Just two years removed from the National League cellar, a retooled New York Giants ball club captured their first pennant in four years in 1917, finishing the regular season with a record of 98-56, 10 games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Phillies. Replacing Brooklyn atop the National League standings, the Giants topped the senior circuit with 635 runs scored, while also allowing the opposition to cross the plate a league-low 457 times. George Burns, Heinie Zimmerman, and Dave Robertson led New York on offense. Burns finished first in the league with 103 runs scored, placed second with 180 hits, and finished fifth with a .302 batting average. Zimmerman led the league with 102 runs batted in, while Robertson topped the circuit with 12 home runs.
Ferdie Schupp anchored New York’s league-leading pitching staff, finishing the campaign with a record of 21-7 to lead the National League with a .750 winning percentage. Three other Giant hurlers won more than 15 games, with three members of their staff placing among the league’s top five in ERA. Spot-starter Fred Anderson led the league with an ERA of 1.44; Pol Perritt finished with a mark of 1.88; Schupp posted a mark of 1.95.
New York subsequently came up short in the World Series against the Chicago White Sox, losing the Fall Classic in six games. The Giants tied the Series at two games apiece after dropping the first two contests. However, the White Sox took Games Five and Six, winning the final contest in somewhat suspicious fashion. A key play in the game involved New York third baseman Heinie Zimmerman chasing Eddie Collins across an unguarded home plate. Immediately afterward, Zimmerman, who batted just .120 during the Series, denied throwing the game or the Series. Yet, Zimmerman and teammate Hal Chase found themselves suspended for life less than two years later due to a series of questionable actions and associations.
Although the Giants won the pennant, second-place Philadelphia had the league’s best player in Grover Cleveland Alexander. Posting his third straight magnificent season, Alexander led all National League pitchers with 30 wins, 200 strikeouts, 387 innings pitched, 34 complete games, and eight shutouts. He also finished second in the league with a 1.83 ERA.
While Alexander continued to dominate National League hitters, Rogers Hornsby began to establish himself as one of the senior circuit’s most formidable batsmen. Hornsby helped lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a third-place finish by placing among the league leaders with a .327 batting average and topping the circuit with 17 triples and a .484 slugging average.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• Cincinnati Reds outfielder Edd Roush captured his first batting title with a mark of .341.
• In one of the most outstanding pitching duels in baseball history, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Fred Toney tossed a 10-inning no-hitter in a 1–0 win over the Chicago Cubs on May 2. Opposing pitcher Hippo Vaughn did not surrender a hit until a one-out single in the 10th inning.
• Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder Max Carey stole 46 bases, to lead the league in thefts for the fourth time in five seasons.
• Christy Mathewson, in his only full year as a manager, led the Cincinnati Reds to a fourth-place finish.
• The Pirates finished last for the first time in the 20th century.
• The Pirates moved Honus Wagner to first base, where he batted just .265; Wagner retired at the end of the year with a .327 lifetime batting average.
• On June 17, Boston Braves catcher Hank Gowdy became the first major league player to enlist in the service for World War I.
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- 1917 World Series, Chicago White Sox, Christy Mathewson, Dave Robertson, Edd Roush, Eddie Collins, Ferdie Schupp, Fred Anderson, Fred Toney, George Burns, Hal Chase, Hank Gowdy, Heinie Zimmerman, Hippo Vaughn, Honus Wagner, John McGraw, Max Carey, New York Giants, Pete Alexander, Pol Perritt, Rogers Hornsby