With no one comparable to Babe Ruth performing in the National League, offensive numbers rose more gradually in the senior circuit than in the A.L. in 1920. Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Cy Williams led the N.L. with only 15 home runs, while Rogers Hornsby and George Kelly topped the circuit with just 94 runs batted in. Nevertheless, the rule changes implemented prior to the start of the campaign significantly enhanced overall offensive numbers throughout the league. Whereas National League clubs combined to score only 4,071 runs the previous year, they tallied a total of 4,893 runs in 1920. The New York Giants led the charge, scoring a league-leading 682 runs. They were followed closely by the St. Louis Cardinals (675) and the Brooklyn Robins (660), who also allowed the fewest runs of any team in the league (528). Brooklyn’s solid offense and league-leading pitching staff enabled them to capture their second National League pennant in four years. The Robins finished the regular season with a record of 93-61, seven games ahead of the second-place Giants.
Outfielders Hy Myers and Zach Wheat paced Brooklyn on offense. Myers batted .304, scored 83 runs, led the club with 80 runs batted in and 36 doubles, and topped the senior circuit with 22 triples. Wheat placed among the league leaders with a .328 batting average, 89 runs scored, and 191 hits. Meanwhile, Burleigh Grimes anchored Brooklyn’s pitching staff, going 23-11, with a 2.22 ERA, 25 complete games, and 303 innings pitched.
Brooklyn subsequently lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians, five games to two, before entering into a dark period in team history that saw them fail to return to the Fall Classic for another 21 years.
Meanwhile, the runner-up Giants, whose lineup included emerging stars Frankie Frisch, Ross Youngs, and George Kelly, were on the verge of establishing a mini-dynasty in the senior circuit that captured the next four National League pennants.
Still, the two best players in the league in 1920 performed for other teams. Playing for the fifth-place St. Louis Cardinals, who finished 18 games behind pennant-winning Brooklyn, Rogers Hornsby established himself as the senior circuit’s top hitter. Hornsby led the league with a .370
batting average, 94 runs batted in, 218 hits, 44 doubles, 329 total bases, a .431 on-base percentage, and a .559 slugging percentage. He also placed among the leaders with 20 triples and 96 runs scored.
The National League’s other top player was Grover Cleveland Alexander, who pitched for a Chicago Cubs team that tied St. Louis for fifth-place in the final standings. Despite battling alcoholism and epileptic seizures, the 33-year-old right-hander topped all N.L. hurlers with 27 wins, a 1.91 ERA, 173 strikeouts, 363 innings pitched, and 33 complete games.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• May 1 - Leon Cadore of Brooklyn and Joe Oeschger of Boston both pitched all 26 innings of a 1-1 tie.
• October 2 - Pittsburgh and Cincinnati played the last major league tripleheader.
• The Giants' Benny Kauff was banned during the season after he was tried for being part of a stolen car ring; Kauff was found not guilty.
•Philadelphia’s Gene Paulette was banned for allegedly betting on games in 1919.
- 1920 World Series, Benny Kauff, Brooklyn Robins, Burleigh Grimes, Cy Williams, Frankie Frisch, Gene Paulette, George Kelly, Hy Myers, Joe Oeschger, Leon Cadore, Pete Alexander, Rogers Hornsby, Ross Youngs, Zach wheat