Baseball Judgments

Baseball Judgments |
The A.L. and the first World Series


By Roger Weber


The American League was formed in 1901. In the first year of the league, Philadelphia shortstop Nap Lajoie captured the Triple Crown, hitting .422, with 125 RBI and 14 home runs. In 1901, the Chicago Cubs won the National League, and the Philadelphia Athletics won the American. 1902 saw many player scandals between the two leagues that reached as far as the Supreme Court. The disputed revolved around Baltimore and the two teams in Philadelphia. They were settled though, and the two leagues were able to co-exist, separately. In the American League, the Philadelphia Athletics won their first pennant. This was also the first pennant of Connie Mack, who would go on to manage 50 years. Star pitcher Rube Waddell won 24 games, and had an ERA of 2.05. Third place Boston, though, had an equally, if not more impressive young pitcher in Cy Young, who finished 32-11 with a 2.15 ERA. In the National League, The Pittsburgh Pirates set an all time wins record, finishing with 103, to capture the pennant.


The American League had quickly become a serious competitor to the National League and in 1903 the teams held baseball's first true world championship, a seven game series between the champion of the National League and the champion of the American League.


A team from Boston won the first series, although it was not the Boston Pilgrims as most fans believe. The name "Pilgrims" wasn't used at all in reference to that team. In fact the team didn't even have an official name. Most monikers by which it was called were created by journalists.


The first World Series was a best of nine series that Boston won 5 to 3. In 1902 Pittsburgh had what many scholars consider one of the best baseball teams ever. By 1903 they were still impressive, 91-49. First year starter Honus Wagner stole 46 bases and led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the title. Wagner would play eighteen years in the majors, winning eight batting titles. In the American League, Cy Young won 28 games to lead Boston to the title. In the first World Series game, over 16,000 fans saw Pittsburgh win at Boston 7-3. Pittsburgh won three of the first four games in the series. But Boston came back strong, winning the next four, each by at least three runs. Pitcher Bill Dinneen won three games in the series. Jimmy Sebring, an average player for Pittsburgh during the regular season, led the series with a .367 batting average and hit Pittsburgh's only home run.


While the first series was a modest success, the next scheduled series didn’t even happen thanks to a not-so-brilliant decision by the Giants' John McGraw. Thinking his Giants were vastly superior to the American League opponent, he did not allow his team to play. Starting again in 1905, though, the series became much more popular.


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