1921 Baseball Season

Harry Heilmann was a top hitter for Detroit in 1921.
Harry Heilmann was a top hitter for Detroit in 1921.

The home run revolution rolled on in both leagues during the 1921 baseball season, as the majors' homer production increased by about 50 percent over 1920. Babe Ruth, of course, led the way, as he cracked a record-setting 59 home runs for the first great team of the New York Yankees dynasty.

This may have been Ruth's finest season ever. He set all-time major league records for runs with 177 and total bases with 457. He also boasted an .846 slugging average -- just one percentage point below his 1920 mark. Moreover, Ruth batted .378 in 1921, walked 144 times, and knocked in 171 runs.


Teammate Bob Meusel batted .318, drove in 135 runs (third-best in the American League), and hit 24 home runs (tied for second in the American League with St. Louis' Ken Williams). Besides receiving the best support in the league, the New York pitching staff was first in team ERA at 3.79 and strikeouts with 481. Staff workhorse Carl Mays went 27-9 and led the American League in wins, games, and innings pitched. Righthander Waite Hoyt (age 21) went 19-13 with a 3.10 ERA, fourth-best in the league behind Mays' 3.04.

Tris Speaker's Indians finished second, 41/2 games back behind New York, as Speaker hit .362 and led all hitters with 52 doubles. Sixth-place Detroit featured a strong hitting duo of young Harry Heilmann (who won the batting title at .394) and old Ty Cobb, who was second in hitting at .389, fifth in runs with 124, and third in slugging at .596.

John McGraw won his seventh National League pennant by four games over Pittsburgh behind strong performances from George Kelly, the National League home run leader with 23; Frankie Frisch, who was first in stolen bases with 49 and second in runs with 121; and Ross Youngs, who was third in RBI with 102. The Giants fended off a season-long challenge from a strong-armed Pirates team that compiled the league's lowest ERA at 3.16, thanks to Babe Adams (runner-up in ERA at 2.64) and Whitey Glazner (third in ERA at 2.77).

Rogers Hornsby, of third-place St. Louis, dominated the National League hitters even more completely than Ruth did the American League's. Hornsby took the batting title with a .397 average, and also led the National League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, total bases, RBI, on-base average, and slugging.

Interestingly, a year after baseball's limited prohibition of the spitball, pitching categories in both leagues were dominated by the 17 legal spitball pitchers. In the American League, Chicago's Red Faber led in ERA at 2.47 and won 25 games; St. Louis' Urban Shocker led in wins with 27. In the National League, Cardinal Bill Doak won the ERA title at 2.58 and led in winning percentage at .714; Brooklyn's Burleigh Grimes spat his way to a league-leading 22 wins.

The first-ever "Subway Series" demonstrated that the New York Giants' bad postseason luck had changed, as the National League champs overcame a 2-0 deficit to win in eight games. The Giants were helped by a Ruth injury that kept him out of action for games seven and eight, which were won by the Giants 2-1 and 1-0.

Pitching decided the 1921 World Series, as Giants Jesse Barnes and Phil Douglas went 4-1 with a combined ERA under 2.00. Waite Hoyt was the only pitching bright spot for the Yankees, compiling a 2-1 record with an ERA of 0.00 (Hoyt lost game eight 1-0 on an unearned run). Ruth's then-Manhattan Bombers were outhit .269 to .207, and matched in team home runs two apiece.

Check out the next page for some of the major headlines of the 1921 baseball season.

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1921 Baseball Season Headlines

While Babe Ruth was the subject of many headlines due to his outstanding season, other baseball players made the news in 1921 for these and other accomplishments:

Baby Doll Jacobson Bats .352

Despite a belated start -- he didn't stick in the majors until he was nearly 27 years of age -- Baby Doll Jacobson totaled 1,714 hits and posted a .311 career average over 11 years. In 1921, he racked up a .352 average, 211 hits, five home runs, and 90 RBI. He spent more than nine seasons as a Brownie.


Polo Hosts NY Affair

All the games of the 1920 World Series -- the first-ever "Subway" series -- were played in the Polo Grounds, the home park of both the New York Giants and the Yankees.

Harry Heilmann Rises to .394

Most great hitters display their superiority almost from the first day they don a major league uniform. Harry Heilmann was the exception. After his first six seasons, his career batting average was .291. In his next season, 1921, he led the American League with a whopping .394 average.

George Toporcer Wears Specs

In 1921, George Toporcer broke a barrier that was nearly as strong as the color line that existed until 1947. Toporcer became the first bespectacled player other than a pitcher to perform in Major League Baseball. A light hitter whose glovework also left something to be desired, Toporcer was never more than a utility man; he hit .264 and had a pair of RBI in 53 at-bats in 1921. He did, however, pave the way for other bespectacled players.

Jack Tobin Nets 236 Hits

Jack Tobin was another Federal League alumnus who subsequently had a substantial career in the majors. In 1921, Tobin corralled 236 hits and scored 132 runs for a Browns team that may have had the best lineup in the American League. Only Urban Shocker, however, kept the Browns from having the worst pitching staff in the majors (he won 27).

Stan Coveleski Still Going Strong

Stan Coveleski was one of the few fortunate pitchers permitted to throw spitballs until they retired. The 1921 season was the fourth in a row in which Coveleski won 22 or more games for the Indians (he had a 23-13 record that year). His three complete-game victories in the 1920 World Series were the high point of his career.

See the next page for highlights of the 1921 baseball season.

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1921 Baseball Season Highlights

Burleigh Grimes led the National League in 1921 in CGs and Ks and tied for the lead in wins.
Burleigh Grimes led the National League in 1921 in CGs and Ks and tied for the lead in wins.

The 1921 baseball season prominently featured the great Babe Ruth in one of his best seasons. Despite this, the New York Giants beat the Yankees in the 1921 World Series. Read more highlights of the 1921 baseball season below.

  • The Yankees win their first American League pennant, leaving only the Senators and Browns winless.
  • The Giants grab their first National League flag since 1917.
  • In the last best-of-nine World Series and the first "Subway Series," the Giants beat the Yanks in eight.
  • Yank Waite Hoyt has two wins and a perfect 0.00 ERA in three starts but loses the 1921 World Series finale 1-0.
  • A first-inning error by Yankees shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh leads to the only run in game eight of the 1921 World Series.
  • Irish Meusel is the 1921 World Series' top batsman with ten hits and seven RBI.
  • Babe Ruth clubs 59 homers to shatter his own year-old record.
  • Ruth produces an all-time record 457 total bases.
  • Ruth scores an all-time record 177 runs.
  • Ruth sets a new major league RBI record with 171.
  • The A's finish last in the American League for an all-time record seventh straight year.
  • Ruth hits his 137th career homer, breaking Roger Connor's record mark of 136.
  • Yank Carl Mays leads the American League in win pct. (.750) and ties for the lead in wins (27) and saves (seven).
  • Detroit's Harry Heilmann hits .394 to win his first American League bat title.
  • Heilmann also tops the American League in hits with 237.

Find more highlights of the 1921 baseball season in our final section.


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More 1921 Baseball Season Highlights

Following are more highlights from the 1921 baseball season, including the first radio broadcast of a baseball game in Pittsburgh on August 25.

  • Rogers Hornsby, now installed at second for the Cards, cops his second National League bat crown at .397.
  • The introduction of a livelier ball results in the Tigers hitting .316.
  • Red Faber's American League-leading 2.47 ERA is the only ERA figure below 3.00 in that circuit.
  • On August 25, Harold Arlin of radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh does the first broadcast of a baseball game.
  • Rogers Hornsby tops the NL in hits (235), RBI (126), runs (131), doubles (44), and total bases (378).
  • Hornsby leads in runs produced (236), OBP (.458), and SA (.639), as well as tying in triples (18).
  • Red Faber and Dickie Kerr win 44 of the White Sox's 62 victories.
  • The White Sox, the game's most powerful team just two years earlier, sink to seventh place.
  • Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley buys the Cubs.
  • The American League as a whole hits a record .292.
  • On April 28, Cleveland pitcher George Uhle collects six RBI in a game.
  • The game's moguls rule that 17 pitchers can continue to use the spitball for the rest of their careers.
  • Specs Toporcer of the Cards is the first infielder to wear glasses.
  • Red Sox Stuffy Mclnnis's .999 FA is a new major league record for first basemen.
  • Browns Jack Tobin, George Sisler, and Baby Doll Jacobson all collect more than 200 hits.
  • Burleigh Grimes leads the National League in CGs (30) and Ks (136) and ties for the lead in wins (22).
  • Al Sothoron pitches the entire season (179 innings) without surrendering a home run.
  • Eppa Rixey of the Reds gives up just one home run in 301 innings.
  • The Reds pitching staff registers a record-low 308 strikeouts.
  • The Reds' Ivy Wingo leads National League catchers in errors for the seventh time.
  • The Giants' George Kelly tops the National League in homers with 23.
  • Walter Johnson leads Major League Baseball in Ks with just 143.

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