Last year I went into a detailed (perhaps overly detailed) look at the 1910 season. I don’t intend to repeat that with 1911, but 12 April was opening day in 1911 and I think we should celebrate the season 100 years later. It was, if not as significant as 1910, still a very interesting year. First the National League.
The old Cubs dynasty died. Both Frank Chance and Johnny Evers spent much of the year on the bench and in Chance’s case it was to be permanent. For the rest of his career Frank Chance would play only 56 games. Evers, on the other hand, would bounce back and have several more productive seasons, culminating with a Chalmers Award (and early MVP Award) and a World Series championship in 1914.
The Giants took Chicago’s place as the reigning dynasty. John McGraw’s team won the pennant despite seeing their stadium burn. They spent most of the season as guests of the Highlanders (now the Yankees), but returned to their own stadium in August. They managed to go on a hot streak in August and took the championship by 7.5 games.
A number of players had superb seasons. Honus Wagner hit .334 and won his final batting title for the Pirates. His OPS also led the league at .930. Chicago’s Wildfire Schulte led the NL with 21 home runs, the most by a player since 1899. Schulte and Owen Wilson of Pittsburgh tied with 107 RBIs. Schulte would walk away with the NL’s Chalmers Award (and the new car that went with it).
The biggest news was among the pitchers. Grover Cleveland Alexander had what was arguably the finest rookie season of any pitcher in the 20th Century. He led the NL in wins with 28, shutouts with seven, and pitched 31 complete games. Giants ace Christy Mathewson put up 26 wins and led the NL with an ERA of 1.99. In 307 innings he walked a total of 38 men. As good as that sounds, he would do even better in 1912. His teammate lefty Rube Marquard led the league in strikeouts with 237.
Unfortunately, the pennant was all the Giants could manage, dropping the World Series in six games. Mathewson and Doc Crandall got the two wins with Mathewson and Marquard taking three of the losses (Red Ames took the loss in game six). the team hit .175 for the Series with Larry Doyle and Chief Meyers managing to hit .300 with Josh Devore leading in both RBIs and strikeouts.
It’s a year to look back on and celebrate. We can look at the greatness of Honus Wagner, the genius of John McGraw, and the pitching prowess of Christy Mathewson. That’s worth celebrating, even if the NL lost the World Series.