MLB Opening Day: Looking back at 100 years of baseball history
MLB Opening Day: Baseball has been played far longer professionally than any of the other major team sports in North America. It is the only one of the Big Four, including football, basketball, and hockey, to reach the century mark. In fact, this is big-league baseball’s 143rd season. To get a sense of the historic arc Major League Baseball has taken over just the past 100 years, hop on a time machine and review some of its key news and developments at 10-year intervals, beginning in 1912.
Top slugger: Heinie Zimmerman (Chicago Cubs), 14 HRs
Top pitcher: Smokey Joe Wood (Boston Red Sox), 34 wins
NL MVP: Larry Doyle (NY New Giants), 2B
AL MVP: Tris Speaker (Boston, Red Sox), OF
World Series: Boston Red Sox defeat the New York Giants, 4-3, with one tie.
Three cities opened brand-new ballparks: Boston (Fenway), Detroit (Navin Field, which became Tiger Stadium), and Cincinnati (Redland Field, which became Crosley Field). Fenway is the only one still standing. Its 100th anniversary will officially be celebrated on April 20.
The Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America formed with 288 members. Although an early incarnation of today’s players’ union, it was hardly the first. That was begun in 1885.
Washington’s Walter Johnson and Boston’s Smokey Joe Wood engaged in a historic, season-long pitching duel. Johnson set a record with 16 consecutive victories, but later the same season, Wood won his 14th staight by outpitching Johnson in a 1-0 shutout of the Senators. Wood went on to tie Johnson’s mark of 16 straight wins. (The all-time longest pitching winning streak belongs to Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants, with 24, recorded over two seasons, with 16 wins in 1936 and eight more in 1937.)
To protest the indefinite suspension of teammate Ty Cobb for attacking a heckling fan, his Detroit Tiger teammates refused to play their next game. Rather than forfeit, the club cobbled together a makeshift lineup that included some fans. It lost 24-2 and Cobb was promptly reinstated.
The Red Sox won the World Series against the New York Giants in a dramatic eighth game, necessitated when Game 2 (check) was called on account of darkness with the score knotted 1-1. Unlike the Bill Buckner’s famous 1986 World Series error, this time Boston was the beneficiary of a famous blunder that became known as the “the $30,000 muff.” Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball in the 10th inning that ultimately led to Boston’s series-clinching rally. Thirty thousand dollars was the winning team’s share.