This week’s edition of The Stud 400 visits with one of the most interesting baseball teams ever assembled: the 1915-16 Red Sox.
Guys on that team included Everett Scott, who held the record for consecutive games played before Lou Gehrig, Duffy Lewis, who had an on-field hill in front of the Green Monster named in his honor, Carl Mays, who threw the pitch that killed Ray Chapman, and Smoky Joe Wood, who was as good as any of the game’s early pitchers until a thumb injury forced him to become an outfielder. They had Hall of Famers Harry Hooper and Herb Pennock. They had Olaf Henriksen, who remains the only Danish-born Major Leaguer and the only Olaf to ever play in the Bigs.
They also had two of the biggest names in baseball history in Tris Speaker and a young Babe Ruth. 1915 was the only time the two played a full season together and Ruth was just 20 years old. He went 18-8 as the team’s number three starter while leading the team with four home runs. Speaker was 27 and well-established as one of the top players to have ever played the game to that point.
The Red Sox won 101 games and steamrolled the Phillies in the World Series. Behind the leadership of Speaker, Hooper and Lewis and young stars like Ruth, Scott, Wood and Dutch Leonard, the Sox seemed set for a decade. However, the business side of things got in the way.
The Sox won the World Series in 1916 and 1918, but pieces were starting to fall off the dynasty while that was happening. Joseph Lannin sold the team to Harry Frazee in 1917 and of course Ruth was sold to the Yankees. However, the first sign that the good times were coming to an end was when the Red Sox did what was unthinkable at the time and sold Speaker to Indians just days before the start of the 1916 season.
Speaker’s trade comes in at #350 on The Stud 400 and history will never know what would have happened had the Red Sox of the 1910s stuck together.
But first, here’s look at the previous five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
355. Frankie Frisch and the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee (1970)
354. Willie McCovey’s Rookie Year (1959)
353. Judge awards Sam Crawford to the Tigers (1902)
352. Ernie Banks says, “Let’s play two!” (1960)
351. Rickey Henderson sets runs scored record (2001)
And now, here’s Episode Eleven of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Red Sox trade Tris Speaker to the Indians (1916)
Days before the 1916 Major League Baseball season was ready to start, shockwaves were sent through the league as one of game’s greatest players was shipped from Boston to Cleveland. After leading the Red Sox to a World Series title in 1915, Speaker was asked to take a significant pay cut by the notoriously cheap Red Sox. Speaker refused and a stalemate developed between Red Sox president Joseph Lannin and the legendary center fielder. Speaker, the 1912 MVP, was sent to the Indians for Sam Jones, Fred Thomas and $55,000, the highest total ever to change hands in a trade. Speaker reluctantly and angrily reported to the Indians after contemplating retirement and hit .354 over 11 seasons in Cleveland.
$100,000 Infield (1914)
Giving nicknames to groups of players on certain teams is nothing new to sports and not unique to baseball. Throughout history, you had Murderer’s Row, the Fearsome Foursome, the Seven Blocks of Granite and plenty of line nicknames in the NHL. One of the first pro sports groups to have a nickname was the Philadelphia A’s infield in the 1910s. The $100,000 infield featured Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker along with John Barry and Stuffy McInnis. Historian Bill James rated the 1914 version as the best infield of all time. That group led the A’s to the World Series in 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914, winning the title each year except ’14. The infield was finally broken up after the 1914 season when Connie Mack sold Collins off to the White Sox.
Ted Williams is the first to homer in four decades (1960)
On April 23, 1939, a 20-year-old Williams belted the first of his 521 career home runs. On September 28, 1960, Williams famously homered in his final at bat. In between, Williams established himself as the greatest hitter who ever lived, racking up a gaggle of records along the way. One notable accomplishment in a long list was that Williams was the first player to homer in four different decades. Williams accomplished the feat when he took Camilo Pascual deep on Opening Day in 1960. Since then, only Willie McCovey, Rickey Henderson and Omar Vizquel have matched him.
Dizzy Dean breaks his toe in All-Star Game (1937)
Like all sports, baseball is full of “what if” stories. What if Bo Jackson never got hurt? What if JR Richard never had a stroke? What if Josh Hamilton was able to stay clean? Those players all had potential Hall of Fame careers cut short for different reasons. Dizzy Dean is one of the original “what if” players, but the main difference is that he was so good during his peak that a shortened career couldn’t keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Dean broke his toe on a comebacker in the 1937 Fall Classic and an altered delivery caused arm problems that essentially ended his career at age 30. Over an incredible five-year peak, Dean went 115-60 with a 2.94 ERA. He won 30 games in 1934 and led the National League in strikeouts four straight years. He won the 1934 MVP and finished runner-up the next two seasons. Dean finished with a 150-83 career record, and one can only wonder what that would have been if he had a peak that lasted more than five seasons.
Phillies win their first World Series (1980)
The Phillies were established in 1883 and you’d figure that even by accident, they would have stumbled into a World Series win at some point, especially considering how few teams there were for the first 80 years of their existence. However, when the 1980 World Series rolled around, the Phillies were stuck on a 97-year drought, having never won a title. Philadelphia ended up topping the Royals in six games to break the streak and set off massive statewide celebrations. Game 6 remains the most viewed World Series game in history with a massive audience of 54 million viewers. By comparison, this year’s World Series deciding game drew 11.7 million viewers.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Stud 400 when we give some love to a guy who draws the ire of fans nationwide. We also find out what happens when you mess with someone who has old man strength and take the Ball Nine Time Machine back to the origins of an activity millions of people participate in today.