With World War I drawing to a close in Europe and team owners worried about their patriotic image, the baseball establishment decided to limit the 1919 season to 140 games. The Cincinnati Reds posted the National League’s best record over the course of the abbreviated campaign, finishing the regular season with a record of 96-44, nine games in front of the second-place New York Giants.
A well-balanced ball club, the Reds placed second in the senior circuit in runs scored and allowed the fewest runs of any team in either league. Edd Roush paced Cincinnati on offense, winning his second batting title with a mark of .321, while also finishing among the league leaders in runs batted in, runs scored, hits, triples, total bases, and slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s league-leading pitching staff included 20-game winners Slim Sallee and Hod Eller, as well as Dutch Ruether, who recorded the third-lowest ERA in the league with a mark of 1.81.
The Reds subsequently defeated the Chicago White Sox in the World Series, five games to three, in what turned out to be one of the darkest moments in the history of the national pastime. Referred to down through the years as the “Black Sox Scandal,” the 1919 World Series will long live in infamy as the Series eight members of the White Sox intentionally lost after they accepted bribes from known gamblers.
Although the Reds clearly established themselves as the class of the National League over the course of the regular season, the second-place New York Giants had the top offense in the senior circuit. George Burns led the league with 40 stolen bases, 86 runs scored, and 82 walks. Budding star Ross Youngs topped the circuit with 31 doubles and finished third in the league with a .311 batting average.
Meanwhile, the third-place Chicago Cubs had the league’s two best pitchers in Grover Cleveland Alexander and Hippo Vaughn. Dealt to the Cubs from the Phillies just prior to entering the military one year earlier, Alexander won 16 games despite pitching for the league’s lowest scoring team. He also completed 20 games and led all N.L. hurlers with a 1.72 ERA and nine shutouts. Vaughn won 21 games, placed second in the league to Alexander with an ERA of 1.79, threw 25 complete games, and topped the circuit with 141 strikeouts and 307 innings pitched.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• February 5 - Charges brought in 1918 by Reds owner Garry Herrmann and manager Christy Mathewson against Hal Chase for betting against his team and throwing games in collusion with gamblers were dismissed by National League president John Heydler.
• March 7 - Christy Mathewson, back from World War I, rejoined the Giants as pitching coach and heir apparent to John McGraw.
• Hod Eller of the Reds established himself as the pitching star of the 1919 World Series, earning two complete-game victories.
• On September 28, the Giants beat the Phillies 6-1 in a record 51 minutes.
• The Giants released Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, and Jean Dubuc for suspicions of conspiring to fix games. None of the three men ever played in the major leagues again.
• Ed Konetchy of Brooklyn established a 20th-Century National League record by collecting 10 consecutive hits.
• Cincinnati’s Hod Eller tossed a no-hitter versus the Cardinals on May 11.
• Philadelphia’s Gavvy Cravath led the National League with 12 home runs despite compiling only 214 at-bats.
• New St. Louis Cardinals player-manager Rogers Hornsby finished second in the National League with a .318 batting average.
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- 1919 World Series, Black Sox Scandal, Chicago White Sox, Christy Mathewson, Cincinnati Reds, Dutch Ruether, Ed Konetchy, Edd Roush, Garry Herrmann, Gavvy Cravath, George Burns, Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, Hippo Vaughn, Hod Eller, Jean Dubuc, John Heydler, Pete Alexander, Rogers Hornsby, Ross Youngs, Slim Sallee