The 1908 campaign proved to be a banner year for pitchers, as hitters in each league combined to bat just .239 – the lowest mark ever posted in either circuit. Seven hurlers threw no-hitters, seven of the all-time 50 lowest single-season ERAs were compiled, and only one of the 16 major league pitching staffs (the New York Highlanders) posted a team ERA in excess of 3.00. Individual milestones reached included Ed Walsh’s 40 wins (the second-highest total in history) and 20th century record 464 innings pitched, Addie Joss’s 1.16 ERA (the seventh-lowest in history), and 41-year-old Cy Young’s mark of 1.26.
A four-team race developed in the American League, with the Detroit Tigers barely edging out both Cleveland and Chicago for their second consecutive pennant. The Tigers finished the regular season with a record of 90-63, just ½ game and .004 percentage points ahead of second-place Cleveland. The margin of victory represents the smallest in American League or National League history. Chicago finished a close third, just 1 ½ games back, while St. Louis faded down the stretch to finish 6 ½ games out.
Detroit star Ty Cobb won his second consecutive batting title, finishing with a mark of .324, and he also led the league in runs batted in, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, slugging percentage, and total bases. Teammate Sam Crawford topped the circuit in home runs and placed second to Cobb in runs batted in, runs scored, batting average, hits, total bases, and slugging percentage. Largely through the efforts of Cobb and Crawford, Detroit led the league with a team batting average of .264.
In the end, though, the Tigers were humiliated by the Chicago Cubs in the World Series for the second straight year. It took the Cubs only five games to defeat the Tigers, with Chicago’s lineup posting a .293 team batting average against Detroit’s pitching staff. Meanwhile, Cub hurlers compiled a team ERA of 2.60, with staff ace Mordecai Brown throwing 11 scoreless innings. Ty Cobb was one of the few Tigers who performed well in the Series, as the A.L. batting champion knocked in four runs, stole two bases, and batted .368.
Although the Tigers represented the American League in the World Series and Ty Cobb was the circuit’s top offensive player, the league’s dominant performer over the course of the regular season was Chicago White Sox hurler Ed Walsh. The right-hander kept his team in the pennant race almost single-handedly, leading league pitchers in almost every statistical category. He finished with a record of 40-15 and an ERA of 1.42 (third in the league), while topping the circuit in strikeouts (269), innings pitched (464), complete games (42), shutouts (11), and saves (6).
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league included:
• Sam Crawford became one of only two players (Mark McGwire is the other) to lead both the National League and the American League in home runs.
• Cleveland's Addie Joss pitched a perfect game over Chicago on Oct. 2, the first ever in a pennant race. Joss ended up leading the league with an ERA of 1.16 and finishing second with 24 wins.
• Although the Chicago White Sox finished third, just 1-1/2 games out, they batted just .224 and hit only three home runs as a team.
• The song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" was first introduced to the public.
• Ed Walsh defeated both New York and Boston a record nine times.
• Cy Young threw a no-hitter vs. New York on June 30.
• Cleveland's Dusty Rhoads tossed a no-hitter against Boston on Sept. 18.
• Frank Smith of the White Sox no-hit the A's on Sept. 20.
• Bill Donovan pitched a two-hitter on the season's final day to beat the White Sox and give Detroit the flag.
• Walter Johnson pitched three shutouts in a four-day period vs. New York.
• Although the A's finished sixth in the league with only 68 wins, they earned 23 of their victories by shutout.
- 1908 World Series, Addie Joss, American League, Bill Donovan, Cy Young, Detroit Tigers, Ed Walsh, Frank Smith, Mordecai Brown, Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson