1920 Was An Unusual Year, Including Baseball’s Only “Triple-Header!”

1920 Was An Unusual Year, Including Baseball’s Only “Triple-Header!”

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1920 Baseball Season Photo Gallery
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 1920 Was An Unusual Year, Including Baseball’s Only “Triple-Header!”

1920 was a pivotal year in baseball history. In addition to a young slugger named George Herman Ruth making his debut with the Yankees, the year saw the unofficial end of the “Dead Ball Era,” a new baseball commissioner, the only unassisted triple play in World Series history, the opening of the Black Sox scandal, and the fatal beaning of Ray Chapman. Although not of the same level of significance, there was a bizarre day during this season that we can add this unusual year.

In the featured photo below, we see a young slugger, George Herman Ruth, as he made his debut with the Yankees. Click on the link to see photo highlights of 1920 baseball season:

My recent post on the “Tri-cornered Game” caught the attention of our reader, Jerry Yhompson who in turn alerted me to baseball’s only “Triple-Header” in the modern era, played 97 years ago, October 2, 1920, during the final week of the 1920 season. The games were between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At the time of the triple header, the Brooklyn Robins were leading the National League comfortably. The Giants were second, no threat to the Robins but ahead of the 80-69 Reds, who were 3½ games ahead of the fourth place Pirates. At this stage of the season, the only question was which team would finish third, the Reds or the Pirates, and lay claim the third-place players’ share of the World Series receipts of about $10,000. Divided among some 25 players, this would not be an impressive amount by our current standards, but in 1920, it was a heck of a lot better than nothing!

With four games left in the season, the Reds were in Pittsburgh on Friday night, October 1, for a three-game series. The Pirates’ chances were slim, but their hopes were still alive. A sweep of their last four games long with four Reds’ losses would put them in third place by half a game. As luck would have it, the Friday game was rained out. Now three-and-a-half behind with three to play, and no makeup dates available, the Pirates’ hopes were dead. But wait…

What if the teams played a tripleheader on Saturday? Pirates’ owner Barney Dreyfuss, came up with the unorthodox idea and proposed it to National League president John Heydler who liked it. He telegraphed Reds’ manager Moran to play the three games.

On Saturday the weather cleared. The first game began at noon, and 2:03 later ended with a 13-4 Reds’ victory. Walker Cooper started for the Pirates and the Reds bombed him for eight runs in 2-2/3 innings, and went on to win, 13-4. The Reds were now definitely the champions of third place.

Pat Moran sat most of his regulars for the meaningless second game and started a lineup with four pitchers in it. The game was close for six innings. In the seventh the Reds exploded for seven runs and won easily, 7-3. Time: 1:56. 18 full innings had now been played in one minute under four hours!

Though it was now late in the afternoon, Game 3 got underway. The Pirates scored three in the first and three in the sixth, while the Pirates could manage only four hits through six innings.  At the end of the sixth darkness descended and the game was called, with a 6-0 Pirates victory. The time of the game was 1:01. A grand total of 24 innings had been played in precisely five hours!

So the season ended with the Reds 82-71 and the Pirates 79-75. As third-place winners the Reds claimed the ten grand bonus money. For fourth place the Pirates won zilch!

 -Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the 1920 Baseball Season on Wikipedia


I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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