The 1920’s
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The 1920’s

The eternal struggle between offense and defense saw the former gain the upper hand in this decade. In 1920 the spitball and similar deliveries were banned, and the league made a commitment to keep clean, highly-visible balls in play at all times. In the 1925 the ball itself underwent a change, its new cork center making it livelier. As the hitters began to realize it was now easier to reach the fences, more of them began taking fuller swings and adopting uppercuts. The home run revolution had arrived, and attendance boomed.


The league outlawed the spitball as well as any other deliveries that involved adding substances to or defacing the ball, and a new era of offensive dominance began. The loop’s batting average rose to .279—the highest since 1899. Home runs totals began to climb.

One team missed the memo with the news that the batter was now king, and that team dominated the league. Brooklyn posted a remarkable 2.29 team ERA—more than a full run better than anyone else—and ran away with the East, going 108-49 and beating Philadelphia by 21 games. The West saw a multi-team race, with Detroit emerging on top, five games ahead of Chicago.

Chicago’s Smith Cambell hit .358 to earn his second consecutive batting title, while Seemly Sam Tucker of Buffalo hit 22 home runs, setting a new single-season mark. Philadelphia’s Claud Hensley knocked in 124 runs to win the RBI crown.  The pitching categories were not surprisingly dominated by Bluebirds: Clay Baldwin led the league in ERA at 1.56, while Brock Rutherford came in second at 1.79. Baldwin also led in wins, with 29, while Rutherford and another Brooklynite, Hermann Logan, tied for second, each chipping in with 25. Rutherford won the strikeout title with 198.

The World Series looked like a mismatch. Brooklyn won 22 games more than Detroit in the regular season, and carried a rich history of postseason success, with six World Series titles; Detroit’s four previous Series appearances had all ended in defeat. As it turned out, the Wolverines were more than competitive; they were victorious and efficient to boot, requiring only six games to vanquish their heavily-favored foes.

Season statistics


New York finally got its own concrete-and-steel park, and what a park it was. Knickerbocker Stadium was built to order for the nation’s largest city, and boasted the league’s largest capacity—seats for 51,000 fans. The Knicks were not a particularly competitive team at this time, so many of those seats were empty much of the time, but the day that they would be needed would come.

The Knicks’ rivals from across the river were having no trouble filling seats, and little difficulty beating their Eastern Division opponents for that matter. Brooklyn rolled to a 105-53 record, 15 games better than second-place Philadelphia. In the West, St. Louis returned to the top, besting Cincinnati by four games.

Smith Cambell of Chicago was making an annual occurrence of winning the batting championship, hitting .382 to top the league for the third year in a row. Pittsburgh’s Fenn McCaffree and Buffalo’s Sam Tucker each hit 19 round-trippers to share the home run crown, and Brooklyn’s Howard Russ was the RBI champ with 126. Brock Rutherford of Brooklyn swept the pitching Triple Crown categories with the top marks in ERA (2.02), wins (21), and strikeouts (227).

Longtime Brooklyn star Dooley Sauer, closing out his career with St. Louis at age 39, hit .407 in the Word Series to lead the Explorers to a surprise 4-2 triumph over the Bluebirds.

Season statistics


Buffalo joined the new ballpark club with Beaver Park, a  small but gorgeous 29,500-seat venue. The park proved a hit, but the 1922 Beavers came in last place.

For the first time in years, both divisions featured exciting races. Philadelphia and Brooklyn were tied going into the season’s final weekend; the Quakers wrapped it up with minimal suspense by sweeping New York while the Bluebirds were swept by Baltimore. The West showcased an even tighter race, as Cincinnati and St. Louis finished the 158-game schedule in a dead heat. The Packers had to travel to St. Louis for the playoff, and defeated the home team 3-2 to earn the division title.

The architects that built Beaver Park didn’t do Sam Tucker any favors, as the new park featured some of the most remote outfield fences in the league; Tucker led the league in home runs for the third consecutive year anyway, with 20. Pittsburgh’s Fennimore McCaffree hit .376 to win the batting crown, and Claud Hensley of Philadelphia was the RBI champ for the second time in his career, driving in 141. Warley Krueger of St. Louis was the ERA king, posting a 2.11 mark, as teammate Edgar Bath topped the loop in wins with 27. Brooklyn’s Brock Rutherford led the league in strikeouts with 188.

The World Series was a tight but quick affair, featuring five close games with Philadelphia winning four of the five to capture their seventh world title.

Season statistics


By now, the big sluggers were more swinging for the fences and reaching them with ever-increasing frequency. The deadball era was dead; baseball was becoming a pitchers’ nightmare and a hitters’ paradise.

In one of the head-scratching-est trades in league history, Brooklyn sent their young pitching phenom, Brock Rutherford, and a good outfielder, Antony Shipman, to St. Louis for a minor league outfielder and Emery Connelly, a 36-year-old pitcher who had not started a big league game since 1908.

Philadelphia’s Billy Peterson won the batting title with a .387 mark, while teammate Pete Humphrey drove in 141 to win the RBI crown. An unprecedented four players hit 20 or more home runs, but for the fourth year in a row Buffalo’s Sam Tucker out-homered everyone; his 26 circuit clouts set a new single-season record. Among pitchers, Rutherford dominated the Western Division just as he had dominated the East, winning his second career Triple Crown with a 2.18 ERA, 27 wins, and 200 strikeouts.

Brooklyn and St. Louis won their divisions easily, setting up a postseason confrontation that would spotlight the curious off-season transaction.

It was an exciting World Series that went the distance. Rutherford and Shipman, ironically, struggled against their old teammates; Rutherford was 0-2, and Shipman hit .207. The players that Brooklyn received didn’t even play in the Series. But St. Louis’ “other” ace, Edgar Bath, shut out the Bluebirds twice to lead the Explorers to their third world title in nine years.

Season statistics


St. Louis’s dominance over the West continued, as the Explorers rolled to a 104-54 record and finished 20 games ahead of runners-up Pittsburgh. In the East New York bested Philadelphia by a more modest 7 games.

Philadelphia’s Claud Hensley was the batting champion, hitting a sizzling with a .385, while teammate Pete Humphrey won the RBI crown for the second year running by knocking in 126. Duncan Nagle of Cincinnati matched Sam Tucker’s year-old home run record, blasting 26; Tucker finished just behind him with 25. St. Louis’ Brock Rutherford almost won a second consecutive pitching Triple Crown. He led the loop in ERA (1.73) and strikeouts (213) but fell one short of Pittsburgh’s Patrick Monday in victories. Monday led the league with 28.

Fennimore McCaffree of Pittsburgh hit 19 home runs to replace Pierre Ellsworth as the all-time home run king. The 31-year-old McCaffree finished the season with 170 career round-trippers. Ellsworth retired in 1907 with 153.

Jason “Jaybird” Wall hit a blistering .522 to lead New York to a 4-2 Series triumph over St. Louis. It was the Knickerbockers’ ninth league championship and sixth undisputed world title.

Season statistics


Sensing that the fans liked increased offense, the league introduced a cork-centered ball that they thought might be a bit livelier. Surprisingly, the league’s batting average dropped by a point (down to a still-high .290), but home runs increased significantly, as did attendance—no small feat during a season with no pennant races whatsoever to speak of.

New York’s Doc Moore hit .395, the highest average since 1894. Sam Tucker hit 35 home runs, the highest total to date; Moore hit 33, the second highest. Trick Sisson of Cincinnati drove in 132 runs to lead the league. St. Louis’ Brock Rutherford led the league in ERA (1.97) and strikeouts (241) again, and with 28 wins was again one win shy of the Triple Crown—Berry Hocker of Detroit won 29.

St. Louis and New York easily won their divisions again, so the World Series was a rematch. The Explorers fell behind, dropping two of the first three and three of the first four, but were able to bring the Series back home for two final games in St. Louis, which they won to earn their fourth world title.

Season statistics


St. Louis dominated the league to an extreme not seen since the record-smashing Chicago Traders of 1909. The Explorers went 116-42, winning the West by 36 games over Pittsburgh. Eastern champion New York’s 103-55 ledger seemed modest by comparison.

Statistically, though, the Knicks had the best offense in either division, slugging 122 home runs and hitting .308 as a team. Star keystone sacker Doc Moore led the league in batting (.394) and home runs (28). Teammate Ed Wall tied Philadelphia’s Rip Rice for the top mark in RBI, each driving in 131. St. Louis had a good hitting team as well but pitching was their strength, leading the league with a 2.50 team ERA, a half a run better than anyone else’s. The Explorers were once again led by Brock Rutherford, who took a back seat to nobody in the Triple Crown categories, leading in ERA (1.10), wins (32), and strikeouts (241).

In what was beginning to look like an annual tradition, St. Louis played host to New York in Game One of the World Series. Rutherford was masterful in that game and in Game Five, the other game he started, but those were the only two games the Explorers won as the Knicks, with Moore hitting .480, upset them in six to win their seventh world title.

Season statistics


St. Louis once again wrapped up the West early, winning 97 games and finishing 16 games ahead of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. New York also repeated in spite of a 98-win season by Brooklyn, who still finished 8 games behind the Knicks’ juggernaut.

Chicago’s Dick Whitney hit .386 to win the batting title. Doc Moore of New York led the loop in home runs with 23. Bill McGonagil of Cleveland was the RBI king, knocking in 112. St. Louis’ Brock Rutherford won his second consecutive pitching Triple Crown while sharing the top spot in victories with two other pitchers. Rutherford posted a 1.52 ERA, won 24 games, and struck out 214. New York’s Edgar Blaney and Baltimore’s Philpott Loveen were the other 24-game winners.

For the fourth consecutive season New York and St. Louis faced off in the World Series, and for the third time in four years the Knicks won it in six. The “Three W’s”—shortstop Jaybird Wall, third baseman Joe Wells, and right fielder Ed Wall—all hit .400 or better to lead New York to the championship for the eighth time.

Season statistics


New York again won the East handily, finishing 103-55, 8 games ahead of Brooklyn. St. Louis had their hands full with Pittsburgh, as the two teams traded the top spot in the West all season long before the Explorers pulled away at the end to edge the Industrials by three games.

Ron Ezzell of Pittsburgh claimed the batting championship by hitting .366, while three players—New York’s Doc Moore, Brooklyn’s Jessie Royster, and New York’s Ed Wall, all hit 22 home runs to lead the league. Philadelphia’s Lloyd Williams was the RBI champ, driving in 125. The familiar name of St. Louis’ Brock Rutherford topped all three pitching Triple Crown categories for the third consecutive season, with a 1.62 ERA, 27 wins, and 264 strikeouts.

The World Series, while featuring the same two teams that had squared off for the title since 1924, was at least an exciting see-saw affair that went the distance. The Knicks needed to win the final two games at home to defend the championship, and Game Seven was a wild 8-7 contest in which the Explorers had the tying run on base when the final gun sounded. But when the smoke had cleared, it was, again, New York sitting at the top of the baseball heap.

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Fans who were getting tired of New York/St. Louis World Series reruns almost got an entirely new slate this year, but ultimately had to settle for just one new entry. Brooklyn won the East handily, topping New York by ten games to end the Knicks’ five-year stranglehold on the division title. In the West St. Louis held on to win their seventh straight divisional crown, but it was close: they beat Chicago and Cincinnati by just two games and Pittsburgh by four.

New York was denied another title but second baseman Doc Moore was still a champion, winning his third batting crown with a .387 average. In Chicago, a new slugging star emerged, as third baseman Mel Harrison topped the loop in home runs with 30 and RBI with 135. But it was business as usual in the pitching ranks, as St. Louis’ Brock Rutherford again dominated, leading the circuit in ERA (1.98), wins (25), and strikeouts (231).

Unfortunately for Rutherford and his teammates, the trend of St. Louis losing the World Series to a New York-based team continued. Brooklyn dispatched the Explorers in quick fashion, winning in five as Pat “Toothbrush” Terrigan hurled two complete game victories and center fielder Jessie Royster hit .458. It was Brooklyn’s first world title since 1914 and seventh overall.

Season statistics