War Clouds Season and Scrambles Brains in Philly
April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. On April 11, the Phillies opened the baseball season with a 6-5 win over the defending champion Brooklyn Robins as Pete Alexander beat Wheezer Dell. Alexander, now 30 years old, had another banner year: 30-13, 8 shutouts, 388 innings pitched, ERA 1.83.
But he still had trouble beating the Giants. As late as May 26, the Phillies, at 18-11, led the Giants by a game and a half who were in Philadelphia for an early season showdown doubleheader.The Giants won both games, the second a 5-1 loss for Alexander to Ferdie Schupp, McGraw’s reliable lefthander. After that the Giants took control, won 98 games, and ran away to a 10-game advantage over the second place Phillies. No 26-game winning streaks for these Giants, but a series of four, five, and six game streaks did the job nicely. The Phillies got a nice year from 33 year-old righthander Chief Bender, one of Connie Mack’s stalwarts in the A’s glory years of 1910-1914. In 113 innings, Bender was 8-2 including three consecutive shutouts in August when the Phillies were trying to catch up. Eppa Rixey won 16 games (but lost 21). Gavvy Cravath at 36, again led the team in batting average (.280), homeruns (12), and RBIs (83), but his numbers were down, and the team suffered accordingly.
On June 1, Hank Gowdy, 28-year-old Braves’ catcher, enlisted in the Ohio National Guard to become the first Major League ballplayer to enlist in the Army; he continued to play until called to active duty on July 15.
The Giants lost another World’s Series, this time to the Chicago White Sox in six games. The Pale Hose were led by righthander Red Faber who won the final two games on October 13th and 15th. Eddie Collins, another former A’s standout, hit .409 to lead the Sox hitters, followed by Buck Weaver at .333, and Shoeless Joe Jackson at .304.
December 11 – In a moment of insanity, probably unmatched in team history, the Phillies traded Grover Cleveland Alexander, coming off three consecutive 30 plus win seasons, along with Reindeer Bill Killefer, to the Chicago Cubs for right hand pitcher Mike Prendergast (9-17 in two seasons), and catcher Pickles Dilhoefer (less said the better), and $55,000.
December 26 – Cubs show a trace of insanity of their own when they trade 30-year-old Cy Williams to the Phillies for Dode Paskert.
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- Bill Killefer, Chief Bender, Cy Williams, Dode Paskert, Eppa Rixey, Gavvy Cravath, Mike Prendergast, Pete Alexander, Philadelphia Phillies, Pickles Dillhoefer