Wednesday, April 15, 2020

1902 Major League Baseball End of Season Review

At the end of the 1902 baseball season, representatives from the American and National Leagues met to discuss the future of professional baseball, as well as the possibility of the two leagues working together.  After several days of meetings, it appears as if a groundbreaking decision has been reached.  At the conclusion of the 1903 regular season, the league champions from the American and National League will meet in a best of nine game series to determine professional baseball's champion.  Per the terms of the agreement, American League owners have agreed to immediately cease the poaching of players from National League clubs, while National League owners have agreed to relax their restrictions on American League teams operating in National League cities.

With this incredible announcement in hand, let's look back at the 1902 season and see which teams may be favored to play for the championship of baseball next season.

New Arrival Cy Young Powers Boston to American League Pennant

Coming into the 1902 season, the Boston Americans were seen by many as a team on the downside of their current success.  While they finished just short of the pennant in 1901, the Americans lacked the offensive prowess of the Cleveland Blues, and their primary addition before the 1902 season was that of pitcher Cy Young.  While Young is one of the best pitchers in the game to this day, his offensive skills are lacking, to say the very least, so many experts predicted a poor season for both Young and the Americans.

When the dust settled at the end of the regular season, however, it was the team from Boston who had the last laugh.  Cy Young led the American League with 28 wins and the Americans finished with the pennant, taking the American League by a single game over the Cleveland Bronchos.  Young's 28 wins and 1.92 ERA both led Boston and were coupled with solid seasons from Amos Ruise and Jim Handiboe.  Even without a single regular from the Americans hitting over .300, the combination of outstanding pitching and timely hitting proved to just be enough in 1902 for Boston.  Whether or not it can produce a similar result in 1903 remains to be seen, but you can never count the Americans out.

On the other hand, two teams that were expected to experience success this season found very little, and the resulting poor season has one team on the move.  Both the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles were projected to be among the top teams in the American League in 1902, and only a late winning streak from the Senators prevented both teams from finishing under the .500 mark on the season.  With a disappointing season in Baltimore resulting in less and less fans turning up to games, ownership began looking for a potential new city to place the Orioles.  When the agreement between the American and National Leagues was announced, Orioles ownership was quick to announce that the team would be moving to New York for the 1903 season.  Whether or not the team keeps the Orioles name remains to be seen, but many are hopeful that this will be the last team a club has to move for quite some time.

1902 American League Final Standings

1902 American League Champion Boston Americans

Boston pitcher Cy Young, whose 28 wins and 1.92 ERA led all AL pitchers
Pittsburgh Runs Away with National League as Kilroy sets Wins Record

The race for the National League pennant was far less contested in 1902 than it was in 1901.  The Pittsburgh Pirates started the year playing like a team possessed and they did not stop until the final day of the season.  Their 91-49 record easily placed them atop the National League, and made them the clear favorite not just to win the National League again in 1903, but to win the first Championship of Baseball.

Pittsburgh's winning formula was a mix of solid hitting and two standout pitchers.  At the plate, Tom McCreery, Scoops Carey and Bill Dahlen gave the offense life while the pitching staff was led by Bobby Wallace and the ageless Matt Kilroy.  Coming into the 1902 season, it wasn't a question of whether or not Kilroy was going to break the record for career pitching wins, but when it would happen.  On May 31, Kilroy won his 495th career game, setting the new record.  By the end of the season, he would have a 25-9 record and 514 career wins.  At 36 years of age, Kilroy continues to defy Father Time, and it appears as if his record will stand possibly as long as baseball is played.

Joining Matt Kilroy as an elite pitcher for the Pirates this season was Bobby Wallace.  It was Wallace who surprisingly led Pittsburgh in wins, as he finished with a record of 27 wins against seven losses.  At just 28 years of age, it appears that Wallace has learned much from the great Kilroy, and should give Pittsburgh fans plenty of hope as the future of baseball continues.

One thing is clear for the remaining seven National League clubs: they all have work to do if they want to stop Pittsburgh from running away with another pennant in 1903.

1902 National League Final Standings

1902 National League Champion Pittsburgh Pirates
Bobby Wallace, who led Pittsburgh with 27 wins during the season.

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