Posts Tagged ‘1908’

1908: The End of July

August 1, 2018

Here’s the next update in my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years on).

Bobby Wallace

With approximately two-thirds’ of the 1908 season gone, the pennant race in the American League was taking shape seriously. Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland all had winning records and held down the first division. The Tigers were two games up on the Browns, with Chicago 5.5 back, and Cleveland at eight behind. For Detroit, Ty Cobb was hitting .346, but fellow Hall of Famer Sam Crawford was only at .287. Chicago was standing behind Ed Walsh on the mound and 37-year-old George Davis (in his next-to-last season). Davis was only hitting .212. For Cleveland Nap LaJoie was having a down season so far (.269 with four triples), but the pitching (read Addie Joss here) was holding up. For the Browns, Bobby Wallace, their most famous player, was also having a bad season (hitting .269), but pitcher Rube Waddell was doing well (By WAR, a stat unknown in 1908, Wallace was having a terrific season. He’d end at 6.3). Among the also rans, the Highlanders (Yankees) were in last place, 25 games out.

John Titus

In the National League, five teams winning records on 31 July: Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The Pirates were a half game up on the Cubs, two up on the Giants, 6.5 ahead of the Phils, and eight up on the Reds. St, Louis was all the way at the bottom 23.5 games out of first. The Pirates leaders, Tommy Leach, manager Fred Clarke, and Roy Thomas were a mixed bag at the end of July, but the team revolved around shortstop Honus Wagner. By 31 July, he was hitting .328 with an OPS of .939. Chicago, relying on the Tinker to Evers to Chance infield and Three-Finger Brown, was also getting good years out of Harry Steinfeldt, the other infielder, and a 21-year-old backup named Heinie Zimmerman. For the Giants it was a standard John McGraw team with great pitching from Christy Mathewson and Hooks Wiltse (with an assist from part-time pitcher, part-time coach, Joe McGinnity), and 3.0 WAR from first baseman Fred Tenney. Philadelphia played Cincinnati on 31 July and the Phillies win put the Reds another game back. Philadelphia’s John Titus was having a good year and for the Reds Hans Lobert was leading the hitters.

The season still had two months to go, two terrific pennant races to conclude, one utter memorable game to play. But it also had one of the more interesting games coming up between two also-rans in just a few days.



December 30, 2009

Jack Norworth had never been to a baseball game in 1908, not one. He was a vaudeville performer married to a beautiful woman and pretty darned successful. Then he saw the sign.

According to legend, Norworth was riding the New York subway when he saw a sign announcing “Baseball today-Polo Grounds”. It was 1908, the year of a particularly wonderful set of pennant races. In the American League the Tigers won the pennant late, and the Cubs had to defeat the Giants in a replay of the famous “Merkle Boner” game to take the pennant on the last day of the season. It was to be the Cubs last World Series victory as they topped Detroit and Ty Cobb.

But Norworth was the big winner that year. Seeing the sign got him to thinking and he subsequently wrote a little ditty about a girl named Katie Casey. He went to a colleague, Albert Von Tilzer, with the poem, which Von Tilzer set to music. The song debuted in vaudeville sung by Norworth’s wife, Nora Bayes and was an instant hit. You know it too, at least the chorus. It starts “Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd.” It is baseball’s unofficial anthem and the most popular sports song ever written. The US Postal Service even did a stamp honoring the song in 2008.

Ironically, Von Tilzer who was born in 1878 and died in 1956 had also never seen a baseball game. He finally got to one in 1928. Norworth, who was born in 1879 and died in 1959, finally saw his first game in 1940.  Not bad for two guys who’d never seen a game.