Schechter: Cubs won the 1908 World Series, but AL pennant race was better

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on August 4, 2017:

When the 2016 Chicago Cubs finally got off their 107-season schneid and won the World Series, it brought renewed attention to the franchise’s previous title in 1908. That year’s National League pennant race is still remembered for the so-called “Merkle game,” in which the Cubs’ Johnny Evers pulled a sore-loser stunt and got away with it. Two weeks after Merkle’s “boner,” his failure to advance from first base to second on a base hit, nullified the winning run, the Cubs defeated Christy Mathewson in the makeup game, and the New York Giants lost the pennant on a loophole.

Also lost in the glare of legend is the 1908 American League pennant race, which was just as close, lasted much longer, and ultimately hinged on a more glaring loophole. Umpires today would follow Hank O’Day’s precedent and call Merkle out, but the travesty in the American League will never be repeated.

What turned into a wild, four-team race began slowly, and by the end of May a gap of just three and a half-games separated the league-leading New York Highlanders and the seventh-place Washington Senators. That changed in June, when the St. Louis Browns went 17–8, the Cleveland Naps went 18–8, and the Chicago White Sox won 13 straight games before rejoining the pack with a seven-game losing streak late in the month. As July dawned, the Browns led the pack, three and a half-games ahead of the fourth-place Detroit Tigers.

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Originally published: August 4, 2017. Last Updated: August 4, 2017.