1917 Baseball Season


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.

1917 Baseball Season Recap
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.

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1917 Baseball Season Headlines

Edd Roush won the National League batting crown, while Rogers Hornsby led the league in triples. Learn about other headlines from the 1917 baseball season below.

Jim Thorpe So-So at Baseball

The reason Jim Thorpe never did much in baseball, allegedly, was because he could not hit breaking-ball pitchers. In 1917, for example, he spent 77 games in Cincinnati, hitting .247 with four home runs and 36 RBI before heading to New York for 26 games, a .193 average, and four RBI. He must have gotten hold of at least a few such pitches during his coda season in 1919, however, when he batted .327. There is no record of the type of pitch Hippo Vaughn threw when Thorpe broke up the greatest no-hit duel in history on May 2, 1917.

Lefty Hippo Vaughn Wins 23

Chicago's Hippo Vaughn (23-13, a 2.01 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and five shutouts in 1917) and Pittsburgh's Wilbur Cooper (17-11, a 2.36 ERA, 99 Ks, and seven shutouts that year) were the two top southpaws in the National League during the late 1910s. Originally with the Yankees, Vaughn won 142 games for the Cubs over a seven-year span before his skills deserted him in 1921.

Max Carey Leads Pitiful Pirates

The Pirates were so bad in 1917 that the 51 RBI collected by Max Carey topped the club that season. With that kind of support, future Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes could manage just a 3-16 record that year.

Ernie Shore Runs Out of Steam

It has still not been decided whether or not Ernie Shore's gem in relief of Babe Ruth, in which he retired the succeeding 27 batters, qualifies as a perfect game. Ruth walked the first Senator of the game, was ejected for arguing the call, and Shore pitched nine perfect innings in relief. In any case, 1917 was Shore's last productive season. He finished as a teammate of Ruth's with the 1920 Yankees.

Rogers Hornsby Tops in SA, Triples

Rogers Hornsby in 1917 was a lean, hungry young Texan of seemingly unlimited hitting ability who had not yet found an infield position to call home. After being stationed mostly at third as a rookie in 1916, he played short all of 1917, posting a league-high .484 slugging average, 17 triples, and 253 total bases.

Dave Robertson Vies for National League Dinger Title

In 1916 and 1917, with nearly a third of his extra-base hits being four-baggers, Dave Robertson tied for the National League home run crown both years with the identical sum of 12. World War I then carved nearly two full seasons out of his career, leaving him with only one more year as a full-time player.

Edd Roush Wins National League Bat Title

The last surviving Federal League participant as well as the last living player of the 1919 World Series, Edd Roush died in 1988 at the age of 94. In 1917, he took the National League batting crown with a .341 average. Something of an iconoclast and very much his own man, Roush was a frequent holdout when he was not offered what he felt was his worth.

Read highlights and summaries of some of the other major events of the 1917 baseball season on the next page.

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1917 Baseball Season Highlights

The 1917 baseball season brought World Series victory to the Chicago White Sox -- and the first pennant in over a decade -- even as it saw the New York Giants bungle their way to embarrassing defeat. Read about the highlights of the 1917 baseball season.
  • Chicago claims its first American League flag since 1906.
  • The Giants return to the top in the National League by a ten-game margin.
  • The White Sox win the 1917 World Series in six games.
    1917 Baseball Season Highlights
    White Sox pitcher Red
    Faber was the last legal
    spitballer in the
    American League.

  • Red Faber wins three games in the 1917 World Series for the Sox.
  • Dave Robertson of the Giants collects 11 hits in the 1917 World Series, hitting .500.
  • In game six of the 1917 World Series, New York's Heinie Zimmerman botches a run-down, allowing Eddie Collins to score.
  • Edd Roush of Cincinnati takes his first National League bat crown (.341).
  • Cardinal Rogers Hornsby tops the National League in total bases (253), triples (17), and SA (.484).
  • Pete Alexander wins 30 for the third consecutive year.
  • Ty Cobb reclaims the American League bat crown with a .383 BA, tops in the majors.
  • Cobb leads in hits (225), total bases (336), doubles (44), triples (23), OBP (.444), and SA (.571).
  • Eddie Cicotte tops American League in wins (28).
  • Cincinnati's Fred Toney and Chicago's Hippo Vaughn pitch double no-hit games on May 2, though Vaughn loses his in the tenth.
  • On May 2, Toney beats Vaughn 1-0 in ten innings to break up a double no-hit game.
  • Cleveland's Ray Chapman sets a major league record with 67 sacrifice hits.
  • In August, the Pirates play a record four consecutive extra-inning games.
  • George Mogridge of the Yankees no-hits Boston on April 24.

For more highlights from the 1917 baseball season, check out our final section.

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More 1917 Baseball Season Highlights

In 1917, Ty Cobb showed he could still set records, and Babe Ruth got himself ejected from a game for arguing with an umpire. See even more highlights of the 1917 baseball season.

  • Ernie Koob of St. Louis no-hits the White Sox on May 5.
  • On May 6, Bob Groom of St. Louis again no-hits the Sox.
  • Three weeks before two Brownies no-hit his team, Eddie Cicotte no-hits the Browns on April 14.
  • On June 23, Boston's Babe Ruth walks the first Senator of the game, argues the call, and is ejected.
  • On June 23, Ernie Shore relieves Ruth and retires the next 27 batters.
  • Donie Bush of Detroit tops the majors in runs with 112.
  • Bobby Veach of Detroit wins the American League RBI crown with 103.
  • Sore-armed Reb Russell of Chicago leads the American League in win pct. (.750).
  • Max Carey once again heads the National League in thefts (46).
  • Heinie Zimmerman leads the National League in RBI (102) and runs produced (158).
  • The Pirates hire Hugo Bedzek, a college football coach, as their manager.
  • Ferdie Schupp of New York tops the National League in win pct. (.750).
  • Giant Dave Robertson and Gavvy Cravath tie for the National League home run crown with 12.
  • Wally Pipp repeats as the American League homer king (nine).
  • The Pirates finish last for the first time in the 20th Century.
  • The Pirates move Honus Wagner to first base where he hits .265; Wagner retires after the season.
  • Walter Johnson slips to 23 wins and leads the American League in only Ks (188).
  • Ty Cobb hits safely in 35 consecutive games.
  • Tigers have three men in the top four in RBI, including Veach (103), Cobb (102), and Harry Heilmann (86).
  • On June 17, the Braves' Hank Gowdy becomes the first Major League player to enlist in the service for World War I.

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