1920 Major League Baseball season

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This article is about the 1920 Major League Baseball season only. For information on all of baseball, see 1920 in baseball.
1920 MLB season
League Major League Baseball
Sport Baseball
Pennant Winners
AL champions Cleveland Indians
NL champions Brooklyn Robins
World Series
Champions Cleveland Indians (5)
  Runners-up Brooklyn Robins (2)
MLB seasons

The 1920 Major League Baseball season, was the first to be presided over by the newly created office of Baseball Commissioner. 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. A three-person National Commission ran the major and minor leagues – composed of the American League President, National League President, and one team owner – but the owners felt that creating one position with near-unlimited authority was the answer. In the World Series, the Cleveland Indians triumphed over the Brooklyn Robins, 5–2.

Regular season standings[edit]

American League W L Pct. GB Home Road
Cleveland Indians 98 56 0.636 51–27 47–29
Chicago White Sox 96 58 0.623 2 52–25 44–33
New York Yankees 95 59 0.617 3 49–28 46–31
St. Louis Browns 76 77 0.497 21½ 40–38 36–39
Boston Red Sox 72 81 0.471 25½ 41–35 31–46
Washington Senators 68 84 0.447 29 37–38 31–46
Detroit Tigers 61 93 0.396 37 32–46 29–47
Philadelphia Athletics 48 106 0.312 50 25–50 23–56


National League W L Pct. GB Home Road
Brooklyn Robins 93 61 0.604 49–29 44–32
New York Giants 86 68 0.558 7 45–35 41–33
Cincinnati Reds 82 71 0.536 10½ 42–34 40–37
Pittsburgh Pirates 79 75 0.513 14 42–35 37–40
St. Louis Cardinals 75 79 0.487 18 38–38 37–41
Chicago Cubs 75 79 0.487 18 43–34 32–45
Boston Braves 62 90 0.408 30 36–37 26–53
Philadelphia Phillies 62 91 0.405 30½ 32–45 30–46


Creation of the office of the Commissioner of Baseball[edit]

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 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 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, and although reluctant at first, 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] He also kept his job as a federal judge. Of course, a near autocratic leader was probably what was needed for baseball at the time as the Black Sox scandal had placed the public's trust in baseball on shaky ground as the owners accepted the terms of the agreement with a scant trace of opposition, if any.[7]

Effect of the Black Sox scandal on the AL pennant race[edit]

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.[8] 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.[9] The Indians pulled ahead and won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.[10]

References[edit]

  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. ^ Pietrusza, p. 160.
  9. ^ Cottrell, pp. 221–223.
  10. ^ Cottrell, p. 227.

Bibliography[edit]