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The world was at war, right in the thick of WWI, and the Tigers were in a war of their own.

After stumbling badly in 1912 and 1913, the Tigers were in the third year of climbing back to the top as 1916 approached.

Even winning 100 games in 1915 wasn't enough. Rare is the year when a team will hit triple digits in wins and still not be in the post-season. Yet that's the baggage the Tigers carried with them to spring training in 1916.

The good news was that the Tigers' main cast of characters was back from the 1915 team. The bad news was that one of the key cast members was getting longer in the tooth.

Outfielder Sam Crawford, Robin to Ty Cobb's Batman, turned 36 as the 1916 season began. Crawford's batting average in 1915 had dipped below .300 for just the second time in nine years. Was that a sign that the veteran was slowing down?

Catcher Oscar Stanage, who had filled that role for the Tigers since 1909, was set to turn 33 during the season, old for a backstop.

But the Tigers still had a core of talent whose ages were in the late-20s, so that was reason for optimism. That, and those 100 wins from the previous season.

And, of course, there was Cobb, who had practically laid claim to the American League batting since 1907.

But on May 25, the Tigers were 13-20 and tied for last place. Forget 100 victories; the Tigers were in a war to hit the .500 mark!

And win the war they did, as a monstrous June elevated the Tigers to 32-24 and into a first place tie with the Cleveland Indians. But a rough patch soon followed, and even though the Tigers recovered, they had fallen back into the middle of the pack in the American League. In mid-July the Bengals were in fifth place.

But the teams were all bunched together, so a fifth place standing meant only being a handful of games out of first. Still, it proved too much of a hole to climb out of, and the Tigers had to settle for an 87-67 record and third place, four games off the pace of the pennant-winning Boston Red Sox.

Cobb was outstanding, as usual, but despite a .371 average, he failed to win the batting crown, which in this year went to Cleveland's Tris Speaker. The questions about Crawford's age proved to be valid, as "Wahoo Sam" managed just a .286 BA in only 100 games.

On the youth side, Crawford's heir apparent, Harry Heilmann, saw his first significant big league action, batting a respectable .282 in over 400 ABs.

Tigers pitching was led by Harry Coveleski (21 wins) and Hooks Dauss (19). But the staff's ERA was only good enough for seventh in the eight-team league.

The Tigers' elusive fourth pennant would have to wait at least another year.

LEADERS
HR: Cobb (5)
RBI: Bobby Veach (91)
BA: Cobb (.371)

Wins: Coveleski (21)
K: Coveleski (108)
ERA: Coveleski (1.97)

*****************************************

By GregEno
 

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Detroit Tigers, Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb

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