Thursday, October 22, 2009

PTWSW #17: The 1920 Cleveland Indians

Manager: Tris Speaker
Record: 98-56
Ballpark: League Park
Owner: James Dunn
GM: Ernest Barnard
Coaches: Jack McCallister

Future Hall of Famers: Stan Coveleski, Joe Sewell, Tris Speaker

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Tris Speaker, .388
OBP: Tris Speaker, .483
SLG: Tris Speaker, .562
OPS: Tris Speaker, 1.045
2B: Tris Speaker, 50 (AL leader)
3B: Larry Gardner, Tris Speaker, Bill Wambsganss, 11
HR: Elmer Smith, 12
RBI: Larry Gardner, 118
BB: Tris Speaker, 97
SB: Ray Chapman, Doc Johnston, 13

Team Leaders, Pitching

Jim Bagby, 31 (AL leader)
SO: Stan Coveleski, 133 (AL leader)
ERA: Stan Coveleski, 2.49
IP: Jim Bagby, 339.2 (AL leader)
CG: Jim Bagby, 30 (AL leader)
SHO: Jim Bagby, Stan Coveleski, 3
K/BB: Stan Coveleski, 2.05
SV: Stan Coveleski, Dick Niehaus, 2


Oldest Player: Larry Gardner (b. May 13, 1886)

Youngest Player: Joe Sewell (b. October 9, 1898)

First to Leave Us: Ray Chapman (d. August 17, 1920)

Last Survivor: Joe Sewell (d. March 6, 1990)

First in Majors: Tris Speaker (debut September 14, 1907)

Last in Majors: George Uhle (final game September 22, 1936)

First to Play For the Franchise: Jack Graney (April 30, 1908)

Last to Play For the Franchise: George Uhle (September 22, 1936)

Pre-union Team: The 1912-14 Red Sox had five: Larry Gardner, Les Nunamaker, Tris Speaker, Pinch Thomas and Joe Wood. Manager Speaker obviously knew there was talent on his former team.

Reunion Team: The 1922 Red Sox had George Burns, Elmer Myers and Elmer Smith (Two Elmers! What are the odds of that?).


Bill Wambsganss, unassisted triple play on October 10

Season Summary

It was the final year of the Dead Ball Era, and the game was changing. Stolen bases were on the decline and Babe Ruth was setting the baseball world on fire with his home run barrage. The Indians didn't completely keep the deadball flame burning. Their base-stealing was among the worst in the league, with only 73 successful attempts against 93 unsuccessful ones. They did, however, lead the league in drawing walks and sacrifice bunts, both of which might be associated with pesky "inside baseball" teams. They hardly led the new revolution either. Their 35 homers ranked in the second division of the AL leaderboard, but they made up for it by leading in doubles and placing second in triples. Overall, their 107 OPS+ was the AL's best. They were second only to the Yankees in fewest runs allowed, with their pitching and defense near the top in most categories.

The pennant race ultimately came down to three teams: the Indians, White Sox and Yankees. By mid-July they were the only ones left with a realistic shot. The Indians held a slim lead most of the season, but the Yankees occasionally crept ahead or tied them, while the Sox lurked in the shadows.

On August 16 the Yankees and Indians met in New York to begin a crucial three-game showdown. It looked sure to be exciting, but instead, tragedy struck. Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, batting against New York's Carl Mays, was hit in the head by a pitch and suffered a severe skull fracture. Chapman was rushed to the hospital, where he died the next day. The loss of Chapman was a huge blow to Cleveland. Not only was he one of their best players, he was also a popular teammate and friend in the clubhouse.

The Indians struggled immediately after the death of Chapman. They fell as far as third place before getting it together again in a four-game series at Washington two weeks later. In September the Indians acquired shortstop Joe Sewell from the minors to be Chapman's permanent replacement. Sewell was in his first year of pro baseball, but he impressed by batting .329 with Cleveland. Another key minor-league acquisition was pitcher Duster Mails, who went 7-0 with a 1.85 ERA after joining the Tribe in late August. From September 16 on the Indians were never out of first place. They went 12-4 after reaching first, yet they never led by more than two games during that final stretch. The valiant effort of the hard-charging White Sox came up just short.

The World Series against the Brooklyn Robins went seven games, which isn't quite as exciting as it sounds since they were still using the best-of-nine format. Game 5 was notable for three World Series firsts from the Indians. Right fielder Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam, pitcher Jim Bagby became the first hurler to go deep and second baseman Bill Wambsganss made the first (and to this day only) unassisted triple play in World Series history. Stan Coveleski nailed down the final victory for Cleveland in Game 7 with a shutout, his third win of the Series.


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