83 Years and Counting
October 8, 2001
As the 2001 season became unforgettable for the wrong reason another year was added to the team's championship futility. It's now been 83 years since the Red Sox last laid claim to the moniker "World's Champions." That fact, and the facts surrounding that team, were the subject of a book published this year by Allan Wood, "Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox." So how much has changed since then in the sport? Consider in 1918 that . . .
As for the Red Sox, 1918 was the year that
- Players did not have uniform numbers
- Because of gamblers, teams didn't announce the starting pitchers before games. If they did, the offending team would be subject to a $25 fine
- The spitball was legal. It was not banned until February of 1920
- Fans were not allowed to keep foul balls hit into the stands
- RBI's were not counted in any consistent way
- Players were paid their salaries on a monthly basis
- There were 16 teams in 11 cities. Since then 6 of those teams have moved: Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia A's, Boston Braves, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers
- Teams had no affiliated minor league farm clubs
- A team batting in the bottom of the ninth or in the last half of an extra inning could not win by more than one run. For example, if the home team trailed by a run and a player hit a three-run homer, he would be credited with only a triple, and his team would be victorious by one run, not two. This rule was changed in 1920
- There was no commissioner; instead baseball's governing body was the three-member panel "National Commission"
The World Series pitted the Red Sox against the Chicago Cubs. Boston won the series 4-2 and won it's third championship in four years. In addition to being remembered as the last time the Red Sox won a title, the 1918 World Series was also remembered because . .
- Spring Training was held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Red Sox finished the exhibition season 9-5. All games were played against the Brooklyn Dodgers
- In April, the team featured only a 19-man roster
- Fenway Park was 550 feet to center and there was a steep dirt hill in left field in front of the Green Monster
- Babe Ruth started 19 games as a pitcher, completing 18 of them
- On May 6, Ruth started his first game at a position other than pitcher
- Future Red Sox Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr were born
- Due to World War I the regular season ended early and the team played only 126 games. The Red Sox finished 75-51, 2½ games ahead of Cleveland
Following the 1918 season the team's fortunes changed for the worse. The Red Sox would not again experience a winning season until 1935 and have now gone 83 years without winning the World Series. In that time they have lost four Game 7's; in 1946, 67, 75, and 86. And while generations of Sox fans have succumbed to the idea that the team will not win another title "in my lifetime," the players on the 1918 team never received their championship emblems in theirs. In 1993 the Red Sox held a ceremony at Fenway Park and presented replica emblems to the descendants of the team's members, a full 75 years after the team could last lay claim to having earned the distinction of World Champions.
- The Cubs decided to play their home games at Comiskey Park, rather than Wrigley Field, which was then known as Weeghman Park. The decision to change home venues for the World Series wasn't without precedent; in 1915 and 1916 the Red Sox used Braves Field for their Series games, while the Boston Braves had used Fenway Park in 1914
- It was the first time newspaper advertisements were used to help ticket sales, which were hurt by the War
- Because World Series shares were the lowest in the history of the game, players from both teams threatened to strike and not finish the Series. Game 5 was delayed by an hour due to the matter. Although the players received no concessions they decided to proceed with the game
- Although there were no World Series rings, the winners customarily received championship emblems. Because of the Game 5 delay the National Commission withheld the emblems from the victorious Red Sox players
- On September 11 Boston won the World Series with a 2-1 victory in Game 6, which was played at Fenway Park
Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox
Allan Wood's 379 page book details the making and dismantling of the 1918 World Championship team and takes the reader through the war-shortened season that culminated in the Red Sox' fifth World Series title. Wood also poses the question of whether the 1918 World Series could have been fixed, as the game in that era was marked by the presence of gamblers, greed of the owners, and the dishonesty of a few players. Wood further goes into great detail about the legendary Babe Ruth, from his childhood beginnings in Baltimore up through his trade to the Yankees following the 1919 season. Whether you're a Red Sox fan, curious about Babe Ruth, or want insight into the way the game was played in the early 20th century, Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox takes you back in time to an era when the Yankees truly sucked.
To order the book go to the author's website at www.1918redsox.com and receive free shipping. Or you can order the $16.95 book at amazon.com.