Pete Alexander was number one in ERA for 1919.
Pete Alexander was number one in ERA for 1919.

With the end of World War I in 1919, both baseball and the nation as a whole returned to business as usual. For some ballplayers during the 1919 baseball season, "business as usual" unfortunately meant plotting with gamblers to fix games.

Gambling-related scandals had been a part of baseball going back to the mid-19th century, but in 1919 the national pastime suffered the ultimate corruption: the intentional throwing of the 1919 World Series by eight members of the Chicago White Sox.

In a season limited to 140 games by a baseball establishment still worried about its patriotic image, Cincinnati compiled a 96-44 record to run away with the National League pennant by 9 games over second-place New York.

The Giants had the league's best offense, scoring 605 runs on the strength of good years from George Burns (who led the league in stolen bases with 40, runs with 86, and walks with 82), Benny Kauff, and budding superstar Ross Youngs. A hustling right fielder who would finish with a .322 lifetime batting average in a ten-year career tragically cut short by death from Bright's disease at age 30, the popular Youngs led all National League hitters in doubles with 31. At .311, he was third in batting behind Rogers Hornsby's .318 and Edd Roush's .321.

The Reds had a two-prong attack. They had Roush, Heinie Groh, Jake Daubert, and little leadoff hitter Morrie Rath; and they had a staff that allowed the fewest runs in the league and included 20-game winners Slim Sallee and Hod Eller, as well as Dutch Ruether, who recorded the third-lowest ERA in the league at 1.81. Although the Cubs' Pete Alexander and Hippo Vaughn were one and two in ERA at 1.72 and 1.79, their team scored the fewest runs in the National League and came in third, 21 games out.

In the American League race, an illusory powerhouse in Chicago had an unexpectedly difficult time shaking Cleveland and New York -- or perhaps the cabal later responsible for the 1919 World Series fix was dumping games for money down the stretch -- before finally finishing at 88-52, 31/2 up on Cleveland. The White Sox offense was powered by the .351-hitting Joe Jackson (who drove in 96 runs), Eddie Collins (who stole an American League-high 33 bases), and Happy Felsch. Their pitching staff allowed the second-fewest runs in the league thanks to 29-game winner Eddie Cicotte and 23-game winner Lefty Williams, who, with a combined 604 innings pitched, carried most of the load.

Walter Johnson of the seventh-place Senators led in ERA at 1.49; Cicotte was second at 1.82. Detroit's Ty Cobb won the batting title at .384, but from the direction of Boston came the first distant rumblings of the coming home run explosion from Babe Ruth. In 432 at-bats, Ruth hit 29 home runs -- 19 more than runners-up Tilly Walker, George Sisler, and Frank Baker -- and led the American League in runs with 103 and RBI with 114. His .657 slugging average set a 20th-century record that would stand until Ruth himself broke it the following year -- by almost 200 points.

The Reds won the crooked best-of-nine 1919 World Series five games to three. The most dramatic moments -- seen in retrospect, as the scandal didn't break until the following year -- came in games three and six, when pitcher Dickie Kerr overcame the best efforts of his eight dishonest teammates to win 3-0 and 5-4.

The best-known player in on the fix, Jackson, always maintained afterward that he was innocent. He pointed to his 1919 World Series-high .375 batting average and six RBI, although he never explained why he accepted money from the conspirators beforehand with free knowledge of their plans.

Check out some of the headlines from the 1919 baseball season on the next page.

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1919 Baseball Season Headlines

Although the World Series fix was the biggest headline of the 1919 baseball season, there was also positive news worth noting. Find some of the headlines below.

Lefty Williams Blows Series

Lefty Williams joined the White Sox in 1916 after fashioning a 33-12 record for Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League the previous year. He went 23-11 with a 2.64 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 1919, then set a 1919 World Series record by losing three games in as many starts. He had assumed the place of Babe Ruth as the top southpaw in the American League when he was implicated in the Black Sox scandal.

Hod Eller Wins 20 for 1919 Cincinnati Reds

Hod Eller appeared to have a prosperous career ahead of him when he first won 20 games in 1919 and a pair of contests in the 1919 World Series, yet less than two years later he was out of the majors. Slim Sallee, the Reds' other 20-game winner in 1919, was also gone after 1921.

George Burns Up Bases

Both the National League and the American League had a standout player named George Burns in 1919. The two have remarkably similar career stats. George J. Burns of the Giants, however, was the better of the two at coaxing walks, stealing bases, and scoring runs. He racked up 82 bases-on-balls, 40 swipes, and 86 runs, all tops in the National League in 1919. He was, in fact, the best in the National League in all three departments for almost a full decade.

1919 Chicago White Sox Take American League Flag

Eddie Collins, the American League stolen base king in 1919, had 33 swipes. Other notables on the 1919 Chicago White Sox were manager Kid Gleason, Joe Jackson, and Buck Weaver. Jackson tallied 12 hits and hit .375 in the World Series, but was kicked out of baseball anyway. In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Jackson came back from the dead to collect a few more at-bats.

Tris Speaker Sparks Tribe to 2nd

Tris Speaker was the second great Cleveland player to be appointed player/manager. Unlike his predecessor, Nap Lajoie, Speaker enjoyed almost instant success. Under him, the Indians put on a stretch drive that nearly overhauled the White Sox in 1919. Yet Speaker himself slumped, hitting just .296 that year, a result of being saddled with the additional responsibility of managing.

Ty Cobb Earns Last BA Title

In 1919, Ty Cobb picked up his last batting crown with a .384 average. In 1920, nearing 34 years of age, he seemed to have lost something when he hit just .334, his lowest average in 12 years. Cobb rebounded from the lapse to hit .389 in 1921 and .401 the year after.

For highlights of the 1919 baseball season, see the next page.

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1919 Baseball Season Highlights

Ty Cobb won his final American League batting crown during the 1919 baseball season. See more baseball seasons pictures.

The 1919 baseball season was notable not only because of the thrown World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds but also because of the achievements of Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Edd Roush, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. See highlights of the 1919 baseball season below.

  • White Sox win the American League flag.
  • The Reds take their first National League flag.
  • The 1919 World Series is extended to a best-of-nine affair for extra revenue, and the Reds triumph in eight.
  • Suspicions are raised that the White Sox may have thrown the 1919 World Series.
  • Joe Jackson, one of the Sox under suspicion, leads all 1919 World Series players with 12 hits and a .375 BA.
  • White Sox Lefty Williams sets a Series record when he loses three games in three starts.
  • Williams wins 23 games in the regular season.
  • Hod Eller of the Reds is the pitching star of the 1919 World Series with two CG wins.
  • The season is abbreviated to 140 games because of the war.
  • Cincinnati's Edd Roush wins his second National League bat crown in three years (.321).
  • Ty Cobb wins his final American League bat crown (.384).
  • Babe Ruth hits a major league record 29 homers.
  • Ruth also tops the American League in runs (103), RBI (114), SA (.657), OBP (.456), and total bases (284).
  • On September 28, the Giants beat the Phils 6-1 in a record 51 minutes.
  • Eddie Cicotte of the White Sox tops the majors in wins with 29, finishing 29-7 with a 1.82 ERA.
  • Cicotte tops the majors with 30 CGs and ties for the American League lead in innings with 307.

For even more highlights of the 1919 baseball season, see the next page of this article.

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More 1919 Baseball Season Highlights

Following are some of the other highlights of the 1919 baseball season, including Babe Ruth's record four grandslams in one season.

  • Pete Alexander returns to the game with the Cubs and tops the National League in ERA (1.72).
  • The Giants release Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, and Jean Dubuc, and they never play in the majors again.
  • The A's finish last for the fifth straight year.
  • On July 7, Giant catcher Mike Gonzalez allows eight stolen bases in an inning.
  • Babe Ruth becomes the first to hit four grandslams in a season.
  • Ruth becomes the first to hit a homer during the season in every American League park.
  • Doc Johnston of Cleveland sets a new American League record when he collects nine consecutive hits.
  • Ed Konetchy of Brooklyn sets a 20th-Century National League record with ten consecutive hits.
  • Ray Caldwell of Cleveland no-hits New York on September 10.
  • Walter Johnson pitches a record fifth Opening Day shutout, 1-0 over the A's in 13 innings.
  • Hod Eller no-hits the Cards on May 11.
  • Joe Oeschger of the Phils and Burleigh Grimes of Brooklyn battle to a 9-9, 20-inning tie on April 30.
  • Joe Wilhoit of Wichita in the Western League hits in an OB record 69 consecutive games.
  • Giant George Burns tops the National League in runs (86), walks (82), and steals (40).
  • Gavvy Cravath leads the National League in homers (12) despite having only 214 at-bats.
  • Cards new manager Rogers Hornsby is the National League runner-up in BA (.318).
  • Chicago's Hippo Vaughn leads the National League in innings (307) and Ks (141).
  • Tris Speaker leads the American League in total chances by an outfielder for a record eighth straight season.
  • The last-place Phils are so short of pitching that Lee Meadows is the staff leader with just eight wins. ­
  • The Pirates' keystone combo of George Cutshaw and Zeb Terry both top the National League in FA at their position.
  • Al Sothoron is the Browns' first 20-game winner since 1903.

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