In the annals of Fenway Park and Red Sox legend and folklore, their World Championship season of 1918 season is among the most chronicled. Unfortunately the predominant reason for that was not as much what happened that year, but what didn’t happen for another 86 years.
The 1918 Boston Red Sox
Their were many historic aspects to the 1918 baseball seasons, not only for Fenway Park and the Red Sox but for baseball in general. The United States entered World War I in April of 1917 and by the spring of 1918, American forces were immersed in France holding off the German Spring Offensive.
On July 18th, word came down from Secretary of War Newton Baker that baseball was declared a “non-essential” industry and would be shut down, following the games of July 20th.
Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee was a proactive force and he along with American League president Ban Johnson, National League president John Tener and other team owners went to Washington to make the case to keep baseball going.
John Tener, Ban Johnson and Reds owner, Gary Hermann.
Red Sox Owner, Harry Frazee.
Frazee, whose Red Sox team was in first place by five games at the time, suggested that the World Series be taken to France and be played for our boys at the front. Although that never transpired, Baker did agree to let the season continue until early September.
On the diamond, 1918 brought Babe Ruth’s beginnings as an everyday player. Splitting his duties between, the pitchers mound, left field and first base, Babe managed to lead the league in home runs, lead the team in hitting and RBI and compile a 13-7 record on the mound.
Despite all of his exploits with his bat, when it came to the pennant stretch drive, Babe was inserted back in the rotation and when it came time for the World Series, Red Sox manager Ed Barrow handed the ball to Ruth for games one and four. Babe won both, including a 1-0 shutout in the opening contest.
Red Sox first baseman “Stuffy” McGinnis’ RBI single provided the only run Babe Ruth needed to win the first game of the 1918 World Series.
The crowds were small for the first three games in Chicago and thus the gate receipts were low raising speculation that the winners share for the Series would be in the $1,200.00 range. This prompted a meeting between the National Commission (the three-man body that oversaw baseball before a Commissioner ruled) and four players. The Red Sox representatives were Harry Hooper and Dave Shean. The players wanted to assure they would receive $2,600.00 shares for the winners and $1,400.00 for the losers.
The Red Sox won the fourth game of the Series giving them a commanding three games to one lead and with the issue of the players shares still not decided, the players actually refused to take the field for game five at Fenway Park. It marked the first ever work stoppage in baseball history. The Commision promised a post game ruling and the players finally took the field, delaying the start of the game by an hour.
1918 Fenway Park Press Pin valued today at over $100,000.
Both the players and owners were creamed in the press so, despite the fact there was still no settlement, the players took the field for the sixth and what would be the final game of the Series, a 2-1 Red Sox win. The owners promised to do all it could to get the players a fair settlement. The result, a winners share of $1,102.51 while the losers pocketed $671.09.
Not only did the 1918 World Series bring the smallest players shares in baseball history, it also was the last World Series in which a home run was not hit and the Red Sox scored only nine runs in the entire Series, the least amount ever scored by a World Championship team. Oh, and the world would see The Great Depression and another World War before Fenway Park would see another World Series.
to be continued…..
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, 1918, World Series time.