The war between the leagues was fought hard and ruthlessly during the 1902 baseball season, with the main battles taking place in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.
John McGraw's American League career was over almost before it started, as the old National League firebrand and king of the umpire-baiters clashed repeatedly with Ban Johnson over rowdy behavior on the field. In 1901, Johnson had infuriated McGraw by suspending him for verbal abuse of an umpire. By early 1902, McGraw was beginning to feel like a marked man.
In April, McGraw was treated with a little of his own medicine by umpire Jack Sheridan, who watched as Boston's Big Bill Dinneen hit McGraw five times with pitches. Each time, Sheridan refused to award him first base on the grounds that McGraw had gotten hit intentionally.
Finally, Sheridan added insult to literal injury by ejecting McGraw from the game. The league backed its umpire and suspended McGraw for five more days.
McGraw got even with Johnson later in the season. McGraw enlisted two National League owners to secretly buy up a controlling interest in the Orioles' stock and then release virtually the entire lineup -- including Joe Kelley, Roger Bresnahan, and Joe McGinnity -- to the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Reds.
Shortly afterward, McGraw was named the Giants' manager. An irate Johnson took control of the Baltimore franchise and, a year later, moved it into New York to compete with McGraw's Giants. The franchise was renamed the "Highlanders" and, later, the "Yankees."
In Philadelphia, the battleground moved from the boardroom to the courts, as the Phillies obtained a ruling from a Pennsylvania judge that Athletics star Napoleon Lajoie be returned to his former National League club. A's manager Connie Mack undid the National League's strategy by transferring him to Cleveland.
Lajoie remained with the Cleveland team, which was christened the "Naps" in his honor, for a dozen years and continued to be an important American League drawing card. However, he had to avoid the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania courts by skipping Cleveland's away series in Philadelphia for the remainder of the 1902 season.
Spurred by successes in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston, the American League moved its Milwaukee franchise into another National League market, St. Louis. The new team promptly raided the St. Louis Cardinals' roster for most of its stars, including Jesse Burkett, Bobby Wallace, and Jack Powell.
Another blow to the National League was the defection of slugger Big Ed Delahanty from Philadelphia to Washington, where he won the American League batting title at .376 and led in slugging average at .590.
In the almost anticlimactic pennant races, hard-hitting Philadelphia won in the American League with an 83-53 record, mainly on the strength of Lave Cross's 108 RBI; Topsy Hartsel's league-leading 47 stolen bases, 87 walks, and 109 runs scored; and Socks Seybold's 16 home runs.
In the National League, Pittsburgh repeated and won a then-National League-record 103 games against 36 losses. The Pirates made a clean sweep of virtually every major offensive and defensive category.
Ginger Beaumont won the batting title at .357; Jack Chesbro led in wins with 28 and winning percentage at .824; Honus Wagner led in runs with 105, RBI with 91, doubles with 30, stolen bases with 42, and slugging average at .463; and Tommy Leach led the league in triples with 22 and homers with six.
Chicago's Jack Taylor turned in a 1.33 ERA, and in an historic iron-man season, Boston's Vic Willis started 46 games (the sixth-most in the 20th century), completed 45 (second-best), and threw 410 innings, the fifth-best ever.
Check out what made news during the 1902 baseball season on the next page.
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1902 Baseball Season Headlines
The battle of the leagues raged on, but other occurrences during the 1902 baseball season made news as well. Here are some of the 1902 baseball season headlines:
Vic Willis Lugs Heavy Load
Vic Willis set the modern National League record for complete games (45) and also led the circuit in saves (three). The 1902 season was the last year that his Boston Braves finished in the first division until they copped their "Miracle" pennant in 1914.
Jack Chesbro Tops in Wins
Jack Chesbro was one of the last National League stars to jump to the upstart American League, joining New York in 1903. Prior to bailing out, in 1902, Chesbro topped the senior circuit with 28 wins and set a record with 41 consecutive scoreless innings.
Had Chesbro remained with the Pirates, who were much deeper in pitching than the New Yorkers, he would never have won 41 games in a season as he did in 1904. His arm, however, would almost certainly have been the better for it.
Roy Thomas High in OBP
The mystery surrounding Roy Thomas that may never be satisfactorily answered centers on the frequency with which opposing pitchers walked him; the league's leader in bases on balls for seven out of 13 years, Thomas totaled 1,042 walks. His on-base percentage in 1902 (best in the National League) topped his slugging percentage by nearly 100 points.
Rube Waddell Tops American League in Strikeouts
Rube Waddell, the American League's strikeout leader in 1902 (210), began the season with Los Angeles in the Pacific Coast League. After winning 12 games there, he was acquired by the pennant-winning A's and netted another 24 victories, second in the American League only to Cy Young's 32 triumphs.
Joe Tinker Makes His Debut
After starring for Portland in the Pacific Northwest League the previous year, Joe Tinker took over the Cubs' shortstop post in 1902 and went on to lead the National League in both assists and errors. One of the immortal trio (Johnny Evers and Frank Chance were the other two), he gave the Bruins the most service -- 11 full seasons as a regular before he joined the Reds in 1913.
George Davis Hits a Record
George Davis was not inducted into the Hall of Fame until 58 years after his death. After reaching the 2,000-hit mark in 1902 -- a record for switch-hitters -- Davis went on to collect over 600 more (Pete Rose surpassed his 2,660-career hit record in 1976). Davis excelled at every phase of the game and still holds the marks for both the most triples (27, in 1893) and the most RBIs (134, in 1897) in a season by a switch-hitter.
Like Rose, Davis was extremely versatile defensively. Rose began as a second baseman before moving to the outfield and then to third; Davis started as an outfielder before moving to third and then to short.
Socks Seybold Socks 16 Home Runs
A late-season trial with the 1899 Cubs was Socks Seybold's only taste of major league competition prior to the formation of the American League. Past 30 years of age at the time, he gave the A's eight solid seasons -- none of them better than 1902, when he garnered 97 RBIs and tagged 16 home runs, a figure that stood as the loop record until Babe Ruth arrived.
Learn about more highlights from the 1902 baseball season on the next page.
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1902 Baseball Season Highlights
As previously mentioned, the 1902 baseball season was a time of great turmoil as the war between the American League and National league came to a boiling point.
The year was known for battles, both on the field and in the court room; but also for stellar performances by Hall-of-Famers like Jack Chesbro and Cy Young. Here are the highlights from the 1902 baseball season:
- Cleveland rookie Addie Joss tops the American League in shutouts with five.
- Pirates win the National League flag again -- by a record 27-1/2 games.
- Pittsburgh's Jack Chesbro leads the National League in wins (28) and win pct. (.824).
- Pittsburgh's Tommy Leach leads the National League with six homers, fewest by a leader in 20th century.
- The A's win their first American League flag.
- John McGraw jumps the American League in midseason to manage the Giants, but can't keep them out of last place.
- Washington's Ed Delahanty wins the American League batting title (.376) after winning the National League title in 1899.
- Philly's Socks Seybold leads the American League with 16 homers, tying Sam Crawford's 20th-century record.
- Pittsburgh and Brooklyn lead the National League with 19 homers; every American League team but Chicago has more.
- Pirate Ginger Beaumont leads the National League in batting (.357) and hits (193).
- Cy Young again leads the American League in wins with 32.
- Last in the American League in 1901, Milwaukee moves to St. Louis -- the American League's first franchise shift.
- Jack Taylor of second-division Cubs leads the National League in ERA (1.33) and posts a dazzling 23-11 record.
- George Davis of the White Sox has a .951 FA, a new record for shortstops.
- After an erratic showing in the National League, Philly's Rube Waddell goes 24-7 and leads the American League in Ks (210).
- Harry Pulliam is named the National League president.
- The Chicago Daily News coins the nickname "Cubs" for the Chicago National League team.
- Nig Ciarke of the Texas League's Corsicana goes 8-for-8 with eight homers.
- In his American League debut, Danny Murphy of the A's goes 6-for-6 vs. Cy Young.
- Jack Chesbro sets a record with 41 consecutive scoreless innings in the National League.
- Cubs Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance first play together in a game on Sept. 15.
- Chicago's Nixey Callahan no-hits the Tigers on Sept. 20.
- The Pirates are 56-15 at home, the best home record ever in National League.
- Boston's Vic Willis has a National League-record 45 complete games.
- Pete Childs of the Phils has a .266 SA, the lowest ever by a player with more than 400 at-bats.
- Cardinals Jack and Mike O'Neill form the National League's first brother battery.
- White Sox George Davis becomes the first switch-hitter to collect 2,000 hits.
- Sam Mertes of the White Sox plays all nine positions during the season.
- Cleveland makes an American League-record six errors in an inning on June 2.
- Cleveland's Piano Legs Hickman leads the American League in hits (193) and total bases (289).
- Detroit's Ed Siever tops the American League in ERA (1.91) and is the first ERA leader to post a below-.500 win pet.
- Honus Wagner leads the National League in runs (105), doubles (30), SA (.463), and steals (42).
- Braves have two 27-game winners, Vic Willis and Togie Pittinger.
- Phillie Ham Iburg sets a modern National League record for losses in a season (18) by a pitcher in his lone major league season.
- Baltimore's Jimmy Williams again tops the American League in triples (21).
- Red Donahue and Jack Powell lead the second-place Browns with 22 wins apiece.