With team owner and manager Connie Mack having dismantled his Philadelphia Athletics dynasty during the offseason after his club lost the 1914 World Series to the Boston Braves, the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox spent the entire 1915 campaign vying for supremacy in the American League. In what turned out to be a battle between Boston’s arms and Detroit’s bats, the Red Sox finally prevailed, finishing first in the junior circuit, 2 ½ games ahead of the second-place Tigers, with a record of 101-50.
Tris Speaker led the Red Sox on offense, batting .322, scoring 108 runs, and compiling a .416 on-base percentage. It was Boston’s pitching, though, that enabled them to edge out Detroit for the American League pennant. Five Boston starters reached double figures in wins, including southpaws Babe Ruth (18-8) and Dutch Leonard (15-7) and right-handers Rube Foster and Ernie Shore, each of whom finished the year 19-8. Shore also placed third in the league with a 1.64 ERA. Despite being relegated to spot-starting duty due to an ailing pitching shoulder, Smokey Joe Wood finished 15-5 with a league-leading 1.49 ERA.
Boston’s superior pitching enabled them to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies rather handily in the World Series. The Red Sox disposed of their National League counterparts in five games, holding Philadelphia’s lineup to a mere .182 batting average and limiting slugger Gavvy Cravath to just two hits.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ powerful offense, which scored a league-leading 778 runs, nearly enabled them to overcome a mediocre pitching staff in their quest to finish atop the A. L. standings. Outfielders Bobby Veach and Sam Crawford tied for the league lead with 112 runs batted in. Veach also topped the circuit with 40 doubles, while Crawford finished first with 19 triples. Ty Cobb was the American League’s best player, winning his fifth consecutive batting title with a mark of .369 and also topping the circuit with 144 runs scored, 208 hits, a .486 on-base percentage, and 96 stolen bases. Cobb’s 96 steals remained the single-season major league record for 47 years, until finally surpassed in 1962 by the Dodgers’ Maury Wills.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• The franchise in Cleveland officially changed its nickname from the “Naps” to the “Indians.”
• Philadelphia Athletics catcher Wally Schang established a new American League record by throwing out six potential base stealers during a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Browns.
• Eddie Plank became the first southpaw to register 300 victories.
• Rube Foster, with two complete-game wins for Boston, established himself as the hero of the 1915 World Series.
• Walter Johnson again dominated the statistical categories for A.L. pitchers. In addition to placing among the league leaders with a 1.55 ERA and 336 innings pitched, Johnson topped the circuit with 27 wins, 203 strikeouts, 35 complete games, and seven shutouts.
• In his first full season, Boston's Babe Ruth won 18 games, batted .315, and hit four home runs.
• Ruth hit his first major league homer at New York’s Polo Grounds on May 5, 1915, off Jack Warhop of the Yankees.
• After sitting out the entire season over a contract dispute, Philadelphia A’s third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker was sold to the Yankees for $35,000 prior to the start of the 1916 campaign.
• Desperately in need of money, Cleveland dealt star outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson to the Chicago White Sox for three nondescript players and $31,500 in cash.
• The White Sox also purchased Eddie Collins from the A’s for $50,000 prior to the start of the 1915 season.
• Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler made his major league debut for the St. Louis Browns – as a pitcher.
• The Tigers, the last team to wear collars on their uniforms, finally abandoned them.
• The Chalmers Award was discontinued prior to the 1915 season, ending MVP selections until the 1920s.
- 1915 World Series, American League, Babe Ruth, Bobby Veach, Boston Red Sox, Connie Mack, Detroit Tigers, Dutch Leonard, Eddie Collins, Eddie Plank, Ernie Shore, Frank Baker, Gavvy Cravath, George Sisler, Harry Hooper, Jack Warhop, Joe Jackson, Joe Wood, Pete Alexander, Philadelphia Phillies, Rube Foster, Sam Crawford, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Wally Schang, Walter Johnson