Year In Review : 1918 American League
Off the field...
New York suffered its worst subway accident in history after a train jumped the tracks in the Malbone Street tunnel (in Brooklyn) while traveling five times the speed limit. Ninety-two passengers were killed and over one hundred were injured. After subway motormen on the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) had gone out on strike on October 31st, many dispatchers and supervisors were pressed into service as replacement workers. On November 1st, dispatcher Antonio Luciano was assigned as the motorman on the Brighton Line that ran from Park Row over the Brooklyn Bridge. Luciano had never operated elevated trains in passenger service and had to navigate an S-shaped curve on what would later be called the Franklin Shuttle at Malbone Street. The speed limit at the location was posted at six miles per hour, but those on the scene later reported that the train roared through at nearly fifty causing the second and third cars to derail.
In the American League...
The American League season opened with Boston Red Sox ace Babe Ruth pitching a four-hit, 7-1 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics. Shortly after, manager Ed Barrow started Ruth's conversion to slugger by working him into seventy-two games as an outfielder-first baseman.
On April 18th, Cleveland Indian's centerfielder Tris Speaker turned an unassisted double play against the Detroit Tigers. Eleven days later, Speaker duplicated the feat against Chicago for the fourth solo-DP of his career and a franchise record that he would later share with teammate Elmer Smith.
During the 1918 season, Washington Senators ace Walter "The Big Train" Johnson completed fifteen extra-inning games, including two of eighteen innings, one of sixteen innings, and another of fifteen innings.
In the National League...
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Braves went head-to-head on August 1st for a Major League record of twenty scoreless innings. Marathon man Art Nehf went the distance for Boston, but was eventually beaten 2-0 in the twenty-first inning.
Cincinnati Reds manager Christy Mathewson suspended Hal Chase indefinitely on August 9th after suspecting him of taking bribes to fix games. Chase was eventually reinstated and returned to play for the New York Giants in 1919.
On October 5th, National League infielder Eddie Grant became the first Major League player killed in wartime action while leading a mission in the Argonne Forest offensive to rescue the "Lost Battalion" who was trapped behind German lines. Other players killed in WWI included Alex Burr, Larry Chappell, Ralph Sharman, and Bun Troy.
Around the league...
Although both leagues optimistically kept the schedules at a one-hundred fifty-four game season, all owners agreed to shorten spring training by 50% in an attempt to save money.
Sunday baseball was officially legalized in Washington, D.C. on May 14th after district commissioners finally rescinded the ban in response to the large increase in the city's wartime population and the need for more recreational activities.
Secretary of War Newton D. Baker ruled that baseball was not considered an essential occupation and that all players of draft age were subject to the "work-in-essential-industries-or-fight" rule.
During the "7th-inning stretch" in Game 1 of the World Series, a military band played "The Star Spangled Banner" as a tribute to all servicemen on leave and in attendance. From then on, the song was played at every World Series outing and every season opener (though it was not yet adopted as the national anthem). The custom of playing it before every game began during WWII, after the installation of stadium speaker systems made it more feasible.