1908: The First Division of the Junior Circuit

ChiSox manager Fielder Jones

The 1907 season ended with Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland holding down the first division (upper half, for all of you too young to remember the term) of the American League. Here’s a look at where each stood as the 1908 season was ready to unfold.

Detroit: The Tigers were reigning AL champs, having won the 1907 pennant with 92 victories. They’d lost the World Series in a sweep. Well, sort of a sweep. Game one was a 12 inning tie that a lot of fans thought was played to tie and increase the player’s take from the Series. In 1907 the teams got a cut from every game. That changed for 1908 when it was determined that the player cut would be for the first four games only (so already 1908 had created a change without a ball being thrown). It was supposed to stop teams trying to stretch the World Series for money purposes.

As you might expect for a World Series participant, the team wasn’t much changed. Germany Schaefer moved from second to short and 1907 shortstop Charley O’Leary would ride the pine for 1908. Red Downs would be the new second baseman. The strength of the team was the outfield. Matty McIntyre played one position. He’d been the fourth outfielder in 1907 and now switched positions with Davy Jones. But the stalwarts, Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, were still in the pasture and with Crawford in his prime and Cobb still getting better, those two positions were settled for the long haul. The pitching was decent, but not spectacular. One worry for the staff was that both Bill Donovan and Ed Killian were over 30.

Philadelphia: Connie Mack’s Athletics finished 1907 with 88 wins. They were two years off a World Series appearance (they’d lost) and were in something of a transition. Third baseman Jimmie Collins was 38 in 1908. Mack was looking for a replacement and brought John Franklin Baker to the team as a player who might take over the job (“Home Run” Baker was still two years away from the nickname.). Danny Murphy, veteran second baseman, moved to the outfield and the new kid (although he’d played some in 1907) was Eddie Collins, who held some promise. Bench players Jack Barry, Amos Strunk, and Jack Lapp were all less than 24 and were beginning to get their feet wet. All would be starters by 1910. And there was a rookie who would come to the A’s in 1910 named Joe Jackson. He’d do little for the A’s, so they’d trade him later. There was nothing wrong with the pitching. Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, and Jack Coombs would be around for a while.

Chicago: The White Sox were third in 1907. To begin that campaign, they were defending World Champs, having ousted the Cubs in the 1906 World Series. The 1906 team was nicknamed the “Hitless Wonders,” which should tell you a lot about their pitching. Ed Walsh was beginning his prime and Doc White, Nick Altrock, and Frank Smith were expected to contribute. Hall of Famer George Davis was 37 and player-manager Fielder Jones was 36. Three other everyday players were also in their thirties, as was a rather significant part of their bench. If the pitching held, the team could contend.

Cleveland: The Naps finished 1907 in fourth place, two games behind Chicago. They had Hall of Famers Nap LaJoie in the infield and Elmer Flick in the outfield. They had another Hall of Famer in pitcher Addie Joss. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much else. In 1907 only one other major starter (the catcher) hit over .250. In 1908, they hadn’t changed much.

Next time, a look at the bottom half of the AL at the beginning of the 1908 season.

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3 Responses to “1908: The First Division of the Junior Circuit”

  1. glenrussellslater Says:

    Wow. Ed Walsh won 40 games that year! He’s the last pitcher to have won that many games, and, I believe, the only pitcher in the modern era to have won that many games.

  2. wkkortas Says:

    I cannot begin to express how much I miss the term “first division”.

  3. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    You always spur me to look up someone in your posts. In this one, I had to look up Germany Schaefer — because I thought, if Germany is his real name, that would be something of a deal come WWI. (It’s not his real name, and I know you already knew that, but I didn’t.) I knew he was a goofball, but I didn’t know anything more about him than that. I didn’t know that Schaefer was known for stealing first base. See you teach me things that you don’t even realize!

    I love this 1908 series of yours already … can’t wait for the next post …

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