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1920 Major League Baseball season

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1920 MLB season
LeagueMajor League Baseball
DurationApril 14 – October 12, 1920
Number of games154
Number of teams16
Pennant Winners
AL championsCleveland Indians
  AL runners-upChicago White Sox
NL championsBrooklyn Robins
  NL runners-upNew York Giants
World Series
ChampionsCleveland Indians
  Runners-upBrooklyn Robins
 MLB seasons
Locations of teams for the 1915–1922 American League seasons
American League

The 1920 Major League Baseball season began on April 14, 1920. The regular season ended on October 3, with the Brooklyn Robins and Cleveland Indians as the regular season champions of the National League and American League, respectively. The postseason began with Game 1 of the 17th World Series on October 5 and ended with Game 7 on October 12. The Indians defeated the Robins, five games to two.

This was the final season to be presided over by the three-person National Baseball Commission, which ran the major and minor leagues—composed of the American League President, National League President, and one team owner as president. In the wake of the Black Sox scandal, the credibility of baseball had been tarnished with the public and fans and the owners of the teams clamored for credibility to be restored. The owners felt that creating one position with near-unlimited authority was the answer. After the season, the commission was replaced with the newly created office of Commissioner of Baseball.

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League Team City Stadium Capacity
American League Boston Red Sox Boston, Massachusetts Fenway Park 35,000
Chicago White Sox Chicago, Illinois Comiskey Park 28,000
Cleveland Indians Cleveland, Ohio League Park 21,414
Detroit Tigers Detroit, Michigan Navin Field 23,000
New York Yankees New York, New York Polo Grounds 38,000
Philadelphia Athletics Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Shibe Park 23,000
St. Louis Browns St. Louis, Missouri Sportsman's Park 24,040
Washington Senators Washington, D.C. Griffith Stadium 27,000
National League Boston Braves Boston, Massachusetts Braves Field 40,000
Brooklyn Robins New York, New York Ebbets Field 30,000
Chicago Cubs Chicago, Illinois Cubs Park 15,000
Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati, Ohio Redland Field 20,696
New York Giants New York, New York Polo Grounds 38,000
Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia, Pennsylvania National League Park 18,000
Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Forbes Field 25,000
St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis, Missouri Sportsman's Park 24,040

Creation of the office of the Commissioner of Baseball

Persisting rumors of the Chicago White Sox throwing the previous year's World Series to the Cincinnati Reds and another game during the 1920 season led to the game's brass looking for ways of dealing with the problems of gambling within the sport. At the time, MLB was governed by a three-man National Baseball Commission composed of American League President Ban Johnson, National League President John Heydler and Cincinnati Reds owner Garry Herrmann. At the request of the other owners, Herrmann left the office reducing the commission to be deadlocked by two. With the owners disliking one or both presidents, calls began for stronger leadership, although they opined they could support the continuation of the leagues' presidencies with a well-qualified Commissioner.[1]

A plan that began to circulate and gain support was dubbed the "Lasker Plan", after Albert Lasker, a shareholder of the Chicago Cubs, called for a three-man commission with no financial interest in baseball. With the Black Sox scandal exposed on September 30, 1920, Heydler began calling for the Lasker Plan. All eight NL teams supported the plan, along with three AL teams. The three AL teams were the White Sox, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.[2] The teams in support of the Lasker Plan wanted federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to take the office of Baseball Commissioner. Johnson, who opposed the plan and thus, the appointment of Landis, had allies in the other five AL clubs, and attempted to get Minor League Baseball to side with him. However, the minor leagues would not, and when the AL teams learned their position, they relented and instead went along with the Lasker Plan.[3] The owners agreed that they needed a person with near-unlimited authority and a powerful person to fill the position of commissioner.[4]

The owners approached Landis, who eventually accepted the position as the first Commissioner of Baseball.[5] He drafted the agreement which gave him almost unlimited authority throughout the major and minor leagues – every owner on down to the batboys was accountable to the Commissioner – including barring owners from dismissing him, speaking critically of him in public or challenging him in court.[6] Landis also kept his job as a federal judge.

While Landis' record as Commissioner would eventually attract considerable controversy, especially with respect to his role in maintaining the color line, at the time a near autocratic leader was widely believed to be needed for baseball since the Black Sox scandal had placed the public's trust in baseball on shaky ground. As a result, the owners accepted the terms of the agreement with a scant trace of opposition, if any.[7]


The 1920 schedule consisted of 154 games for all teams in the American League and National League, each of which had eight teams. Each team was scheduled to play 22 games against the other seven teams of their respective league. The 154-game format had previously been used since 1904, except for 1919, and would be used until 1961 in the American League and 1962 in the National League.

Opening Day took place on April 14 with all but the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox playing. The final day of the regular season was on October 3. The World Series took place between October 5 and October 12.


Newspaper account in the Austin American-Statesman of the tripleheader played on October 2, 1920

The 1920 season would feature the extremely rare tripleheader, the only one of its kind in MLB history (3rd in National League history, previously occurring in 1890 and 1896), when the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds on October 2 for three games, the day before the final day of the regular season. The Reds would win the first two games, while the Pirates would win a 6-inning long 3rd game, called early on account of darkness.[8]

Rule changes

The 1920 season saw the following rule changes:[9][10]

  • Fly balls hit over the fence along the left and right-field lines will be judged fair or foul according to where the ball passes the fence, rather than where it landed; previously, umpires would judge based on where the ball landed. On June 25, the rule reverted to the 1919 version, which is based upon where the ball disappears from view. The rule would re-revert to the 1920 version before the 1928 season began.
  • When a batter hits a ball over the fence to win the game, he is now credited with a home run. Previously, the batter would be rewarded with the number of bases needed for the team to win the game and were not considered home runs.
  • Spitballs and other unorthodox ("trick" or "freak") pitches were outlawed. Foreign substances such as rosin, dirt or mud from the field to scar the ball, spit or phlegm, material from rubbing the ball on the glove or clothing, or any kind of defacing of the ball were banned. Violations to this rule would result in immediate ejection and being barred from any championship contest for a period of ten days. There were 17 pitchers who were exempted from the spitball rule, becoming legacy spitballers (the last of which retired in 1934).[11][12]
  • A balk was to be called if the pitcher releases the ball while the catcher is out of his box.
  • The failure of a preceding runner to touch a base would not affect the status of a succeeding runner.
  • Cases where the defense intentionally allows the runner to advance without attempting to put him out are scored as defensive indifference, also called fielder's indifference, and do not count as stolen bases.[13] This is usually only scored late in games when it is clear that the defense's priority is getting the batter out. The lack of a putout attempt does not by itself indicate defensive indifference; the official scorer must also factor in the game situation and the defensive players' actions.

Effect of the Black Sox scandal on the AL pennant race

After an August 31 game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, allegations began to arise that the game was fixed. The state court in Chicago opened a grand jury to investigate gambling within baseball. Gambler Billy Maharg came forward with information that he worked with New York gambler Arnold Rothstein and former boxer Abe Attell to get the White Sox to throw the 1919 World Series.[14] The White Sox again were contending for the American League title and were in a near-dead heat with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. However, on September 28, eight White Sox players were indicted and suspended by owner Charlie Comiskey.[15] The Indians pulled ahead and won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.[16]




World Series
AL Cleveland Indians 5
NL Brooklyn Robins 2


League leaders

American League

National League

Home field attendance

Team name Wins Home attendance Per game
New York Yankees[17] 95 18.8% 1,289,422 108.3% 16,746
New York Giants[18] 86 -1.1% 929,609 31.1% 11,620
Cleveland Indians[19] 98 16.7% 912,832 69.6% 11,703
Chicago White Sox[20] 96 9.1% 833,492 32.9% 10,825
Brooklyn Robins[21] 93 34.8% 808,722 124.2% 10,368
Detroit Tigers[22] 61 -23.8% 579,650 -10.0% 7,431
Cincinnati Reds[23] 82 -14.6% 568,107 6.7% 7,378
Chicago Cubs[24] 75 0.0% 480,783 13.3% 6,244
Pittsburgh Pirates[25] 79 11.3% 429,037 55.0% 5,500
St. Louis Browns[26] 76 13.4% 419,311 20.0% 5,376
Boston Red Sox[27] 72 9.1% 402,445 -3.6% 5,295
Washington Senators[28] 68 21.4% 359,260 53.5% 4,727
Philadelphia Phillies[29] 62 31.9% 330,998 37.7% 4,299
St. Louis Cardinals[30] 75 38.9% 326,836 95.6% 4,300
Philadelphia Athletics[31] 48 33.3% 287,888 27.8% 3,739
Boston Braves[32] 62 8.8% 162,483 -2.9% 2,196


  1. ^ Spink, pp. 54–55.
  2. ^ Cottrell, p. 243.
  3. ^ Cottrell, pp. 236–237.
  4. ^ Cottrell, pp. 239–240.
  5. ^ Cottrell, p. 244.
  6. ^ Cottrell, p. 247.
  7. ^ Watson, Bruce. "The judge who ruled baseball". Smithsonian, Volume 31, Number 7, October 2000, pp. 120–132.
  8. ^ "Triple Headers in Major League Baseball". Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  9. ^ sabr. "How Rules Changes in 1920 Affected Home Runs – Society for American Baseball Research". Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  10. ^ "MLB Rule Changes | Baseball Almanac". Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  11. ^ Okrent, Daniel (April 20, 1989). Baseball anecdotes. ISBN 9780195043969.
  12. ^ Faber, Charles F.; Faber, Richard B. (2006). Spitballers - The Last Legal Hurlers of the Wet One. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company. p. v. ISBN 0-7864-2347-1. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  13. ^ Curry, Jack "Safe at Second, but No Stolen Base to Show for It" The New York Times, Wednesday, September 23, 2009
  14. ^ Pietrusza, p. 160.
  15. ^ Cottrell, pp. 221–223.
  16. ^ Cottrell, p. 227.
  17. ^ "New York Yankees Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  18. ^ "San Francisco Giants Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  19. ^ "Cleveland Guardians Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  20. ^ "Chicago White Sox Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  21. ^ "Los Angeles Dodgers Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  22. ^ "Detroit Tigers Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  23. ^ "Cincinnati Reds Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  24. ^ "Chicago Cubs Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  25. ^ "Pittsburgh Pirates Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  26. ^ "Baltimore Orioles Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  27. ^ "Boston Red Sox Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  28. ^ "Minnesota Twins Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  29. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  30. ^ "St. Louis Cardinals Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  31. ^ "Oakland Athletics Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  32. ^ "Atlanta Braves Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Retrieved March 28, 2024.


External links

This page was last edited on 7 May 2024, at 16:50
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