With the short-lived Federal League folding prior to the start of the 1916 campaign, Charles H. Weeghman, former president of the upstart league’s Chicago Whales franchise, agreed to purchase the National League’s Chicago Cubs from Charles P. Taft for $500,000. Weeghman, owner of a popular restaurant chain, headed a syndicate that also included chewing gum manufacturer William Wrigley Jr. Whales manager Joe Tinker subsequently replaced Roger Bresnahan as skipper of the Cubs, who began playing their home games in the Federal League’s newly-built ballpark on the North Side of Chicago in 1916. The ballpark became known as Wrigley Field shortly thereafter. Weeghman became the first owner to officially allow fans to keep any and all balls hit into the stands.
Meanwhile, on the playing field, Brooklyn won its first pennant since the days of Ned Hanlon in 1900, finishing the regular season 2 ½ games ahead of second-place Philadelphia, with a record of 94-60. Featuring the National League’s second-best offense, Brooklyn’s lineup included two of the senior circuit’s top players. Fan favorite Zach Wheat batted .312, collected 32 doubles and 13 triples, and posted a league-leading .461 slugging average. Two-time N.L. batting champion Jake Daubert finished second to Hal Chase in the batting race with a mark of .316.
Brooklyn subsequently lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox in five games, scoring a total of only 13 runs and posting a team batting average of just .200 during the Fall Classic. The Robins, as they were known in 1916, earned their only win of the Series in Game Three, edging out the Red Sox by a score of 4-3.
The second-place Phillies featured the National League’s best pitcher in Grover Cleveland Alexander, who topped the senior circuit in every major statistical category for the second consecutive year. In addition to leading the league with 33 wins and a 1.55 ERA, Alexander finished first with 167 strikeouts, 388 innings pitched, 38 complete games, and a major league record 16 shutouts.
Meanwhile, John McGraw’s New York Giants unquestionably established themselves as the National League’s strangest team over the course of the season. Finishing fourth in the league with a record of 86-66, the Giants opened the campaign with eight straight home losses. They followed that up with a 17-game winning streak on the road, before slumping again. Trying to rebuild his club at midseason, McGraw inserted young outfielder Dave Robertson into the lineup, released catcher Chief Meyers, traded Fred Merkle to Brooklyn, and dealt Larry Doyle to Chicago for legendary hothead Heinie Zimmerman. McGraw sent the great Christy Mathewson to Cincinnati to take over for player/manager Buck Herzog, receiving in return Herzog and Red Killefer.
McGraw’s reshuffling enabled the Giants to go on an all-time record 26-game winning streak, with all their wins coming at home. Nevertheless, the Giants’ poor performance before and after the streak allowed them to finish no higher than fourth.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• The Boston Braves pulled off a triple steal in the 11th inning of a game against the New York Giants on June 22, en route to defeating the Giants by a score of 3-1. The base-running feat remains the only extra-inning triple steal in National League history.
• William Fischer of the Chicago Cubs established a major league record on June 28 by catching all 27 innings during a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
• Cincinnati’s Hal Chase led the National League with a .339 batting average and 184 hits.
• The St. Louis Cardinals raided the crosstown Browns, stealing their manager Branch Rickey to run their front office.
• Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby played his first full season in St. Louis, batting .313 for the Cardinals.
• Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown recorded the last of his 239 career victories for the Chicago Cubs. Brown ended his career with a record of 239-130, with an ERA of 2.06 – the third-lowest in history.
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- 1916 World Series, Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Robins, Buck Herzog, Charles Taft, Charles Weeghman, Chicago Cubs, Chief Meyers, Christy Mathewson, Dave Robertson, Fred Merkle, Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, Jake Daubert, Joe Tinker, John McGraw, Larry Doyle, Mordecai Brown, Ned Hanlon, New York Giants, Pete Alexander, Red Killefer, Roger Bresnahan, Rogers Hornsby, William Fischer, William Wrigley Jr., Wrigley Field, Zach wheat