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A Look Back at Baseball in 1917 100 Years Ago!

A Look Back at Baseball in 1917 100 Years Ago!
June 18
17:03 2017

B A S E B A L L!

Honus Wagner


The 2017 baseball season is nearing its traditional half-way point, the All Star Game. While the Cubs and Red Sox, thought to be preseason favorites, have gotten off to slow starts there are still plenty of exciting pennant races.

The Houston Astros – a franchise often mired in mediocrity – looks like they have a winning formula and the Arizona Diamondbacks are among the hottest teams in the National League.

And even before the memory of David Ortiz has started to fade away, the legends of young sluggers – like the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Houston’s Jose Altuve – are just beginning.

Baseball is a game that constantly changes, and yet retains a certain continuity.

Every year fans say hello to new stars and bid a fond adieu to old ones.

It was the same way 100 years ago.

That year – 1917 – saw fans following the swan song the player widely considered to be the greatest player ever.

Somewhat forgotten today, John Peter “Honus” Wagner was wracking up the last of his then-record 3,420 hits. On many “all-time” lists today the Pittsburgh Pirates star is still considered the greatest shortstop ever.

By 1917 Wagner was living off his past glory. The lifetime .328 hitter hadn’t cracked the .300 since 1913.

He had since been surpassed as the game’s top hitter by Detroit’s Ty Cobb, who hit a league leading .383 in 1917. Although Cobb had ended 1916 with an impressive .371 batting average, he failed to win the batting title for the first time in a decade. In 1917 Cobb won his 10th career batting title – and would add two more in the next two seasons.

The National Pastime had not quite turned to the home-run era and the N.L. champion was the Phillies Gavvy Cravath (8) who won the fourth of his five home-run crowns. The A.L leader, with 11, was Philadelphia A’s outfielder Tilly Walker. But in a surprise Walker had to share his home-run title with a Red Sox pitcher named Ruth.

Babe Ruth won the first of his 12 homer crowns – and managed to win 24 games as one of the game’s best left-handed pitchers.

Speaking of pitching, Walter Johnson, of the Washington Senators, managed 23 wins in 1917, though he lost 16. With 417 wins, “The Big Train” is second on the all-time wins list to Cy Young (511). But he also lost 279 games, mainly because most of his Washington teams were barely competitive.

Consider this amazing statistic – Johnson pitched in a record 1-0 ballgames, and lost two-thirds of them!

Even as Ruth was starring on the mound and at the plate, the game was also saying goodbye to another future Hall of Famer – A’s pitcher Charles “Chief” Bender.

Bender (who would pitch one inning in 1925) posted a solid 8-2 record in 1917 with an earned run average of 1.87. Most of today’s baseball fans hardly recognize Bender’s name, but the legendary manager Connie Mack – who managed for 50 years – said if he had to win one game, Bender was the man he wanted on the mound.

High praise from a man who saw, managed or played with Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson and “Three-Fingered” Brown.

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