The 1900’s
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The 1900’s

The foul-strike rule, enacted in 1903, ushered in a pitcher-dominated era. As runs became more scarce, one-run strategies were ubiquitous; it wasn’t a question of if a team would attempt to advance a base runner, but how they would attempt to do so. With hits hard to come by and home runs all but non-existent, speed was never a more key component than it was in the first two decades of the 20th Century.


Cincinnati battled Pittsburgh for the Western Division lead for about half the season, but the Industrials faded badly in the second half while the Packers kept rolling. Cincinnati finished 97-61, 7 games ahead of Detroit and 13 ahead of Pittsburgh. In the East a similar scenario played out as New York led much of the way before hitting a rough patch in August, allowing Philadelphia to overtake the Knicks. The Quakers ended the season 2½ games in front.

Alphonse Chism of Philadelphia won the batting title, hitting 363. St. Louis’ Miles Vickers was the home run king with 12, and Brooklyn’s Laurence Tucker took his usual spot as the RBI champ, driving in 117. It was Tucker’s third RBI crown in a row. Among NBBL hurlers, the Packers’ immortal Royal Ricketts stood tall above the pack, capturing his second career pitching Triple Crown with a 2.07 ERA, 36 victories, and 173 strikeouts. The 36-year-old superstar showed no signs of slowing down in the season that saw him earn his 500th career win.

Appropriately, Ricketts also won two games (including the clincher) against one loss in the first World’s Series of the 1900’s. It was another thriller, as Philadelphia took a 3-games-to-1 lead only to see the Packers roar back to take the last three. Cincinnati had dominated the early years of the old ABBA but this was the club’s first NBBL crown.

Season statistics


Cincinnati and Philadelphia were repeat division champions; the Packers easily outdistanced Detroit by eleven games, and the Quakers built a large lead that protected them from a late New York surge, ultimately topping the Knicks by three games.

Cincinnati’s Edmund Godfrey hit .356 to win the batting title. Mark Gardner of Pittsburgh was the home run champ for the third time in his career; he hit 15. Prince Lyon of Cincinnati drove in 111 runs to lead the loop. Philadelphia’s Bernhard Green was the ERA champ at 2.08, his third such title, and Royal Ricketts of Cincinnati led the league in wins for the fifth time, with 31. The strikeout champ was Orlando Gipson of New York, who fanned 210.

For the second year in a row, the Quakers were a game away from the championship, but were thwarted by the Packers. This one was particularly heartbreaking. Philadelphia won the opener and the teams traded games through Game Six. Game Seven was a thriller, a 4-4 tie through the fifth and a 5-5 tie after seven. The Quakers left the bases loaded in the ninth and tenth and left two men on in the eleventh before RBI champ Prince Lyon drove in the game winner for Cincinnati with an eleventh inning single.

Season statistics


A resurgent Buffalo team bolted out of the gate and led the Eastern Division for most of the season, but the Beavers faded in September and allowed Philadelphia and New York to overtake them. The Quakers won their third consecutive division title by two games over the Knicks and three over Buffalo. In the West, Detroit built a huge lead but the Wolverines were just barely able to hold onto it, beating most of the division by 20+ games but Cincinnati by only three.

Edmund Godfrey of Cincinnati repeated as the batting champion, hitting .348, while Cleveland’s Connie Lytle was the home run king with 11 and Detroit’s Tug Appel led the loop in RBI with 106. Brooklyn’s Chicken Cannon posted a league-best 1.92 ERA while Detroit’s Luther Root was the league’s top winner with 31 triumphs. Lorenzo Appleton of Boston fanned 210 to pace the circuit in strikeouts.

The Fall Classic featured a team that had gotten hot to win their division late against a team that had struggled to hold onto their lead; all but the first game were tight contests but the Quakers’ momentum carried them to a relatively easy 4-1 Series win, erasing the frustrations of the previous two seasons.

Season statistics


One of the most significant changes to the rules of baseball occurred this season: prior to 1903, foul balls were not counted as strikes. With foul balls now counting for strikes one and two, strikeout totals soared and batting averages dipped. The deadball era had arrived.

Pittsburgh and New York coasted to easy divisional crowns; the Industrials bested second-place Chicago by nine games in the West while the Knickerbockers were a full 14 games better than runners-up Boston. Aside from that, it was a competitive season; even the two last place teams, St. Louis and Buffalo, lost fewer than 90 games.

Cincinnati’s Edmund Godfrey was the batting champion for the third season running, hitting .339. Godfrey also led the circuit in RBI with 96, while New York’s Pierre Ellsworth topped the loop in round-trippers with 11. Chicago’s Matthew Sullivan became the third hurler to win the pitching Triple Crown. The 26-year-old rookie posted a 2.08 ERA, won 28 games, and struck out 314.

It was another exciting World’s Series, with Pittsburgh taking the final two games at New York to win it in seven. It was Pittsburgh’s third title.

Season statistics


The league hit .249, down 16 points from the previous season. The league ERA was 2.60, the lowest mark since 1882. Home runs were starting to dip as well, as batters found themselves behind in the count more frequently and became more conservative with two strikes against them. One team, Buffalo, hit only 8 home runs all year.

After an August 3rd loss to Brooklyn, Chicago was 50-53, 13½ games behind Pittsburgh. The Traders went 40-15 from that point on, and on the final Sunday of the season they were just a half-game behind the Industrials, who had completed their regular season schedule the previous day. Playing at home in the rain against last-place St. Louis, Chicago dropped the finale 9-6, giving Pittsburgh the division flag. Eastern champions New York endured no such drama, bettering their closest competition, Buffalo and Philadelphia, by 13 games.

Cleveland’s Billy Shea hit .334 to capture the batting crown and hit 13 home runs to share the home run title with Brooklyn’s Rupert Allen. Naaman Manley of Cleveland drove in 90 runs to top the circuit. New York’s Cookie Whaley posted a stingy 1.55 ERA to pace the loop, and Byron Kneeland of Philadelphia was the top winner with 29 victories. Chicago’s Matthew Sullivan fanned 302 to earn the strikeout title.

Cincinnati’s Royal Ricketts passed the 600-win mark (and the 400-loss mark). He went just 18-18, but with an exemplary 2.18 ERA, he proved he still had some tricks up his sleeve at 40 years of age.

The rematch of the ’03 World’s Series was yet another seven-game nail-biter, this time with the Knickerbockers triumphing behind Phineas Flint’s perfect 3-0 ledger.

Season statistics


New York and Detroit ran away with the divisional races. The Knicks set a record for wins with 104, enough to beat second-place Boston by 15 games. Detroit won a more modest 90, but still beat Cleveland handily by a 6½ game margin. Not so successful were the Baltimore Lords, who also set a record with 115 losses.

Pittsburgh’s Russel Fankester hit for the league’s best average, .326. Cleveland’s Billy Shea hit the most home runs, 11, and his teammate Laaman Manley was the RBI champ with 83. New York’s Phineas Flint posted a microscopic 1.19 ERA to lead the league (and set the single-season record to boot), while teammate Cookie Whaley was the top winner with 32 triumphs. Matthew Sullivan of Chicago was the strikeout king for the third year running, fanning 264.

There was no place like home in the World’s Series, as the host teams were a perfect 7-0. New York repeated as champions, their tenth NBBL pennant and sixth world title.

Season statistics


New York’s Knickerbockers won their third consecutive Eastern Division title with relative ease, while Chicago had to sweep a doubleheader on the final day of the season to clinch in the West. It was the Traders’ first division flag since 1893.

Edmund Godfrey of Cincinnati won the fourth batting title of his illustrious career, hitting .325. It only took eight home runs to win the home run title, a feat shared by Detroit’s Tug Appel and Cleveland’s Connie Lytle. Appel was also the RBI champ with 77. Jacob Norwood of Chicago led the loop in ERA at 1.34: Jessee Nugent of New York won 30 games to outdistance all competition, and Chicago’s Matthew Sullivan won his annual strikeout crown, fanning 289.

Boston’s Pierre Ellsworth collected his 3000th career hit, becoming the first player in history to do so.

Chicago lost seven games in a row in late September/early October before coming up with a season-ending three-game sweep of Pittsburgh to salvage their season. Heavy underdogs to the two-time defending champions from New York, the Traders shocked the Knicks by sweeping the World’s Series, the first such sweep in postseason history.

Season statistics


New York’s three-year reign as champions of the East came to an end as the Knicks fell to third place, 16 games behind Brooklyn. The Bluebirds rolled to a 99-59 record, besting second-place Philadelphia by four games. In the West, Cincinnati equalled Brooklyn’s ledger, but the Packers had to weather a fierce challenge from Chicago; Cincinnati clinched the flag on the final day of the regular season.

The Packers’ ageless Edmund Godfrey hit a blistering .377 to win his fifth batting title; he also drove in 87 to lead the league. Rupert Allen of Brooklyn was the home run champ and the only player in the league to reach double digits in round-trippers. He hit 11. Chicago’s Matthew Sullivan dominated among moundsmen, leading the league in all three Triple Crown categories with a 1.40 ERA, 35 victories, and 269 strikeouts.

Longtime New York outfielder Pierre Ellsworth retired after 21 seasons, the final two years with Boston, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. He retired as the career leader in games (2417), at-bats (9813), runs scored (1755), hits (3134), total bases (4433), singles (2391), home runs (153), and RBI (1553).

In the World’s Series, Brooklyn dispatched their old ABBA rivals Cincinnati in five games. It was the ’Birds’ first title since 1898.

Season statistics


Team batting averages had been dropping since 1903, and this season the league average dipped all the way down to .238. No team scored as many as 600 runs, and two teams, Brooklyn and Chicago, gave up fewer than 400.

Both 1907 divisional champions repeated, and in similar fashion to their previous triumphs: Brooklyn won the East handily with a 101-57 record, 12 games better than Philadelphia, while in the West Cincinnati faced a strong challenge from Chicago, who they bested by just 2 games. The Packers finished 100-58.

Nelson Napier of Philadelphia hit .312 to earn the batting crown while teammate Brown Alexander won the RBI title with 82. Brooklyn’s Rupert Allen won his third home run crown with 13. Matthew Sullivan of Chicago was even more dominant this season than in the previous: he won the pitching Triple Crown again, but also set the new single season record for ERA, a sparkling 1.16. He also won 32 games and struck out 275.

44-year-old Royal Ricketts finally called it a career after his 26th season. The Sovereign of Sling left the game as the all-time leader in wins (635), games pitched (1211), games started (1199), complete games (834), shutouts (79), innings pitched (10218.1), hits allowed (10261), and strikeouts (4218).

The World’s Series featured two 100-win teams for the first time ever, so most observers expected a tight contest. They didn’t get one; Cincinnati overwhelmed Brooklyn and pulled off a surprising 4-0 sweep to capture the league title for the third time in the 1900’s.

Season statistics


Chicago won 123 games and lost just 35, a .778 winning percentage, by far the best of all time. The Traders outscored their opponents by an unbelievable 336 runs. Not surprisingly, they ran away with the West, beating a 99-win Cincinnati team by 24 games. Brooklyn and Buffalo fought a tough battle in the East, with the Bluebirds prevailing at 94-64, two games ahead of the Beavers.

Bluebirds swept the batting Triple Crown categories, as Dooley Sauer took the batting title with a .339 average and Rupert Allen led in home runs with 16 and RBI with 97. On the mound, it was once again Matthew Sullivan’s show, as he took his third straight Triple Crown. The Chicago star set several single-season records, including ERA (0.90), shutouts (16), and walks plus hits per innings pitched (0.69). His 41 wins were the most by a pitcher since 1896.

The Bluebirds were heavy underdogs to the record-setting Traders but surprised many by taking the opening game of the World’s Series and leading two games to one after Game Three. That was to be Brooklyn’s last hurrah, however, as Chicago’s superior pitching limited them to three runs over the final three games as the Traders capped off their remarkable season with a 4-2 Series win.

Season statistics