Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The History of America's Pastime--1901-1902

The Great Honus WagnerMy first entry into the history of the game, and I'm going to focus on the game starting in 1901 for 2 reasons.

1. Well, it's the turn of a new century,


2. It's when the American League announced to the world that they weren't a minor league any more buy purchasing a slew of national league players.

No, there would be no world series that year, as the National League refused to play the winner of the American League. But, it's the first time there was a league that was competing financially with the Nationals, and not going under.

Well, let's make it 3 reasons...the American League Cleveland franchise started this year...and the beginning of a lot of pain.


Jack ChesbroIn 1901, The Brooklyn Superbas had come off of 2 straight pennants. Unfortunately for the Superbas, they had lost several players to the upstart American League. They would drop to third place in the league. The Pirates hadn't lost any player of consequence, and with the great Honus Wagner moving to Shortstop, the Pirates ran away with the Pennant. Jack Chesbro and Deacon Phillippe led the pitchers with 21 and 22 wins respectively, and Jesse Tannehill was their #3 and came in with 18 wins. The Pirates won 90 games that year, and finished the year with a 7 game lead over the Philadephia Phillies.

The AL burst onto the scene with 8 teams: The Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Blues, Washington Senators, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia A's, Detroit Tigers, Boston Americans and the Chicago White Stockings. The Americans seemed to have the pennant wrapped up with starter Cy Young winning 33 games and player/manager Jimmy Collins (both stolen from the NL). The White Sox, led by owner Charlie Comiskey, raided the Cubs for starter Clark Griffith. They also won the most games, with 83, and won the leagues' first pennant by four games over Boston.

Without a doubt though, the star of both leagues was Napoleon Lajoie, and it wasn't even close. Nap was a star for the Phillies prior to 1901, until he signed a major deal for the A's, which many thought was illegal. He would go on to win the triple crown, batting .422, with 14 dingers and 125 RBIs. He also led the league in doubles, hits, OBP, Runs, Slugging and triples.

The first AL game was a loss by the Cleveland Blues, 8-2 to the Chicago White Stockings.

Connie Mack took over the manager's of the Phillies this year. He wouldn't leave the job until 1951.

The modern infield-fly rule became fact.

Nap Lajoie was the first player intentially walked with the bases loaded...EVER...

Honus Wagner stole home twice in a game...and it was the first time that had happened in a league game.

The Cleveland Blues (Bluebirds) finished 7th, 29 games out of first with a record of 54 wins and 82 losses. Not a strong beginning for the future Tribe...


In 1902, the Pirates dominated the league, setting a major league record with 103 wins. In the final game of the year, Cincinnati had tried to cancel the game, but Pittsburgh refused, won, and set the record. The Reds that day were seen smoking cigarettes on the field of play, to protest the Pirates playing the game. Jim Leyland would have been ecstatic. Honus Wagner was the star of the team, with offensive support from Ginger Beaumont and Tommy Leach. Jack Chesbro was again the leader on the hill.

The AL was a little more entertaining, Connie Mack had lost his star, Nap Lajoie, to the Cleveland Indians, to help the AL keep him after the Phillies sued to get their players back. In an amazing job, however, Philadelphia still managed to win the pennant, with players such as Topsy Hartsel, Harry Davis, Socks Seybold and Dave Fultz. Rube Waddell let the Phillies on the mound, with 24 wins.

Cy Young dominated the league for Boston, going 32-11, with 41 complete games.

The Brewers folded before the start of the season, opening the door for the St. Louis Browns to enter the league.

Honus Wagner again goes off, leading the NL in runs, RBI, doubles, Slugging and steals.

John McGraw takes over the New York Giants in the NL.

The Blues changed their name to the Cleveland Bronchos (No, not the Broncos. Did any Browns' fans shudder?) finish in fifth place, 14 games behind first place with a much improved 69-67 record.

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