One hundred years ago this month, the United States went to war in the War to End All Wars. Well, it turned out World War I didn’t do what is was supposed to do when it came to ending warfare. But in baseball three great careers came to an end one hundred years ago.
Sam Crawford was a Hall of Fame outfielder in both leagues. He is most famous today as the “other guy” in the outfield with Ty Cobb at Detroit. But he hit .309, had an OPS+ of 144, and compiled 75.1 WAR. He still holds the record for the most triples. He won two home run titles, three RBI titles, led the league in triples five times (of course he did), has a doubles title, and even led the league in runs scored once. His last game was 16 September 1917. He went 0-1.
Ed Walsh still holds the record for the lowest ERA among pitchers with a significant number of innings pitched at 1.82. He won two games in the 1906 World Series for the White Sox against the favored Cubs. With that all-time low ERA, he won only two ERA titles, but led the American League in innings pitched four times, had 40 wins in 1908, compiled 57 shutouts, had two strikeout titles, put up an ERA+ of 145 had a WHIP of exactly 1.000 (do you realize how hard that had to be?), and 63.2 WAR. He closed out his career 11 September 1917 with two innings against the Phillies. He gave up a solo run.
The greatest shortstop who ever shortstopped stepped on the field for the last time as a player 17 September 1917, the day after Crawford (and six days after Walsh). Honus Wagner’s career is as legendary as his baseball card (or maybe the card is actually more legendary). He won eight batting titles, four RBI titles, led the National League in stolen bases five times, won seven doubles titles, led the league in triples, runs, hits, total bases, OBP, OPS, slugging, and just about everything else at least once in his career (although he never led the NL in either homers or walks). He had 3420 hits, an OPS+ of 151, and 131 WAR. In context, his 1908 campaign is arguably the greatest single season any player ever had (well, maybe Ruth a time or two, but it’s close).
Take a second, as the season begins, to reflect back one hundred years. It was the finale for three Hall of Fame members. And for those curious, the biggest name rookie is probably Hall of Fame outfielder Ross Youngs.