The Boston Red Sox may have won World Series titles in 1915-16 with the assistance of a new league. Just what was the impact of the Federal League?
The 1915 and 1916 Red Sox may have been excluded from back-to-back World Series titles if not for labor-management issues and had competitive adventurism as the main part of the elixir that changed dramatically the direction of two franchises.
The Sox had previously been recipients of a similar occurrence when the American League was founded in 1901. The Red Sox – the new competitors for the Boston Braves – immediately captured Jimmy Collins from the Braves to play third base, captain the team, and be the manager. Other Braves followed and the first World Series was in the Red Sox pocket.
In 1913 a new league was being formed – the Federal League – and they developed a unique approach to acquiring players – no reserve clause. The league also was in direct competition with the two more established leagues in four cities of which one was Philadelphia.
In 1913 the champion Red Sox team was disintegrating with internal strife and ownership that was taking a more “active” stance in on the field operations. The result was the Red Sox slide to fourth place and the A’s took not only the pennant but the World Series. The following season the A’s once again repeated (99-53) and the Red Sox improved to second place at 8.5 games behind. Then the A’s were disassembled.
The owner-manager of the A’s – Connie Mack – was faced with a perfect storm of possible fiscal destruction with competition from the Phillies, the new Federal League team in Philadelphia, rising salaries thanks to a new league, and attendance hitting the skids. Mack proceeded to sell, trade, and release players as some had already run to the higher salaries offered by the Feds. In 1915 the A’s went to 43-109 and Boston to 101-50.
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In 1916 the Sox repeated but with a 91-63 record and the A’s went even further into the basement at 36-117. The core dissidents were a pair of Hall of Fame pitchers who left Philadelphia – Chief Bender and Eddie Plank. The A’s were a solid team with great offense and defense and quite possibly could have won another few pennants.
Eventually, the Red Sox acquired Bullet Joe Bush, Herb Pennock, Wally Schang, Stuffy McInnis, Amos Strunk, Weldon Wyckoff, and Jack Barry from the A’s. All helped to bring a title to Boston in 1918.
If some of the names above seem familiar the Sox eventually shipped more than a few of them to the New York Yankees along with that Babe Ruth fellow and a few others. The Yankees may have stripped Boston but Boston had stripped the A’s. A comeuppance if you look at it that way or what goes around.
Of course, it is just supposition on my part that the A’s would have won without the Feds becoming a pain in the pocketbook for the notorious parsimonious Mack, but the reality is the confluence of circumstances that were the fallout from the Feds benefited the Sox in both 1915 and 1916 and even to 1918. And following the breadcrumbs even the Yankees who helped dismantle the Red Sox and also got Bob Shawkey from Mack’s fire sale.