The American League celebrated its tenth anniversary 100 years ago in 1911. Here is what baseball history books tell us the league was like compared to 2011?
There were only eight teams in the American League compared to 14 today. The season was 154 games. The Oakland Athletics were based in Philadelphia and managed by Connie Mack. The Baltimore Orioles were based in St. Louis and named the Browns. The Minnesota Twins were the Washington Senators. The New York Yankees were known as the Highlanders. The Cleveland Indians were named after their best player Napoleon Lajoie and called the Naps. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers existed as they do today.
Chicago’s Comiskey Park was a year old. Boston’s Fenway Park was a year away from completion. Detroit’s Navin Field which later became Tiger Stadium was made out of wood. It was demolished the next year and rebuilt. Only Fenway remains today.
The designated hitter was six decades away and everyone who played the field hit. The league produced not one but two .400 hitters as Detroit’s Ty Cobb batted .420 and Cleveland’s ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson .408. One hundred years later, another Tiger won the batting crown as Miguel Cabrera batted .344.
In his seventh major league season Cobb was without question the best hitter in the game. He won the batting title and led the league in runs batted in with 144. He finished second in home runs behind Philadelphia’s Frank Baker with eight. The home run total is a far cry less than the 43 that Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista hit in 2011. But the RBI total is 22 more than the 119 Curtis Granderson of the Yankees drove in.
Cobb also led the league in slugging average, hits, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and runs scored. No one came close to that in 2011. Cobb’s performance earned him the league’s first ever Most Valuable Player Award.
Philadelphia’s Jack Coombs led all pitchers with 28 wins. Ed Walsh of Chicago led in strikeouts with 255. Vean Gregg of Cleveland led the league with a 1.81 earned run average. Washington’s Walter Johnson finished with 36 complete games.
In 2011, Detroit’s Justin Verlander led the league in wins (25), strikeouts (250) and earned run average (2.40).
It is interesting that a hitter dominated in the dead ball era while a pitcher did in the live ball era.
The Philadelphia A’s dominated the American League. They won the pennant by 13 1/2 games over the Tigers. The A’s then went on to win the World Series by defeating the New York Giants in six games.
Finally for those who think that the baseball postseason goes too deep into October, if there is a game seven this year it will be played on October 27.
Thanks to a week of rain outs, the 1911 World Series ended on October 26.