Both leagues used the lively, cork-centered ball throughout the 1911 season, bringing if not the end of the dead-ball era, then at least a holiday from it. Pitchers were put on the defensive as major league runs scored totals and batting averages shot up: the National League batted .260; the American League, .273. Two teams in the American League, Philadelphia and Detroit, batted over .290.
The New York Giants won the pennant, thanks to the league's best offense. Catcher Chief Meyers hit .332 and second baseman Larry Doyle slugged 25 triples (tied for fifth-best all-time) and scored 102 runs; John McGraw's team racked up 756 runs. All this run production didn't inhibit the Giants on the basepaths. Outfielder Josh Devore stole 61 bases, second in the league to Cincinnati's Bob Bescher with 81, and was followed on the leader board by teammates Fred Snodgrass at 51 and Fred Merkle at 49.
As a team, New York swiped a modern record 347 bases, 58 more than runner-up Cincinnati. The Giants also had the National League's best pitching staff, anchored by Christy Mathewson (who won 26 games and was the only National League pitcher with an ERA below 2.00 at 1.99) and Rube Marquard (who in his first full year in the rotation went 24-7).
The loss of Johnny Evers due to a nervous breakdown in May probably cost the Cubs the pennant, as they came in 7-1/2 games off the pace. Chicago's Wildfire Schulte won the National League Chalmers Award after tying with Pittsburgh's Chief Wilson for the lead in the league in RBI (107) and topping the circuit in home runs (21). Honus Wagner, age 37, won his final batting title at .334 for third-place Pittsburgh. Philadelphia, in fourth place, was buoyed by rookie sensation Pete Alexander. At 24 years of age, Alexander went 28-13 (with seven shutouts and a 2.57 ERA) to lead the NL in wins.
In the American League, Connie Mack's powerhouse repeated, but not without being given a run for its money by good-hit, no-pitch Detroit. Second to last in team ERA, the Tigers held first place for much of the first half of the season on the strength of the one-two punch of Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, who were first and second in the American League in RBI with 127 and 115.
Crawford batted .378 and slugged .526, both third-best. Cobb led in runs with 147, hits with 248, doubles with 47, triples with 24, and stolen bases with 83 and won the Chalmers Award. Cobb and Cleveland's Joe Jackson batted .420 and .408 to become the only men to break the .400 barrier between 1901 and 1920. The A's scored an American League-high 861 runs and batted a league-topping .296; their big gun was third baseman Frank "Home Run" Baker, who led the league in homers with 11 and drove in 115 runs.
The death of pitching legend Addie Joss from meningitis provoked an outpouring of grief all over the baseball world. A 160-97 lifetime pitcher over nine seasons with perennial contender Cleveland, the popular Joss left a 1.89 career ERA, the second-lowest in history.
With the Giants hitters held to a puny .175 batting average in the 1911 World Series, Mathewson, Marquard, and the rest of the New York staff managed a pair of one-run victories in games one and five. They pitched just well enough to lose 3-1, 3-2, and 4-2 in games two, three, and four. The deciding blows were two game-winning home runs by Baker, one off each of the Giants aces, in games two and three. Baker collected two more hits in Chief Bender's 13-2, four-hit win in game six. For the Series, Baker batted .375 and led all hitters in runs with seven, RBI with five, and home runs with two.
To see what made headlines during the 1911 baseball season, continue to the next page.