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The hastily-assembled first team of the franchise did quite well, particularly considering how quickly everything was put together.

As Ban Johnson pulled together plans for a second major league, Boston was the last city added to his list. It was only in mid-January 1901 that land on Huntington Avenue was leased, and only on January 28 that the American League was formally organized.

The team had no players, but an offer was extended to very popular third baseman Jimmy Collins of the Boston National League club in hope that he would sign and begin to attract some other established players. Collins was hired on March 1.

Groundbreaking on the Huntington Avenue Grounds was on March 12 – with Opening Day on the road but just 45 days off. Players did join Jimmy Collins, who brought in Buck Freeman, Chick Stahl, and Ted Lewis from the Boston Beaneaters, and enticed the battery of Cy Young and Lou Criger to come from the St. Louis Cardinals. Better working conditions were promised; the NL owners had earned a reputation for being difficult bosses. The opportunity was there, and Ban Johnson and his financier friends took it.

Spring training began on April 1. Awkwardly, both Boston teams were booked on the same train heading south.

The Boston Americans held their first spring training in Charlottesville, Virginia while work progressed on the ballpark in Boston.The team that would become the Red Sox in December 1907 had no name, but were routinely called the Americans or the Collinsmen. The first game the team ever played was a 10-6 loss in Baltimore on April 26. Their first win came on April 30, an extra-inning game which Buck Freeman’s two-run homer had tied in the ninth. The first home game (less than two months after groundbreaking) came on May 8, and Cy Young beat Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. Freeman hit another homer, a triple, and a single. Freeman was the star on offense, driving in 114 runs. On June 1, he became the first player in franchise history to hit two homers in one game, and by season’s end he hit 12 homers in all. The rest of the team had 25, Collins and Chick Stahl tied for second with six apiece. Many of the four-baggers were inside-the-park home runs, thanks to the huge center field at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, some 530 feet to straightaway center.

There were bizarre moments in the fledgling league, such as June 26 when Boston showed up in Philadelphia for a game (as did the umpire), but the Athletics were in Washington playing the Senators while the Baltimore Orioles were at home wondering where Boston was. It all worked out, though, and the crowds flocked to the American League offerings.

In Boston, the NL team had to cut their ticket prices in half to match the 25-cent tickets the Americans were selling. It still didn’t do the trick. The Americans had the better and more interesting team, and outdrew the Nationals more than 2-to-1 (298,448 to 146,502). The Beaneaters finished in fifth place, an even 69-69. Despite a six-game winning streak that closed the season, Collins and company finished in second place, but were just four games behind the Chicago White Sox. It had been a satisfying 79-57 first season. Cy Young was the star among the pitchers, with a 33-10 season and a 1.62 earned run average. He alone had accounted for 41.8 percent of his team’s victories.

By Bill Nowlin
 

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Tagged:
Ban Johnson, Buck Freeman, Chick Stahl, Cy Young, Huntington Avenue Grounds, Jimmy Collins, Lou Criger, Ted Lewis
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