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Some changes before the season included hiring Ed Barrow – formerly president of the International League – to take Jack Barry’s place as manager of the team, and trading Larry Gardner, Tillie Walker, and Hick Cady to the Athletics to get first baseman Stuffy McInnis. Barrow had first broken into baseball working for concessionaire Harry M. Stevens. On May 6, in his fifth season with the Red Sox, for the first time Babe Ruth played another position – first base. He homered to start the scoring. The Red Sox started the season nicely, winning their first six games in a planned abbreviated 140-game schedule because of the war. The team stayed in first place without interruption until June 27.
Earlier in June, Dutch Leonard had thrown a no-hitter, his second, giving up just one walk in the first inning. Babe Ruth’s leadoff home run was all the scoring that was needed. This was a year in which the growing war effort and the constant concern that a player would be taken into service hung over everything. A little over two weeks after Leonard’s no-hitter, he learned that his draft status had changed. In order to avoid being conscripted and quite possibly sent to the trenches in Europe, he quickly signed up for a shipbuilding job in Quincy at the Fore River Shipyard.
Players began coming and going in what had to be a maddening pattern for a manager. Babe Ruth, increasingly unpredictable as he became more famous, had already boasted before the season that he was going to “knock Mr. Frazee silly” with his contract demands. At the very beginning of July, he got in an altercation with Barrow; he threatened to punch Barrow and Barrow threatened to fine Ruth. The headstrong Ruth bolted from the team and went home to Baltimore. Then Barrow learned that the Chester (PA) Shipbuilding Company team in the Delaware River Shipbuilding League had claimed to have hired Ruth to play for them (Leonard pitched for the Fore River team in Massachusetts). Ruth returned and things were patched over. He already had 10 homers on the season, and became the only ballplayer in history to win 10 games and hit 10 homers, both in the same season. By season’s end, he’d appeared in 59 games as an outfielder and hit 11 of the team’s total of 15 home runs.
On July 19, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker declared that baseball was a “non-essential occupation” and the writing was on the wall. Players had to find true defense-related work or be taken into military service. Another exodus began, while teams scrambled to sign players who were in their mid-30s or citizens of other lands. The Red Sox used nine different players at third base during the course of the season. An early end of the season was set for September 1. Boston’s last games came a day later, on September 2. Just three days earlier, Carl Mays had pitched – and won – both games of a doubleheader against Philadelphia. Despite the short 126-game season, Mays was still a 20-game winner: 21-13, with an earned run average of 2.21. Sad Sam Jones was 16-5 (2.25) and Babe Ruth was 13-7 (2.22). Oddly, the best ERA on the team (2.11) belonged to Bullet Joe Bush, but he lost 15 games to balance his 15 wins.
The Red Sox won the pennant by 2 ½ games over the Indians. Ruth’s .300 average was the ballclub’s best. Harry Hooper was .289 and, once again, he scored the most runs. Ruth led the team in RBIs, winning club honors in all three Triple Crown categories – absolutely remarkable for a pitcher with 19 starts.
The World Series against the Cubs started on September 5 and was over on the 11th. The Red Sox became World Champions for the fourth time in seven seasons.By Bill Nowlin