With war raging throughout all of Europe, the United States finally became involved in the worldwide struggle in 1918, causing many major league players to enlist in the Armed Forces. The Yankees lost the services of their best pitcher, Bob Shawkey, for virtually the entire year when he joined the U.S. Navy and spent the next eight months serving on the battleship Arkansas. Among the other notable major leaguers who joined the military were Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Concern over the conflict in Europe prompted Major League Baseball to shorten its season in 1918, resulting in an abbreviated 128-game schedule.
Meanwhile, the Yankees set about trying to reverse course after finishing sixth in the American League the previous season, with a record of only 71-82. Team owner Jacob Ruppert initiated the process by firing manager Bill Donovan and replacing him with Miller Huggins. The diminutive Huggins, who stood 5’6” and weighed all of 140 pounds, had been a scrappy second baseman with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals from 1904 to 1916. He assumed the role of player/manager with the Cardinals from 1913 to 1916, before functioning solely as the team’s manager in 1917 after retiring as an active player. Although Huggins compiled an overall record in St. Louis of just 346-415, Ruppert believed his fiery temperament made him the perfect man to assume leadership of the Yankees.
New York showed only minimal progress in Huggins’ first year on the bench, finishing the 1918 campaign in fourth place, with a record of 60-63. Frank Baker and Wally Pipp did their best to carry the offense. Baker led the team with six home runs, 62 runs batted in, 65 runs scored, and a .306 batting average. Pipp missed more than a month of the season due to injury, but he finished a close second to Baker with a batting average of .304, while leading the club with a .415 slugging percentage. Unfortunately, the two men received little help from their teammates, with only second baseman Del Pratt (.275 AVG and 65 runs scored) contributing significantly to the offense.
With Bob Shawkey available to the team for only two starts, George Mogridge emerged as the club’s most reliable starter. Mogridge finished the year with a record of 16-13 and an ERA of 2.18. No other New York hurler won more than 13 games.By Bob_Cohen
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- Bill Donovan, Bob Shawkey, Christy Mathewson, Del Pratt, Frank Baker, George Mogridge, Jacob Ruppert, Miller Huggins, New York Yankees, Pete Alexander, Wally Pipp