For the 1912 baseball season, three new ballparks opened -- Fenway, Navin Field (later Tiger Stadium), and Cincinnati's Redland Field (later Crosley Field) -- and, coincidentally or not, the major leagues reached the offensive peak of the decade. The National League hit .272, the American League hit .265, and all batting stats were up -- especially triples. Three of the all-time Top Ten triples seasons came in 1912: Ty Cobb's 23 (which tied for tenth), Joe Jackson's 26 (which tied for second), and Pittsburgh outfielder Owen Wilson's major-league record 36.
Third baseman Heinie Zimmerman of the third-place Cubs was the league's best hitter. Although he led in doubles with 41, home runs with 14, batting at .372, and slugging at .571, he lost out in the Chalmers voting to New York's Larry Doyle. Doyle's .330 average, Red Murray's 20 triples and 92 RBI, and Fred Merkle's 11 home runs paced a hard-hitting, hard-running Giants team that stole a league-high 319 bases and scored 823 runs, No. 1 in the National League.
Rube Marquard had
a 19-game winning
streak during the
1912 baseball season.
The 103-48 Giants also led the league in team ERA at 2.58. Christy Mathewson went 23-12 and, again, New York had the only National League pitcher to break the 2.00 ERA mark as 23-year-old spitball specialist Jeff Tesreau took the ERA title at 1.96. Rube Marquard won a league-high 26 games, 19 of them coming in a consecutive-win streak that lasted from April 11 to July 3; this tied the 19th-century record set by another Giant, Tim Keefe, in 1888.
The Boston Red Sox rolled over their competition in the American League, compiling, in the process, the decade's highest winning percentage (.691), going 105-47. That put them 14 games up on a Washington Senators team that was lifted single-handedly out of the second division by Walter Johnson, who went 33-12 with a league-leading 1.39 ERA.
Johnson and Boston's Smokey Joe Wood -- who was second in the loop with a 1.91 ERA, a 34-5 record and ten shutouts -- engaged in a personal battle over the American League record for consecutive pitching victories. In early September, Wood had 13 straight victories and was threatening Johnson's record of 16, set early that same season when he met Johnson face-to-face in a dramatic showdown. Wood came out on top in a tight pitcher's duel, 1-0, then went on to tie the record before finally losing to Detroit on September 20.
American League Chalmers Award-winner Tris Speaker hit a league-leading 53 doubles and ten home runs for Boston while batting .383; the Red Sox center fielder also put together a 30-game hitting streak.
Cobb's suspension in May for attacking a heckler in the stands in New York contributed to one of the most bizarre events in major-league history. Angry that their best player had been suspended indefinitely (he hit .410 -- his second consecutive year over .400), the Tigers refused to take the field in a game against Philadelphia, forcing management to recruit amateur ballplayers, former major leaguers, and even some fans from the stands to avoid a forfeit.
Seminarian and pitcher Allan Travers set an all-time record for runs allowed in the 24-2 loss. One of the replacement players, a supporter by the name of Ed Irvin, tripled twice in three times up for a lifetime .667 batting average. Cobb was reinstated by the next Tigers game.
The 1912 World Series was a thrilling, eight-game contest that featured a variety of drama. There was a tie, called by darkness. There was great defense, including the bare-handed catch of a Doyle home run by Red Sox outfielder Harry Hooper. And there was a critical dropped fly ball in the tenth inning of game eight by New York center fielder Fred Snodgrass; it came to be known as the "$30,000 Muff" (the dollar amount referring to the winner's share). Boston won the 1912 World Series four games to three.Check out what made headlines during the 1912 baseball season on the next page.
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