If 1917 was a transition season, then 1918 was the transition's sequel. Once again the Tigers shuffled their roster in an attempt to elevate themselves from pennant pretender to contender.
In March, longtime first baseman George Burns was sold to the New York Yankees. His replacement? A surprise: outfielder Harry Heilmann, who was trying to become a first baseman on the fly. The new catcher was Archie Yelle, a youngster from Saginaw. Replacing Heilmann in RF would be another young man, George Harper.
But such was the bad state of the Tigers' pitching staff that the team went through 17 hurlers, including even the venerable outfielder Ty Cobb! The outfielder Cobb pitched in two games, surrendering two runs in four innings. The team ERA was 3.40, by far the worst in the league and 0.63 higher than the league average.
Cobb was up to his old tricks, batting .382, winning yet another batting title, and also leading the league in on-base average. Cobb only played in 111 games, but that was partly due to the fact that the 1918 season was shortened due to World War I, which forced an end to the season in early-September.
For the Tigers, the end couldn't come soon enough; they were an unsightly 55-71 when the games stopped.
Even manager Hughie Jennings, who started skippering the Tigers way back in 1907, was in question. No one knew how much longer Jennings would, could, stay as the manager, since the Tigers hadn't really contended (except for 1915) since their three straight pennants from 1907-09.
But the good news was that the world war was coming to a close, and a weary nation could put that nightmare behind it. For the Tigers, they'd just as soon put 1918 behind them, too.By GregEno
- Archie Yelle, Detroit Tigers, George Burns, George Harper, Harry Heilmann, Hughie Jennings, New York Yankees, Ty Cobb, World War I