although I doubt those dreams included getting beaten 24-2). Of the newly-minted major leaguers, only Ed Irwin got a hit (hitting two triples in three at-bats),48+ three Philadelphia pitchers combined to strike out 15 of the pretend Tigers, and the amateur pitcher Allan Travers was forced to go the distance, giving up 26 hits and 24 runs, both AL records for a nine-inning game. Eddie Collins in particular fattened up on Travers' deliveries, collecting five hits and stealing as many bases. There was no game scheduled on Sunday and the Athletics agreed to cancel Monday's game rather than subject their fans to another farce or accept a forfeit from Detroit, and by Monday night, the players had agreed to end their strike and show up for work in Washington the next day, while Cobb would end up serving a ten-game suspension.
Since at least 1901, no player in the major leagues had stolen more than four bases in a game until Eddie Collins swiped five during that 24-2 massacre. Less than a month later, Clyde Milan duplicated the feat during Washington's long road winning streak. But that September, Eddie Collins set an AL (and post-1901) record that still stands when he stole six bases in a game on both September 11th and 22nd. In the last game, Stuffy McInnis set a career high with three steals, but he owes Eddie Collins an assist for two of them when, with Collins on third and McInnis on first in the seventh inning, Collins stole home on the front part of a double steal and McInnis was able to go from first to third while the Browns were attempting to make a play at home.49+
With an 18-5 lead heading into the top of the ninth of their May 3rd game with the Highlanders, Connie Mack figured it was safe to send out rookie pitcher Roger Salmon for his major league debut. Four walks, two hits and only one out later, Mack had seen enough, but even though the bases were loaded, they were still ten runs ahead, so he sent in the next lowest pitcher on the depth chart, Lefty Russell, who had debuted with a shutout victory at the end of 1910 but was still looking for that elusive second win. Five batters (and no outs later), the score was now 18-15. There was a man on first with only one out and the tying run on deck. So the call when out for their ace, Eddie Plank, who was slated to start the next day, and he quickly disposed of the threat with a "strike em out, throw em out" double play (although it's not clear why Hack Simmons, the runner on first, was running on the play--perhaps he also wanted the game over and done with).
Another example of a whole lot of late-inning meaningless runs occurred on June 20th, when the Giants entrusted a 21-2 ninth-inning lead to rookie Ernie Shore. And while he would one day pitch perhaps the most famous relief outing in history, today was not that day. He started by committing an error (which turned out to be a good for his ERA) and it wasn't until after Ben Houser had homered for the ninth and tenth runs of the inning, narrowing to lead to a still considerable 21-12, that John McGraw's patience was finally rewarded with the third out of the inning, giving Shore the first retroactive save of his career. It would be Shore's only appearance with the Giants, but he would come back to the majors in 1914, joining the Boston Red Sox along with his teammate from the Baltimore Orioles, Babe Ruth.
In addition to Smoky Joe Wood, Walter Johnson also had a 16-game winning streak in 1912, one that went from July 3rd to August 23rd. It ended on August 26th when Johnson entered a tied game in the top of the seventh inning and allowed two inherited runners to score. As was not uncommon at the time, Johnson was charged with both the runs and the loss.50 It became a moot point when he lost his next four starts as well, including the "Duel of the Century" on September 6th, a head-to-head battle with Wood, who was going for his 14th consecutive win. This was the second time the two had faced each other in 1912, Wood winning 3-0 on June 26th, a game in which both teams combined for seven hits, three walks and 19 strikeouts. This one was even closer. With both pitchers going for their 30th win of the season, the only run of the game scored in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis.
Here's something you probably didn't know that you needed to know: on September 28th, the Giants' Ted Goulait pitched his first and last major league game, going the distance in a 6-6 tie with Boston. The New York Times was rather unkind in their description of the rookie: "Theodore Goulait, a short, solid chunk of pitching talent from Indianapolis, made his debut, and at times got very wobbly. Goulait is built so near the ground that he can hear the grass grow."51 The reason I'm mentioning this is that he is the last of only four major league pitchers to throw a complete game in their only appearance and not get a win or loss. The other three: Frank Chapman, who was losing 6-4 on July 22, 1887 when the other team forfeited,52+ Red Long in 1902, and Joseph Myers in 1905.
On April 12th, in their second game of the season, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance played together for the last time. It was the 718th time the trio had started at short, second and first for the Cubs, the third-most since at least 1901. The top ten:
G W L T PCT First Last Team Short Second First 910 511 399 0 .562 2004- 9- 8(2) 2014- 9- 8 PHI N Jimmy Rollins Chase Utley Ryan Howard 886 523 363 0 .590 1973- 6-23(2) 1981- 9-27 LA N Bill Russell Davey Lopes Steve Garvey 718 476 227 15 .677 1902- 9-13 1912- 4-12 CHI N Joe Tinker Johnny Evers Frank Chance 704 406 294 4 .580 1933- 4-22 1939- 9-12 DET A Billy Rogell Charlie Gehringer Hank Greenberg 676 414 256 6 .618 1948- 6-29 1956- 8-30 BRO N Pee Wee Reese Jackie Robinson Gil Hodges 631 319 311 1 .506 1965- 6-12 1971- 8-25 CHI N Don Kessinger Glenn Beckert Ernie Banks 604 383 214 7 .642 1932- 6- 1(2) 1937-10- 3 NY A Frankie Crosetti Tony Lazzeri Lou Gehrig 598 345 243 10 .587 1909- 9-28 1916- 8-26 NY N Art Fletcher Larry Doyle Fred Merkle 586 283 302 1 .484 1988- 5- 2 1997- 8-28 CHI N Shawon Dunston Ryne Sandberg Mark Grace 556 306 250 0 .550 1986- 4- 8 1992-10- 4 SF N Jose Uribe Robby Thompson Will Clark
The Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance combination has the highest winning percentage of those together for 300 or more games. If you drop the bar to 200 and then 100 games, two other sets of teammates top the list, both from the Deadball Era:
G W L T PCT First Last Team Short Second First 299 206 87 6 .703 1904- 4-14 1906- 9-12 NY N Bill Dahlen Billy Gilbert Dan McGann 114 85 28 1 .752 1909- 4-18 1909- 9-29 PIT N Honus Wagner Dots Miller Bill Abstein
When Bill Bergen retired after the 1911 season, he left behind a reputation for defensive excellence as well as a record of offensive futility. If you look at the seasonal OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) for players since 1893 with at least 250 plate appearances, the last three seasons of Bergen's career are the three lowest. He also has the fourth, seventh and ninth worst.53+ So while he was clearly hopeless at the plate, he must have been extremely good behind it to last eleven years in the major leagues. After all, as bad a hitter as Bergen was, there were thousands of other professional and semi-pro players who were just as bad, but didn't have the compensating defensive gifts to allow them to rise as high in the ranks as Bergen.
I bring this up now, rather than in an earlier review, because of Ed Sweeney's holdout in the spring of 1912. Sweeney was the Highlanders' catcher and he missed the start of the 1912 season, demanding a salary of $6,000, which he asserted was "No more than I and the club know I am worth to it."54 Sweeney was coming off a season in which he had played in 83 games, hit .231 and had an OPS of .600. According to baseball-reference, his WAR (wins above replacement) that year was 0 (meaning that he was no better than a replacement-level player in 1911). And to put his salary demand in perspective, Home Run Baker was paid $4,500 by the champion Athletics in 1912. So I suspect two things are at work here. First, Sweeney was at least somewhat delusional and wasn't worth close to the sum he was demanding. But secondly, I suspect he appeared to be a better player to those actually watching him play than he does to us today, viewing him through the prism of the statistics he left behind.
Finally, I would like to to mention that in the first edition of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, Heinie Zimmerman was credited with 99 RBIs, the third-most in the NL.55 The official dailies back in 1912 did not contain RBIs and so we had no way of knowing how ICI, the company that generated the statistics for Macmillan, came up with that number, but for decades it was the accepted total. Then in 2015, Herm Krabbenhoft, baseball researcher extraordinaire (and good friend to Retrosheet), did an exhaustive study of Zimmerman's game-by-game RBI totals, using contemporary newspaper descriptions of each game, and discovered that he actually drove in 104 runs, leading the league and giving him the last piece of his triple crown. The article can be read here.
With all that had gone wrong for the Philadelphia Athletics the year before, they still managed to win 90 games and were considered by many the team to beat heading into 1913. Their infield was the best in baseball by far and just entering their prime (Home Run Baker was the oldest and he'd just turned 27 before the season), and with Chief Bender back in manager Connie Mack's good graces after his suspension the previous September, they had three dependable veterans (with Eddie Plank and Boardwalk Brown) at the top of their rotation. What they didn't have was Jack Coombs, a 21-game winner the year before, who got sick during the spring and made only two abbreviated appearances before missing the entire year with what started out as grippe and ended up as typhoid fever.56
But with a trio of young pitchers (Byron Houck, Bullet Joe Bush and Bob Shawkey), Connie Mack was able to cobble together an average pitching staff. And average pitching would be all he would need. With his marvelous infield and an improved outfield, including the addition of 21-year-old Eddie Murphy, picked up in the Bris Lord trade the year before, and Rube Oldring back full-time, the Athletics averaged better than a run a game more than the next best offense in the league, with four of their players topping 100 runs scored, more than the rest of the league combined.
They took over first place for good on April 24th, won 15 consecutive games from May 27th to June 10th, and by July 3rd had a 51-17 record and a nine and a half game lead over the surprising Cleveland Naps, who had finished in the second division three of the four previous years, but nearly matched Philadelphia's torrid pace in the early going. Starting on May 21st, the Naps won 13 of 14 games, but picked up only a half-game in the standings. On June 6th, they were on pace to win 111 games, but trailed the Athletics, who were on pace to win 119.
Cleveland, under player/manager Joe Birmingham, were led by Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was hitting .440 through June 6th (and leading the AL in hits, doubles, triples, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage, with an OPS of 1.258), and while he would cool down over the rest of the season, he would still end up leading the league in hits, doubles and slugging percentage. On the mound, three-time 20-game winner Vean Gregg was joined by Willie Mitchell and Cy Falkenberg, who was back with Cleveland after a year with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association, where he had been developing a pitch similar to Russ Ford's emory board ball. Falkenberg's new pitch confounded the league through the first two months, as he won his first ten decisions with a 1.44 ERA.
Once again, the real battle in the AL was for second-place, with the Washington Senators taking the runner-up slot. They were able to overtake the Naps in the season's final two weeks by sweeping Cleveland in a five-game series in mid-September (outscoring them 31-8), and by hosting the Athletics for a three-game series after Philadelphia had clinched the pennant. Connie Mack rested his regulars in preparation for the World Series and the Senators shut out recruits like Monte Pfeffer, Joe Giebel and Press Cruthers (also referred to a "Mack's Kindergarten Brood") in all three games.57
Washington was led by Walter Johnson, who had the greatest season of his career, going 36-7 with a 1.14 ERA. In addition to wins and ERA, he also led the AL in complete games, shutouts (with 11), innings pitched and strikeouts. He won the Chalmers Award as the league's MVP. This was the third year for the MVP version of this award, and since previous winners weren't eligible, Johnson was selected over a field that didn't include either Ty Cobb or Tris Speaker, but I can't imagine either of those players would have been selected over him. And while the Senators had a losing record (54-57) when someone other than Johnson got the decision, Joe Boehling also had a fine year, winning his first 11 games (of the season and his career), not picking up his first loss until July 28th.
After giving up a first-inning run on opening day, Johnson pitched 55 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking Jack Coombs' 53-inning streak set in 1910. After improving his record to 10-0, giving him a 14-game winning streak dating back to the previous September, he had allowed only 2 earned runs in his first 70 innings. On June 27th, Johnson began a second 14-game winning streak, one that lasted to August 24th. So along with his 16-game winning streak in 1912, Johnson won 14 or more consecutive decisions on three separate occasions within a 14-month period.
The Boston Red Sox in 1913 were never able to recover from Smoky Joe Wood's injuries to his thumb as well as the poor showing of Buck O'Brien, who would be sold to the Chicago White Sox in July and out of the majors for good that August. The team also suffered offensively when a foot injury ended Jake Stahl's playing career after two pinch-hitting appearances, and Heinie Wagner missed about five weeks with a variety of injuries on his way to a poor season at the plate. The team would have a losing record as late as September 1st and finished in fourth-place, only two games out of the second division.
After two seasons of relatively high scoring, both leagues began to return to pre-1911 levels this year. In the AL, for example, the average runs per game went from 4.45 to 3.92. So while the Red Sox scored 168 fewer runs in 1913, their scoring only dropped by 9 percent relative to the league average, but the extra 66 runs they allowed meant that the defense went from allowing 21% fewer to 3% more runs per game.
The New York Giants got off to a sluggish start in 1913 and on May 27th were in fifth-place with a 16-16 record. The Philadelphia Phillies were setting the early pace and by June 14th, had a 32-13 record, five games ahead of the Giants, who had jumped back into the race by winning 12 of their last 15. The Phillies top two pitchers, Tom Seaton and Pete Alexander were a combined 21-2, while Sherry Magee, Fred Luderus and Gavvy Cravath had the most home runs in the league, with Cravath's .366 batting average and .610 slugging percentage the highest in the NL.
On June 30th, with the Phillies lead down to a half game, the Giants arrived in town for a four-game series. The visitors took the first, a sloppy 11-10 affair with each team committing five errors, one that ended with both teams' aces on in relief and Christy Mathewson getting the best of Pete Alexander. Alexander was also on the mound at the start of the next day's game, but he wasn't there long, retiring after allowing three runs in as many innings as the Giants, behind Rube Marquard's four-hitter, routed Philadelphia 10-0. The nightmare continued for the Phillies, and the next day it was George Chalmers turn to get knocked out after three innings, part of an 8-4 loss to Mathewson, who won the game despite giving up a season-high 13 hits.
The Giants completed the sweep the next day, much the way it had started, with Alexander giving up the winning runs in an extra-inning loss, his third of the series, and his fifth in six decisions since his season-opening ten-game winning streak had ended. To cap it all off, before the final game of the series, NL president Tom Lynch announced that Phillies pitcher Ad Brennan, along with Giants' manager John McGraw, had been suspended for five days for an altercation that occurred after the series opener on the 30th.58
The Giants pulled away from the Phillies after that, and by the end of July had an eight and a half game lead and were well on their way to their third straight pennant. They did it with the best pitching staff in the NL. It was led by Christy Mathewson, who no longer had the kind of stuff that had allowed him to lead the NL in strikeouts six times, but made up for it with pinpoint control. He walked only 21 batters in 306 innings, setting a record of 68 consecutive innings without a walk from June 19th to July 18th. He never walked more than two batters in any game all season and in only one month (September) did he walk as many batters as the five he had walked in the last game of the previous World Series. And it didn't stop at Mathewson: Rube Marquard, Jeff Tesreau and Al Demaree all had ERAs among the eight lowest in the league.
Despite fading from the pennant race that summer, the Phillies did manage to play well enough to hold off a challenge from the Cubs for second-place honors. Pete Alexander and Tom Seaton might not have been able to maintain their 21-2 pace of the first two months, but they did combine to go 49-20, and with the addition of Ad Brennan, who had the seventh lowest ERA in the NL, they had a trio of good young pitchers (all were 26-years-old at the end of the season). By finishing second, the Phillies became the first team other than the Giants, Cubs or Pirates to finish in first or second place in the NL since 1902.
The World Series that year was a rematch of 1911, and unlike the previous series, the Athletics took the first game, with Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker combining for six hits, including Baker's third World Series homer, as Philadelphia scored six runs off of Marquard and Doc Crandall, the first two of three Giants' pitchers. Two key plays in the game were the line drive Wally Schang hit to center in the fourth that Tillie Shafer misplayed into a two-run triple, and a pretty double-play turned by the Athletics infield in the bottom of the seventh to choke off the last Giants threat of the day.
New York evened the series the next day as Christy Mathewson pitched his fourth World Series shutout. Eddie Plank matched him through nine innings before Mathewson singled in the first of three tenth-inning runs for the win. But the game was probably lost in the bottom of the ninth when Connie Mack failed to pinch hit for Plank, who had hit .105 (8-76) during the season, with men on second and third, one out, and pinch-hitter Danny Murphy ready on the bench. Plank hit a weak grounder and one out later it was on to the tenth-inning and the loss.
The third game was over in a hurry as the Athletics' Bullet Joe Bush, who was making only his 18th major league start, held the Giants to five hits and two runs, while his teammates battered Jeff Tesreau for eleven hits and seven runs in six and a third innings. While the top of the Athletics order did almost all the damage that day, the bottom of the order took center-stage in the next game, especially catcher Wally Schang who had two-run singles in the fifth and the sixth innings to stake them to a 6-0 lead against Al Demaree and Marquard. Chief Bender was sailing along with a two-hitter through six, but was tagged for a three-run homer by Fred Merkle in the seventh, before a single, double, and a Tillie Shafer triple brought the Giants within a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Connie Mack stuck with Bender, and it paid off as the veteran recovered to get Red Murray on a grounder before retiring the side in order in the ninth to preserve the win.
Facing three straight elimination games, the Giants sent Christy Mathewson out in game five against Eddie Plank, who had already lost three shutouts in World Series play against the Giants, including one to Mathewson three days earlier. But a shutout came off the board early when two singles and Home Run Baker's sacrifice fly to left scored the Athletics first run in the top of the first. They were back at it in the third when Baker singled to knock in his seventh run of the series and Stuffy McInnis' followed with a sacrifice fly to left. Eddie Plank didn't allow a Giants' baserunner until the fifth, when a one-out walk, an error and Larry McLean's single scored what would turn out to be the last run of the game. Plank allowed only one more baserunner over the final four innings, and the ninth modern World Series was over.
The hitting stars for the Athletics were Home Run Baker and Eddie Collins, who both hit over .400 (as they had in 1911), and catcher Wally Schang, who tied Baker with seven RBIs. For Baker, it was his third straight World Series with nine hits, giving him a .409 batting average to go with nine extra-base hits (including his three home runs). During the regular season, no manager in the AL had used his bullpen more than Mack, but all five of his starters in the series went the distance. (One odd fact about the 1913 AL: the first-place Athletics had the fewest complete games in the league while the last-place St. Louis Browns had the most.)
Walter Johnson started four games against the Red Sox in 1913 and each time faced Ray Collins. All of them ended in a shutout, and all but one were 1-0 games. That exception was their first match-up on April 23rd. Walter Johnson pitched a two-hit shutout, part of his 56-inning scoreless streak, but Ray Collins, making his second start of the year, wasn't sharp and the Senators battered him for twelve hits (including two by Johnson), good for six runs. Collins got his revenge at the end of May, holding Washington to four hits, with the only run of the game scoring on Harry Hooper's lead-off homer in the first.
Next up was the best of the four: a marathon pitching duel that was scoreless until the top of 15th when doubles by Chick Gandil and Howie Shanks accounted for the only run of the day. Johnson managed to hold Boston without a run despite allowing 15 hits, which tied Jack Chesbro's 1901 major league record for the most hits allowed in a shutout. As was the custom of the time, the sportswriters broke out the superlatives to describe this long, low-scoring game. The Boston Globe described it as "By far the finest game of ball seen at Fenway Park this season," while the Washington Post went even further and claimed it was "the greatest game ever staged at Fenway field, and this includes the world series contests of last year."59
And there was one more to come, this one an 11-inning duel on August 28th, a game that the Washington Post called the greatest of Johnson's career.60 Through the first ten innings, Johnson had allowed only one base runner, a single by Steve Yerkes in the second, but in the bottom of the tenth, Yerkes singled to center and reached third when the ball went through Clyde Milan. Yerkes was out at the plate on a fielder's choice, Wagner reaching second on the play, before Bill Carrigan sent the winning run home with a hit to left.
The Athletics' Boardwalk Brown managed to do something that hadn't been done since at least 1901 (and hasn't been done since) when he won a game on July 12th in Detroit despite walking 15 batters. The Tigers had loaded the bases five times in the first seven innings but were trailing 10-1 going into the bottom of the eighth before Brown ran out of steam, having pitched (at least according to the Philadelphia Inquirer) "about two hundred balls, or more than enough for two full games."61 By the time Eddie Plank had come on to retire the side, the score was 10-6, and when the nearly three-hour long affair was finally over, Philadelphia had won 16-9. Brown didn't walk more than five batters in any other game that year, and the most walks for a winning pitcher since is 13, done by Pete Schneider in 1918 and Bud Podbielan in 1953.
And speaking of Athletics' pitchers, Bullet Joe Bush split his time between starting and relieving in 1913, becoming the first pitcher in major league history with 90 or more innings in both roles. Here are the eight pitchers in this (admittedly obscure) club:
Pitcher Year ST-IP RL-IP Bullet Joe Bush 1913 107 94 Sloppy Thurston 1923 94.1 101.1 Firpo Marberry 1924 93.1 102 Elam Vangilder 1925 91.1 102 Wilcy Moore 1927 93 119.2 Sam Gray 1932 115.2 91 Fergie Jenkins 1966 92 92.1 Mario Soto 1980 90.2 99.262+
Bush also set the mark for the longest average relief appearance that year (20 games minimum), with his 94 innings coming in 23 games for an average of 4.09 per outing. The top six:
Pitcher Year G IP AVG Bullet Joe Bush 1913 23 94 4.09 Zip Zabel 1914 22 85.2 3.89 Bill Sherdel 1924 25 96.1 3.85 Ira Hutchinson 1938 24 89.2 3.74 Sammy Stewart 1981 26 96.2 3.72 Ryan Yarbrough 2018 32 118.2 3.71
The starting pitchers for the July 25th game between the Browns and Senators were George Baumgardner and Joe Engel, but both were gone by the time Walter Johnson relieved Tom Hughes in the top of the fourth with two outs, a runner on third and the game tied at six. Johnson gave up a double to the first batter he faced and then retired the side. He was opposed on the mound by Carl Weilman, who had taken over with one gone in the first, and by the time the Senators tied the score in the bottom of the eighth inning, the game had evolved into a pitchers duel. When darkness eventually brought a halt to "as weird a contest as one wishes to see" after the fifteenth inning,63 both of the relievers had set strikeout records, Johnson for striking out 15 to eclipse Rube Marquard's 1911 record for a relief pitcher, and Weilman for becoming the first batter to strike out as many as six times in a game.64+ It wouldn't happen again until Don Hoak did it in 1956.
The Phillies were leading the visiting Giants 8-6 with one out in the top of the ninth on August 30th when McGraw complained that the fans in the center field bleachers were distracting his batters by waving their straw hats. Umpire Bill Brennan asked the Phillies to have those fans moved to some other place. Since the bleachers were filled, he was told that there was no other place for the fans to go, and after a long consultation, Brennan decided to forfeit the game to New York, a decision that caused bedlam in the park, with the umpires and the Giants' personnel making a mad dash for safety.65
The decision was appealed and on September 3rd league president Tom Lynch reversed the umpire, declaring the Phillies the winner.66 Now it was the Giants' turn to appeal and on September 9th, the NL Board of Directors reversed Lynch's decision and instead ordered that the game be resumed from the point of interruption when the teams next met in New York, which resulted in a triple-header of sorts between them on October 2nd.67 Two ground-outs with a single in between finished the suspended game before the teams split the regularly scheduled double-header. Neither Tom Lynch or Bill Brennan would be associated with the National League in 1914, although it's unclear what, if any, this mess had to do with that.
The Chicago White Sox both scored and allowed the fewest runs in the major leagues in 1913. The only time this had happened previously involved teams, like the 1890 Baltimore Orioles or the 1891 Milwaukee Brewers, that only played a month or two. The White Sox had an excellent pitching staff, with Eddie Cicotte, Jim Scott and rookie Reb Russell having the second, third and fourth lowest ERAs in the AL. Their home park, Comiskey Park, did seem to favor pitcher's in 1913. An average of 5.83 total runs were scored per game there as opposed to 7.07 in the White Sox road games. But there is quite a lot of variability in the park data from year to year, which might be due to changes in the park's layout or to the small sample sizes. Whatever the reason, only three teams have done this since: the 1937 Boston Bees, the 1989 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 2003 Dodgers.
The Brooklyn Superbas' Ebbets Field opened its doors at the start of the 1913 season, becoming the eleventh new (or significantly redone) park in five years. Since one park was hosting the two New York teams, that meant that three quarters of the major league teams had home fields that were five years old or less. The pace of construction was already slowing, however, as fewer and fewer teams were playing in the old wooden ballparks. 1913 was the first year since the building boom began that only a single park debuted, and there would be just one each in 1914 and 1915 before the boom came to an end. By the time the Chicago Cubs moved into Weeghman Park at the start of 1916, only the St. Louis Cardinals, who were playing in Robison Field (built in 1893), and the Philadelphia Phillies, in the Baker Bowl (built in 1895), were playing in ball parks more than seven years old. Every other team was playing in new ones made of steel and concrete.
Here is a list of the new parks, along with their first and last games (and names):
Debut Name Finale Name 1909- 4-12 Shibe Park 1970-10- 1 Connie Mack Stadium ARTICLE 1909- 4-14 Sportsman's Park 1966- 5- 9 Busch Stadium ARTICLE 1909- 6-30 Forbes Field 1970- 6-28(2) Forbes Field ARTICLE 1910- 4-21 League Park 1946- 9-21 League Park ARTICLE 1910- 7- 1 White Sox Park 1990- 9-30 Comiskey Park ARTICLE 1911- 4-12 Griffith Stadium 1961- 9-21 Griffith Stadium ARTICLE 1911- 6-28 Polo Grounds 1963- 9-18 Polo Grounds ARTICLE 1912- 4-11 Redland Field 1970- 6-24 Crosley Field ARTICLE 1912- 4-20 Navin Field 1999- 9-27 Tiger Stadium ARTICLE 1912- 4-28 Fenway Park Active Fenway Park ARTICLE 1913- 4- 9 Ebbets Field 1957- 9-24 Ebbets Field 1914- 4-23 Weeghman Park Active Wrigley Field ARTICLE 1915- 8-18 Braves Field 1952- 9-21 Braves Field ARTICLE
For a time during the Deadball Era, meaningless games at the end of a season would be played for laughs. Usually these games involved the Washington Senators and one such farce took place on October 4th, with the Red Sox in town. The Senators used 18 players in the game and nearly half of those pitched at one time or another. With a 10-3 lead in the top of the ninth, Germany Schaefer came in to pitch. Three hilarious hits later, Walter Johnson was called in from center field, where he'd started the game, and served up two more hits before he swapped positions with Eddie Ainsmith, who while normally a catcher, had been hamming it up as a second-baseman. A few more hits (and an out) resulted from Ainsmith's efforts before Joe Gedeon, pitching for the first and last time in his career, brought the fun to a close by retiring the last two batters with Washington holding on for a 10-9 victory.
But here's the fun part: both of the batters who got hits off Johnson's lobs that day came around to score in the ninth. Since the game was just for fun, the official scorer didn't think it fair to charge him with those good natured hits and runs, and so didn't enter that game on Johnson's sheet. As a result, he was credited for decades with 42 earned runs and a 1.09 ERA, the lowest for a pitcher with 300 or more innings since the statistic became official (which, coincidentally, was 1913). So when Bob Gibson came around with his 1.12 ERA and 304 2/3 innings pitched in 1968, he was thought to have just missed setting the record. And then a baseball researcher (and as you can probably tell from the previous paragraph, baseball researchers seldom have a sense of humor) discovered the joke game and added in the runs, changing Johnson's ERA that year from 1.09 to 1.14 and bumping him down into second place.
And speaking of people who are no fun at all, American League president Ban Johnson supposedly told his umpires that spring to "refrain from calling base runners out when they fall victim to the ancient 'hidden-ball' trick. Johnson argues that such methods are not popular and do not jibe with sportsmanlike base ball tactics."68 I'm not sure if he ever actually sent out such a directive, but if he did, it seems to have been ignored by the men in blue, because baseball researcher Bill Deane, in his book "Finding the Hidden-Ball Trick--The Colorful History of Baseball's Oldest Ruse," found four in AL games that year, including two by Browns first baseman/manager George Stovall, one by the Browns second baseman Del Pratt, and the last by Naps third-baseman Ivy Olson.69
The New York Yankees (or the "New Yorkers," as manager Frank Chance preferred) lost their first 17 home games in 1913, a streak that didn't end until their victory on June 7th. No home team's fans have waited that long to see a win (not counting teams that joined a league mid-season or 2020) since the 1884 Indianapolis Hoosiers won their first home game on June 22nd. The latest home win since (again ignoring 2020) was on May 21st, by both the Chicago White Sox in 1948 and the Cubs in 1957.
Fred Snodgrass, one of the best Giants hitters that year, batted more often in the eighth slot than any other. The reason? Here's McGraw: "If the eighth man is a slugger he will come to the rescue time and again, and, what's more, will do away with the problem that confronts a manager when it's a close pitch, the pitcher up and one down. In that situation you usually yank the pitcher and send up a reserve batter.... With your man who bats eighth hitting .300 you have a good show to get him on, none out and your pitcher up--then you take a chance on keeping the pitcher in, as he may at least deliver a sacrifice or advance the runner on his out."70 In 1914, he would have Chief Meyers, another of his best hitters, bat eighth, but by 1916 he'd largely given up on this innovation and went back to having one of his weaker-hitting regulars bat in front of the pitcher.
This headline caught my eye: "Benton Fatally Hurt." The first sentence of the story qualified this 1913 version of click-bait with "Rube Benton, star pitcher of the Cincinnati Club, was probably fatally injured in a motorcycle accident at Walnut Hills, a section of this city, early this morning."71 Benton, who was leading his team with an 11-7 mark, managed to survive the crash and, obviously relieved that their 23-year-old star was still alive, the team immediately suspended him without pay for the rest of season. As team president Garry Herrmann put it "We cannot afford to pay high salaries to players who do not take care of themselves."72
And finally, I'd like to talk about Walter Johnson's hitting that year. Or rather, his not hitting. It always seemed strange to me that he only struck out only 14 times in 1913. Here are his totals (in a similar number of at-bats) from 1911 to 1915: 39, 41, 14, 27, 34. One of those things is not like the other, and I wondered if it was more than a coincidence that the outlier occurred during the first year that the AL officials kept track of batter strikeouts. So it wasn't too surprising that while proofing the box scores, we came up with a lot of discrepancies relating to his strikeouts. In 13 different games, it's likely that the official scorer neglected to mark down his strikeouts. So instead of fanning 14 times that year, we think the correct total is closer to 31.73+
Updated table of worst hitters by batting order spot. Bill Bailey's big month. Updated data on the most runs scored in a game without the benefit of a hit. Updated data on the fewest combined hits in a double-header.
At the end of play on June 8th, the Boston Braves were in last place. And they were a very bad last place team, on a pace to lose 108 games. They were so bad that, despite going 14-12 over their next 26 games, the team was still five games behind the seventh-place Philadelphia Phillies, a distance almost as great as that between the Phillies and the second-place Chicago Cubs. But starting on July 5th, they began what would be commonly referred to as a miracle, finishing the season on a 68-19 run. On July 19th, they finally climbed out of last place. Two days later, they were in the first division to stay. On August 10th, they leap-frogged over both the Cubs and the St. Louis Cards to land in second-place and by August 23rd, they were tied for the top spot with the Giants. While they had been going 33-8 since July 5th, New York had been heading in the opposite direction, going 19-24 over the same span, including eight losses in their last nine games, closing what had been a fifteen game gap between the two teams in a little more than a month and a half.
The teams treaded water over the next two weeks, and by the time the Giants headed into Boston for a double-header on September 7th, they were still tied at the top of the league. Approximately 74,000 fans saw the two contests, or more than half of the Braves' total attendance for either 1911 or 1912, and they were rewarded in the opener as Christy Mathewson lost a 4-3 lead and the game in the bottom of the ninth when George Burns failed to catch or corral a ball hit by Johnny Evers with one out and men on second and third.74
New York recovered to take the nightcap 10-1 before Boston took the rubber game of the series 8-3, as Bill James pitched his twelfth straight complete game, eleven of them victories, and Rube Marquard lasted only four innings to take his ninth consecutive loss, a streak that would reach twelve and be part of a 3-18 three-month run for the pitcher who had won nineteen consecutive games only two years earlier. The return match, scheduled for the Polo Grounds the last week of the season, turned out to be anticlimactic when the Braves went 19-3 over the rest of their home-stand, finishing up with a four-game sweep of the Cubs that clinched the pennant.75+
The Braves' surge was led by their pitching. Here are the records of their three primary starting pitchers before and after July 5th:
Before: G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Bill James 19 13 9 0 118.2 99 40 33 49 49 7 6 2.50 Dick Rudolph 18 15 12 0 134.0 132 55 48 39 49 6 8 3.22 Lefty Tyler 16 13 8 0 108.1 113 64 46 51 61 5 8 3.82 After: G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Bill James 27 24 21 4 214.2 162 51 37 69 107 19 1 1.55 Dick Rudolph 24 21 19 6 201.0 156 50 40 22 89 20 2 1.79 Lefty Tyler 22 21 13 5 162.1 134 49 35 50 79 11 5 1.94
In A Game of Inches, Peter Morris suggests that one of the reasons for their success was a new pitch, the Emory Ball, taught to them by manager George Stallings (who, in turn, had learned it from Russ Ford). And while that may be true, they also dramatically improved their offense as well. Here are the runs scored and allowed during the two periods:
RS RA Before 3.55 4.22 After 4.60 2.91 Change +1.05 -1.29
The Braves' offense was helped by a strong second half by Les Mann, the addition of Ted Cather and Possum Whitted, who both came over in a June trade with the Cardinals, and Red Smith, who was purchased from Brooklyn on August 10th and hit .314 (with an OPS of .850) the rest of the way.
Things were less dramatic over in the American League. The Philadelphia Athletics, the defending champion, kept the race interesting through the early-going, but then went on a 39-6 hot streak, ending with their 16-3 win over the Indians on September 1st, that took all the mystery out of the pennant race. They next headed into Boston, where they were swept by the second-place Red Sox in four straight games, but that hardly mattered. They still had more than an eight-game lead.
They had the best offense in the league, and it wasn't even close, as they scored nearly a run a game more than the second-best team. They were led by Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker, their future Hall of Fame infielders, but they had good players at each position and only one of their regulars was over thirty. Their pitching staff was also one of the best in the league (the top three teams were all within twenty runs allowed of each other) and, other than Eddie Plank (39 years old) and Chief Bender (30 years old), the remaining five pitchers with ten or more wins that year were all under twenty-four.
They were young, good (having just won their fourth pennant in five years) and confident heading into the World Series. After all, the American League had won the previous four Fall Classics, while their opponent was only two years removed from four straight last-place finishes. So of course the Athletics were swept.
Bill James and Dick Rudolph, who, as we've seen above, had finished on a 39-3 run, won all four of the games, allowing only two runs (one earned) in 29 innings. Catcher Hank Gowdy hit .545 in the series, scoring or knocking in five runs, or only one fewer than the entire Athletics team. With the exception of the first contest, the games were all close, and the middle two were decided in the last inning, the first when Les Mann knocked in the winning run in the top of the ninth, and the second when he scored in the bottom of the twelfth on an error by Bullet Joe Bush.
There was another major league in 1914, the Federal League, and while they might not have been the most talented of the three leagues,76+ they did stage the closest pennant race. The Indianapolis Hoosiers and the Chicago Whales (or the Tinkers as they were often known, after Joe Tinker, their manager) were separated by no more than a game or two most of the summer, while the early season leader, the Baltimore Terrapins, were never far behind. Chicago, led by Claude Hendrix, the best pitcher in the league, as well as by catcher Art Wilson and home run leader Dutch Zwilling, seemed to have the upper hand with a two-game lead on October 3rd.
But the next day, Chicago lost all but a half-game of their lead, dropping a 1-0 battle of three-hitters to Doc Watson (who had been released by the Whales a month earlier) and the St. Louis Terriers, while the Hoosiers were sweeping a double-header from the Kansas City Packers, the first game a thrilling 6-5 extra-inning win that saw Indianapolis blow a 4-1 ninth-inning lead before rallying to win in the bottom of the tenth, and the second, an anticlimactic 4-0 affair called in the middle of the fifth due to darkness. Two days later, Chicago's lead was gone (and then some) when they dropped a double-header to the Packers, the first another 1-0 defeat, this one costing Claude Hendrix his thirtieth win of the season, while the Hoosiers were beating the Terriers. The end came the next day when Indianapolis' ace Cy Falkenberg threw a three-hit shutout for his league-leading ninth shutout of the season and twenty-sixth win of the season.
Well, the end for Indianapolis fans actually came the next day, a 4-2 win over St. Louis. Katsy Keifer went the distance for the Hoosiers, allowing six hits to go with the two runs. It was the first and last game of his major league career and the last one also for the good people of Indianapolis, who would see their franchise move to Newark in time for the 1915 season.
Two players collected their 3000th hit in 1914: Honus Wagner on June 28th and Nap Lajoie on September 27th (joining only Cap Anson in this exclusive club), but hitting highlights were otherwise scarce that year. Ed Lennox hit for the cycle on May 6th (with an extra home run thrown in for good measure). It was the only one of the season and would also be the only one in the short history of the Federal League. For Lennox the game was part of a stretch in which he would hit six home runs in six games.
Max Carey had the biggest single day at the plate when he collected eight hits, scored seven runs and knocked in another six in the Pirates' double-header sweep of the Cardinals on September 3rd. He entered the game hitting only .227 and didn't do much better after his big day. The St. Louis park was probably not a factor. In his other ten games that year at Robison Field, Carey managed only five singles in forty at-bats.
Washington Senators shortstop George McBride set a record in 1914 for the lowest slugging percentage (.243) among players appearing in at least 150 games. And it might have been even worse. According to our research, McBride actually had two more at-bats that season, lowering his mark by a point. One odd thing is that he batted seventh most of the year, ahead of an even weaker hitter. When he played, catcher Joe Henry usually followed McBride in the lineup, and finished the season with a .226 slugging percentage, although without enough games played to qualify for the record (at least with a 150 game minimum).
This record would be later broken by Hal Lanier in 1968 (.239) and Dal Maxvill in 1970 (.223). Of course, requiring 150 games eliminates a lot of regulars from consideration (not to mention almost the entirety of the 19th century). If you go by the modern requirement of 3.1 plate appearance per game, Will White, who appeared in more than 90% of the games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1879 (albeit as a pitcher), has the lowest slugging percentages of all-time at .156 (which was just below his .157 slugging percentage of the year before). And the post-1901 low-water mark was set by Pete Childs with a slugging percentage of .206 in 1902.
Here are the teams with the weakest hitters (in terms of OPS) in each spot in the batting order (along with the player with the most plate appearances there) from 1901 to the present:
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IB SO HP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS PAs Player Pos 1st 1969 SD N 675 51 132 23 3 3 29 35 1 115 3 7 3 15 12 .196 .237 .252 .489 305 Jose Arcia 2B/SS 2nd 1908 STL N 598 52 113 13 3 1 17 26 58 1 30 17 .189 .224 .226 .450 375 Chappy Charles IF 3rd 1917 NY A 584 70 121 8 5 0 38 70 41 1 27 29 .207 .293 .238 .531 310 Fritz Maisel 2B 4th 1992 CAL A 640 61 128 19 1 16 74 29 5 113 4 2 5 6 6 .200 .237 .308 .545 287 Hubie Brooks DH 5th 1910 CHI A 557 48 97 15 5 1 40 43 76 6 28 24 .174 .241 .224 .465 154 Chick Gandil 1B 6th 1906 PHI N 539 43 108 15 3 0 46 29 46 3 26 18 .200 .245 .239 .485 359 Mickey Doolin SS 7th 1908 STL N 517 29 97 11 4 1 19 25 58 4 19 16 .188 .231 .230 .461 137 Bobby Byrne 3B 8th 1909 BRO N 527 24 81 9 2 1 21 16 73 1 20 6 .154 .180 .184 .364 373 Bill Bergen C 9th 1964 HOU N 517 22 59 7 1 1 12 28 0 194 4 24 1 0 0 .114 .165 .137 .303 83 Ken Johnson P
In addition to a number of offensive statistics, I also included the number of plate appearances for the leader in that batting order slot (PAs) to provide an indication of how stable the team's lineup was (at least when it came to that place in the order).
When I originally wrote this article back in 2014, the 1914 Senators were the entry in the seventh spot (which is the reason I included the chart in this article), but I also added that: "I'm sure this list will look quite a bit different once we include the rest of the Dead Ball Era." And it does. Four of the entries above are from the first half of the Deadball Era, and two of them are from the same team: the St. Louis Cardinals, an outfit that scored the fewest runs per game (2.42) in major league history (ignoring two Union Association teams that played only 9 and 18 games).
And although it also doesn't have anything to do with 1914, I suppose I ought to show the list of the teams with the highest OPSs by lineup spot:
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IB SO HP SH SF SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS PAs Player Pos 1st 2018 BOS A 665 159 221 59 6 38 99 93 8 113 9 0 6 34 9 .332 .418 .611 1.028 608 Mookie Betts RF 2nd 1999 NY A 651 148 233 43 9 28 102 94 4 114 10 3 5 17 9 .358 .443 .581 1.024 677 Derek Jeter SS 3rd 1921 NY A 552 182 208 45 17 60 171 144 82 4 5 17 13 .377 .509 .846 1.355 693 Babe Ruth LF 4th 2004 SF N 484 138 175 39 3 48 120 233 115 59 9 0 4 7 2 .362 .571 .752 1.323 609 Barry Bonds LF 5th 1932 PHI A 588 152 214 33 9 58 169 117 96 0 0 3 7 .364 .470 .747 1.216 702 Jimmie Foxx 1B 6th 1995 CLE A 516 94 170 37 1 31 102 98 5 115 8 0 1 6 6 .329 .443 .585 1.028 354 Jim Thome 3B 7th 2003 ATL N 613 92 189 41 6 36 112 45 6 105 5 0 3 1 5 .308 .359 .571 .930 272 Vinny Castilla 3B 8th 1995 CLE A 511 79 148 26 1 27 92 66 5 95 2 1 6 2 1 .290 .369 .503 .872 252 Paul Sorrento 1B 9th 1994 CLE A 412 65 132 25 2 16 52 28 0 58 1 6 1 14 10 .320 .364 .507 .872 97 Alvaro Espinoso IF
Although Vinny Castilla and Alvaro Espinoso have the most plate appearances in the slots above for the Braves and Indians, the teams owe their spot on the list to the other players who appeared there, in particular, Javy Lopez for the 2003 Braves and Sandy Alomar for the 1994 Indians.
I wrote a longer article on this sort of thing (once again, without having much to do with 1914) that can be read here.
But I digress.
On the mound, one of the highlights of the year was the performance of Dutch Leonard, who posted a 0.96 ERA, the lowest in major league history among qualifying pitchers.77+ He pitched in rough luck early, losing his first two decisions by 1-0 scores and getting a no-decision in a thirteen inning 1-1 game. Only one of those three runs were earned, giving him a 0.32 ERA to go with his 0-2 record. But with better run support behind him, he went on to win seventeen of his next eighteen decisions, although given that he allowed as many as four runs in a game only twice all season, he didn't need many runs to work with.
Red Sox teammate Rube Foster was also hard to score upon in 1914, especially in May, when he held opponents scoreless for 42 consecutive innings. His performance included two-hit, three-hit and four-hit shutouts. It was broken by a pair of unearned runs on May 26th and he went 51 innings before an earned run was scored against him on June 2nd.
The Philadelphia Phillies enjoyed hitting in the home park. They hit 50 of their 62 home runs there, including all of Gavvy Cravath's league-leading nineteen homers. Of course, Gavvy's teammates also benefited from the Baker Bowl. Here are Sherry Magee's home and road splits that year:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH SB AVG OBP SLG Home 78 291 61 107 28 5 12 31 17 2 6 15 .368 .432 .622 Away 68 252 35 64 11 6 3 24 25 1 7 10 .254 .321 .381
But Pete Alexander enjoyed pitching there as well. Here are his splits:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 26 23 21 5 214.2 173 57 44 46 134 20 4 1.84 Away 20 16 11 1 139 154 76 50 30 80 7 11 3.24
No pitcher has won more than eighteen games at home or away since. The last pitchers to do that are Juan Marichal in 1968 (who went 18-4 on the road), and Lefty Gomez in 1934 (who went 18-2 at home).
Iron Davis was one of the more obscure pitchers for the Braves in 1914, but on September 9th, he pitched one of their best games, a no-hitter, to win only his second major league game, and his first since 1912. It would be his only shutout in the majors, and he would finish his career a little more than a year later by pitching a twenty-four hitter against the Giants to close out the 1915 season.
The Pittsburgh Rebels' George LeClair had a rough time in his second major league start, going the distance in a 21-6 loss on August 16. Manager Rebel Oakes wasn't in a rescuing mood that afternoon, letting his rookie complete the game despite allowing ten runs in the last inning. It was the lowest game score (-56) for a starting pitcher since at least 1901.78+ He would finish the year strong, however, allowing a total of only ten hits in his last three complete games, including a six-inning one-hitter in his last game.
Another rookie who had trouble getting his career started was Guy Morton, who lost his first thirteen decisions for the last place Cleveland Naps before finally winning his last game of the season on September 27th. Despite his rocky introduction to the major leagues, he would have a winning record (97-73) over the rest of his eleven-year major league career.
Christy Mathewson's career hit its high-water mark with his win over the Pirates on July 25th. The win left him with a 18-4 mark for the season and gave him a career mark of 355-161. He would go 18-27 over the rest of his career and no pitcher has been that far above .500 since.
Despite his very different won-lost record, Rube Marquard pitched almost as well as Mathewson in 1914. The difference was that Marquard, unlike Mathewson or 26-game winner Jeff Tesreau, seldom saw any evidence that he was pitching for the league's best hitting team. From June 27th to September 23rd, while his record was going from 7-4 to 10-22, the Giants scored less than two runs per start for Marquard. Here is his record both before and during that stretch:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA RS Before 14 11 8 3 101 95 41 35 13 43 7 4 3.12 4.18 During 22 20 5 0 150.2 152 70 52 29 43 3 18 3.11 1.85
Walter Johnson was still the best pitcher in baseball in 1914, leading his league in wins, shutouts and strikeouts, but he set an unenviable record on September 21st when he threw four wild pitches in the fourth inning of his thirteen-inning 6-1 win over the White Sox. While Bert Cunningham had thrown five wild pitches in an inning while pitching for the Buffalo Bisons of the Players League in 1890, this was the first time anyone had thrown as many as four in one stanza since the pitching distance was increased in 1893.
Or that's what we thought (and the record books still show),79 until noted baseball researcher Trent McCotter discovered that while Johnson was charged with four wild pitches in that game, they did not all occur in the fourth inning.80 It appears that there were at most two (and probably only one) in that frame, and that the first modern four wild pitch inning didn't actually occur until Phil Niekro turned the trick in the second inning of a game on August 4, 1979.
Rookie pitcher Rankin Johnson made only thirteen starts for the Red Sox, but five came against the Senators and in each of those games he was opposed by Walter Johnson. All five of the games ended in shutouts, three of them 1-0 affairs. Walter won three of the five games, but for a brief time the surprisingly competitive Johnson-versus-Johnson affairs caught the attention of the baseball world. A little more than three months after it started, however, Rankin was traded to the Indians, whereupon he jumped to the Federal League and managed to avoid facing Walter Johnson ever again.
In the category of "one of these things is not like the others," here are the major league pitchers since 1901 who struck out more than 78 batters in a month: Nolan Ryan (three times: June 1977, August 1974, and July 1972), Rube Waddell (three times: July 1902, August 1904), and Bill Bailey (September 1914). Bailey jumped from the Providence Grays to the Baltimore Terrapins that August, finishing with a 7-9 record to show for his two months of work in Baltimore. It was the sixth in a string of ten straight losing seasons that closed out a career that ended with exactly twice as many losses as wins (38-76). Only one other major league pitcher has had as many as ten straight losing seasons, Ron Kline, who tied Bailey's mark from 1952 to 1963.
Two rookies of note appeared for the Red Sox that summer. On July 11th, Babe Ruth's name appeared in a major league box score for the first time when he helped pitch Boston to a 4-3 victory over Cleveland. He went hitless in two at-bats, one of them a strikeout, before being removed for pinch-hitter Duffy Lewis in the bottom of the seventh inning. Three days later, Ernie Shore overshadowed Ruth's debut by pitching a two-hitter in his inaugural game for Boston. Two years earlier, he had made one unforgettable appearance with the Giants, getting retroactive credit for perhaps the worst save in major league history, as he turned a 21-2 lead into a 21-12 victory.
The marathon of the year took place on July 17th when the Giants beat the Pirates 3-1 on Larry Doyle's two-run homer in the top of the twenty-first inning. Previously, the record for the latest home run in a game had been held by Providence's (not quite so) Old Hoss Radbourn, who homered in the bottom of the eighteenth inning to beat Detroit 1-0 on August 17, 1882. Radbourn, who won 33 games as a pitcher that year and would win 59 two years later, was playing right field that day. It was his first major league home run and one of only nine he would hit in his career. Doyle's record would stand until Jack Reed homered in the twenty-second inning on June 24, 1962. Doyle hit his homer off Babe Adams, who set a record by pitching all twenty-one innings without issuing a walk. After going the distance in that game, Adams wouldn't get out of the fifth inning in any of his next three starts.
The wildest game of the year was probably the one held between the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the St. Louis Terriers on June 16th. Tied at five in the top of the twelfth inning, Brooklyn scored seven runs only to have St. Louis come back to win with eight in the bottom half. The fifteen combined runs is the record for an extra-inning. The beneficiary of the comeback was relief pitcher/manager Mordecai Brown, who probably didn't expect the win after giving up those seven runs.
On opening day, the Reds scored ten runs without one of them being driven in by a hit. The runs were the result of five wild pitches, three sacrifice flies, a bases-loaded walk and a ground-out. How unusual is that? Well, Retrosheet has currently released play-by-play data for 179,085 games (the earliest is from 1915 and the collection is complete from 1926 to 2020). Of those games, there have been three instances of a team scoring ten or more runs without the benefit of a hit: the Yankees on July 26, 1931 (11 runs), and the White Sox on April 22, 1959 and the Expos on June 8, 1973 (10 each). But those weren't the only runs scored by those teams. The most runs a team has scored without any being the result of a hit in our collection is six, the last time by the Yankees on September 28, 2010.
The Tigers and Browns set the record for the fewest combined hits in a double-header when they managed only eleven on May 30th. Ty Cobb was out of the lineup, courtesy of a fractured rib caused by a Rube Foster pitch twelve days earlier,81 and only Tillie Walker managed to get a hit in each game. For Walker, the games were part of a season-high 27-game hitting streak. The fewest hits in a double-header since then has been thirteen, done three times, the last being in an Expos-Cards twin-bill on September 29, 1987. (If you want to count the shortened seven-inning games during 2020, it happened last between the Orioles and Marlins in their double-header on August 5, 2020.)
And it wasn't an official statistic so no one noticed, but on July 3rd the Yankees and the A's played a double-header without an RBI. The only runs in the first game scored on a pair of errors with two outs in the fourth, and the sole run of the second contest counted on a two-out error in the seventh. Since it became official in 1920, the fewest combined RBIs in a double-header have been two. It's happened eighteen times, most recently on October 3, 1976 in a season-ending double-header between the Cards and the Pirates.
Dave Davenport's big month.
Connie Mack didn't set out to dismantle his empire.82+ He knew he couldn't afford to keep his entire squad intact, but felt that once he was done getting rid of a few players, he would still have a team that, if not a favorite to retain its title, would at least be able to contend. The pitchers were the first to go. Both Chief Bender and Eddie Plank had offers from the Federal League that Mack was unwilling to match, and when he couldn't find a team willing to give him anything for the rights to the two, he simply released them. And then in December, he sold his best player, Eddie Collins, to the White Sox for $50,000.
Still, the A's seemed to be stocked with good young pitchers as well as a (sort of) adequate replacement for Collins, especially if they could find a fountain of youth, in 40-year-old Nap Lajoie. Clearly, the team wouldn't be as good without Collins, but if the young pitchers continued to develop as they reached their prime years, things didn't look too bad. And then Home Run Baker, the team's best remaining player, refused to report and things went downhill from there.
The season started on a deceptively good note. Herb Pennock pitched a one-hit shutout over the Boston Red Sox on April 14th. He had a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, when Harry Hooper reached on a slow-hit grounder to Lajoie.83 By the end of April, he would have three wins and a 2.73 ERA. But he would only pitch a combined eight innings in his next four starts and by early June, Mack had seen enough, waiving his young pitcher to Boston. And it wasn't only Pennock: the pitching collapse was widespread. Bullet Joe Bush, was winless with a 5.27 ERA heading into June. Rube Bressler was also looking for his first victory at the end of May, and his ERA was even worse (5.36).
I'm not sure if the weakened infield defense was to blame, but no one seemed to be able to throw strikes. The team set a record that still stands for the most walks allowed in a season, breaking the previous mark (set by the 1911 Browns) by more than 100. There were nine games in 1915 in which a team's pitchers walked a dozen or more batters and seven of those were courtesy of the A's. On June 23rd, Bruno Haas, making his major league debut, walked sixteen batters in a complete-game loss to the New York Yankees. It was a major league record (since tied by Tommy Byrne in 1951). Haas also threw three wild pitches. Undaunted, Mack started the young left-hander a week later and Haas responded by walking four more in a little more than an inning before being relieved.
Still, through the early going they weren't historically bad. On July 9th, they were in sixth place with a 28-44 record. But by now, the dismantling had begun in earnest. If the A's were going to be a second-division team, Mack figured that he might as well cash in his chips and start over. On June 28th, he sold Bob Shawkey, who was second on the staff with six wins, to the Yankees. Less than a week later, shortstop Jack Barry followed Pennock to Boston, and two weeks after that, right fielder Eddie Murphy joined Collins in Chicago.
After that relative high-point on July 9th, the team lost 64 of their next 76 games. They didn't win back-to-back games again until the last day of the season, when they swept the Washington Senators in a double-header. Ironically, the season ended like it started, with another great pitching performance, this time by Elmer Myers, who allowed only two-hits in his major league debut, striking out what would turn out to be a career-high twelve batters.
The Boston Red Sox were poised to fill the power vacuum created by the demise of the Athletics, but first they had to beat off challenges from the White Sox and Tigers. Chicago led throughout much of the first half of the season, holding a six-game lead on July 1st. They were led by pitchers Jim Scott and Red Faber, who were a combined 25-6 with a 1.78 ERA up to that point, but the team faded down the stretch, despite the second-half additions of Eddie Murphy and Shoeless Joe Jackson, the latter obtained in an August 21st trade with the Indians.
As usual, Detroit's best player was Ty Cobb who didn't miss a game all season and led the league in runs, hits, batting average and on-base percentage. The Tigers were two games behind the Red Sox when they headed into Fenway Park for a critical four-game series that started on September 16th. They cut that lead in half by taking the opener, an exciting if somewhat one-sided 6-1 decision that featured Hooks Dauss' 23rd win of the season and Cobb tossing a bat at rookie relief-pitcher Carl Mays, who threw a ball close to the Tiger center fielder's head.84
But that was as good as it got for the Tigers that year, as they dropped all three of the remaining games, including a thrilling twelve-inning pitchers duel between Harry Coveleski and Ernie Shore on the 18th that The Boston Daily Globe called the "Most Exciting Ball Game Boston Ever Has Seen" (pardon the capital letters, but the quote came from the headline on the first page of the newspaper).85
The game was scoreless in the top of the twelfth when Cobb led off with a double. Two batters later, the bases were loaded with no one out. Cobb was forced at home by Marty Kavanagh for the first out, and after the next batter hit into another force play at the plate, Kavanagh decided to head to third base on the play, passing fellow base-runner Sam Crawford in the process. The fans in the stands didn't quite understand what had happened, but gathered from the Red Sox players heading in from the field that the scoring threat was over.
Boston started their own rally in the bottom half of the inning and with a man out and the bases loaded, Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan decided to pinch-hit himself for Shore (who was hitting .095 at the time). Carrigan hit a fast grounder to Detroit shortstop Donie Bush. A double-play would have sent the game into the thirteenth, but second baseman Ralph Young couldn't handle the throw from Bush and the winning run crossed the plate.
After that series, the rest of the race was anticlimactic. The end came for the Tigers on September 30th when they lost to Carl Weilman and the Browns 8-2. For Weilman, it was his eighth win of the year over Detroit. He went 10-18 against the rest of AL, including a 1-4 mark against the Red Sox. In a scheduling quirk, the Red Sox won the crown while in the midst of three straight scheduled off-days.
Over in the National League, it seemed for a while as if no one wanted to win the pennant. The Phillies started strong, winning eleven of their first twelve games, but then played under .500 ball for nearly four months. Despite that, they still somehow managed to stay in first place. On August 19th, their winning percentage of .5385 was the lowest for a league leader on any date after the beginning of July in major league history.86+
They were led by ace right-hander Pete Alexander, in perhaps his best season. He pitched 376 1/3 innings, won thirty-one games, posted a career-best 1.22 ERA, and topped his league in just about every positive statistical category. His team would probably have spent most of the summer in the second-division were it not for him. For example, when he shut out the Cards on July 13th, raising his record to 17-3, the rest of his team was a combined 22-30. They were led at the plate by Gavvy Cravath, whose twenty-four home runs were the most since 1899, and in the field by Dave Bancroft, their slick-fielding rookie shortstop.
Toward the end of August, the Phillies got hot, opening up a four game lead, and then went into Brooklyn and proceeded to drop three straight. The first of these came at the expense of Alexander, whose control and defense failed him in the bottom of the eighth inning, leading to five runs and turning a 3-1 lead into a 6-3 defeat. The good news for Brooklyn is that they would climb within a game of the top before the series came to a close. The bad news was that Alexander was through losing games.
He blanked the Giants on three hits in his next start, and followed that with four more complete game wins before topping off his month by throwing a one-hitter to clinch the pennant against the formerly-Miracle Braves on September 29th. It was his twelfth shutout of the year (he pitched five other complete games that year without allowing an earned run) and it was also his record-setting fourth one-hitter.
The Robins, for their part, had faded down the stretch, going 10-13 after their sweep of Philadelphia, and eventually dropping into third place behind the Braves, who were discovering that miracles don't often have encores. Like 1914, Boston found themselves in last place in July, but this time it took them much longer to get going and as late as August 19th they still had a losing record.
The single biggest reason for their failure to repeat was the inability of Bill James to give a passable impersonation of himself. He struggled with arm trouble the entire season before finally calling it quits at the end of July with five wins. He was only 23-years-old, but his career was pretty much over. Still, a strong finish (and Brooklyn's slump) got them second-place money which, while it must have seemed pretty disappointing at the time, looked better and better with each passing year. The Braves would not finish as high as second again for 33 years.
For the second straight season, Boston beat Philadelphia to win the World Series. The teams were different, of course, but the cities remained the same. And the results were also similar, as the Red Sox won four straight games (this time, after an opening loss) to win an apparently uncompetitive series. But if the series wasn't close, the games certainly were. All but the first were won by a single run (including three straight by a 2-1 score) and except for game four, all were decided in the winning team's last at-bat.
There were plenty of heroes for the victors: Rube Foster pitched two complete game wins and even knocked in the winning run in one of them; Duffy Lewis knocked in important runs in three of the victories and corralled a long drive by Gavvy Cravath in the third game that could have given the Phillies a large early lead; Harry Hooper bounced two balls into the stands for home runs (by the rules of 1915) to help clinch the series; and both Ernie Shore and Dutch Leonard chipped in complete-game wins. So it is odd that the series is often remembered today only for an event that was completely inconsequential at the time: Babe Ruth's pinch-hit appearance in the opening game (he grounded out). He would play in another forty World Series games in his career, and nearly all of them were more memorable than his first.
In 1915, the Federal League went where no other third major league had gone before: into a second year. There had been one adjustment to the roster of teams, with pennant-winner Indianapolis shifting to Newark, but once again the Feds put on the best pennant race in the majors, one that involved three teams separated by only the narrowest of margins, and ended with some serious gamesmanship on the part of the league president and the eventual winner.
Of the contenders from the year before, only the Chicago Whales were a factor in 1915, and they were in fifth place as late as September 4th. But the next day, they began a 16-4 stretch that brought them within a game and a half of the first-place Pittsburgh Rebels and a game behind the St. Louis Terriers heading into the final three days of the season. The schedule called for Chicago to play three games in two days in Pittsburgh (a single game on Friday followed by a double-header on Saturday) before the two teams traveled to Chicago for a single game on Sunday that would conclude the season. And then the Friday game was rained out.
According to the rules of the other two major leagues, such a game would not have been made up, even though it had a bearing on the pennant race. But the Federal League had no such rule to govern such a situation, and so Whales owner Charles Weeghman was able to convince James Gilmore, the league president, to have the game made up as part of a Sunday double-header in Chicago.87 So instead of needing to win only one of the three remaining games to win the pennant, the Rebels had to split the four games. Which became significantly harder when they dropped both ends of the double-header on Saturday. St. Louis also lost, leaving the following situation at the end of the day:
Team W L Pct GB Chicago 85 65 .567 - Pittsburgh 85 66 .563 0.5 St. Louis 86 67 .562 0.5
In addition to requiring a sweep for Pittsburgh to take the pennant, adding the extra Sunday game also meant that St. Louis was now eliminated, despite being only a half-game out of first. Pittsburgh won the first game on Sunday while St. Louis took their single contest with Kansas City. So had the rain-out not been made up (and of course, had everything else transpired the same way), here's how the 1915 race would have ended:
Team W L Pct GB Pittsburgh 86 66 .566 - St. Louis 87 67 .565 - Chicago 85 66 .563 0.5
But there was another game and the Whales put their hopes in Bill Bailey, who had already lost twenty games that year. Bailey, who did most of that losing while pitching for Baltimore before being acquired in a September 14th trade, had already pitched two shutouts in his brief tenure with the Whales. He made it three when he held Pittsburgh to two singles before darkness descended on the field (and the league) in the middle of the seventh inning with the home team ahead 3-0.
In addition to Bill Bailey (and James Gilmore), the Whales had several other heroes during their late season run: Dutch Zwilling, Les Mann, Max Flack and Art Wilson all were at their best, and an old Chicago favorite, Mordecai Brown, took six straight decisions to aid in their comeback.
While the Terriers' Dave Davenport was the losing pitcher in the game that eliminated his team the day before the end of the season, they wouldn't have been in contention without his work that September. He pitched four shutouts that month, including three in a row, on his way to winning eight of his first nine decisions (he lost his last start that month 1-0, the only run scoring on opposing pitcher Gene Packard's home run). Between September 7th and 17th, he pitched a no-hitter and two two-hitters, and before the month was out added a pair of three-hitters. He pitched 101 1/3 innings that September and 89 in July and the closest anyone has come to either since was the 87 1/3 innings thrown by Scott Perry in August 1918.
One thing striking about the short history of the league is how balanced the clubs were. Despite playing the same 154-game schedule as the other two leagues, no team was able to win more than 88 games in either year, and with the exception of the 1915 Baltimore Terrapins, no team lost as many as 90. Of the eight franchises, only Brooklyn failed to crack the first division once, and even they had a .500 record in 1914. Here are the pennant winners with the lowest winning percentage prior to 1961:
Year Team W L Pct 1959 LA N 88 68 .564 1915 CHI F 86 66 .566 1914 IND F 88 65 .575 1945 DET A 88 65 .575
There were several notable offensive performances in 1915, but a surprising number of them were by pitchers. So let's start with those.
On May 23rd, Walter Johnson hit what was reported to be the longest home run in the history of Cleveland's League Park. He almost added an inside-the-park homer later in the game, but was thrown out at home.88 Babe Ruth followed suit on July 21st, hitting the longest home run seen at St. Louis' Sportman's Park.89 It was part of the first great hitting day of his career, as he added a single and two doubles, and came during a four-game stretch in which he collected nine hits in ten at-bats. Despite having only 92 at-bats that year, Ruth's four homers were twice as many as any other Red Sox player, and only three fewer than the league-leader.
Pitcher Ray Caldwell of the Yankees had a hot streak of his own at the plate, hitting pinch-homers in consecutive games on June 10th and 11th. His home run the next day gave him four for the year, tying him for the league lead. He would not hit another for nearly two years.
Reliever Lefty George joined a rather exclusive club when he hit two triples in a game on September 24th. It's pretty rare for any kind of substitute to hit two triples in a game (the last to do so was Reggie Williams in 1999), but it's especially rare for a relief pitcher to do this. Since George, it has been done once, by Don Larsen in 1954.
And while this didn't involve actually hitting the ball, Red Faber did something quite unusual on June 18th, when the pitcher walked four times in a game. He walked another three times his next time out, giving him a streak of seven walks in eight plate-appearances. A pitcher has walked as many as four times in a game four times since, most recently by Chuck Stobbs in the Red Sox 29-4 blow-out win over the Browns in 1950. One of the others to do it since 1915 was Red Faber himself, who repeated his performance in 1929.
Among the non-pitchers, George Cutshaw managed to do something that hadn't been done in nearly thirteen years when he knocked out six hits in Brooklyn's 13-0 thrashing of the Cubs on August 9th. The last player with six hits in a game was Jimmy Williams of the new-look Baltimore Orioles on August 25, 1902. Cutshaw would follow up his big day by going hitless in his next four games.
And Gavvy Cravath is most well-known for leading the National League in home runs six times between 1913 and 1919 (and for hitting the overwhelming majority of them at his home park), but the day before Cutshaw went on his batting rampage, Cravath did something even rarer when he hit four doubles in the Phillies 14-6 win over the Reds. No one had managed to do this in a regular season game in more than fourteen years, or since Pop Dillon turned the trick on April 25, 1901, in the first game the Detroit Tigers ever played, a game they won 14-13 with a ten run rally in the bottom of the ninth, and one that was ended by Dillon's second double of the inning.90+ The feat would not be repeated until Denny Sothern did it on June 6, 1930.
I mentioned earlier that no one hit more than seven home runs in the American League in 1915. It was done by Braggo Roth, and the majority of those came after he was traded to the Indians in late August as part of the deal that brought Shoeless Joe Jackson to the White Sox. He didn't hit his first homer with his new team until September 20th, but given the scarcity of circuit clouts in the league that year, four home runs in a span of twelve games was sufficient to wrest the crown from Rube Oldring of the A's.
Rookie Ed Fitzpatrick of the Braves had a somewhat painful introduction to major league baseball when, beginning with his first appearance in the starting lineup, he was hit by a pitch in four consecutive games. No one would have a streak that long again until Joe Cunningham in 1961, and the only one with a longer one since is Carlos Quentin, whose streak reached six games on August 14, 2008.
A lot of the news in 1915, however, was made on the basepaths, as Ty Cobb set the American League (as well as the post-Billy-Hamilton Major League) record with 96 stolen bases. In June, Cobb stole twenty-eight bases in only twenty-four games. No one would steal more bases in a month again until Lou Brock in August 1974. He was also caught stealing a reported 38 times, and that doesn't include his ill-advised attempt on May 25th, when with the bases-loaded, one out in the bottom of the ninth-inning and his team down by four runs, Cobb attempted to steal home. Unfortunately for his team, the batter hit a pop-up to the third baseman. Cobb was easily doubled up, and the game was suddenly over.91
There were other farcical aspects of the running game that year. Fritz Maisel of the Yankees stole four bases on April 17th against the A's. Three of them came in the ninth-inning with his team holding a seven-run lead. His steal of home was New York's third of the game. There was a different reason behind pitcher Red Faber's three stolen bases on July 14th. The White Sox were leading by two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning when the A's began to stall, hoping the game would be rained out. Chicago, for their part, decided to force the issue by having Faber, who reached by getting hit by a pitch, make a leisurely (and uncontested) stroll around the bases.92
I mentioned earlier that Pete Alexander threw four one-hitters in 1914. In one five-start stretch from June 22th to July 9th, he pitched two one-hitters and two two-hitters. The pitcher since 1914 with the next shortest span containing four complete games allowing two hits or less is Steve Arlin, who did it in eight starts from June 18 to July 18, 1972, a season in which he lost twenty-one games. Not included in this was Arlin's ten-inning one-hit incomplete game on July 6th.
Walter Johnson continued to be the best pitcher in the junior circuit, winning twenty-seven, part of a run of seven straight years of at least twenty-five wins. He had two separate scoreless-inning streaks of thirty or more innings, and as he would in 1916 and 1917, he especially enjoyed pitching at home. His home and road splits in 1915:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 20 19 17 6 167.1 126 37 25 26 102 17 2 1.34 Away 27 20 18 1 169.1 133 46 33 30 101 10 11 1.75
Ed Walsh made only three widely spaced starts in 1915, but pitched complete game victories in all three, the last a shutout over the Browns. No one since has topped the 393 innings he pitched in 1912, or his 464 innings in 1908 for that matter, but he was pretty much finished by 1913, despite being only 32, and that shutout would be his last major league victory.
Connie Mack was never one to coddle his pitchers, and this was certainly true on September 29th. In the first game of the A's double-header with the Senators, he let Chick Davies pitch a complete game, despite giving up ten runs, so it was probably no surprise to second-game starter Tom Sheehan that relief would not be forthcoming no matter how many hits and runs he gave up. When the dust finally settled, he had been reached for twenty-three hits and a season-high twenty runs.
Relief pitching was continuing to evolve and for the sixth time in the seven years, a new record was set for the most relief appearances, this time the record breaker was Sad Sam Jones with 39. And Carl Mays wasn't far behind: his 32 relief appearances had been topped only once before, by Doc Crandall, who had 33 in 1913. Still, for some the transition couldn't come quickly enough: Tom Hughes relieved in twenty-five games in 1915, but he clearly enjoyed the role. Here are his splits for 1915 and 1916:
G GS CG SHO GF SV IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Start 38 38 24 5 0 0 297.1 241 103 81 70 165 17 15 2.45 Relief 52 0 0 0 40 14 143.2 88 31 28 40 103 15 2 1.75
And relief pitching featured prominently in both of our year's longest games. On June 17th, Zip Zabel went to the rescue of Bert Humphries with two outs in the top of the first inning and was still in the game when his teammates pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the nineteenth inning. It is the longest relief outing in major league history. And one week later, both Red Faber and Guy Morton pitched the last eleven innings of another nineteen-inning game.
After three largely unsuccessful seasons with the Cubs, Fred Toney spent 1914 in the minor leagues. He returned to the majors with the Cincinnati Reds at the beginning of June. He didn't make his first start until June 17th, but he pitched well when given the opportunity, and after his relief appearance on August 8th had a 6-4 record to go with a 2.33 ERA. But over the rest of the season, he was perhaps the hottest pitcher in baseball, throwing six shutouts, and winning eleven games. Here is his record up to August 8th and after:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA To August 8 23 11 8 0 108 87 32 28 46 52 6 4 2.33 After 13 12 10 6 115 73 14 11 27 56 11 2 0.86
Although not of the same magnitude as the A's collapse, the New York Giants also suffered mightily in 1915, although for much of the year it appeared as if the pennant was merely one good hot streak away. On August 7th, they had a 49-47 record and were only three games out of first place. But three days later, they embarked upon a dismal 12-29 run that landed them in the basement to stay. The good news was that they were a pretty good last-place team; their winning percentage of .454 was the best for the worst team in the league during the eight-team era.
But being a good bad team was small consolation for manager John McGraw, and he was nowhere to be seen on October 7th, when the Giants and Braves played the last game of their season. The affair took only 62 minutes to complete, which seems incredible given the 15-8 score and 41 hits in the contest. There were no walks and only a single strikeout, as both pitchers lobbed the ball over the plate.93 It was getaway day, after all, and I guess both teams were in a hurry to get away.
Updated the most strikeouts in a hitting streak. Updated the worst team record during a player's 20-game hitting streak. Updated the last time a pitcher threw a shutout batting first through eighth.
Peace returned to major league baseball in 1916 with the demise of the Federal League, and the remaining leagues celebrated by putting on two close pennant races. In a head-to-head double-header at the end of September, the Phillies beat the Brooklyn Robins in the opener to take over first-place for two hours, dropping the afternoon contest when Pete Alexander, pitching with one day's rest, lost 6-1. Philadelphia forged a momentary tie for the lead on October 2nd, beating the Braves 2-0, behind Alexander (again pitching with a single day of rest) in the opener of another double-header. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they again dropped the second game, while the Robins were beating the Giants. There was bad blood between New York and Philadelphia and the season came to a close with a hint of scandal as many, including Giants' manager John McGraw,94 thought that his team gave less than their best effort in dropping three of four in the season-ending series. Brooklyn, who only the year before had posted their first winning season in more than a decade, had their first pennant since 1900.
On offense, the Robins were led by Zach Wheat and Jake Daubert, while their top pitchers included Jeff Pfeffer (who won twenty-five games), Larry Cheney and Rube Marquard, who didn't join the starting rotation until late June, but finished with thirteen wins in a comeback season that earned him the starting assignment in the World Series opener.
A highlight for Zach Wheat in 1916 was hitting in a career-high 29 consecutive games. Wheat struck out seventeen times during his hot spell, and the next player with as many strikeouts during a consecutive game streak would be Duke Snider, who fanned seventeen times in 27 games in 1953. The current record holder is Brian Dozier who struck out 34 times in 24 games in 2016. Wheat dramatically cut down on his strikeouts following 1916. Here are his rates both before (not including 1909, for which we are missing this data) and after the end of that season:
AB BB SO HBP SH PA SO% Before 3757 282 364 35 85 4159 8.75 After 5247 362 195 42 73 5724 3.41 Where SO% is his percentage of strikeouts per plate appearance.
It probably isn't particularly significant or historic, but Pfeffer and Cheney sure enjoyed pitching against the three worst teams in the league that year. Here is their record against the Cards, Reds and Pirates as well as their mark against everyone else:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Bottom Three 37 33 26 8 301.1 215 50 34 62 152 27 4 1.02 Others 45 35 19 3 276.2 234 136 93 106 143 16 19 3.03
The results for the rest of the staff were quite a bit different. They went only 17-18 against the three worst teams, while posting a 34-19 mark against the others.
The Red Sox, hurt by the loss of star center fielder Tris Speaker, stumbled through the first two months of the season, and were playing only .500 ball as late as June 20th. Speaker had been sent to the Indians for financial reasons a few days before the start of the season (he was holding out to lessen a huge cut in pay and Boston figured they could turn their unhappy star into a pile of money). The team was also hurt by the season-long holdout of Smoky Joe Wood (also eventually sent to the Indians for a big check), as well as by the premature decline of star infielder Jack Barry, who suffered through an injury-plagued season and at 29 was already through as a productive major leaguer.
Despite the absence of Wood, they still had the best pitching staff in the league and by the time they wrapped up a lengthy home stand at the end of August, had a three-game lead over the Tigers. They spent almost the entire last month on the road, however, and by the time they left St. Louis on September 15th, their lead was a slim three percentage points over the Tigers and a half-game over the White Sox. After dropping the opener of a three-game series in Chicago, they found themselves in third place. Fortunately, they picked the right time to get hot, winning the last two games of the series before heading into Detroit to sweep their other main competition in three straight games. In five days, they had gone from third place to a two and a half game lead. They were led by Babe Ruth, who won four games in the last two weeks of September, including two shutouts. His nine shutouts that season would set an AL record for left-handers that wouldn't be tied until Ron Guidry matched it in 1978.
The Red Sox were favored to win the World Series and things went pretty much according to form. Just how predictable was the series? Well, on the eve of the first game, sportswriter Hugh Fullerton didn't simply pick them to win, he predicted the outcome of each game.95 He got the Robins' starting pitchers wrong (he thought Pfeffer would start ahead of Marquard in the opener), but he got pretty much everything else right, with Boston taking the first two contests, the second a one-run victory for Ruth, dropping the third to Coombs, before winning the next behind Leonard. He thought the series would end with Shore taking a 3-1 decision over Pfeffer in game five. Instead, Shore beat Jeff Pfeffer and the Robins 4-1.
The most memorable contest was the second, an extra-inning affair that didn't end until Del Gainer hit a run-scoring pinch-single with one out in the bottom of the fourteenth. It was the longest game (by innings) in World Series history, a record that wasn't broken until the White Sox and Astros played two-thirds of an inning more in 2005. Those two games are a study in contrasts, although they perhaps exaggerate the changes in the game over the 89 intervening years. The Red Sox and Robins scored a total of three runs, used only two pitchers, and wrapped things up in a little more than two and a half hours. Seventeen different pitchers saw action in the 2005 battle, gave up a combined twelve runs, and took over five and a half hours to finish the job.
The Giants may have finished in fourth place, driving their manager to finish the season at the racetrack instead of the ballpark,96 but they did produce two historic streaks in 1916. The first occurred in May, when the Giants departed for a long road trip with a 2-13 record and proceeded to win seventeen straight games. It was the longest road winning streak in major league history, eclipsing the previous mark of 16 set by the Union Association's St. Louis Maroons in 1884 and tied by the 1912 Washington Senators. The last game in the streak, a 3-0 win over the Braves featured the last shutout of Christy Mathewson's career.
The next streak started in September. This time, they won twenty-six consecutive decisions (there was one tie game in the middle) and all of the games were played at home. This was reported as breaking the record of twenty set by the 1884 Providence Grays, a streak that featured eighteen wins by Old Hoss Radbourn. (Once Providence's streak was broken, Radbourn went on to win the next eight games.) A member of that team, shortstop Arthur Irwin, was in the stands at the Polo Grounds when his old team's mark was eclipsed.97
Except it wasn't the previous mark. There had been two longer earlier streaks. Ignoring the first one made sense: the National Association was often not considered a major league and so not including the 1875 Boston Red Stockings, who took their first twenty-six decisions of the year (like the Giants, they also had a tie mixed in with all the wins) was not surprising. But in 1880, the Chicago White Stockings had won twenty-one straight decisions (once again, with a tie) and I'm not sure why people at the time didn't know about that one.
By the way, the Giants did not set the record for the most consecutive winning decisions at home. That mark is owned by the 1885 St. Louis Browns, who won twenty-seven straight games at Sportman's Park from April 26th to July 18th. The Giants did set the record for the most wins in a month that September, their twenty-nine victories three more than the previous record-holders (the 1906 Cubs, who won twenty-six in August, and the 1914 Braves, who did the same that September). The closest a team has come since was the Yankees, who went 28-8 during August, 1938.
The Giants owed their September winning streak primarily to pitching and defense. The average score during their loss-less streak was 4.52-1.22; the rest of the year, it was 3.71-3.68. Here are the pitchers who took the mound for New York during that stretch:
Name G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Hank Ritter 2 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 Ferdie Schupp 6 6 6 4 54 17 3 2 10 24 6 0 0.33 Slim Sallee 2 2 2 1 18 15 1 1 1 3 2 0 0.50 Pol Perritt 6 5 5 2 47.2 29 4 3 5 28 4 0 0.57 Rube Benton 6 4 4 2 44.1 22 4 3 3 26 5 0 0.61 Jeff Tesreau 7 6 6 1 54.1 43 10 9 9 28 7 0 1.49 George Smith 3 1 0 0 12.1 11 5 5 2 4 1 0 3.65 Fred Anderson 3 3 0 0 6.2 13 6 6 7 8 0 0 8.10
Ferdie Schupp's ERA dropped from 1.25 to 0.88 during this period. There were only four incomplete starts, three of them by Fred Anderson, who seemed to be the only Giants pitcher not invited to the party.
During sixteen straight games from September 18th to the end of their streak, the Giants allowed only twelve runs, the lowest total over a span that long in major league history. They never allowed more than two runs in any one contest and held their opponents scoreless eight times. Included in this were back-to-back one-hitters against the Braves. The second lowest total of runs allowed over sixteen games was thirteen, by the 1908 White Sox from September 17th to October 5th. All that winning did little to improve their place in the standings. The Giants were in fourth place when they started and they were still in fourth place when their streak came to an end. Although to be fair, they were 12 1/2 games behind the third-place Braves at the start of the streak, and only .0011 behind them when the streak ended after the first game of the double-header on September 30th.
In the American League, the Philadelphia Athletics almost cornered the market on losing. They lost so many games that the league came within one rain-out of having no other losing team. The Senators finished 76-77 and their one unplayed decision was with the Athletics. Since Washington went 15-6 against them, the smart money would have been on the Senators evening their record had the game been played. As late as October 3rd, the Athletics were the only losing team in the league. The latest this had happened previously was on June 16, 1882, when Baltimore of the American Association stood alone with more losses than wins, and the latest since then was on May 20, 1954 when the Pittsburgh Pirates did the honors for the rest of the NL.
They didn't start out historically bad. On May 22nd, they were 13-17, in fifth place and only two games out of the first division. They owed their not-so-horrible start to the top of their rotation. Here are the records of Joe Bush and Elmer Myers after their team's first thirty games compared to the rest of the staff:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Bush/Myers 19 14 13 1 136 102 45 35 71 67 12 4 2.32 The Rest 32 16 1 0 132.1 147 94 71 99 48 1 13 4.8398+
But then things got ugly in a hurry. From June 3rd to August 8th, they went 4-56, losing eleven, four, twelve, nine and twenty games between each of their wins. Those twenty straight losses tied the AL mark originally set by Boston in 1906, a record that would be tied by the 1943 Athletics before being broken by the 1988 Orioles. The average score of their games during this period was 5.7 to 2.2.
The closest any team has come to going 4-56 since (and it wasn't really all that close) were the 10-50 marks posted by the 1949 Senators, who had five overlapping streaks, the first from June 19th to August 20th (they had a winning record when that streak began) and the last from July 17th to September 14th, and the 1969 Padres, who had two overlapping streaks, the first from June 12th to August 17th and the other starting a game later.
How bad were the Athletics? Their 6-15 mark against the Senators was their second best against any team in the league. They went 2-28 in July and 13-64 on the road. And it could have been even worse. They closed out their season winning three of their last four games, including a double-header sweep of the champion Red Sox, who had clinched the pennant and were resting up for the World Series. Those two victories gave the Athletics their first series win since taking two of three from the White Sox in May. Chicago got some measure of revenge for those losses when they swept Philadelphia in an eight-game series that started on July 29th. Going into their final double-header, the Athletics had only one more win than Pete Alexander, the cross-town ace of the Phillies, had all by himself.
Of course, Alexander had a phenomenal season in 1916 and was likely the most valuable player in either league. He had a four-game winning streak in May accompanied by a 0.50 ERA, a five-game winning streak in June with a 0.96 ERA, a six-game winning streak in July with a 0.50 ERA; and he pitched four shutouts in his first five starts in August, good for a 0.38 ERA. When he was finished, he had won a career-high 33 games, a total no pitcher has reached since, and was in the middle of a three-year run that would see him win 94 games. He also threw sixteen shutouts, including five against the Reds, tying the mark set by Tom Hughes against the Indians in 1905, a record that would be equalled in 1966 by Larry Jaster (against the Dodgers).
When he threw his fourteenth shutout on September 1st, he was reported to have broken the major league record set in 1910 by Jack Coombs, then with the Athletics.99 The losing pitcher in the record-setting game? The same Jack Coombs, now pitching for the Robins. But as it so often turns out, that wasn't the previous record, just the highest total anyone still remembered. In 1876, George Bradley had thrown sixteen shutouts for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, a mark Alexander tied in his last start of the year.
When Tris Speaker was added to his roster on the eve of the 1916 season, Cleveland manager Lee Fohl said that he thought the move "would strengthen his club 40 per cent."100 The fact this his team's victory total increased by only 35 per cent that year was probably due more to Fohl's unreasonable expectations than any deficiencies in Speaker's performance. All the new arrival did was lead the league in hits, doubles and all three of the so-called (although certainly not in 1916) "slash stats": batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. It would be his only batting title, one that officially broke Ty Cobb's string of nine straight. Of course, those nine included one in 1910, when he had only the second highest average in the league, and in 1914, when he played only 98 games.
Babe Ruth made more noise with his pitching arm than his bat in 1916, but he did go on a mini-homer splurge in June, hitting three in the space of five at-bats from June 9th to 13th. This was part of a stretch that saw him go 12-18, raising his batting average to .304 after a season-opening 2-28 slump. He would not hit another home run for nearly fourteen months, connecting next on August 10, 1917.
Don't blame Wally: from June 16th to July 7th, Wally Schang hit in twenty straight games for the woeful Athletics, one of four players with hitting streaks that long in 1916. His team went 2-18 in those games, the worst record by a team during one of these streaks since at least 1901. It broke the previous mark of 3-17 set by Bill Sweeney in four overlapping 1911 streaks from June 3rd to July 1st, and by Jack Lelivelt in two overlapping 1912 streaks from September 5th to 30th. Since then, the worst record by a team while one of its players was hitting in twenty consecutive games was 4-16, by the Reds during Al Libke's hot streak in 1945 (not counting this game, which they lost without a plate appearance by Libke, in the middle), and by the Phillies, who went 6-20 during the second of Chuck Klein's two 26-game hitting streaks in 1930, including four different overlapping stretches of 4-16.
The Cubs had an interesting situation at the start of 1916. Having inherited the bulk of the former Chicago Whales, they had an opportunity to create one good team out of the rosters of two not-so-good ones. At shortstop, they went with 21-year-old Eddie Mulligan, who had gone 8-22 in a late September trial the previous year. That performance turned out to be deceptive, however. In the first game of 1916, he committed two errors and struck out three times in five hitless plate appearances. It never got much better. By the time they pulled the plug on the experiment in mid-July, he was hitting .153 (with a .412 OPS) and had fewer hits (29) than either errors (40) or strikeouts (30). He was the last player with at least 100 at-bats to join this club, the previous two members being Doc Lavan in 1913, and Frank O'Rourke in 1912. Like Mulligan, they were also rookie shortstops.
On September 22nd, Sam Crawford hit the last triple of his record-setting major league career. Earlier in the season. he had become the first (and only) player to hit 300 triples. He ended the year with more triples than doubles for the fifth time in his career.
Rogers Hornsby turned twenty on April 27th, but the infielder emerged as one of the league's best players in 1916, He had perhaps the biggest game at the plate in the major leagues that year, with five hits, including two triples and a home run, on June 28th. Surprisingly, he would have only one other five-hit game in his career, on July 13, 1923.
On June 26th, Christy Mathewson won his last game as a New York Giant. He entered in the fifth inning with two on, two out and his team clinging to a 6-5 lead. George Cutshaw, the first batter he faced, hit a three-run homer, capping Brooklyn's eight-run inning. But Mathewson gave up only one more hit the rest of the way as New York rallied for a 11-8 win. Less than a month later, John McGraw traded three future Hall of Famers (including Mathewson) to the Reds for Buck Herzog and Red Killefer. Mathewson would make only one more start in his career, beating Mordecai Brown in a scripted finale for both of the former stars on September 4th. They had very little left, but both pitched until the bitter end, which came after a combined thirty-four hits and eighteen runs, when Fritz Mollwitz flied out with the tying runs on base to give Christy a 10-8 win.101 At the plate, the two pitchers combined for five hits off each other.
One old pitcher still throwing effectively was 41-year-old Eddie Plank, who on August 8th lost a no-hitter with one out in the top of the ninth. He had pitched a two-hitter in his previous start and would do the same in his next. In a four-start stretch from July 30th to August 12th, he allowed only nine hits.
Tom Hughes pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates on June 16th. For Hughes, normally a reliever, it was his only start during June, a month that saw him allow only seven hits in twenty-six consecutive scoreless innings. He would finish the year with a 16-3 record, including a 9-1 mark out of the bullpen.
It's a sad story, but one that needs to be told: on September 2nd, Harry Harper entered the eighth-inning with a three-run lead, only six outs away from his fifteenth win and a promised $500 bonus.102 But the Athletics rallied, helped by a two-out dropped fly, and tied the game, temporarily denying Harper the milestone win and paycheck. Unfortunately, a sore arm shortly turned the temporary delay into a permanent one, as Harper made only one more start in the season and finished with what would turn out to be a career-high fourteen wins.103
On September 12th, one out away from beating Walter Johnson for the fifth time that year, Babe Ruth gave up a game-tying two-run double to Senators' catcher John Henry, sending the game into extra-innings. Johnson ended up with his twenty-fifth victory, giving him an outside chance at winning thirty for the third time. That chance disappeared as he lost his next three starts, and then was given permission to head home a week and a half early.104 He finished the season with twenty losses, the last time a pitcher would enter both the twenty-win and twenty-loss club until Wilbur Wood in 1973 and Phil Niekro in 1979.
George Sisler pitched a shutout on September 17th, beating Walter Johnson 1-0. He completed all three of his starts that year, losing the other two by a 2-0 score. Sisler batted third in the game. Here are the last shutouts by pitchers hitting in the first through eighth positions in the batting order from 1901 to 2020:
Pos Player Date 1 - none *1 2 - none *2 3 - George Sisler 9-17-1916 4 - Babe Ruth 7-17-1918(2) (five innings) 5 - none *5 6 - none *6 7 - Bob Friend 8-26-1956(1) 8 - German Marquez 4-14-2019 *1 - No shutouts or complete games. Last two starts were by Cesar Tovar in 1968 and Al Dark in 1953. It was the only major league pitching appearance of both players' careers. *2 - No shutouts. Closest (and it wasn't close) was a complete game 7-3 loss by Jack Dunleavy in 1903. *5 - No shutouts. Closest was a one-run complete game loss by Walter Johnson in 1916. *6 - No shutouts. Closest was a one-run (unearned) complete game win by Walter Johnson in 1915.
The Athletics' Jack Nabors, after six previous losses in 1915 and 1916, finally won his first major league game on April 22nd, beating the Red Sox 6-2. He would not win again, dropping his final nineteen decisions to end his career with a 1-25 mark. The next most losses for a pitcher with a single major league victory is fifteen, by Jim Clinton and Mike Thompson, although Terry Felton lost sixteen games in his career without a major league win.
Nabors should have picked up a 2-1 win on June 24th, but Connie Mack was trying out a new catcher and Mike Murphy, the recruit, booted away the game in the last inning. He could have also been in line for a 4-2 win on September 19th when reliever Tom Sheehan gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth. For Sheehan, that defeat was his last decision in a 1-16 campaign, his single win coming on June 26th. It's a win he might not have been granted under the scoring practices of the day, since he entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with his team already in front (the rule that a starter had to pitch at least five innings was more than three decades away). When he lost his fourteenth decision in Boston on September 6th, the Boston Globe reported that he was still winless.105
The best pitcher for the Athletics that year was clearly Bullet Joe Bush, who pitched eight shutouts, accounting for the majority of his fifteen wins. One of these shutouts was a no-hitter on August 26th. That game also marked the last one of Nap Lajoie's career, as strained leg ligaments cut short his final major league season.106 Another rare highlight in Philadelphia's season occurred on September 8th, when Wally Schang became the first major leaguer to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in a game. This would not happen again until Augie Galan turned the trick in 1937.
The Senators' Claude Thomas made his first major league start on September 18th, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before settling for a two-hit shutout. Through the first six innings of his next start, he held the Tigers to two harmless hits before the wheels came off. Here is Thomas' career record both before and after the seventh-inning stretch on September 22nd:
IP H R ER ERA Before 17 5 0 0 0.00 After 11.1 22 14 13 10.32
It was a long time coming, but on September 21st, Pop-boy Smith finally got his first (and what would turn out to be his only) major league win when the Indians defeated Walter Johnson and the Senators 3-2 in thirteen innings. It came more than three years and five months after his debut in 1913. The circumstances of his victory might surprise modern readers, however. Smith left the game after nine innings with the scored tied, but he, rather than reliever Al Gould (who pitched four scoreless extra-innings), was awarded the win. I discuss the strange circumstances surrounding Smith's first three appearances of 1916 in greater detail in another article.
The marathons of the year took place a month and a day apart. On June 13th, the Braves and Reds played a sixteen-inning scoreless contest, the longest scoreless game in National League history. The major league mark of eighteen innings was set on July 16, 1909, in a game between Detroit and Washington. The Reds' Fred Toney allowed only two hits in his eleven innings on the mound and Pete Schneider, his successor, gave up only one the rest of the way. The Browns and Red Sox went one better on July 14th, when Ernie Koob and a combination of Carl Mays and Dutch Leonard threw seventeen scoreless innings.
While discussing the ineptitude of the Athletics above, I mentioned that the White Sox swept them in an eight-game series that summer. If you define a series as a number of consecutive games played between two teams in the same park, this was the longest series sweep in major league history.107+ There was one other eight-game sweep since, when the 1928 Giants turned the trick against the Braves from September 10th to 14th.
In case you're wondering, there have only been eleven series this long (and none longer) in major league history. Here they are (with the number of wins by each team in parenthesis):
Start Team Team 1903- 9-19 PHI N (5) CIN N (3) 1910- 9- 6 CHI A (4) STL A (4) 1911- 5-29 STL N (5) CIN N (2) - 1 tie 1912- 9-24 STL A (4) CHI A (3) - 1 tie 1916- 7-29 CHI A (8) PHI A (0) 1922- 8-30 BOS N (6) PHI N (2) 1928- 9-10 NY N (8) BOS N (0) 1935- 8-25 NY A (5) CHI A (3) 1943- 8-22 CLE A (5) BOS A (3) 1943- 8-22 WAS A (4) STL A (4) 1945- 8-19 DET A (6) PHI A (2)
It probably got a bit tedious sitting in the stands after a while, but the Tigers and Athletics combined to draw thirty walks in the opening game of their four-game series on May 9th. George Cunningham, Detroit's starting (and winning) pitcher, was pitching a no-hitter when he was removed in the middle of the third after issuing his sixth walk. Carl Ray walked twelve while mopping up the Philadelphia loss and would never pitch in the majors again. The Tigers continued to exercise patience at the plate, walking eleven and ten times in the next two games before the two teams wrapped up their series on May 12th by combining for another twenty-five.
Sometimes teams carried "small ball" to extremes. On September 1st the Athletics were losing 3-0 in the top of the ninth inning of the first game of their double-header with the Senators when the first two hitters singled, putting runners on first and third and bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of Amos Strunk, their third-place hitter. So what did Strunk do? He sacrificed the runner on first to second.
The discrepancy of the year occurred on September 14th in the Tigers 4-2 loss to the Yankees. Officially, Ossie Vitt went 0-0 with four runs scored and a strikeout. There are at least three things very wrong with this. First, you can't score more runs in a game than your team. Next, you can't strike out without having at least one official at-bat. And finally, a team's lead-off hitter can't go through an entire game without a plate appearance unless there is a whole lot of batting out of turn that goes undetected. Of course, the error was simple: his at-bat total was incorrectly entered in the runs column.
New introduction. Updated description of the final World Series game. Lee Meadows' no-decision starts.
During the second half of 1916, New York Giants' manager John McGraw, unhappy with the progress of his team, decided to make some changes. It started when he reacquired Buck Herzog (for the second time, so perhaps re-reacquired) in the Mathewson trade on July 20th and continued when he purchased Slim Sallee from the St. Louis Cardinals for $10,000 a few days later. He then sent slumping first-baseman Fred Merkle to the Brooklyn Robins for catcher Lew McCarty on August 25th, before picking up third-baseman Heinie Zimmerman from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for long-time second-baseman and former team captain Larry Doyle and two others on the 28th,
At the time the reaction to that last deal was that McGraw had swapped a easy-going fan favorite who had led the league in hits, doubles and batting average the previous year for a talented malcontent who was serving a ten-day suspension at the time of the trade. Or as the Chicago Daily Tribune put it: "McGraw always had been a great admirer of the hard hitting third-baseman and undoubtedly will get great results from him if he is able to handle him. In the eight years Heine served with the Cubs he was under five different managers and had trouble with every one of them."108
But the team's record-setting finish quieted any criticism, with his new-look infield (only shortstop Art Fletcher remained from earlier in the season), backup catcher McCarty, and Slim Sallee all performing well. McCarty hit .397 with an OPS of 1.012, albeit in only 77 plate appearances, while splitting time with Bill Rariden behind the plate, and Sallee, who had quit the Cardinals in June and had to be coaxed out of retirement by McGraw, revitalized his career with a 9-4 record and a 1.52 ERA109+ in his half-season with the Giants.
As a result, the Giants were heavy favorites to win the 1917 NL pennant, and in this case, the experts were right. Or as the 1918 Spalding Guide put it: "Almost all prophets in 1917 were good prophets, because almost all prophets prophesied that the New York club would win the championship of the National League."110 Heinie Zimmerman, Benny Kauff and George Burns led the NL's best offense and Ferdie Schupp, Slim Sallee and Pol Perritt anchored a deep pitching staff that was the best in the league. Six different pitchers threw over 160 innings and only Schupp threw more than 220. Their pitcher with the worst record, Fred Anderson, who split 16 decisions, had the lowest ERA in the league.111+
Their win over the Phillies on June 27th put them into first place to stay, kicking off a 31-10 run that left them with a fourteen-game lead by August 10th. That same loss started the second-place Phillies on a month-long 7-18 stretch that killed their pennant chances. Pete Alexander did his best, winning five games during the free-fall, but got little help from the rest of the staff, including six straight losses by Eppa Rixey. Their offense was also to blame, as they averaged less than three runs a game during the swoon.
For the Giants, their pennant completed a first-to-worst-to-first journey that took only five years. The next two shortest journeys before the advent of divisional play were nine by the Boston Americans/Red Sox from 1904 to 1906 to 1912, and twelve by the Cubs from 1918 to 1925 to 1929. If you count divisional play, the San Diego Padres did it in the shortest possible time, from 1996 to 1997 to 1998, but that was in a division with only four teams. Some mention should be made of the Pirates, who had the best record in the National League in 1979, the worst in 1985 and then the best again in 1990, a twelve year journey in a twelve team league.
The Giants were helped by the collapse of the defending champions, as the Robins fell all the way to seventh-place. Their decline was truly a team effort. All of the pitchers they had counted on the year before performed at least a little bit worse, and Jake Daubert, one of the big guns in 1916, produced only ten extra-base hits, hardly the production Wilbert Robinson was hoping for from his first-baseman.
It was the fewest extra-base hits for a player appearing in at least a hundred games at first base in major league history, breaking the previous low of eleven, set two years earlier by Hap Myers of the Federal League's Brooklyn Tip-Tops. If you don't count the FL as a major league, the next lowest total was twelve, by Jay Faatz of the American Association's Cleveland Blues in 1888. Daubert's mark was finally broken in 1965 by Vic Power, with nine. That record was tied by Tony Muser in 1976 and then broken for the last time by Mike Squires, with six in 1983. Both Squires and Power deserve an asterisk since they were late-inning defensive replacements for much of the year. Even Muser had only 326 at-bats, much less than Daubert's 468.
In the American League, the White Sox and Red Sox were locked in a close race most of the summer. On August 17th, the two teams were separated by a single percentage point. Three days later, they met in Chicago for a four-game series. After splitting those games, both teams got hot, but unfortunately for Boston, who won six of their next seven decisions, the White Sox got hotter, fashioning two nine-game winning streaks separated by a single loss. By the time Red Faber beat Bullet Joe Bush and the Athletics 6-1 on September 18th, his team had gone 21-2 and their lead had ballooned to eight games.
The second-place Red Sox did pretty much what they had the year before. Once again, Babe Ruth led the league's best pitching staff. The team's offense scored about the same number of runs, the pitching was a little better, and the team finished with one fewer victory than in 1916. But while they were treading water, the White Sox somehow got eleven games better. At first glance, it's hard to see why. Yes, Eddie Cicotte had a break-through season, winning a league-leading 28 games. But their biggest improvement came at the plate, where they managed to score 54 more runs than in 1916 despite hitting 60 fewer extra-base hits. They did get on base 66 more times, which offset their lower slugging percentage, but it sure looks like they owed some of the improvement to getting their hits at more opportune times. Which is another way of saying that they hit better in the clutch, which is usually a euphemism for saying they were luckier.
Chicago's trip to the World Series was the first by a team from the western half of a league since the Cubs' appearance in 1910. Of course, Pittsburgh was considered part of the west before the 1950s. From 1911 to 1916, the World Series had been monopolized by three cities, with four participants apiece coming from New York, Boston and Philadelphia, each of those cities being represented by two different teams. And this division between the eastern and western parts of the league seemed to matter. One reporter wrote: "For the first time in the history of Base Ball, it produced a series between the two largest cities in the United States, one the Eastern capital and the other the Middle West capital. It gave everyone a chance to shout because all the East and all the West were mixed up in it."112
Both teams held serve through the first four games. White Sox manager Pants Rowland, helped by a rain-out, had been able to go with a two-man pitching staff of Eddie Cicotte and Red Faber through those four, but he would start a well-rested Reb Russell in game five. It was a decision he would regret almost immediately, removing his starter after only three batters in favor of a not-so-well-rested Cicotte, who pitched six innings of relief. Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the visiting Giants held on to a 5-2 lead behind the pitching of Slim Sallee when the White Sox rallied for three runs, two scoring on Chick Gandil's double and the last counting on an error by Buck Herzog.
With the game now tied, Rowland put Faber into the game, and the right-hander earned his second win of the series when Chicago scored three more times the next inning. Giants' manager John McGraw was criticized for his decision to send Sallee out for the eighth, having already walked four and been touched for ten hits and five runs. By the time McGraw finally replaced him, he had given up three more hits and, hurt by another error, two (and soon to be three) runs.
The format of the series was somewhat different than it is today. The two teams flipped a coin before the series to determine where it would start. They played two games in each park before alternating the site of games five and six (giving the teams an extra travel day). Another coin toss, won by New York, decided the site of a possible game seven. And so after the fifth game, they headed back to the Polo Grounds for the rest of the series, a park where the White Sox had been shut out in games three and four.113 With the benefit of the travel day, Rowland was able to bring back Faber to start game six, while McGraw, his team facing elimination, sent out Rube Benton, who had authored one of the previous shutouts.
Benton would be undone by his fielders in the fourth inning, a comedy of errors that included one of the most famous plays in World Series history. The inning started with Heinie Zimmerman muffing a grounder and Dave Robertson dropping a fly ball, putting runners on the corners with none out. With the infield drawn in to cut off the run at the plate, Happy Felsch hit a grounder to Benton and here's how the Chicago Daily Tribune described what happened next: "Benton tossed the ball to Zimmerman and Collins doubled in his tracks with the great Zim in hot pursuit toward the plate. [The Giants' catcher] Rariden meantime was thirty or forty feet from the home station and nobody behind him. Zimmerman chased Collins so far it was too late to hand the ball to Rariden, who had to step out of the way and let Collins pass. In desperation Zim tore after Collins, who beat him the rest of the way to the plate easily, scoring the first run."114
When the angry home crowd had finished booing Zimmerman for waiting until it was too late to toss the ball to Rariden, and for not being a faster runner than Eddie Collins, a single by Chick Gandil plated two more, giving Faber more than enough runs to pick up his third win of the series, and give the White Sox their second World Championship. In the calm aftermath of the game, after Zimmerman had admitted his mistake and been labelled the goat of the series, most observers admitted that at least an equal share of the blame should have been leveled at first-baseman Walter Holke for not backing up Rariden. Or as Henry P. Edwards wrote in The Sporting News: "I would say that Holke was the one to have been covering the plate. But it is all over now and, as I recall it, [home plate umpire] Bill Klem was the only one covering the plate."115
Much like Fred Merkle's failure to run to second in 1908, this play eventually came to define Zimmerman's career, and when he died in 1969, the headline in the Chicago Tribune's obituary was "Series 'Goat' Zimmerman Dies."116 But since he was thrown out of baseball a few years later for his involvement in an scheme to bribe his teammates to throw a game, perhaps being primarily remembered for a honest mistake on the field was better than the alternative.117+
Over the course of the six World Series games, Faber and Cicotte pitched all but two innings for Chicago, with Faber joining a short list of pitchers with four or more decisions in a single series, a list that also includes Deacon Phillippe (3-2) and Bill Dinneen (3-1) in 1903, Smoky Joe Wood (3-1) in 1912 and Hank Borowy (2-2) in 1945. Left-handed pitchers started all six games for the Giants while righty Pol Perritt, who pitched extremely well over the last six weeks of the season, winning eight straight games with an ERA of 1.13, was relegated to bullpen duty. Another star for the White Sox was Eddie Collins, who led or tied for the team lead in hits, runs scored and stolen bases, while winning his race with Zimmerman in the final game. Ironically, one of the goats for the Giants was Dave Robertson, whose defensive failings in the last two games (he also misplayed two fly balls in game five) overshadowed his series-leading eleven hits and .500 batting average.
For White Sox manager Pants Rowland, the victory in the World Series was especially sweet in light of the reaction when he was selected by Charlie Comiskey to manage the team following the 1914 season. A typical response to the hiring of Rowland, who had no major league experience as either a player or a coach: "the surprise... is not so much that a 'busher' should be elevated to the position as that a 'busher' should have been picked to direct Eddie Collins as to how the game shall be played."118 His victory was short-lived, however. Following a disappointing finish in 1918, Rowland was replaced at the helm of the team by Kid Gleason. And while he would not manage at the major league level again, he would return as an American League umpire from 1923 to 1927.
The Detroit Tigers were out of contention the last two months of the season, but Ty Cobb wasn't the reason why. He had a great year, leading the league in hits (by 35), doubles, triples, stolen bases, and the triple crown of rate categories (batting average as well as on-base and slugging percentage). He had a relatively slow start that year, but hit safely in every game during June, a streak that reached thirty-five games before ending on July 6th. He had an even longer streak in 1911, one that also lasted the entire month of June (before ending on July 4th).
Despite Cobb, there weren't a lot of offensive highlights in 1917. Only one player in each league hit more than one homer in a game during the regular season (Benny Kauff also did it in the third game of the World Series), and no one managed to hit for the cycle. As a matter of fact, only one team managed to hit as many as three home runs in a game. Still, there were some offensive outbursts.
The Tigers beat the Washington Senators 16-4 on July 30th. It wasn't the most runs a team plated that season (that was the twenty scored by the Indians eight days earlier), but it was unusual because Ossie Vitt, Ty Cobb and Bobby Veach, their second, third and fourth-place hitters, had five hits apiece and scored twelve runs.
Washington lost their third game of the season, also by a 16-4 score, when the Philadelphia Athletics exploded for ten runs in the seventh inning. Charlie Jamieson, who would later become a star outfielder for the Indians, made his only mound appearance of the year in that game, giving up all ten runs. The Athletics, by the way, were the most improved team in the league, winning nineteen more games than they had the previous year, but few took much notice, since they still finished in the cellar.
For the first time since George Goetz in 1889, a player struck out four times in his major league debut. It was the Athletics' Rollie Naylor, who fanned in all four of his plate appearances, but pitched well, defeating the Senators 2-1 on September 14th. Like Naylor, Goetz was a pitcher, and also like Naylor, he won the game. Unlike Naylor, however, Goetz would not appear in another major league game. No player would start his career with four strikeouts again until Lee Bales in 1966.
There was one single-season hitting record set in 1917. The Indians' Ray Chapman set a mark that still stands when he rapped out 67 sacrifice hits. Well, perhaps "rapped" isn't the correct word. And the strange thing is that he probably wouldn't have even led his own league if the Red Sox' player-manager Jack Barry, who had the third highest single-season total in major league history with 54, had played a full season.
But it seemed as if most of the action in 1917 was on the mound. It started with a riot of no-hitters during the first four weeks of the season. Ed Cicotte began the festivities when he set down the Browns without a hit in his first start of the season. Ten days later, Yankees' pitcher George Mogridge, blanked the Red Sox in his second start.
The next no-hitters came in stereo on May 2nd, the first double no-hitter in major league history. Of course, the buzz-kills at MLB no longer count both of them, since Hippo Vaughn eventually gave up two hits, the last (by Jim Thorpe) driving in the game's only run in the tenth. He was defeated by Fred Toney, who gave up only two walks (both to Cy Williams) in the game. Vaughn allowed eleven hits in his starts both before and after his almost-gem, winning them both.
A few days later, St. Louis Browns's pitchers Ernie Koob and Bob Groom no-hit the White Sox batters on successive days. Koob's no-hitter was reported in most newspapers as a one-hitter,119 but the official scorer had a change of heart after the game and changed Buck Weaver's first-inning single to an error. Because of this, American League president Ban Johnson announced that official scorers would no longer be permitted to change their mind on these calls.120 Groom actually pitched eleven hitless innings on May 6th, shutting down Chicago over the last two innings of the first game and all nine innings of the second. Including Cicotte's earlier gem, that game marked the third no-hitter of the season between the White Sox and Browns. There would not be another nine-inning no-hitter pitched by a member of the Browns until Bobo Holloman turned the trick exactly thirty-six years later.
Groom's gem was the fifth no-hitter of the year, and the season wasn't even four weeks old. (It was the sixth if you count Vaughn's.) There would not be another thrown by a starter the rest of the season. But there was one more gem, this one credited to a reliever. On June 23rd, Babe Ruth got ejected from his start after walking Ray Morgan, the first batter of the game. Ernie Shore entered the game at that point; Morgan was thrown out trying to steal, and Shore set down the next twenty-six batters for what is often (but not always) considered to be a perfect game. By the way, Ruth responded to his ejection by attacking umpire Brick Owens and ended up with a ten-day suspension for his trouble.121
Those five no-hitters in a 23-day span was the shortest in major league history, but not by a lot. In 1990, there were five no-hitters in a 30-day span. The first was thrown by Randy Johnson on June 2nd and the last by Andy Hawkins on July 1st. The next shortest span? Also in 1990 - the 32 days between Nolan Ryan's no-hitter on June 11th and Melido Perez' no-no on July 12th. 1990 also takes fourth place, with 48 days between the two no-hitters by Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela on June 29th and the one thrown by Terry Mulholland on August 15th.122+
For a good hitting team (they led their league in runs scored), the White Sox were not only victims of two no-hitters in the space of two days, but also suffered back-to-back one-hit games on August 10th and 11th. Walter Johnson pitched the first of those, chipping in three hits on offense and scoring two of the Senators' four runs. Johnson slumped through much of the early going and his one-hitter was part of a second-half surge that quieted those skeptics who thought he might be nearing the end of the line. His stats before and after the morning of July 24th:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Before 28 20 17 3 186.2 158 70 54 44 110 7 13 2.60 After 19 14 13 5 140.2 92 35 26 27 78 16 3 1.66
Actually, he wasn't all that bad before his hot streak.
Johnson also liked home cooking. Here are his combined home and road splits for 1916 and 1917:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA Home 47 35 34 9 357.2 221 73 53 74 230 31 10 1.33 Away 48 37 32 2 339.1 319 137 105 79 187 17 26 2.78
From 1915 to the end of his career, Johnson went 142-67 at home while going 96-97 on the road.
On September 29th, Babe Ruth won the 67th game of his career. He was twenty-two years old (and 237 days). Since then, only Bob Feller won his 67th game at a younger age (he was almost exactly a year younger than Ruth when he turned the trick on June 29, 1940). Of course, we selected 67 to make Ruth look as good (or as young) as possible, but he is high on the list even if you round it up somewhat. Ruth collected his 75th victory on August 1, 1918. In addition to Feller, two other pitchers since have accomplished this at a younger age. They are Bert Blyleven on August 25, 1974 and Dwight Gooden on April 10, 1988, and none of those pitchers were leading their leagues in home runs at the time.
By the way, the three oldest pitchers to win their 75th game are Joe Heving, who won it on his 44th birthday, Mike Timlin, who was 144 days past his 42nd birthday, and Mariano Rivera, who was 41 years and 136 days old on April 14, 2011.
In addition to throwing the only officially recognized no-hitter in the famous double no-hit game that year, Fred Toney also had the distinction of allowing only six hits in his double-header victory on July 1st. It was the fewest allowed in a twin-bill since Tim Keefe held the Columbus Buckeyes to a total of three singles (one in the first and two in second) on July 4, 1883.
Toney's teammate Pete Schneider was on the other side of a twin-decision that year, dropping both ends of a double-header on September 26th. He faced a different Boston Braves' pitcher in each game, Jesse Barnes in the first and Art Nehf in the second, and both of them held his team scoreless. It was the third straight year that Schneider would finish the season with exactly nineteen losses. Barnes and Nehf would later both star for the New York Giants, combining for 41 wins in 1920 as well as three wins in the 1921 World Series.
Ed Walsh made a comeback in August and held his opponents scoreless in his first two starts. Unfortunately, he only pitched a total of seven innings in the games, and was forced to leave the last after being beaned by Milt Watson. A few weeks later, he returned to the mound and was allowed to go the distance in his last major league start, giving up sixteen hits and eight runs.
Chief Bender had a more successful comeback. On August 21st, he pitched a one-hitter for his third consecutive shutout. Over the last two months of the season, Bender won eight of nine decisions to go with a 1.30 ERA. Despite his hot finish, he would not pitch in the majors again until making a single appearance in 1925.
The Cardinals Lee Meadows made 37 starts in 1917 and go a no-decision in 16 of them. That was the most no-decisions in major league history, a mark that wouldn't be tied until John Montefusco in 1978 and broken until Burt Blyleven the next year. Ryne Stanek currently holds the top two spots with 27 no-decisions in 2018 and 26 in 2019 for reasons that should be obvious from his splits. In 56 career starts through 2020, he has a 0-3 record in 83 innings pitched.
It might not have been quite as good as what the Giants had done the year before, but on May 12th, the White Sox started a sixteen-game stretch during which they allowed only seventeen runs. Eddie Cicotte led the way. From early May to his first start of June, he allowed only three runs (two of them earned) in 66 2/3 innings.
On August 22nd, the Pirates and Robins played the longest game to that point in National League history, one that didn't end until Jim Hickman scored all the way from second on a force out in the bottom of the twenty-second inning. Relief pitcher Elmer Jacobs took the loss despite throwing sixteen consecutive scoreless innings, dropping his record to 4-16. Pittsburgh's Carson Bigbee became the first major league player with as many as eleven at-bats in a game and took advantage of those opportunities to collect six hits. On the Robins, both Hickman and Hi Myers had five hits apiece, the second-straight five-hit performance for Myers.
The game was the fourth straight extra-inning affair for the Pirates, who played a total of 59 innings. The string ended on a strange note. The record-setting game was scheduled to be the first of a double-header, but by the time Hickman ended the game with his daring base-running, it was nearly six o'clock. Despite that, umpire Bill Klem insisted that the two teams take the field and start the second game. I'm not sure what he thought would happen, but after two innings he finally saw (or perhaps could no longer see) the handwriting on the wall, and called it off.123
The Tigers ended 1917 with a double-header in Philadelphia. It had been a long season and the games weren't going to have any effect on either team's place in the standings, so when their starting pitcher, George Cunningham, ran into trouble trying to hold onto a five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, no one on Detroit's bench felt like making a move. There was still only one man out by the time the Athletics scored the winning run (their twelfth of the game), giving rookie pitcher Dave Keefe his first major league victory.
On May 9th, the White Sox defeated the Browns, 4-2 salvaging a split of their six game series. It was the thirteenth time the two teams had played in the first month of the season. Over the next sixteen weeks, they would play each other just once, another 4-2 Chicago victory on May 29th, and the 92 days between that game and their next meeting on August 29th is tied for the fifth longest such gap in the history of an eight-team league. Here is the list:
Gap First Next Teams 115 1900- 5- 1 1900- 8-24 CHI N STL N 108 1903- 4-22 1903- 8- 8 BOS N PHI N 95 1903- 5- 2 1903- 8- 5 BOS A PHI A 95 1903- 5- 2 1903- 8- 5 NY A WAS A 92 1917- 5-29 1917- 8-29 STL A CHI A 92 1930- 5-27 1930- 8-27 CHI A CLE A 91 1917- 5-30 1917- 8-29 DET A CLE A 90 1927- 7- 3 1927-10- 1 STL A CHI A
In 1903, Boston opened the season with a six-game series with the Phillies and then played them only once until wrapping up their season series with twelve games in seven days from September 2nd to 8th.
The Giants' pitching woes. Updated World Series write-up. Updated chart of extra-inning pitchers. Art Griggs' final day Tris Speaker's lost double
On Sunday, July 21, 1918, major league baseball teams played what many believed would be their final game of the year. "Season Ends in Cleveland," read one headline in the New York Times the next day.124 This turned out to be premature, however, and baseball was permitted to continue into the beginning of September. As it turned out, the extra six weeks of baseball didn't affect the pennant winners, as both the Cubs and Red Sox were able to maintain their leads in each league, but it did affect the leaders in many statistical categories. Both leagues' home run leaders on July 21st, for example, the Cards' Walton Cruise and the Red Sox's Babe Ruth, failed to homer for the remainder of the season, Cruise being overtaken by 37 year-old Gavvy Cravath and Ruth falling into a tie for the league lead with ex-teammate Tillie Walker of the Philadelphia Athletics.
After winning 24 games for the second-place Red Sox the year before, Babe Ruth was perhaps the biggest story in baseball in 1918, but more for what he did with his bat than his arm. Boston had already lost outfielder Duffy Lewis to the war effort, and after Ruth's home run and double in a 5-4 loss to the Yankees on May 4th had raised his batting average to .438, manager Ed Barrow decided to have his young pitcher replace slumping first-baseman Dick Hoblitzell in the lineup on May 6th. It was Ruth's first experience playing a position other than pitcher, and he enjoyed himself, homering in his first two games. In early June, he hit home runs in four consecutive games, and by the end of the month was leading the league with eleven circuit clouts (in only 144 at-bats), and for the first (but certainly not the last) time in his career, had people talking about a possible home run record.125+
While Ruth was becoming the talk of the league with his batting exploits, he was largely absent from the mound. After winning his fourth game of the season on May 15th, Ruth made only three starts over the next ten weeks. He complained to his manager about being expected to both pitch and play regularly in the field, but starting on July 29th, he did both for the rest of the season. He pitched extremely well down the stretch, winning seven of nine starts and throwing 82 innings in little more than a month, but his hitting suffered. Here are his hitting stats both before and after July 19th:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH SB AVG OBP SLG To July 19 60 199 41 66 20 10 11 34 37 0 3 2 .332 .429 .698 Afterwards 35 118 9 29 6 1 0 25 21 2 1 4 .246 .386 .314
As late as July 25th, Ruth was leading or tied for the league lead in doubles, triples and home runs.
His problem with his manager came to a head in early July and he was fined and briefly left the team.126 He returned on July 4th, but by the end of the day, the Red Sox were in third place, a game behind the Yankees. Ruth went on an offensive tear after that, with thirteen extra-base hits (but no home runs) in two weeks, and the team got great starting pitching from Carl Mays, Sad Sam Jones and Bullet Joe Bush in winning fifteen of their next eighteen games, nine of them by shutout, to build a commanding lead.
The Cubs made the biggest off-season acquisition, sending $50,000 and two second-line players to the Phillies for star right-hander Pete Alexander and catcher Bill Killefer, only to see Alexander depart for the military after only three starts. Despite that, their staff, led by Hippo Vaughn, Lefty Tyler (another off-season pickup) and Claude Hendrix, was the best in the senior circuit. They also got a significant upgrade at shortstop, replacing Chuck Wortman (who had hit .174 with a .450 OPS in 1917) with rookie Charlie Hollocher, who led the league in hits and was second in on-base percentage, and they overcame a fast start by the Giants, winners of eighteen of their first nineteen games, to take their first pennant since capturing four of five under Frank Chance from 1906 to 1910.
At times, it must have seemed that everything that could go wrong, did for the Giants in 1918. Of their top six pitchers from the year before, only Pol Perritt won more than eight games. Ferdie Schupp had a sore arm and lost his only decision; Rube Benton was drafted in May after making just three starts; Jack Tesreau jumped the team in June and Fred Anderson followed suit in July; and Slim Sallee suffered with lower back pain all year before finally calling it quits in July.
Two reasons to be cheerful through their second-place gloom were the emergence of 21-year-old Ross Youngs in right field and the arrival of Jesse Barnes, an off-season pickup from the Boston Braves in a trade that saw John McGraw trade away Buck Herzog for the third time in less than eight years to reacquire Larry Doyle. Barnes, who had tied for the league lead in losses while pitching for Boston in 1917, was tied for the NL lead with six wins when he was drafted in late May, but he would pick up where he left off when he returned in 1919.
In the World Series, the Cubs decided to go with a two-man all-lefty rotation of Hippo Vaughn and Lefty Tyler. Vaughn led off by dropping a 1-0 decision to Babe Ruth, the only run scoring in the fourth on a walk to Dave Shean followed by back-to-back singles by George Whiteman and Stuffy McInnis. Tyler faced Bullet Joe Bush in the second game, a rematch of their battle in game three of the 1914 World Series when Tyler pitched for the Braves and Bush for the Athletics. The Cubs scored three runs in a second-inning rally that was capped by Tyler's two-run single. That was the extent of their scoring, but it was enough, as Boston managed only one ninth-inning run. In the next game, Boston's Carl Mays narrowly defeated Vaughn, pitching with just one day's rest, 2-1.
Travel restrictions due to the war necessitated having the first three games in Chicago and the rest in Boston, so the teams traveled east for game four.127+ Babe Ruth, after staking himself to a lead with his two-run triple in the fourth inning, gave up his first runs of the series when the Cubs rallied for two in the top of the eighth. After a leadoff walk, Claude Hendrix pinch-hit for Tyler and singled, both runners then moving up on a wild pitch. When Max Flack grounded out to McInnis, Hendrix almost got picked off when he wandered too far from second, causing Cubs manager Fred Mitchell to send Bill McCabe in to run for him. Charlie Hollocher's ground-out then scored the first run before Les Mann's single tied the game.
The plan had been for Hendrix, who had gone 20-7 for Chicago that year, to replace Tyler on the mound, but with him being removed for a pinch-runner, Phil Douglas took his place instead. It was the first right-handed pitcher the Red Sox had faced in the series and pinch-hitter Wally Schang greeted him with a single, advancing to second on a passed ball. Harry Hooper then sacrificed and when Douglas threw wildly to first, Schang came around to score the go-ahead run. The Cubs looked ready to mount another comeback in the ninth when Fred Merkle led off with a single and Rollie Zeider walked. That was enough for Boston's manager Ed Barrow, who moved Ruth to left and brought in Bush to close things out, which he did in short order when Chuck Wortman failed on a sacrifice attempt and Turner Barber grounded into a double-play.
Hippo Vaughn staved off elimination in game five, shutting out the Red Sox 3-0 in a game that was delayed over an hour by a protest on the part of the players over their share of the World Series gate receipts. Charlie Hollocher was the hitting star, reaching base all four times against Sad Sam Jones, scoring on Les Mann's double in the third and Dode Paskert's two-run double in the eighth. The next day, Carl Mays allowed the Cubs only three singles in an exciting 2-1 win to close out the series. Tyler was the hard-luck loser in the game, with both runs off him scoring when Flack failed to catch a line drive in right with two on and two out in the third. The defensive star for the Red Sox was George Whiteman, who made a spectacular catch to rob Barber of a lead-off hit in the top of the eighth, hurting his neck in the process. For the 35-year-old Whiteman, a career minor leaguer who got his first extended playing time in the majors that year backing up Ruth in left, it would his last major league game, but he would play another eleven years in the minors before retiring at the age of 46 with over 3,300 hits in a career spanning a quarter of a century.
It was the lowest scoring modern World Series with only an average of 3.17 combined runs per game (the next lowest was 3.6 runs per game in 1905).128+ Both Hippo Vaughn and Lefty Tyler pitched brilliantly, giving up an average of only a single earned run per game, and yet won only twice. The heroes for the Red Sox were Carl Mays and Babe Ruth, who each won two games. Ruth, after a season noted for his accomplishments at the plate, made only two token appearances as an outfielder, but didn't permit a run until he had shut out the Cubs for sixteen frames. Over his career, Ruth pitched 31 World Series innings and only allowed a run in the first and last of them.129+ This mark of 29 consecutive scoreless innings in the Fall Classic eclipsed the one of 28 set by Christy Mathewson in 1905 and 1911 and wouldn't be broken until Whitey Ford held the Pirates, Reds and Giants scoreless for 33 straight innings from 1960 to 1962.
There was no doubt that the series was conducted in the shadow of the World War. The attendance was down and there were articles in the papers questioning the patriotism of the players, especially after their protest at the start of game five. Baseball tried to counter this by donating some of proceeds to war charities and having the band play The Star Spangled Banner during the seventh-inning stretch, but according to the Chicago Daily Tribune: "The general feeling for the last six weeks that playing ball was not helping much in winning the war practically killed interest even in the annual series for the world's title. Then, to cap the climax, the players had to engage in a row with the national commission over the division of the spoils during the series which brought disgust to the season's windup."130+
Babe Ruth was responsible for one of the year's top single-game offensive performances when he hit a single, three doubles and a triple in the Red Sox's 4-3 extra-inning loss to the Senators on May 9th. It was the first of three games in his career with four extra-base hits. It was also the last time a pitcher had four extra-base hits in a game. The last pitcher with three was Micah Owings in 2007.
Rookie Cliff Heathcote was playing in only his sixth major league game when he hit for the cycle in the Cardinals' 19-inning 8-8 tie with the Phillies. He entered the game without a career extra-base hit, so the cycle represented his first major league double, triple and home run. The fewest career extra-base hits for a player hitting for the cycle since then is one, by Fred Lewis in 2007 and two, by Gary Ward in 1980.
No player in the NL hit more than one home run in a game in 1918. It was part of the second longest stretch for a league without a multi-homer game. The five longest:
Start End League Date Player Date Player NL 6-17-1876 George Hall 6-28-1879 John O'Rourke NL 5-16-1917 William Fischer 7- 1-1919 Rabbit Maranville AL 8-22-1907 Heinie Wagner 7-15-1909 Ty Cobb NL 9-19-1906 Cy Seymour 7-27-1908 Tim Jordan NL 9-21-1880 Harry Stovey 7-24-1882 Silver Flint
Actually, the Giants' Benny Kauff did have a two-homer game during that drought. It came during the 1917 World Series.
On April 22nd, Eddie Collins played in his 472nd consecutive game, tying the mark set by Sam Crawford from 1913 to 1916.131 He broke the mark four days later, but the streak ended at 478 when he missed the game on May 3rd. On that date, however, the player who would set the new mark was already more than halfway there. The Phillies Fred Luderus had started his streak on June 2, 1916, broke Collins' record on August 3, 1919, and by the time he missed the opening game of the 1920 season, had set a new standard of 533 games.132
Except he didn't. The record holder in 1918 and 1919 was not Crawford, Collins or Luderus, but George Pinkney, the Brooklyn third-baseman, who played in 577 consecutive games from 1886 to 1890. I'm not sure when his record became officially recognized, but by the time Everett Scott, tied Luderus in 1920, Pinkney was credited with having the longest streak.133 One of the things that may have contributed to Pinkney's record being overlooked was the fact that in 1889, he played in only 138 of Brooklyn's 140 games. But the two games he apparently missed were unplayed forfeits on June 24th and September 8th.
Which would be the end of the story, except that in 1920 Pinkney didn't hold the record either. It turns out that there was another overlooked streak, this one by Steve Brodie from October 2, 1891 to July 27, 1897 that reached 731 games before it ended. This streak wasn't recognized for two reasons. First of all, Brodie had been mistakenly credited with playing 130 instead of 131 games in 1895. And secondly, Baltimore also had an unplayed forfeit that year.134 I'm not sure when Brodie's streak was eventually discovered, but when Gus Suhr had a lengthy streak in 1936, it was said that he surpassed Eddie Brown's National League mark of 618 consecutive games played from 1924 to 1928.135+
The Cubs swept the Cards in a double-header on July 4th, winning both games 1-0. Charlie Deal knocked in the run in each game. There have only been two occasions since when a player has knocked in all of his team's runs during a double-header sweep. Joe Pepitone knocked in all the runs during the Yankees' 3-1 and 1-0 victories over the Angels on May, 18, 1969, and Tony Perez accounted for all six runs in the Reds' 4-3 and 2-0 sweep of the Cards on May 14, 1972.
Ty Cobb had a slow start in 1918 and well into June was hitting under .300. But on June 22nd, he started a 36-game stretch during which he hit over .500 and ended the season with a .383 batting average. It was the middle of a remarkably consistent three-year period that saw Cobb lead the major leagues with averages of .383, .382 and .384. Ed Roush came very close to leading the National League each of those years as well, only missing the 1918 title to Zach Wheat in a very tight race. Roush was only a few points behind the leader when his father was seriously injured and he missed the last six games of the season to return home.136
An unusual fielding play by Roush in April may have ended up costing him the batting title. In the top of the eighth inning of the April 29th game between the Reds and the Cards, Roush momentarily juggled a fly ball hit to center field in the top of the eighth inning. Bert Niehoff, the runner on third, apparently scored after the catch but was ruled out by umpire Hank O'Day because, while he had waited to leave the bag until after Rouse had initially touched the ball, Niehoff had not waited until the ball was secure before heading for home. The Cards protested the call and league president John Tener ruled in their favor, causing the game (and its statistics) to be thrown out and replayed at a later date. Roush had two hits in three at-bats in the disallowed game.137 When it was replayed as the second game of the August 11th double-header, Roush got only one hit in four at-bats.
And that doesn't even take into account the Robins' successful protest138 of their June 3rd game with the Cardinals that wiped out their 15-12 loss along with an 0-5 performance by Zach Wheat (not to mention a five-hit game by Marty Kavanagh, which would have raised his average during his short time with the Cards from .182 to .255).139 Now obviously we can't take this analysis too seriously, since many things were affected by the successful protest and there is no reason to think that the rest of the season would have played out exactly the same way, but the addition of the April 29th game and the deletion of the second game of the August 11th double-header would have left Roush with a .336 batting average, one point higher than Wheat's.
Billy Southworth had failed to hit in a 1915 trial with the Indians, but he returned to the majors at the beginning of July and made an immediate impression, with seven hits in his first two games and a .492 batting average during his first two weeks. After a brief slump, he bounced back strong to finish with a .341 average in 64 games. I've always wondered about the difference in the quality of play between the first and second halves of the 1918 season. It is well-known that for most of World War Two, the two leagues fielded much less talent than they had both before and after the war. But with a steady stream of veteran players leaving the major leagues in the second half of this season (Southworth, for example, was replacing the departed Casey Stengel), I wonder just how much World War One affected the game during the summer of 1918.
Rookie Hank Thormahlen relieved Bob McGraw with no one out in the top of the first inning and finished the 9-4 loss to the Senators on April 26th. For McGraw, it was his first and only appearance of the year, one that left him with an ERA that is usually shown as infinity in the encyclopedias (but is actually undefined), as he walked all four batters to face him and they all came around to score.
Thormahlen didn't appear in his next game again until May 9th, relieving Allen Russell, again with no out in the first inning, and again completing the game. This time, however, he pitched nine shutout innings for his first major league win. He was moved to the starting rotation after that and pitched two shutouts before finishing his month's work with a three-hitter on May 27th, a fifth-inning run in that game breaking his 37-inning scoreless streak going all the way back to the last inning of his relief appearance in April.
Thormahlen, however, had only the second longest scoreless streak of the month. Walter Johnson's string of zeroes reached forty before it ended in his last start of May, and included three shutouts, one of them an eighteen-inning 1-0 decision over Lefty Williams and the White Sox. It was only the beginning of an incredible year for Johnson, one that is often overlooked because of the shortened season. Apart from a much lower ERA, his 1918 season appeared much like his previous year, with the same 23 wins and the same 326 innings. But this time around, he accomplished all that without making more than one token appearance in September. August was a pretty average month for him, with five victories and 75 innings pitched. If the season had not ended prematurely and he had been able to put up those numbers over the last month, he would have finished the year with 28 wins and 400 innings pitched.140+
Johnson started 29 games and finished them all, including nine that went into extra innings. In addition to the eighteen-inning game mentioned above, he also pitched another eighteen-inning game, as well as ones going fifteen, fourteen and thirteen innings. Including his relief appearances, Johnson went 8-7 in 54 1/3 extra innings pitched that year. Here are the leaders since 1901 in extra-innings pitched:
Name Year IP W L Walter Johnson 1918 54.1 8 7 Ed Walsh 1910 41 3 5 Dick Radatz 1963 37 8 4 Satchel Paige 1952 36 6 3 Dick Selma 1970 31.1 6 4 Ron Perranoski 1969 29 4 2 Tug McGraw 1972 29 3 3 Josh Collmenter 2013 29.0 5 4 Rich Gossage 1977 28.2 6 4
It was a year for marathons. On July 17th, the Cubs beat the Phillies 2-1 in twenty-one innings, coming within one of the NL record set the year before. Turner Barber, pinch-hitting for Rollie Zeider, who had been hitless in eight at-bats, singled to open the bottom of the twenty-first and then came around to score on Max Flack's fifth hit of the game. On August 1st, the Pirates and the Braves also went twenty-one innings. This game was scoreless until the Pirates broke through for two runs in the top of the last inning and made a hard-luck loser out of Art Nehf, who went the distance for Boston.
Two days later, Gene Packard pitched a game that I'm sure he felt would never end. Pitching a one-hit shutout and staked to an eleven-run lead through six innings, the Cards' pitcher allowed fourteen hits and twelve runs before Lee Meadows came on to get the last two outs of the game and preserve a 16-12 win.
Braves holdout Dick Rudolph didn't make his first start until June 10th, but it was worth waiting for: a one-hit shutout over the Reds. Others didn't fare as well in their debuts. Bill Bailey hadn't pitched in the majors since 1915 (1912 if you don't count the Federal League), when he came out of the bullpen with his Tigers trailing the Indians by a run in the bottom of the eighth inning of their game on July 29th. It was a rude welcome back, as Cleveland turned seven hits and three walks into ten runs, leaving Bailey with a 90.00 ERA at the end of the day.
Veteran right-hander Roy Mitchell returned to the big leagues for the first time in four years, but pitched poorly in two early August starts for the White Sox and was dispatched to the Reds. He turned into a late season sensation in his new home, however, pitching 27 1/3 innings before giving up his first run, winning all four of his decisions, and finishing with a 0.74 ERA.
Mike Regan was another Reds' pitcher who finished strongly that summer. After failing to retire a batter in his second straight game on July 7th, his ERA stood at 6.19. But three days later, he pitched a two-hit shutout, starting a season-ending streak that would see him allow only four earned runs in 43 2/3 innings, including back-to-back shutouts to close out his year.
Despite their great finishes, neither Mitchell nor Regan would have much of a future in the major leagues. Regan pitched only once more in relief the following May, while Mitchell made a handful of appearances including one more start before leaving the Reds and the majors for good the following July.
It was not unusual during this era for pitchers to start both ends of a double-header. It was, however, not common for a pitcher to do it twice in one season. Rookie Mule Watson was a mid-season acquisition for the Athletics and didn't make his first start until July 4th. Despite pitching only two months for Connie Mack's team, Watson started nineteen games and pitched 141 2/3 innings. He was first called on to pitch a double-header on July 21st. He didn't pitch particularly well in the first game, giving up twelve hits in a 3-2 eleven-inning loss to the Indians, and did even worse in the second, when his team's three-run rally in the top of the last inning allowed him to escape with a 5-5 tie. At the end of August, he was once again called on for double-duty. This time he pitched even worse in the opener, a 6-1 loss to Babe Ruth and the Red Sox, but was brilliant in the finale, throwing the greatest game of his career, a one-hit shutout over the eventual World Champions. Watson became the first player to pitch more than one twin-bill in a season since Joe McGinnity did it three times for the 1903 Giants. The first double-header was part of a scheduled one-day road trip and it wouldn't surprise me if Watson was called upon to start both games so the team could save money by taking only one pitcher along.141+
John Peters was not making his major league debut (he had played a single game for the Tigers more than three years earlier), but he sure seemed to have the jitters in his first and only appearance of 1918. Starting behind the plate of the May 16th game between the Indians and Athletics, Peters committed three first-inning errors before he was injured following his fourth error and had to be removed from the game.142 He was hardly the only sloppy fielder that day, as the two teams combined for fourteen errors in the game. Only two of the eleven runs scored that day were earned.
Jake Pitler probably wondered what he had to do to get another chance when, in his final major league appearance, he entered the game as a pinch-runner, stole second, stole third and then scored. Actually, his day looked a lot more impressive than it really was. When he entered the game, the Pirates were losing 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning and it was the fashion of the times to let runners go wild in these situations as long as they didn't represent the tying or winning run. I'll have more to say on this aspect of the game in the next review.
And speaking of a player's final day in the majors, few have had a better sendoff than Art Griggs, who spent the last month of the 1918 season keeping first-base warm for the Tigers while Harry Heilmann was in the Navy. Griggs' seven hits in their season-ending double-header with the White Sox included five doubles. No one has had as many hits or doubles on their last day since at least 1901. The closest have been Pep Clark (1903) and Jack Peerson (1936), who both went out with six-hit days, and Rick Wrona who hit three doubles in his 1994 finale (and gets bonus points for hitting them all in a single game).
In one of the greatest almost-comebacks in history, the Phillies, trailing 10-0 heading into the top of the ninth, rallied for nine runs on July 6th. Reds' starter Pete Schneider took a one-hit shutout into the last frame, only to walk the first (and only) six batters to face him in that inning. He ended the game allowing a season-high thirteen walks.
Meaningless season-ending games were often played as comedies during this era, and the Senators and Athletics completed their season with just such a farce on September 2nd. Here is a description of Nick Altrock's eighth-inning "home run":
"Nick made the freakiest home run in the history of baseball when he got his turn at bat with but two out in the eighth. McAvoy took Watson's place in the box, and did everything but hit the ball for the comedian. Nick fouled off two and then hit one that didn't have enough speed to break a pane of glass over first base. Watson made no effort to field it, and Jamieson turned a couple of somersaults before he retrieved the ball. He threw to second and Nick neglected the formality of touching the middle sack or the far corner either. Catcher Perkins made no effort to take the throw at the plate, and when Billy Evans called Nick safe it went for a home run to send the crowd into near hysterics."143
At thirteen days shy of his forty-second birthday, Altrock became the second-oldest American League player to homer, trailing only Deacon McGuire, who was more than forty-three years old when he hit a legitimate home run on July 25, 1907. The current holder of this record is Jack Quinn, who was nearly forty-seven when he hit one out on June 27, 1930. The NL (and major league) record is held by Julio Franco, who hit his final homer on May 4, 2007 at the age of forty-eight (and 254 days).
There are three discrepancies I wanted to mention, but let's start with these two. Officially, Merlin Kopp played the entire game on April 26th in left field with only one plate appearance (a single), despite the fact that the players hitting around him in the batting order got up five times. He actually walked four times in addition to his hit, and those walks, although not credited officially, represent his career high. And on May 24th, the Red Sox's Sam Agnew is officially credited with a double without either an at-bat or a hit. Wally Schang, who replaced Agnew in the fifth inning, should have been given credit for the double instead.
Speaking of doubles, this last discrepancy is somewhat of a big deal since correcting it would change the record for the most doubles in a career. On August 24th, Tris Speaker played center field for the Cleveland Indians, getting one hit (a double) in four at-bats. Every contemporary source agrees. But the official dailies have a curious notation on Ray Chapman's sheet. In his entry for that date, the "Pos" field contains a "-", meaning that he played the same position ("SS") as he did in the previous row, but it also has a "CF" underneath it. And in the PO/A/ERR columns, both Chapman's and Speaker's defensive stats for the game are noted. The page can be seen here. And the game is entirely missing from Speaker's sheet, which is here. So officially, Cleveland played that day with only eight players, with Chapman covering both shortstop and center field. The changes resulting from this error are described in the game's discrepancy file.
Updated pennant race and World Series description. Slim Sallee and his low walk and strikeout rates.
As the 1918 season came to a close, professional baseball at all levels prepared to shut down for the duration of the war. There was some talk about organizing sectional semi-pro teams that would play only on the weekends, but there was a general consensus that there should be no major or minor league baseball until hostilities ceased in Europe. 144 With the end of the war that November, however, all that changed. By December, the War Department had given the major leagues permission to return to business as usual in 1919.145 Well, not quite as usual, since both leagues decided on a shortened schedule of 140 games.146 Rather than a response to the challenges of getting their players back from the military and geared up for a full slate of games, the shortened season was intended to be a permanent solution to the problems of poor April weather, too many summer double-headers, and a late World Series. Instead, it proved unpopular with owners, who discovered that having fewer games actually meant making less money. During July, National League officials met and discussed the possibility of extending the current season into October in order to restore the season to 154 games, but decided against it.147
The Chicago Cubs can probably be forgiven for being confident heading into 1919. After all, they'd won the pennant easily the year before and this time around would have the league's best pitcher for an entire season instead of three starts. But the worries started early when they played poorly in their pre-season games against teams from the Pacific Coast League and it looked likely that, even with the addition of Alexander, they might not have improved themselves as much as their competition. Or as a columnist in The Sporting News wrote in April: "If preseason performance were any criteria, then the White Sox will carry Chicago hopes in the major league pennant races this season, while the Cubs will be famous only for memory sake...."148
The problem, as it turned out, wasn't with their pitching. Even with Pete Alexander struggling to regain his earlier form and the loss of Lefty Tyler for all but 30 innings, Chicago still had close to the best defense in the league. But their offense went from scoring the most runs in the NL to scoring the fewest. All four of their best hitters from the year before were worse in 1919, ranging from somewhat worse (Charlie Hollocher and Fred Merkle) to a whole lot worse (Dode Paskert and Les Mann). There was some good news as well: Charlie Deal had a fine season and Lee Magee played well after coming over from the Phillies in an early June trade. But saddled by a generally poor showing from their hitters, they had a losing record into early June and were never a factor in the race.149+
The New York Giants and the Cincinnati Reds waged a ferocious battle for the supremacy of the NL for much of the season. By the end of July, the Giants had a five percentage point lead over the Reds with both teams on a pace to win 96 and 95 games (or 105 and 104 had this been a 154-game season). New York had the best offense in the league, with five regulars hitting over .300. Jesse Barnes, back from the army, was leading the league in wins with a 16-4 mark, Fred Toney was 9-3 with the league's second lowest ERA, and new arrival Phil Douglas, on the team for less than a week after coming over from the Cubs in a trade for Dave Robertson, had already pitched two complete-game victories.
But then they went into Cincinnati and lost two of three, did the same in St. Louis before getting swept in three games by the Cubs, and by the time they lost both of ends of a double-header with the Reds to complete a six-game series in the Polo Grounds on August 15th, they were six and a half games back. Phil Douglas lost three games during the slide, and after his fourth straight loss on August 19th, deserted the team and was suspended for the rest of the season. Despite this, their pitching actually improved during the last two months (from 3.5 runs per game to 3.2) thanks to the August 1st trade that sent Red Causey (who was 9-3 but had a 5.80 ERA since the end of May), Joe Oeschger, two prospects and a lot of cash to the Boston Braves for Art Nehf, Boston's winningest pitcher over the previous two and a half years. Nehf went 9-2 with a 1.50 ERA for the Giants, more than making up for the absence of Douglas and loss of Causey.
Rather, their slide over the final two months was due a team-wide batting slump. Of the five batters hitting over .300 at the end of July, only Ross Youngs continued to hit as well, and three of them: Hal Chase, Larry Doyle and Benny Kauff were awful.150+ The result was a team that went from scoring a league-best 4.8 runs a game to a league-average 3.6.
The Cincinnati Reds weren't used to being in a pennant race. The closest they'd been to first place in September since the turn of the century was when they were 11 1/2 games behind the Braves on September 2, 1914. But they seemed to enjoy the view from the top and played better as the season progressed, finishing on a 28-11 run that started with that double-header in New York on August 15th. The streak included ten straight wins in late August, and they clinched the pennant on September 16th when they beat the visiting Giants 4-3.
They were led in the field by Heinie Groh, one the best third-basemen in baseball since arriving in 1913 courtesy of one of John McGraw's worst trades, and two-time batting champion and future Hall of Fame center fielder Edd Roush, who came to the Reds in another awful trade by McGraw and the Giants. They had a talented and deep pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the league. Their three best pitchers were all picked up on waivers: Dutch Ruether (from the Cubs in 1917), and Slim Sallee and Ray Fisher, who both came from the always accommodating New York Giants that March, Fisher on the 15th, and Sallee three days later.
It became clear early on that the Boston Red Sox were not going to successfully defend their crown in 1919. Pitching was a problem from the start, with Bullet Joe Bush missing almost the entire season with arm troubles, Babe Ruth's reluctance to let his pitching duties get in the way of his quest for the home run record, and Dutch Leonard out of Boston and pitching for the Detroit Tigers. The problem only got worse when Carl Mays, fed up with the poor run support he was getting, abandoned the team in July, forcing the Red Sox to trade him to the New York Yankees for spare parts and the ubiquitous bucket of money, a move that outraged AL president Ban Johnson, leading to a series of court actions that would last into 1920. They ended their tumultuous season in sixth-place, the beginning of fifteen straight second-division finishes for the former dynasty. And of course, they weren't done sending players to New York for cash.
The Yankees had a two-game lead over the Chicago White Sox after the games of July 5th, and a chunk of the credit had to go to the unexpectedly great play of Roger Peckinpaugh, formerly a weak-hitting shortstop (his batting average and OPS over the previous five seasons had been .238 and .619),who had somehow been transformed into one of the league's most dangerous batsman. On that day, he was in the late stages of a career-high 29-game hitting streak, leading the league with a .385 batting average and .483 on-base percentage, first in runs scored and second to Babe Ruth with a .996 OPS and six home runs (his first homers since 1916). While he was tearing up the league with his bat, pitchers Bob Shawkey, Jack Quinn and Herb Thormahlen were doing their part with a combined 29-10 record and a 1.76 ERA.
I wonder how the history of baseball would have been altered had a different team taken the 1919 AL pennant. What if the Yankees had been able to maintain their early pace or, for that matter, if Cleveland or Detroit had been able to mount an effective late-season charge? I don't mean to suggest that the gambling problems that afflicted baseball would have disappeared if the 1919 World Series hadn't been fixed. I think they simply would have come to a head later, and the subsequent crisis no doubt would have produced a different Judge Landis and a different (but no less prominent) set of Eight (or more) Men Out.
As it happened, the Yankees couldn't maintain that pace. Peckinpaugh went back to hitting like his former self, with a .244 batting average and a .633 OPS the rest of the way, while Bob Shawkey, Jack Quinn and Herb Thormahlen went 18-23 with a 3.61 ERA. As it was, their third-place finish was their highest since 1910, and one they owed in large part to the late-season resurgence of pitcher George Mogridge, who lost his first six decisions before going 10-3 with a 2.04 ERA from mid-July onward, and to the controversial late-season addition of Carl Mays, who went 9-3 with a 1.58 ERA over the last two months of the season.
The White Sox had the best offense in the league, with Shoeless Joe Jackson returning from the Delaware shipyards to hit .351 with his best OPS since his days in Cleveland, and Eddie Collins emerging from a two-year mid-career slump with a fine comeback season. On the mound, the team was helped by a return to form by Ed Cicotte, who had a 29-7 record to go with a 1.82 ERA, and by Lefty Williams, who spent the previous summer at the same shipyard as Jackson and came back to have the best season of career.
They moved into first place to stay on July 10th and by the time they swept the Yankees in a double-header on September 17th, had a seven and a half game lead over Cleveland with only nine left to play. They won only two of those remaining games, but all that did was make the pennant race appear closer than it really was. On September 24th, their dramatic come-from-behind win over the Browns, coupled with the Indians' loss in Detroit, gave them their second pennant in three years and punched their ticket to the World Series.
Few World Champions in history have gotten less respect than the 1919 Reds. Despite their superior record (they won eight more games than the White Sox), a pitching staff that allowed a major league low 2.86 runs a game, and the second-best offense in their league, the Reds entered the Series as decided underdogs. The Junior Circuit had won eight of the previous nine championships after all, and Chicago was expected to continue this trend. In addition to the NL's recent history of failure in the Fall Classic, the Reds didn't exactly have a tradition of success. Not only had they never won an NL pennant before, they had never finished higher than third in the league.151+
So a Cincinnati victory should have been a partial vindication of their team and league. Instead, they were denied that opportunity and their triumph in 1919 turned into a story of treachery and greed, with the Reds often pictured as bystanders in the drama. Apart from the Eight Men Out, the most famous performance in the World Series was the one turned in by Chicago's Dickey Kerr, who was praised as the hero of the series because of his victories in games three and six. Well, the Reds had heroes as well. They included Jimmy Ring, and Hod Eller who pitched back to back shutouts (supposedly when all of the White Sox were trying), and Pat Duncan and Edd Roush, who combined to knock in fifteen runs in the eight games. Of course, it's impossible to know what would have happened that October had both teams been trying to win, but I think we should be willing to give the Reds the benefit of the doubt.
I don't have much more to say on the World Series, not because there isn't more to say, but because others have already covered this ground much better than I could in a few paragraphs here. SABR has a research committee devoted to increasing our understanding about this subject and a good place to start is with this article dispelling some common myths about the Black Sox scandal.
Apart from the pennant races and World Series, the biggest story in baseball once again centered around the slugging exploits of the Red Sox's Babe Ruth. It was a story that was a little slow developing. Ruth hit well during the first few months of the season, but with less power than he had shown during the early going a year before. By July 4th, he had hit only seven home runs. This was enough to lead the league, but it was not close to a record-setting pace. Gavvy Cravath was leading the majors with nine, and Ruth at the time was only one round-tripper ahead of Roger Peckinpaugh. During Ruth's power surge the previous June, sportswriter Ernest J. Lanigan wrote an article downplaying the slugger's chances for a record, arguing that Ruth had always hit most of his circuit clouts in the early months of the season. At the time Lanigan was writing, Ruth was 23 years old and, while it's always risky generalizing about the habits of a player that young, Lanigan looked like a genius in 1918. 1919, however, was a very different story.152
On July 5th, Ruth had the first multi-homer game of his career and less than two weeks later, he did it again. By the time July was over, he had sixteen circuit clouts, tying the American League record set in 1902 by Socks Seybold. Two weeks later, Ruth went deep again and the record was his alone. Next up: the major league mark of 27 held by the White Stockings' Ned Williamson in 1884. All but two of Williamson's homers that year had been hit at the friendly confines of Lake Front Park, which featured a right field fence less than 200 feet away. The team only played in the park for two years. In 1883, balls hit over that fence were ground rule doubles, but the next year, the rule had been changed to give the batter a home run. As a result, Williamson was able to set a major league record for the most doubles one year and homers the next.
That mark appeared out of reach until the Babe hit four in three games in late August, leaving him with twenty-three. With a week to go in the season, he hit a dramatic game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth off Lefty Williams to tie Williamson, and four days later, Ruth set the record with a game-tying ninth-inning shot. He wrapped up his campaign with his twenty-ninth homer on the last day of the season. A month later, one sportswriter offered his opinion on what the future held for the Babe:
"It is figured that now that he has established a record of twenty-nine home runs for a single season--a record which may never be endangered - Ruth will cease swinging for the circuit clouts, with a resulting increase in his general batting figures."153
Here's how Ruth did both before and after July 4th:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH SB AVG OBP SLG To July 4 55 177 40 56 12 7 7 37 19 2 1 0 .316 .440 .582 Afterwards 75 255 63 83 22 5 22 64 39 4 3 7 .325 .467 .710
Unlike Williamson, Ruth was not helped by his home park in 1918 or 1919, hitting only nine of his forty home runs those two years at Fenway Park. At the time of his sale to the Yankees prior to the 1920 season, here was Ruth's career record in both his old and new home parks:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH SB AVG OBP SLG Fenway Park 193 518 102 162 47 17 11 104 62 3 8 7 .313 .430 .533 Polo Grounds 28 95 21 31 6 0 10 15 12 1 1 1 .326 .423 .705
His teammates weren't partial to the long ball at home or on the road in either season, hitting only four each year.
Although overshadowed by Ruth, Gavvy Cravath made his own noise with the long ball in 1919. He led the NL with twelve home runs, despite having only 214 at-bats. It was the fewest at-bats for a league-leader since Fred Treacey tied for the National Association lead with four round trippers in only 124 at-bats in 1871. It was the sixth time that Cravath had led (or tied for the league lead) in homers, breaking the mark he had shared with Harry Stovey, who had done it five times from 1880 to 1891. Cravath's record was primarily a product of Baker Bowl, his home park. Here are his home and road splits in 1919:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SH SB AVG OBP SLG Home 42 98 21 39 9 1 10 15 11 1 2 3 .398 .482 .816 Away 41 117 13 34 9 4 2 20 10 1 2 5 .291 .399 .487
And the year before, he had hit all of his league-leading eight home runs at home. Of the 117 homers he hit while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, 92 of them were hit at Baker Bowl.
Other hitting highlights included ten consecutive hits by Ed Konetchy on June 28th, June 29th and July 1st (tying the mark set by Ed Delahanty and Jake Gettman in 1897), and an AL record of 46 hits in two consecutive games by the Red Sox on September 5th and 6th.
The Red Sox probably thought they were on their way to a record when they opened the top of the first inning with five straight hits on August 21st. The first four knocked out Indians' starter Hi Jasper, who was making his final major league appearance. But after giving up a hit to the first batter he faced, Cleveland reliever Elmer Myers, and then Tony Faeth, held Boston hitless over the remainder of the game. In the bottom of the first, Boston starter Herb Pennock also failed to retire a batter. This has happened nine times since, most recently on September 21, 1989 when Dennis Rasmussen and Jack Armstrong each allowed the first five batters to reach base and score in the Padres' win over the Reds.
At the beginning of June, Cubs owner Charlie Weeghman might have been wondering about the wisdom of his $50,000 investment in Pete Alexander. His star pitcher had made only three starts with his new team before being drafted in 1918, and after more than five weeks of the next season, was still looking for his first victory or complete game. On June 2nd he seemed to find his old magic, pitching a shutout against the Pirates, and once again was the best pitcher in the league. Here is his record both before and after the beginning of June:
G GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO W L ERA April and May 7 5 0 0 34 39 19 16 15 20 0 4 4.24 June Onward 23 22 20 9 201 141 32 29 23 101 16 7 1.16
In the White Sox's pennant-clinching win on September 24th, Ed Cicotte left the game on the short end of a 5-2 score, failing to win his thirtieth game of the season. He had one more chance, pitching the first two innings of the final regular season game, a tuneup for the upcoming World Series. He left at the end of the second inning with a 2-1 lead. Under the scoring practices of the time, Cicotte would have no doubt been credited with the win had Chicago held the lead. Roy Wilkinson replaced him on the mound and things looked up for Chicago. After all, Wilkinson came into the game having made four major league appearances, covering sixteen innings, and had yet to allow a run. His first career start a little more than two weeks earlier had resulted in a five-hit shutout for his first win. But he had little on this day, giving up six runs and Cicotte's lead in his first two innings. So his teammate had to settle for a league-leading 29 wins. But it wasn't for lack of trying (or opportunity).
On May 4th, the Washington Senators were beating the Athletics 11-3 at the end of the seventh when manager Clark Griffith decided to give starting pitcher Walter Johnson the rest of the day off. When Johnson left the game early, it marked the first time he had been relieved in a game since September 3, 1917, a period covering 37 starts and 12 relief appearances (a total of 409 innings). Johnson, was removed from his next start as well, this time trailing the Red Sox 3-0 at the end of the sixth inning, before completing his last 25 starts and 9 relief appearances of the year
In the first game of their July 7th double-header with the Giants, the Phillies stole seven bases in the bottom of the ninth inning, an inning that began with the home team trailing 10-2.154+ This was not an isolated example. The Athletics were losing 14-1 going into the last inning of their July 26th game with the Senators when Merlin Kopp singled with one out, stole second and third, and scored on Fred Thomas' double. Thomas then proceeded to steal third. On August 20th, the Braves stole four bases at the end of the game while losing 10-1. And with his team down ten on September 6th, Buck Weaver stole second, third and home in the bottom of the ninth to make the final score a more respectable 11-2. While much of the way baseball was played in 1919 would be familiar to modern fans, this aspect of the game seems crazy today. It sure seems as if there was a gentleman's agreement to let losing teams pad their stats and score a few runs at the tail end of blowouts. Defensive indifference, the rule denying a player a stolen base in these situations, was instituted in 1920, perhaps in response to these displays.
And it wasn't only losing teams that ran up their stolen base totals when the game was out of reach. On May 15th, the Reds and Robins battled to a scoreless tie through the first twelve innings. In the top of the thirteenth, however, things got out of hand. The visiting Reds finally broke through against a tiring Al Mamaux, and by the time Heinie Groh singled in Greasy Neale with two outs, nine runs had scored and victory seemed assured. But just to be on the safe side, Groh stole second, where he scored that all important ninth insurance run on Edd Roush's single. No one acted as if this was out of the ordinary. Mamaux didn't attempt to retaliate against the Reds (he was probably too exhausted anyway). It seems as if they were simply playing with a different unwritten rulebook in 1919.
Speaking of unwritten rules, when the Senators visited Chicago from August 20th to August 22nd, Walter Johnson was ill and couldn't pitch. Helped by the star pitcher's absence, the White Sox swept the series, giving them a lead of five games over the second-place Tigers. In order to equalize matters, the Senators' Clark Griffith announced that he would hold Johnson out of the series with Detroit in September, just to make things fair.155
The Athletics, who looked to be on the verge of respectability at the end of the previous year, took a major step backward in 1919 and lost 104 games in the shortened season. They were hurt by the ineffectiveness of Scott Perry, one of the surprise stars of the league in 1918, who struggled into August, winning only four games against seventeen losses before leaving the team with seven weeks to go in the season.156 Philadelphia lost 23 games in their best month (not counting their 2-3 record in April), and went 6-20 in September, despite playing all but two of their games at home.
That month was pretty much an audition for the next season. Fifteen different A's players made their major league debuts in September. For the sake of comparison, no other team in the league that month had more than six debuts. On September 9th, four of their starting players were appearing in their first major league game, and two others were playing in the second and third games. The fifteen debuts tied the major league mark set originally by the 1915 Athletics, and the closest any team has come since was the 1963 Colt .45s with twelve (and half of those debuts came in Houston's season-ending three-game series with the Mets).
One tipoff that Athletics' manager Connie Mack wasn't focused on his teams' won-loss record that year occurred on August 17th. They were in Chicago and losing 3-1 when rain threatened to end the game before the visitors could bat in the fifth inning. Normally a team in this situation would stall, hoping for a cancellation instead of a loss. But it was a good-sized Sunday crowd and, needing their share of the gate receipts more than the decision, Mack had his players hustling so the game could become official.157
Toward the end of the season, there were two other quick games of note. On September 21st, the Robins beat the Reds in only 55 minutes. In the game, Slim Sallee threw only 65 pitches, which was thought to be a contender for the major league record, eclipsing Christy Mathewson's low of 69 pitches.158 And one week later, the Giants and Phillies played the first game of their double-header in only 51 minutes, believed to be the fastest nine-inning game on record.
It would be an understatement to say that Slim Sallee believed in pitching to contact, and I'd be surprised if he didn't have games with an even lower pitch count that he had in the game above. In 1919 alone, he had four other games in which he faced even fewer batters than he did that day without walking or striking out anyone. He set the record that year for the fewest combined walks and strikeouts per nine innings since 1893.159+ The seven with the fewest (100 innings minimum):
Pitcher Year IP BB SO AVG Slim Sallee 1919 227.2 20 24 1.74 Slim Sallee 1920 133 16 15 2.10 Benny Frey 1933 132 21 12 2.25 Red Lucas 1933 219.2 18 40 2.37 Eppa Rixey 1932 111.2 16 14 2.42 Bert Cunningham 1898 362 65 34 2.46 Nick Altrock 1908 136 18 21 2.58
The marathon of the year took place on April 30th when the Robins and Phillies battled to a twenty-inning 9-9 tie. The game looked to be on its way to a decision when the Robins scored three runs in the top of the nineteenth inning off of Joe Oeschger, but his teammates took him off the hook by rallying for three of their own in the bottom half against Burleigh Grimes. Oeschger would pitch twenty-six innings in a game exactly one year and one day later and is the only pitcher in major league history to pitch twenty or more innings in a game twice.
On May 26th, the Red Sox-Indians game ended with both teams' pitchers hitting cleanup. Boston's starting pitcher Babe Ruth, however, was not one of them. He hit in the ninth spot in the order, moving to left field in the third inning. He would only start only one more game hitting last in his career, on June 5th, a game he left in the third inning with a knee injury.160
Three days later, the Red Sox's Carl Mays would get the best of the Athletics, winning 7-1. Opposing Mays for Philadelphia that day was Tom Rogers, who in 1916, while pitching for Nashville of the Southern Association, threw a pitch that killed former major-leaguer John Dodge. Mays, of course, would throw the pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920.
And finally, one of the year's most shocking stories occurred on August 24th, when the Indians' Ray Caldwell was "felled" by a thunderbolt in the final inning of their game against the Athletics. According to the article, he "recovered quickly and resumed pitching."161 It was his first start for Cleveland after being released by the Red Sox and the jolt seemed to do him good. He pitched well for his new team for the rest of the year, including a no-hitter against the Yankees on September 10th.
A host of people worked on making these boxscores available to baseball researchers. They include: Dave Lamoureaux, David Vincent, Bob Allen, Javier Anderson, Greg Antolick, Mark Armour, Chris Bates, Bob Boehme, Steve Bond, Jeff Bower, Tom Bradley, Rob Carron, Jim Clausing, Wade Coble, Clem Comly, Dennis Dagenhardt, Tom Davis, Richard Deegan, Larry Defillipo, Chris Dial, Jeff Eby, Mike Elliot, Steve Elsberry, Ken Fisher, Michael Fornabaio, David Foss, Jim Fraasch, Terry Frala, Jonathan Frankel, Gary Frownfelter, Mike Grahek, Aaron Greenberg, Brian Grinnell, Ed Hartig, Kathy Hartley, Chuck Hildebrandt, David Hoehns, Patrick Hourigan, Hugh Humphries, Howard Johnson, Ryan Jones, John Kalous, Christopher Kamka, David Kocher, Herm Krabbenhoft, Sean Lahman, Gary Lauher, Andre Leclerc, Walter LeConte, Dan Lee, John Lee, Bob LeMoine, Joel Luckhaupt, Trent McCotter, Bill McMahon, Sheldon Miller, Joe Murphy, Jack Myers, Dave Newman, Bill Nowlin, Paul Olubas, Charlie O'Reilly, Eric Orns, Ian Orr, Claude Paradis, Gary Pearce, Rob Pettapiece, Jonathan Pollak, J.G. Preston, Brad Ramirez, Denis Repp, Mike Round, Mark Ruckhaus, Ken Ruppert, Charles Saeger, Carl Schweisthal, Tasha Shaindlin, Stu Shea, Terry Small, Sean Smith, Matt Souders, Tom Stillman, Bob Strab, Tom Thress, Bob Timmermann, Dixie Tourangeau, Steve Vetere, Ron Wargo, Ed Washuta, Ron Weaver, Paul Wendt, Neil Williams, Mark Williamson, Rob Wood, Andrew Zager, Don Zminda and Pete Palmer.
1Obviously I do not agree with former commissioner of baseball Bowie Kuhn or journalist Jerome Holtzman that there should be a statute of limitations on correcting baseball's statistical record. What happened a century (or a week) ago on a ball field is history. And advocating that we should stop trying to determine what really happened simply because people have gotten used to a particular narrative (or statistic) is really, really bad history, akin to telling Lincoln scholars to ignore a newly discovered cache of letters because they might change our understanding of him. And so is arguing that we should hold off fixing any errors until we have uncovered them all. Simply put: almost any baseball statistic prior to the 1950s should be looked upon as our best current estimate and treated accordingly.
2J. Ed Grillo, "Score A Shut-Out." The Washington Post. April 15, 1910. Pages 1-3.
After the game,Taft autographed the ball he used to open the festivities. The ball he signed is now in the Hall of Fame and can be seen here.
3After pitching three shutouts in his first four starts, Smith would win only one more game for Chicago before being traded to the Red Sox in August.
4"Group of Pitchers Upon Whom Manager Chance Will Rely in the World's Series." And: Artie Hofman, "Hofman Sure Cubs Will Win." The Chicago Daily Tribune. October 16, 1910.
5R. W. Lardner, "Cole Cubs Hope In Today's Game." The Chicago Daily Tribune. October 22, 1910. Page 19.
6"Sidelights Of The Second Battle." The Chicago Daily Tribune. October 19, 1910. Page 21. And: "Spurious 'Salve' Only Kind Left." The Chicago Daily Tribune. October 21, 1910. Page 21.
7E. A. Batchelor, "Unofficial Averages Make Lajoie A Winner." The Detroit Free Press. October 10, 1910. Page 9.
8"Latest Developments As to How Lajoie Made His Remarkable Batting Record in St. Louis." The Sporting Life. October 22, 1910. Page 8.
9"Eight Hits For Lajoie." The Detroit Free Press. October 10, 1910. Page 9.
10"Cobb Is Winner." The Sporting Life. October 22, 1910. Page 8. And "Manager O'Connor Loses Out." The Sporting Life. October 22, 1910. Page 8.
11A scan of Cobb's official daily showing the extra entry can be seen here. The problem is that there are two lines marked "25" when only a single game was played that day. The first of those lines was actually the second game of the double-header on the 24th. So at some point between September 28th and the beginning of October, someone noticed that there was only one "24" line and so added it again. Some sources have erroneously suggested that Ban Johnson intentionally added that game in twice after the season in order to "cook the books" and give Cobb the title, but since the additional game appears ahead of all lines associated with the October games (and since the dailies were updated as the official game sheets were received at league offices), it is unlikely that was anything but an honest mistake.
12The 1910 batting race has been the subject of many articles (including one by Joe Posnanski) and even an entire book by Rick Huhn. There was a lot more to those final days and their aftermath than I could hope to cover in my review, including some observers blaming Cobb's obsession with winning the car for single-handedly derailing Detroit's chances for a four straight pennant, a bribe that may or may not have been offered to the official scorer to credit Lajoie with an extra hit, Lajoie asking the same official out for drinks to see if Nap could convince him to add that hit, and much more.
13"President Left in Second Inning." The Cincinnati Enquirer. May 5, 1910. Page 8.
14Here's the list of all the players who hit all of their career home runs in a single multi-homer game (and all of the players hit two):
Player Date ABs POS Ed Summers 1910- 9-17 352 P Jack Lelivelt 1912-10- 5 1154 RF Jess Doyle 1925- 9-28(2) 37 P Jack Knight 1926- 6-24(1) 102 P Sammy Holbrook 1935- 6-15 135 C Glen Stewart 1943- 8- 7 742 SS Babe Birrer 1955- 7-19 27 P Brian McCall 1962- 9-30 15 CF Bobby Pfeil 1971- 7-27(1) 281 C Doug Loman 1984- 9-23 142 LF Derek Lilliquist 1990- 5- 1 108 P Tim Hyers 1999- 6- 6 230 LF Derrick Gibson 1999- 9-20 49 RF Brandon Harper 2006- 8-20 41 C
Of the five pitchers, three of them (Doyle, Knight and Birrer) pitched in relief. Doyle entered with his team losing 6-3, hit two home runs to knot the score at 6, and then gave up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to get the loss.
15"Adrian Joss -- Born, 1880 -- Died April 14, 1911." The Sporting Life. April 22, 1911. Page 5.
16"The World's Series!" The Sporting Life. November 6, 1909. Page 1. And "Long Schedule Not Pleasing To The American League." The Sporting Life. January 1, 1910. Page 2. And "Senior League Another Exciting And Prolonged Meeting." The Sporting Life. February 26, 1910. Page 4.
17"Cobb Invaluable." Sporting Life. August 6, 1910. Page 2.
18"Condensed Dispatches." The Sporting Life. March 5, 1910. Page 2.
19The foul strike rule is what we use today. Prior to it, foul balls were not counted as strikes except for two-strike foul bunts.
20Phil Coffin, "Amid Baseball's Ups and Downs, a Definite Drop." The New York Times. September 24, 2011. Online here.
21Here are the average runs scored in each league from 1901 to 1919:
Leag 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 NL 4.63 3.99 4.77 3.91 4.10 3.57 3.40 3.33 3.65 4.03 4.42 4.62 4.15 3.84 3.62 3.45 3.53 3.62 3.65 AL 5.36 4.90 4.10 3.54 3.68 3.66 3.65 3.44 3.44 3.64 4.61 4.45 3.92 3.66 3.96 3.68 3.65 3.64 4.10 FL 4.11 3.85
22Me, "The Deadball Era's Worst Pitching Staff." The Baseball Research Journal. Fall 2009. Online here.
23Jim Nasium, "Enraged Over Decision, Magee Assaults Umpire; Phillies Win Game 4-2." The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 11, 1911. Page 10.
24Sam Weller, "Clout By Tinker Beats Giants, 2-1." The Chicago Daily Tribune. September 29, 1911. Page 10.
25A coin toss decided the home field for the first game. After that, the teams would alternate between the two sites through the first six games. If a seventh game was needed, another coin toss would be used to determine the home team.
"New Yorkers Win Toss For Start." The Philadelphia Inquirer. October 6, 1911. Page 10.
26According to Chuck Hildebrandt, "A 'Little League Home Run' is a play that occurs when a hitter puts the ball in play that, under normal circumstances, should result in a routine out or routine base hit, or a runner-on-error event such as reaching first on an overthrow, or taking an extra base on a bobbled ball by a fielder. But instead, the play takes on a life of its own as the fielders boot the ball and throw it around the field, committing multiple errors while the batter-runner--and all the runners before him--circle the bases and score...."
Chuck Hildebrandt, "'Little League Home Runs' in MLB History: The Denouement." The Baseball Research Journal. Spring 2017. Online here.
27"Yanks And Browns In Baseball Farce." The New York Times. September 29, 1911. Page 10.
28"Barney Dreyfuss Pays $22,500 for O'Toole; Highest On Record." The Pittsburgh Post. July 23, 1911. Page 20.
Another pitcher unfairly treated because of how much a team paid to obtain him was Lefty Russell, who was often called the "$12,000 Beauty," a reference to how much Connie Mack had paid the Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern League to obtain him in 1910. Russell shut out the Red Sox in his debut on October 1, 1910, but never won another major league game, as injuries short-circuited his career.
29Bob Broeg, "Durable Ace Cy Young--A 511-Game Winner." The Sporting News. April 17, 1971. Pages 18-19.
30The Boston Globe either didn't know about Curtis' long losing streak or were too kind to mention it. It may have been overshadowed by the fact that the win broke a 14-game losing streak for the team.
"Rustlers Win; Yes, That's Right." The Boston Globe. May 27, 1911. Pahe 6.
31"Champions Drop Double Bill To Clarke's Pirates." The Chicago Daily Tribune. May 31, 1911. Page 21.
32"The Game Is Nill." The Sporting Life. June 17, 1911. Page 3.
33Our ejection database is not complete and so the leaderboard may change over time. The list of umpires with the most seasonal ejections is dominated by ones from the Deadball Era. The umpire with the most ejections outside that era is tied for 16th: Frank Dascoli, with 23 in 1950. In addition to Mal Eason, the umpires with the second and third most ejections (31) also are from 1914: Lord Byron and Cy Rigler.
34"M'Lean's 'Come-Back'." The Sporting Life. December 10, 1910. Page 10.
35"Unfair To Pitchers." The Sporting Life. February 4, 1911. Page 4.
36"Cubs-Cincinnati Score." The Chicago Daily Tribune. September 9, 1911. Page 10.
37"Major Leaders." The Sporting Life. April 13, 1912. Page 8.
38Jack Ryder, "Shoved Giants From Top." The Cincinnati Enquirer. May 20, 1912. Page 8.
If you're wondering (as I was) what a "selling plater" is, it's a horse that is only good enough to compete in a selling race. So I guess that means it's not a particularly good horse.
And as strange as it would be for an umpire to take over the controls of a major league team today, it was not that unusual a hundred or more years ago. For example, recent examples prior to O'Day include Joe Cantillon, who was an umpire in 1901 and 1902 before managing the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1909, Frank Dwyer, who went from being a NL umpire in 1901 to managing the Detroit Tigers the next year, and Tim Hurst, who took a break from his career in blue to lead the St. Louis Cardinals in 1898. The last umpire to manage a major league team was George Moriarty, who had ten years of umpiring on his resume (as well as a lengthy playing career) when he succeeded former teammate Ty Cobb as manager of the Tigers in 1927 and 1928.
39Ren Mulford, Jr., "Red Disaster." The Sporting Life. June 29, 1912. Page 8.
40"New York News." The Sporting Life. August 24, 1912. Page 4.
41Jim Callahan had jumped from the Chicago Orphans to the White Sox in 1901 and helped them win the pennant that year, going 15-8 on the mound and hitting .331 in 118 at-bats. He did double-duty for one more year before becoming a full-time third-baseman and then an outfielder. He started managing the White Sox in 1903 until turning the team over to Fielder Jones the next June. He left the White Sox after the 1905 season and for the next five years owned and operated a semi-pro team and stadium in Chicago.
And then things got weird: in the off-season after the 1910 baseball season, the 37-year-old Callahan, who hadn't played organized baseball in five years, convinced Charlie Comiskey to bring him back to the White Sox as a player. His improbable comeback that March was the talk of Chicago. There was even a poem in The Chicago Daily Tribune about it that went (in part):
Down in the Lone Star state today He's showing raw uns how to play. And can't he nab the driving fly? Has he not found his batting eye? Have his wing'd feet become too slow? Has he forgotten how to throw? Can he come back? O, anxious fan, Jim Callahan, he can!
P.L.B., "By Hek. Make Way For The Exception." The Chicago Daily Tribune. March 21, 1911. Page 19.
He was in the lineup on opening day, batting fifth and playing left field. He played 120 games that year, batting most frequently in the third slot in the order, and ended up hitting .281 for the fourth-place White Sox. After that season, Comiskey tapped him to manage the club in 1912, replacing Hugh Duffy.
42If you count the Union Association as a major league, the Senators only tied the record set by the St. Louis Maroons in 1884 from August 26th to September 17th. And if you would prefer to count the National Association instead of the Union Association, Washington broke the mark of 15 set by the Boston Red Stockings from October 22, 1874 to June 3, 1875. And assuming that neither of those associations are to your liking, they broke the record of 14-consecutive road wins by the 1906 Cubs from August 6th to September 15th, and the 1911 Giants from August 9th to September 21st. The major league record, regardless of what associations you prefer, would be broken when the 1916 Giants won their 17th straight road game on May 29th. The current major league record is 21, set by the Detroit Tigers from September 18, 1983 to May 24, 1984.
43Paul W. Eaton, "At The Capital." The Sporting Life. June 22, 1912. Page 4.
44In the Spring 2016 issue of SABR's Baseball Research Journal, Wade Kapszukiewicz wrote an article titled "Golden Pitches: The Ultimate Last-at-Bat, Game Seven Scenario." A Golden Pitch is any pitch that could possibly both win or lose a World Series. So such a pitch would have to come in the bottom of the last (or extra) inning with the home team trailing with the tying run on base and the third out of the inning a possible result. He identified seven games in which these occurred and the first was during the at-bats of Steve Yerkes and Tris Speaker in the bottom of the tenth inning of the last game of the 1912 World Series. It can be read online here.
45Wilson hit .29963 in 1911 and .30017 in 1912.
46"Cobb Is Vindicated By Those Nearest To Scene Of Fray." The Detroit Free Press. May 16, 1912. Pages 10-11. And "Cobb Whips Hilltop Fan For Insults." The New York Times. May 16, 1912. Page 12.
47"Short-Lived Revolt." The Sporting Life. May 25, 1912. Pages 1 and 4.
48I had originally written "Of the sandlot players," but J.G. Preston pointed out that, although Irwin's was making his major league debut and farewell that day, he had a lengthy prior minor league career.
49The record has been tied three times since 1912: by Otis Nixon in 1991, Eric Young in 1996, and Carl Crawford in 2009.
50"Johnson Jolt." The Sporting Life. September 7, 1912. Page 23.
51"Giants Lose And Tie--Fullerton Compares Centre Fielders." The New York Times. September 29, 1912. Page 8.
52For years, the pitcher that day for the Athletics was thought to be 14-year-old Frederick James Chapman from Little Cooley, Pennsylvania. That would have made him the youngest player in major league history, but further research showed that it was 25-year-old Frank Chapman from Newburgh, New York.
53Here are the players with the twelve worst OPS (250 or more plate appearances, and I admit I chose that cut-off to include more catchers in the results):
Year Player POS G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BP SH SB AVG OBP SLG OPS 1909 Bill Bergen C 112 346 16 48 1 1 1 15 10 50 0 16 4 .139 .163 .156 .319 1911 Bill Bergen C 84 227 8 30 3 1 0 10 14 42 0 9 2 .132 .183 .154 .337 1910 Bill Bergen C 89 249 11 40 2 1 0 14 6 39 0 18 0 .161 .180 .177 .357 1906 Bill Bergen C 103 353 9 56 3 3 0 19 7 43 0 12 2 .159 .175 .184 .359 1904 Fritz Buelow C 84 255 17 36 5 2 0 10 19 47 1 12 4 .141 .204 .176 .380 1909 Billy Sullivan C 97 265 11 43 3 0 0 16 17 50 5 15 9 .162 .226 .174 .400 1908 Bill Bergen C 99 302 8 53 8 2 0 15 5 31 0 13 1 .175 .189 .215 .404 1905 Fritz Buelow C 75 239 11 41 4 1 1 18 6 47 2 7 7 .172 .198 .209 .408 1904 Bill Bergen C 96 329 17 60 4 2 0 12 9 49 0 9 3 .182 .204 .207 .411 1905 Malachi Kittridge C 77 238 16 39 8 0 0 14 15 9 0 10 1 .164 .213 .197 .411 1902 Jack Ryan C 76 267 23 48 4 4 0 14 4 22 1 12 2 .180 .195 .225 .420 1906 George McBride SS 90 313 24 53 8 2 0 13 17 80 1 7 5 .169 .215 .208 .422
I showed the lowest twelve so I could include at least one non-catcher.
54W. J. M'Beth, "Sweeney 'SOT.'" The Sporting Life. April 13, 1912. Page 11.
55The Baseball Encyclopedia. The Macmillan Company. Toronto, Canada. 1969. Pages 215 and 1686.
56"M'Innis And Brown Hurt, 'Stuffy' May Not Be Able To Play For Some Weeks." The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 18, 1913. Page 10.
57"Johnson Had No Cinch Winning." The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 30, 1913. Page 12.
58"President Lynch Suspends McGraw and Brennan for Five Days and Also Fines Phillies' Pitcher $100." The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 4, 1913. Page 8.
59"Red Sox Beaten In Battle Of The Year." The Boston Globe. July 4, 1913. Pages 1 and 7. And: Stanley T. Milliken, "Nationals Get Only Run of Great Game With Red Sox in Fifteenth." The Washington Post. July 4, 1913. Page 6.
60Stanley T. Milliken, "Red Sox Beat Nationals in Eleventh Despite Johnson's Marvelous Work." The Washington Post. August 29, 1913. Page 8.
61"One Weird Game Won By Macks." The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 13, 1913. Page 41.
62The start/relief innings pitched numbers on the linked splits page for Sloppy Thurston and Fergie Jenkins will not quite match the values in the table because both pitched briefly early in their seasons for another team, Thurston for the Browns and Jenkins for the Phillies.
63Stanley T. Milliken, "Nationals and Browns in 15-Innine Tie-- Agnew and Johnson Are Injured." The Washington Post. July 26, 1913. Page 6.
641913 was the first year that the AL batting dailies contained batter strikeouts and Weilman's entry for that day did not indicate any strikeouts. So in the original Macmillan Encyclopedia he was shown with 19 for the season, the same total that was on his official sheet. At some point after that, the error was corrected because he is now shown with 25.
65"Philadelphia Fans Spoil A Victory." The New York Times. August 31, 1913. Page 1S.
66"Brennan Exceeded His Authority, Says Lynch." The Philadelphia Inquirer. September 3, 1913. Pages 1 and 12.
67"Giants Win Appeal." The Sporting Life. September 20, 1913. Page 1.
68"American League Notes." The Sporting Life. May 3, 1913. Page 13.
69Bill Deane, "Finding the Hidden-Ball Trick--The Colorful History of Baseball's Oldest Ruse." Rowman & Littlefield. Lanham, Boulder, New York and London. 2015
70"McGraw's Methods." The Sporting Life. July 19, 1913. Page 3.
71"Benton Fatally Hurt." The Sporting Life. August 2, 1913. Page 1.
72"Notes Of The Game." The Cincinnati Enquirer. July 31, 1913. Page 6.
73Most of these errors were uncovered trying to reconcile differences between the number of strikeouts credited to the pitchers facing the Senators with the sum of those charged against their hitters. We could usually resolve any differences by looking at game stories and play-by-play accounts, and the missing strikeouts were often Johnson's. Who knows? Perhaps he had a friend in the league offices. At first I thought it might be an official scorer in Washington, giving his buddy a pass, but four of the games in question were on the road.
And in case you're wondering if this many discrepancies are normal for this year, they're not. For example, in looking at the batting strikeouts for the other two pitchers in the league with more than 300 innings pitched, Reb Russell had one batter strikeout discrepancy that year, and Jim Scott had none.
74"Giants Unable to Oust Braves." The New York Times. September 8, 1914. Page 8.
75You might be wondering why the pennant was clinched after the games of September 29th since the Giants could have finished the year with a 88-66 record by winning their remaining games while the Braves ended that day with exactly 88 wins. The reason is that in 1914 teams did not have to make up postponed games if the teams involved were not scheduled to meet again, even if those games had an impact on the pennant race. And Boston had a game with the Cardinals that was not going to be played. As a result, had the Braves lost all of their remaining games, they would have finished the year with a 88-65 mark, one half-game better than New York.
76But the Federal League wasn't that far behind the two established circuits, at least according to Clay Davenport's league equivalencies. He rates the 1914 and 1915 Federal League at .93 and .95 of the other two leagues, or about the same as the American Association at their peak (.94).
77Actually, by modern calculations, Tim Keefe had a lower ERA with Troy in 1880. But this could change with future research, since only ten of the 27 runs he allowed that season are currently credited as being earned.
78Game scores were a method devised by Bill James in the 1980s to evaluate a start by a pitcher. You start with 50 points and add one point for each hitter the pitcher retires, two points for each inning completed after the fourth inning, and one point for each strikeout. You then subtract one point for a walk, two points for hit, four points for an earned run and two points for an unearned run.
79See page 64 of "The 2007 Complete Baseball Record Book," edited by Steve Gietschier (Chesterfield, MO, American City Business Journals, 2007) for an example of this.
80"A Couple of Mysteries Regarding Most Wild Pitches in an Inning." Society For American Baseball Research, June 2012 Baseball Records Committee newsletter, edited by Lyle Spatz, page 1.
81T.H. Murnane, "Great Fielding Saves Boston Worse Beating." The Boston Daily Globe. May 21, 1914. Page 9. And "Detroit and St. Louis Each Win a Game--Cobb Joins Tigers." The New York Times. June 6, 1914. Page 10.
82To read more about the collapse of the A's, I recommend Norman Macht's "Connie Mack - The Turbulent & Triumphant Years 1915-1931" (Lincoln, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, 2012).
83T.H. Murnane, "Slow Fielding is What Really Beat Red Sox." The Boston Daily Globe. April 15, 1915. Pages 1 and 9.
84T.H. Murnane, "It's the Tiger Who Does All the Taming In First Mix With Red Sox." The Boston Daily Globe. September 17, 1915. Pages 1 and 5.
85T.H. Murnane, "Red Sox Win In 12th, 1-0, Cheered On By 40,000." The Boston Daily Globe. September 19, 1915. Pages 1 and 11.
86The lowest league-leading winning percentage during June? .535 - the (23-20) record of the White Sox on June 8, 1908. In May, the mark is .529 - the (18-16) record of the White Sox on May 19, 1974. April is not too interesting, since many teams all had .500 records in the very early days of the season. Note that I am talking about league-leading winning percentages, not the teams leading divisions within the leagues.
87Dan Levitt, "The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball." (Lanham, Maryland, Ivan R. Dee, 2012), Chapter 13.
88Stanley T. Milliken, "Indians Fall Before Johnson, Who Makes a Record Drive Across Wall." The Washington Post. May 24, 1915. Page 8.
89T. H. Murnane, "Red Sox March On In Triumph." The Boston Daily Globe. July 22, 1915. Pages 1 and 7.
90"Ten Runs in Ninth Inning." Chicago Daily Tribune. April 26, 1901. Page 6.
While no one had hit four doubles in a regular season game since 1901, Frank Isbell had done it in the fifth game of the 1906 World Series.
91Stanley T. Milliken, "Williams Starts Belated Rally That Bring Nationals Victory." The Washington Post. May 26, 1915. Page 8.
92I. E. Sanborn, "Sox Trounce Mackman, 6-4, In Crazy Game." I. E. Sanborn, Chicago Daily Tribune. July 15, 1915. Page 13.
93"Giants Beat Boston in Burlesque Game." Boston Daily Globe. October 8, 1915. Page 7.
94"McGraw, 'Disgusted,' Says Team Disobeyed His Orders - Leaves Field in Fifth Inning." The New York Times. October 4, 1916. Page 12.
95Hugh S. Fulleron, "Red Sox Will Win Series - Fullerton." The New York Times. October 7, 1916. Page 12.
96John McGraw, Charles Alexander. 1988. Page 194.
97"Giants Shatter World Mark for Victories in Row." The New York Times. September 26, 1916. Page 12.
98Myers and Bush finished with a combined record of 29-47, a far cry from their 12-4 mark on May 22nd, but still light-years ahead of the rest of the staff, which finished with a 7-70 record, one that includes a 3-2 mark by September call-ups Rube Parnham, who won his last two starts (his only career major league wins), and Sock Seibold, who pitched a three-hit shutout in his first major league start on September 24th (but would go 4-16 in 1917).
By the way, Arthur Irwin was an interesting figure, both in and out of baseball. For more on him, please see the following article.
99"Superbas Blanked Twice by Phillies." The New York Times. September 2, 1916. Page 8.
100"Speaker is Sold to the Indians." The Washington Post. April 9, 1916. Page S1.
101 I. E. Sanborn, "Matty Beats Miner Brown; First to Cubs." Chicago Daily Tribune. September 5, 1916. Page 15.
102Stanley T. Milliken, "Harper Error's Victim; Credit Goes to Gallia." The Washington Post. September 3, 1916. Page A1.
103Stanley T. Milliken, "Noted of Nationals." The Washington Post. September 15, 1916. Page 6.
104Stanley T. Milliken, "Meet Athletics in Five Battles." The Washington Post. September 27, 1916. Page 8.
105Edward F. Martin, "Red Sox Show Plenty of 'Pep'." Boston Daily Globe. September 7, 1916. Page 7.
106"Napoleon Lajoie Considers Offers." Los Angeles Times. September 22, 1916. Page III.
107If you define a series as a number of consecutive games played between the same two teams regardless of where the games were played, there have been ones a lot longer than eight games. The longest was the thirteen games played between the Baltimore Terrapins and the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League that started on July 10, 1914.
108James Crusinberry, "Zim Traded To Giants; Doyle Comes To Cubs." The Chicago Daily Tribune. August 29, 1916. Page 11.
109Sallee is officially credited with a 1.37 ERA with the Giants in 1916, but there are two problems with that. First, on September 4th, he was given Pol Perritt's stat line by mistake, giving him credit for seven innings pitched instead of two while charging him with one extra earned run. Then, on September 30th, with the exception of innings pitched, he was given the rest of Lefty Tyler's stat line, resulting in (among other things) being charged with two fewer earned runs than he allowed. The combination of these two mistakes resulted in Sallee pitching five fewer innings and allowing one more earned run than the official totals, the difference between a 1.37 and a 1.52 ERA.
110John B. Foster, "National League Season of 1917." Page 81. The 1918 Spalding Guide. American Sports Publishing Co., New York City.
111Anderson wasn't recognized as leading the league in ERA at the time because of the requirement that a pitcher complete at least ten games. Anderson, who pitched the majority of his games in relief, completed only eight of his 18 starts. By the way, if that requirement was still in force today, the only pitcher to qualify for an ERA title this millenium would have been James Shields in 2011.
112"Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide 1918" (New York City, American Sports Publishing Co., 1918), Page 47.
113 George A. Robbins, "Chicago Mad With Joy Over Victory of Rowland's Team." The Sporting News. October 18, 1918. Page 1.
114I.E. Sandborn, "Sox Win World's Title, 4-2." The Chicago Daily Tribune. October 16, 1917. Pages 17 and 18.
115 Henry P. Edwards, "Sox Failed to Hold Up League's Class." The Sporting News. October 25, 1918. Page 1.
116"Series 'Goat' Zimmerman Dies." The Chicago Tribune. March 15, 1969. Page 1.
117On September 29, 1920, John McGraw told a Grand Jury that he had suspended Zimmerman a year earlier after learning that his third-baseman had offered Benny Kauff $500 to throw a game. Zimmerman denied McGraw's charge although he later signed an affidavit admitting "that he had carried an offer from a Chicago gambler to Toney, Benton and Kauff of $100 each if they would throw a game."
"McGraw Tells of Dropping Suspected Players; Zimmerman Denies Bribe Offer to Kauff." The New York Times. September 30, 1920. Page 1. And: McGraw Answers Zimmerman Charge." The New York Times. March 5, 1921. Page 16.
118"Collins and the Busher." The Sporting News. December 24, 1914. Page 4.
119I. E. Sanborn, "Koob Tames Sox in One Hit Game, 1-0." The Chicago Daily Tribune. May 6, 1917. Page 1.
120"Scorers Can't Pull in Hits." The Washington Post. July 1, 1917. Page 17.
121"Ruth Let Down With $100 Fine." Boston Daily Globe. July 1, 1917. Page 15.
122If you count no-hitters less than nine innings, the list of shortest spans includes a few from 1884, the shortest being one of forty days from Dick Burns no-hitter on August 26th and Charlie Sweeney's and Henry Boyle's combined five-inning no-hitter on October 5th. This also requires that you count the Union Association as a major league.
123"Robins Make New Long-Game Record." The New York Times. August 23, 1917. Page 15.
124"Season Ends in Cleveland." The New York Times. July 22, 1918. Page 8.
125"Ruth Hasn't Far To Go To Break Record For Home Runs in the American League." The Washington Post. July 2, 1918. Page 8.
And speaking of records, when Ruth homered in four consecutive games it was reported as a record, breaking the previous mark credited to the Yankees' Ray Caldwell, also a pitcher, who had homered in three consecutive games in June 1915. But Ruth had only tied the mark originally set by Bill Bradley in 1902, who had hit for the distance in four straight games from May 21st to May 24th.
"Ruth Sets Mark With Four Homers in Row." The Washington Post. June 7, 1918. Page 8.
126"Harper Pitches Griffs To 3-0 Victory; Ruth is Fined and Benched By Barrow." The Washington Post. July 3, 1918. Page 8.
127This is probably a bit off-topic, but the trip east taken by the two teams in the 1918 World Series was the basis of the prologue to Dennis Lehane's wonderful novel The Given Day. Apart from perhaps the first chapter of Don DeLillo's The Underworld, (which was published separately by The Paris Review as "Pafko At The Wall"), set during the last game of the 1951 playoff between the Giants and Dodgers, Lelane's book is the best piece of baseball-inspired fiction I've read.
128Ruth was the only Red Sox hitter with more than a single RBI in the series. And no Cubs hitter knocked in more than two, giving Lefty Tyler a share of the club lead courtesy of his two-run single in the second game.
129Well technically, Ruth pitched to two batters in the top of the ninth inning after his scoreless-inning streak was broken the inning before, but since he neither retired a batter nor allowed a run, I'm willing to overlook it.
130"Fans Glad Teams Will Go To Work." The Chicago Daily Tribune. September 12, 1918. Page 11.
Part of that disgust was evidenced by the relatively poor attendance at the final game of the series. The 15,238 fans who attended the game were more than 9,000 fewer than the day before and the fewest to see a World Series game since 1909. The reason for the low attendance was anger at the players' protest that had delayed the start of game five. This was the second time in six years that Boston fans had missed seeing their team clinch a World Series due to a boycott. This time, the Red Sox celebrated with 10,000 fewer fans than capacity. In 1912, the Giants and Red Sox staged one of the most famous and exciting games in World Series history and more than 15,000 fans skipped it because the front office had released a block of tickets normally held for The Royal Rooters, a fan club, when they showed up late for the previous game. Having seen their team win five titles since 1903, including four in seven years, perhaps Boston fans figured they could always catch the next World Series win a year or two down the road.
Edward P. Martin, "Red Sox Win Sixth Game And The Title." The Boston Globe. September 12, 1918. Page 14.
131"Collins Equals Record." The New York Times. April 23, 1918. Page 14.
132"Luderus Sets New Record." The New York Times. August 3, 1919. Page 17.
133"Revenge For Johnson Who Blanks Sox, 2-0." The Boston Globe. April 26, 1920. Page 4.
134"History of Consecutive Game Streaks," Lee Allen. "The Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book 1960" (St. Louis, Charles C. Spink & Son, 1961), Pages 179-180.
135By the way, one interesting thing about Eddie Brown is that his entire career only lasted 790 games, or little more than a season longer than his streak did.
136"Ex-Pitcher of A.L. Blanks Cub Champs, Reds Copping, 5 To 0." Chicago Daily Tribune. August 31, 1918. Page 9.
137"Tener Allows Cardinals' Protest." The Sporting News. May 16, 1918. Page 1. And "Reds Rally In Ninth." The New York Times. April 30, 1918. Page 14.
138"Brooklyn Protest Upheld." The New York Times. June 16, 1918. Page 28.
139"Dodgers Lose Weird Game." The New York Times. June 4, 1918. Page 10.
140Even with that heavy workload, Johnson did not lead his league in innings pitched. The Athletics Scott Perry did, with 332 1/3, including 87 1/3 innings in August alone.
And the similarities between Walter Johnson's 1917 and 1918 seasons go beyond simply innings pitched and wins. He allowed seven more hits in 1917, walked two more batters in 1918, hit six more in 1917, but even with these slight differences in the two 326-inning seasons, managed to give up 34 more runs in 1917.
141The team's game log makes it appear as if the July 21st double-header was the start of a long road trip, but they were scheduled to play a two-game series with the Indians on July 22nd and 23rd that was postponed.
142"Macks Get Hectic Game." The New York Times. May 17, 1918. Page 10.
143"Griffs Men Break Even To Finish Third In League Race As Baseball Season Suspends." The Washington Post. September 3, 1918. Page 8.
144J. V. Fitz Gerald, "Semipro League Plan Finds Favor In East." The Washington Post. September 29, 1918. Page 19.
145"Government OK For Major League Baseball." Boston Daily Globe. December 5, 1918. Page 1.
146J. V. Fitz Gerald, "War Challenge Is Called By Majors." The Washington Post. January 17, 1919. Page 10.
147"No Change In League Dates." The Christian Science Monitor. July 18, 1919. Page 16.
148"Mitchell Not In Good Cheer As He Brings His Cubs East." The Sporting News. April 17, 1919. Page 1.
149Oh, and the good news about Magee's performance was short-lived, as he was permanently banned from baseball following the season after confessing to Cubs president Bill Veeck Sr. that he and Hal Chase, while teammates on the Cincinnati Reds, had each bet $500 on their team to lose a July 1918 game with the Boston Braves, a game that the Reds won despite Magee's best efforts. Magee sued the Cubs in U.S. District Court and lost, in part, because of Christy Mathewson's testimony about Magee's poor play in the game. And of course, this would not be the end of baseball's problems with gambling.
"Witness Says Magee Bet." The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 8, 1920. Page 14.
150Hal Chase went from hitting .302 with an OPS of .756 to .222/.571, Larry Doyle went from .315/.871 to .211/.521, and Benny Kauff went from .313/.882 to .217/.541. The other two hitters, George Burns went from .325/.846 to .270/.732, and Ross Youngs went from .312/.802 to .306/.790.
151When they were in the American Association, Cincinnati won one pennant (in 1882) and finished second twice (in 1885 and 1887).
152Ernest J. Lanigan, "Ruth's Chances For Record Are Slight." The Hartford Courant. June 16, 1918. Page Z5.
153Harry A. Williams, "With the Four Hundred." Los Angeles Times. November 2, 1919. Page VII.
154Record books and newspaper box scores credit the Phillies with eight stolen bases in that inning, but Hick Cady was officially given one stolen base, not the two reported in the papers. The stolen base was his first since 1915.
155"Johnson Won't Face Tigers." The New York Times. September 3, 1919. Page 24.
156"Scott Perry Quits Macks." The New York Times. August 19, 1919. Page 14.
157James Crusinberry, "Hustling Sox Grab Game Before Weather Man Spoils It." Chicago Daily Tribune. August 18, 1919. Page 15.
158"Speedy Game Is Won By Dodgers." The New York Times. September 22, 1919. Page 21.
159Actually, it's the fewest since 1889, but 1893 is usually the cutoff for these sorts of things since that was the year we settled on the modern pitching distance, replacing the pitching box with a mound.
160James C. O'Leary, "Babe Ruth Injured As Sox Win, 2-1." Boston Daily Globe. June 6, 1919. Page 10
161"Three Hits Off Caldwell." The New York Times. August 25, 1919. Page 12