1910 Chalmers Award
Before the 1910 Major League Baseball season, Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Automobile Company announced a promotion in which a Chalmers Model 30 automobile would be given to the batting champions for Major League Baseball's American and National Leagues.
At the start of the final day of the 1910 season, Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers held a slim lead in the race for the American League batting title, just a few percentage points ahead of the Cleveland Naps' Nap Lajoie. While Cobb did not play in the Tigers' final two games of the season, Lajoie played in two successive games on the last day of the season for the Cleveland Naps.
Because Cobb did not have a plate appearance, his batting average did not change finishing with an average of .38507. However, Lajoie hit safely eight times in the Naps' doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns. With eight hits in eight at-bats, Lajoie finished the season with a .384 batting average (227 hits in 591 at bats).
Browns' manager Jack O'Connor had ordered rookie third baseman Red Corriden to play on the outfield grass. This all but conceded a hit for any ball Lajoie bunted. Lajoie's final at-bat resulted in a wild throw to first base, which was scored as an error. After news broke of the scandal, a writer for the St. Louis Post claimed: "All St. Louis is up in arms over the deplorable spectacle, conceived in stupidity and executed in jealousy." The issue was brought to American League president Ban Johnson, who declared all batting averages official, and Cobb the champion (.385069 to .384095). The Chalmers people, however, awarded automobiles to both Cobb and Lajoie (essentially declaring a tie). Cobb ultimately won the Chalmers Award in 1911 in his best year, hitting .420.
Chalmers continued the Chalmers Award through the 1914 season, after which it was discontinued. Chalmers ceased to exist in 1923, however it is a direct predecessor to modern-day Chrysler. The Chalmers brand name today is effectively owned by Fiat, which owns a controlling interest in Chrysler.
In 1978, Pete Palmer discovered a discrepancy in Cobb's career hit total, and the story was broken by The Sporting News in April 1981. Initially recorded at 4,191 (still the total on MLB.com), researchers say that a Detroit Tigers box score was counted twice in the season-ending calculations. The statisticians gave Cobb an extra 2-for-3. Not only did this credit Cobb with two non-existent hits, it also raised his 1910 batting average from .383 to .385. As Lajoie is credited with a .384 average for the 1910 season, the revised figure would have cost Cobb one of his 12 batting titles and reduced his career average to .366.
O'Connor and coach Harry Howell, who tried to bribe the official scorer to change the error to a hit, were banned from baseball for their role in the affair. The ensuing mathematical mess was described by one writer as follows: "It could be said that 1910 produced two bogus leading batting averages, and one questionable champion."
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- Deane, Bill, Thorn, John (ed.), and Palmer, Pete (ed.) (1993). "Awards and Honors." In Total Baseball (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-273189-0.
- Vass, George (June 2005). "Baseball records: fact or fiction: some of the game's historic marks may be inaccurate, but they continue to be a driving force in the popularity of statistics among fans". Baseball Digest. Retrieved 2007-01-30.