The 1918 baseball season was cut short when America actively entered World War I. It was a development that not only affected the outcome of both pennant races but also made the home run revolution of the 1920s possible by indirectly causing Babe Ruth's conversion into an outfielder.

War had formally been declared in April of 1917, but players did not begin to join the armed services in significant numbers until Provost Marshall General Crowder issued his "work or fight" order in June of 1918. Unlike in World War II, baseball made no attempt to claim essential employment status on the grounds of aiding public morale, and the government ordered the season cut off on Labor Day, September 2. Personnel losses due to the enlistment or drafting of major leaguers were the biggest factor in both pennant races.

1918 Baseball Season Recap
When the Boston Red Sox
manager was drafted into
WWI, executive Ed
Barrow stepped in to
manage the team.
In the Amerian League, the defending champion White Sox lost Red Faber, Swede Risberg, Joe Jackson, Happy Felsch, and Lefty Williams; they dropped to sixth place, 17 games out. A depleted Cleveland Indians team finished second, only 21/2 games behind, thanks to big hitting seasons from Tris Speaker and shortstop Ray Chapman; they scored the most runs in the league with 504. The winner was a completely overhauled Boston Red Sox team that was run by executive Ed Barrow after manager Jack Barry was drafted.

Barrow filled the holes in his lineup by acquiring Stuffy Mclnnis, Wally Schang, and Bullet Joe Bush from the last-place Athletics and altered the course of history by playing staff ace Ruth in the outfield, mostly against righties, between starts.

The Babe went 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA on the mound but batted .300 with 11 triples, 11 home runs, and 66 RBI (third-best in the American League) in his 317 times at bat. He tied Philadelphia's Tilly Walker (who batted 414 times) for the league-lead in homers, the first of his 12 career home run titles. After he swatted a record 29 round-trippers the following year, Ruth's career as a pitcher was over.

The 31-year-old Ty Cobb won the 1918 batting title at .382, as well as leading in triples with 14. Walter Johnson won 23 games, most in the league, and the ERA title at 1.27.

For the defending National League champion New York Giants, the war cost them outfielder Benny Kauff and pitchers Rube Benton and Jeff Tesreau; McGraw's team finished second, 101/2 games behind Chicago. The relatively intact Cubs turned the pennant race into a cakewalk on the strength of Fred Merkle's .297 batting average and 65 RBI, outfielder Max Flack's ten triples and 74 runs, and Hippo Vaughn's league-leading 22 wins and 1.74 ERA.

Brooklyn's Zach Wheat won the batting title at .335, nosing out the Reds' Edd Roush at .333. The third-place Reds suspended first baseman Hal Chase 74 games into the season for what was euphemistically termed "indifferent play" -- in other words, fixing ball games for gamblers. The enigmatic Chase, whose enormous personal charm masked what one teammate called his "corkscrew mind," was given one more chance by the Giants.

The 1918 World Series set the stage for a players strike. Rumors that the players would not be paid their prize money (a $2,000 share for each winner, a $1,400 share for each loser) had spread. After approaching the National Commission and receiving no support, the players planned to boycott the rest of the event (the 1918 World Series stood at three games to one, Red Sox).

With almost 25,000 fans in attendance at game four, Boston Mayor Fitzgerald made a public appeal to the patriotism of the players, who ultimately gave in; the owners, however, somehow escaped adhering to the players' compromise proposal that all proceeds from the Series be donated to a war charity.

The Red Sox won the 1918 World Championship, four games to two.

Check out the next page for headlines from the 1918 baseball season.

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1918 Baseball Season Headlines

Although World War I had a major impact on the game and, obviously, the world, there were still plenty of baseball headlines to take note of in 1918.

Charlie Hollocher Leads National League in Hits

The scouting report on Charlie Hollocher when he joined the Cubs in 1918 was that he was a fine-fielding shortstop, not much of a hitter, and pretty shaky upstairs. The scouts were wrong on the second count, dead accurate otherwise. He posted a .316 average and a National League-high 161 hits in 509 at-bats that year, nailing 23 doubles, six triples, a pair of home runs, and 38 RBI. In 1922, his last full season, he hit .340, led all National League shortstops in fielding, and fanned just five times. He took a gun to himself 18 years later with fatal results.

Hippo Vaughn All Alone at 22

Because the curtain closed the 1918 regular season on Labor Day, reducing the number of games played by some teams to as few as 124, Hippo Vaughn of the Cubs was the lone National League hurler to win in excess of 20 games (22 victories). Two other Cubs, Lefty Tyler and Claude Hendrix, won 19 contests that year, giving the Bruins three of the National League's top five winners.

Benny Kauff Departs Early

The leading hitter on the second-place Giants in 1918, Benny Kauff played just 67 games before his season was ended by a military call-up, turning in a .315 average, two home runs, and 39 RBI. Almost every team suffered at least one key loss that year to Uncle Sam; no club, however, was hit harder than the defending champion White Sox, who lost Joe Jackson, Swede Risberg, Red Faber, Lefty Williams, Eddie Collins, and Happy Felsch (among others) and fell to sixth place.

Art Nehf Hurls 20 Scoreless Innings

Art Nehf was an excellent pitcher who fell just a shade short of stardom. He posted a 2.69 ERA in 284 innings in 1918, hurling 20 scoreless innings against Pittsburgh on August 1 only to lose 2-0 in 21 frames. His last major league appearance came with the Cubs in the catastrophic seventh inning of game four of the 1929 World Series, when the Philadelphia A's tallied ten runs. Nehf had pitched in four Series with the Giants prior to that performance, becoming the New York ballclub's lone hurler to win 20 games during the run when the Giants copped a National League-record four consecutive flags.

Zach Wheat Takes National League Bat Title

Two years after he topped the National League in total bases, Zach Wheat in 1918 became the last player to lead the senior loop in batting (.335) without hitting a single home run. To deepen the mystery, he collected just 18 extra-base hits and scored only 39 runs that season. Come 1920 and the arrival of the lively ball era, he jumped to 48 extra-base hits and 89 tallies.

Jeff Tesreau Calls It Quits after the War

Jeff Tesreau was one of the few players who did not return to the majors upon completing his part in the war effort (he closed his career with a 4-4 record in 1918, striking out 31 batters and posting a 2.31 ERA). Indeed, most major leaguers came through the experience virtually unscathed. Of the handful who perished, perhaps the most promising was Ralph Sharman, a young outfielder with the 1917 A's who died in the influenza epidemic.

To read highlights from the 1918 baseball season, see the next page.

To learn more about baseball, see:

1918 Baseball Season Headlines

Although the start of World War I had a major impact on the game and, obviously, the world, there were still plenty of baseball headlines to take note of in 1918.

Charlie Hollocher Leads National League in Hits

The scouting report on Charlie Hollocher when he joined the Cubs in 1918 was that he was a fine-fielding shortstop, not much of a hitter, and pretty shaky upstairs. The scouts were wrong on the second count, dead accurate otherwise. He posted a .316 average and a National League-high 161 hits in 509 at-bats that year, nailing 23 doubles, six triples, a pair of home runs, and 38 RBI. In 1922, his last full season, he hit .340, led all National League shortstops in fielding, and fanned just five times. He took a gun to himself 18 years later with fatal results.

Hippo Vaughn All Alone at 22

Because the curtain closed the 1918 regular season on Labor Day, reducing the number of games played by some teams to as few as 124, Hippo Vaughn of the Cubs was the lone National League hurler to win in excess of 20 games (22 victories). Two other Cubs, Lefty Tyler and Claude Hendrix, won 19 contests that year, giving the Bruins three of the National League's top five winners.

Benny Kauff Departs Early

The leading hitter on the second-place Giants in 1918, Benny Kauff played just 67 games before his season was ended by a military call-up, turning in a .315 average, two home runs, and 39 RBI. Almost every team suffered at least one key loss that year to Uncle Sam; no club, however, was hit harder than the defending champion White Sox, who lost Joe Jackson, Swede Risberg, Red Faber, Lefty Williams, Eddie Collins, and Happy Felsch (among others) and fell to sixth place.

Art Nehf Hurls 20 Scoreless Innings

Art Nehf was an excellent pitcher who fell just a shade short of stardom. He posted a 2.69 ERA in 284 innings in 1918, hurling 20 scoreless innings against Pittsburgh on August 1 only to lose 2-0 in 21 frames. His last major league appearance came with the Cubs in the catastrophic seventh inning of game four of the 1929 World Series, when the Philadelphia A's tallied ten runs. Nehf had pitched in four Series with the Giants prior to that performance, becoming the New York ballclub's lone hurler to win 20 games during the run when the Giants copped a National League-record four consecutive flags.

Zach Wheat Takes National League Bat Title

Two years after he topped the National League in total bases, Zach Wheat in 1918 became the last player to lead the senior loop in batting (.335) without hitting a single home run. To deepen the mystery, he collected just 18 extra-base hits and scored only 39 runs that season. Come 1920 and the arrival of the lively ball era, he jumped to 48 extra-base hits and 89 tallies.

Jeff Tesreau Calls It Quits after the War

Jeff Tesreau was one of the few players who did not return to the majors upon completing his part in the war effort (he closed his career with a 4-4 record in 1918, striking out 31 batters and posting a 2.31 ERA). Indeed, most major leaguers came through the experience virtually unscathed. Of the handful who perished, perhaps the most promising was Ralph Sharman, a young outfielder with the 1917 A's who died in the influenza epidemic.

To read highlights from the 1918 baseball season, see the next page.

To learn more about baseball, see:

1918 Baseball Season Highlights

The 1918 baseball season was the first to be dramatically affected by World War I -- the American and National Leagues both lost players to the war effort. The games went on, however, and legendary players like Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson continued to thrill fans. Read highlights of the 1918 baseball season below.

  • The Red Sox vault back to the top in the American League.

    St. Louis Browns' George Sisler
    St. Louis Browns' George
    Sisler led the American League
    in stolen bases.

  • The Cubs are an easy National League winner.

  • Owing to World War I, the season is ended on Labor Day, Sept. 2.

  • The Red Sox triumph in a six-game World Series that begins on Sept. 5 and ends on Sept. 11, 1918.

  • George Sisler wins the American League stolen base crown with 45.

  • Babe Ruth extends his World Series scoreless streak to 29.2 innings.

  • The players strike prior to game five for higher World Series shares, but then back off.

  • George Whiteman, a career minor leaguer, is the 1918 World Series hero, though he'll never play in the majors again.

  • Ty Cobb leads the American League and the majors at .382.

  • Walter Johnson tops the majors in wins (23) and Ks (162).

  • Walter Johnson pitches 300 or more innings for a record ninth consecutive year.

  • Babe Ruth, still a part-time pitcher, ties for the American League homer lead with 11.

  • Detroit's Bobby Veach collects 78 RBI, most in the majors.

  • Chicago's Hippo Vaughn leads the National League with 22 wins.

  • The majority of the minor leagues shut down in midseason due to the war.

  • Cubs rookie Charlie Hollocher leads the National League in hits with 161.

  • Many players are drafted or else enlist in war, including Cincy manager Christy Mathewson.

  • While in the service, Mathewson is accidentally gassed and subsequently contracts tuberculosis.

  • Philadelphia's Scott Perry tops the American League in innings with 332, an American League rookie record.

  • Scott Perry wins 20 games for the last-place A's, who play just 130 games.

To read more highlights from the 1918 baseball season, see the next page.

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