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The American League experienced its inaugural season in 1901, with league president Ban Johnson and his financier friends forming the junior circuit to provide competition to the more established National League.  Although the two leagues eventually learned to coexist peacefully, a considerable amount of animosity existed initially between the two coalitions, with Johnson and the A.L. owners refusing to honor National League contracts.  Promising better working conditions and higher pay to those players who chose to join its ranks, the fledgling league lured away from the senior circuit many of the game’s top players, including Cy Young, Clark Griffith, Napoleon Lajoie, Jimmy Collins, and Hugh Duffy.  Aiding the American League in its efforts was the fact that the N.L. found itself bitterly divided into two factions, one led by New York’s Andrew Freedman, and the other headed by Chicago’s Al Spalding.  Unable to put aside their differences long enough to elect a new president, the owners found it impossible to mount an effective defense against the threat they faced from the upstart league.

The American League opened for business in late April, with the eight-team circuit comprised of the Washington Senators, Cleveland Blues, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and Boston Americans.  The cities of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston also served as home to National League clubs at the time.  The Chicago White Sox captured the first A.L. pennant, finishing four games ahead of second-place Boston, with a record of 83-53.  Boston’s Cy Young was the junior circuit’s dominant pitcher, leading all A.L. hurlers with a record of 33-10, a 1.62 ERA, and 158 strikeouts.  Meanwhile, Napoleon Lajoie was the league’s top offensive performer.  Playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, who finished in fourth place, nine games behind the pennant-winning White Sox, Lajoie won the Triple Crown by leading the league with 14 home runs, 125 runs batted in, and a .426 batting average.  He also topped the circuit with 145 runs scored, 232 hits, and a .643 slugging percentage.  Although Lajoie’s numbers were aided immeasurably by the fact that he found himself essentially playing under expansion conditions and without the foul-strike rule (which the American League didn’t implement until 1903), the Philadelphia second baseman nonetheless posted a slugging percentage that exceeded that of the league runner-up by 120 points, and a batting average that placed him 86 points ahead of league runner-up Mike Donlin.  In fact, Lajoie’s .426 batting average remains the highest since the start of the last century.   

Some of the highlights from the American League’s inaugural season follow:

• The first game in American League history is played on April 24 at the Chicago Cricket Club. The final score is Chicago 6, Cleveland 2.
• Chicago takes the first American League pennant.
• Philadelphia’s Napoleon Lajoie sets a 20th-century record when he bats a league-leading .426 en route to winning the Triple Crown.
• Connie Mack manages the fledgling Philadelphia A's and will be their only manager until 1951.
• Roscoe Miller of the Detroit Tigers sets a rookie record when he pitches 35 complete games.
• Trailing 13-4 in the ninth inning of their first game in the American League, the Tigers rally to beat Milwaukee 14-13.
• The White Sox collect 23 hits in a game off Cleveland's Bock Baker -- all singles.
• Philadelphia's Chick Fraser hits an American League record 31 batters.
• On May 23, Nap Lajoie is the first player to be intentionally walked with the bases full.
• Roscoe Miller pitches an American League rookie record of 332 innings.
• The modern infield-fly rule is adopted.

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BLA 1264 4589 761 1348 633 .254 179 111 24 207 1821 .352 .338 .705 101
BOS 1294 4866 759 1353 632 .250 183 104 37 157 1855 .384 .318 .748 105
CHA 1286 4725 819 1303 656 .253 173 89 32 280 0 1750 .369 .345 .733 0 0 135
CLE 1284 4833 666 1311 523 .210 197 68 12 125 1680 .304 .260 .608 76
DET 1281 4676 742 1303 611 .256 180 80 29 204 1730 .357 .334 .692 135
MLA 1342 4795 641 1250 513 .229 192 66 26 176 1652 .327 .297 .625 122
PHA 1267 4882 805 1409 665 .225 239 87 35 173 0 1927 .311 .290 .634 0 0 85
WS1 1287 4772 683 1282 561 .230 191 83 33 127 1738 .341 .308 .649 80

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BLA 155 68 64 1159 271 344 3024 1313 21 39.690 480 750 115 4 3 29 0
BOS 153 79 57 1216 396 294 2739 1178 33 48.170 411 608 123 7 1 12 0
CHA 165 83 53 1218 394 312 0 1250 27 38.840 403 632 110 11 2 32 1
CLE 157 54 82 1181 334 464 1603 1365 22 58.450 541 831 122 7 4 43 4
DET 155 73 61 1190 307 313 349 1328 22 24.870 436 696 118 8 2 18 0
MLA 173 48 89 1217 376 395 0 1383 32 25.660 549 828 107 3 4 34 0
PHA 151 74 62 1201 350 374 2604 1346 20 72.960 534 760 124 6 1 40 0
WS1 158 61 72 1183 308 284 1448 1396 51 20.670 538 771 118 8 2 13 0

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BLA 1253 5433 3472 1560 401 .913 0 0 0 0 20
BOS 1282 5863 3649 1877 337 .904 0 0 0 0 23
CHA 1275 5854 3653 1856 345 .881 0 0 0 0 23
CLE 1277 5628 3543 1756 329 .908 0 0 0 0 35
DET 1265 5898 3560 1928 410 .883 0 0 0 0 16
MLA 1317 5925 3647 1885 393 .918 0 0 0 0 30
PHA 1264 5841 3600 1904 337 .873 0 0 0 0 23
WS1 1285 5659 3542 1794 323 .920 0 0 0 0 15

West

Central

East

Awards

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

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Tagged:
Al Spalding, Andrew Freedman, Ban Johnson, Cy Young, Hugh Duffy, Jimmy Collins, Triple Crown Batting

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