Offensive numbers suffered throughout the National League in 1901, after the senior circuit elected to count foul balls as strikes (before the count reached two strikes) for the first time. Total runs dropped by almost 800, and the league batting average fell from .279 to .267. Even stolen base totals were adversely affected, as at-bats were shortened and strikeout totals skyrocketed.
Nevertheless, the senior circuit had its fair share of outstanding offensive performers. Brooklyn’s Jimmy Sheckard hit 11 home runs, amassed 19 triples, and led the league with a .534 slugging percentage. St. Louis outfielder Jesse Burkett topped the circuit with a .376 batting average, 142 runs scored, and 226 hits. In his first full season, Cincinnati outfielder Sam Crawford batted .330 and led the league with 16 home runs. However, Sheckard, Burkett, and Crawford all took a backseat to Honus Wagner, who was easily the league’s finest all-around player for the second consecutive year. Wagner led the N.L. with 126 runs batted in and 49 stolen bases, and he also placed among the leaders with a .353 batting average, 194 hits, 37 doubles, and a .416 on-base percentage.
Wagner’s efforts enabled the Pittsburgh Pirates to capture their first National League pennant. The Pirates finished 7 ½ games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Phillies, with a record of 90-49. Wagner, though, received a great deal of help from his Pittsburgh teammates. Outfielders Ginger Beaumont and Fred Clarke both scored well over 100 runs and batted over .320. Pitchers Jack Chesbro and Deacon Phillippe finished 21-10 and 22-12, respectively. Meanwhile, Jesse Tannehill won the ERA title with a mark of 2.18.
Other performances that highlighted the National League’s 1901 campaign follow:
• Brooklyn's Wild Bill Donovan leads the National League in wins (25) and walks (152).
• Noodles Hahn sets a modern record for most pitching wins for a last-place team by winning 22 games for the Reds. Hahn also sets a 20th-century record for left-handers by completing 41 of his starts. He further distinguishes himself by leading the league with 239 strikeouts and establishing a new post-1893 record by fanning 16 Boston Braves on May 22.
• Christy Mathewson wins 20 games for the Giants in his first full season and hurls a no-hitter vs. St. Louis on July 15.
• The New York Giants collect a record 31 hits on June 9, six of them by Kip Selbach.
• Willie Keeler collects at least 200 hits for the eighth straight year, a National League record.
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- Bill Donovan, Christy Mathewson, Deacon Phillippe, Fred Clarke, Ginger Beaumont, Honus Wagner, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Burkett, Jesse Tannehill, Jimmy Sheckard, Kip Selbach, New York Giants, Noodles Hahn, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Sam Crawford, Willie Keeler