During the 1917 baseball season, only two years removed from the National League cellar, John McGraw's retooled New York Giants developed into an easy pennant-winner over Philadelphia. Had it not been for another stellar performance by Pete Alexander, the Phillies would have finished much further out than second place, 10 games behind.
The Philly attack had faded, due in part to slumps by Fred Luderus and Dode Paskert and in part to newcomers Johnny Evers (who hit .224 and retired following the season) and Wildfire Schulte (who hit .214 and reached the end of the line a year later).
Alexander led the National League in wins with 30, complete games with 34, shutouts with eight, strikeouts with 200, and innings pitched with 388. His 1.83 ERA was second only to the 1.44 mark turned in by Giants spot-starter Fred Anderson.
McGraw's new-look offense -- first baseman Walter Holke, Heinie Zimmerman (who led the league in RBI with 102), George Burns (the runs scored leader with 103), and Dave Robertson (who knocked a National League-high 12 home runs) -- produced a league-best 635 runs. New York also led the National League in fewest runs allowed with 457.
Lefty Ferdie Schupp won 21 games against seven losses to lead the National League in winning percentage at .750; Schupp was one of four New York starters to win more than 15 games. Three Giants pitchers made the top five in ERA leaders: Anderson at 1.44, Pol Perritt at 1.88, and Schupp at 1.95.
Ex-Federal Leaguer Edd Roush won the batting title for Cincinnati at .341. He beat out third-place St. Louis' Rogers Hornsby, who batted .327 and led the league in triples with 17 and slugging average at .484.
Rogers Hornsby led
the National League
in triple plays.
In Cincinnati, 24-win man Fred Toney hooked up with Chicago's Hippo Vaughn for major league history's only double no-hit game: With one out in the tenth, Reds shortstop Larry Kopf singled for the first hit and moved to third base on a fly ball misplayed by center fielder Cy Williams; he scored the winning run on an infield dribbler by Olympic legend Jim Thorpe, who spent six years in the big leagues as the world's fastest .250 hitter.
In Pittsburgh, Honus Wagner retired with a .327 lifetime batting average over a 21-year career that coincided almost exactly with the dead-ball era. He joined a crowd of legends who retired in 1917, including Ed Walsh (whose 1.82 career ERA is still the best ever), Ed Reulbach, Jim Scott, and Eddie Plank.
The American League pennant-winner was Chicago, which went 100-54 with a lineup that put Chick Gandil at first, Eddie Collins at second, Swede Risberg at short, Buck Weaver at third, Ray Schalk behind the plate, and Happy Felsch and Joe Jackson in the outfield. Felsch hit .308, fifth in the league, and Jackson hit .301 with 17 triples.
Although Boston once again led the league in pitching thanks to Carl Mays (second in the American League in ERA at 1.74), Babe Ruth (second in wins with 24), and Ernie Shore, the Red Sox hitting was no match for the probing White Sox attack.
Ty Cobb staged something of a comeback, winning the batting title at .383 (30 points better than George Sisler of St. Louis), as well as leading in stolen bases with 55, hits with 225, doubles with 44, and triples with 23.
Chicago won the 1916 World Series four games to two as the Giants suffered one of their patented postseason collapses in the fourth inning of game six. First, Zimmerman's throwing error put Collins on second; then, Robertson dropped Jackson's harmless fly to right. With runners on first and third, pitcher Rube Benton fielded Felsch's comebacker and caught Collins too far off third. He threw to Zimmerman, who pathetically chased Collins toward home plate, which both first baseman Holke and catcher Bill Rariden had neglected to cover.
Check out some of the major headlines of the 1916 baseball season on the next page.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1916 Baseball Season
- 1918 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth