The final year of the First World War affected the events at Fenway Park in a number of ways. With many players abroad fighting, the Red Sox won the American League Pennant during a shortened season and won their fourth World Series Championship of the decade. The ballpark hosted a crowd of 30,000 for a war memorial mass in late May.
Record: 75-51, 1st in American League
Manager: Edward G. Barrow
Postseason: Won World Series
For the third time in four years, the Red Sox won the World Series, though this was one of the more unusual seasons in baseball history. Hanging over the season from beginning to premature end was the threat that baseball would shut down due to World War I. Many players signed up to work in industries deemed essential to the war effort, pre-empting them against the draft. Indicative of the ongoing turnover, the Red Sox had nine different players at third base during the course of a season, which ran only 126 games before ending early on September 2.
Ed Barrow was hired as manager of the team and the season began with appeals to the crowd to buy Liberty Bonds to support the war. Babe Ruth drove in two runs on Opening Day and beat Philadelphia, 7-1. The Sox started 6-0 and found themselves in first place almost all season long.
On June 20, star pitcher Dutch Leonard, who had pitched a no-hitter just a few weeks earlier, had his classification in the military draft change. Leonard quit the team to take a job at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. Eight days later, Babe Ruth hit his 10th home run of the year, becoming the only player to hit at least 10 homers and win at least 10 games as a pitcher in the same season.
In 1918, Ruth also began playing in the field more regularly when he wasn't pitching. His 11 home runs led the American League (his teammates accumulated just four home runs) but his eccentricities provoked concern from team officials. In early July, Ruth went AWOL from the team, with word getting out that he'd signed to pitch for the Chester (Pennsylvania) Shipbuilding Company team. He came back three days later but his erratic behavior was less than pleasing to both Barrow and Harry Frazee.
The 1918 Red Sox had outstanding pitching led by Carl Mays, who went 21-13 (including victories in both games of an August 30 doubleheader against the visiting Athletics). Sad Sam Jones had the best winning percentage on the team, going 16-5 with a 2.25 ERA, while Ruth finished 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA.
The Red Sox went on to defeat the National League Champion Chicago Cubs in a World Series marred by disputes over gate receipts and the threat of a player strike. Boston prevailed in six games to claim their fourth championship of the decade but the achievement was met with tempered fan enthusiasm. Compounding these issues was the fact that, for the second series in a row, Boston's players were penalized because some participated in post-World Series play.
At the end of the calendar year, owners of every team rushed to renew contracts with their players. The war had ended on November 11, 1918, but the players had been released from their contracts when the season ended early. As it happens, the situation was resolved without any major problems.
The 1918 regular season was forced to end early because of World War I and the "Work or Fight" order, so the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and Cubs commenced on September 5, 1918. The first three games were played in Chicago and Babe Ruth shut out the Cubs 1-0 in Game One. The Cubs took Game Two but Carl Mays pitched the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory in Game Three, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 series lead as they returned home to Fenway Park.
A possible strike concerning the allocation of gate receipts jeopardized Game Four but the disagreement was resolved and the teams took the field. Once they did, Babe Ruth built off his Game One momentum and held the Cubs without a run through seven innings. With his performance Ruth ran his streak of consecutive scoreless World Series innings to 29 ?, a record that lasted until Whitey Ford surpassed it in 1961. Though Chicago scored twice off Ruth in the top of the eighth inning, the Red Sox came back with the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run in the bottom half of the frame, and Boston held one to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Cubs won Game Five at Fenway Park but the Red Sox rode a strong starting pitching performance by Mays to a championship-clinching, 2-1 victory in Game Six. With many fans still upset about the dispute before Game Four, the crowd for the finale at Fenway Park was a mere 15,238.
Chicago's pitching in the series could hardly have been better, as their staff earned run average was a miniscule 1.04 (Boston's was 1.70). The Red Sox scoring nine runs the entire series but those tallies were enough to seal Boston's fifth World Series Championship in 15 years, and their third in the first seven years of Fenway Park's history.
In May 1918, as the First World War was nearing its conclusion, the European theatre of conflict still brought news of massive casualty numbers and widespread destruction. Amidst this sorrow, Fenway Park held a memorial mass in tribute to fallen members of the United States Army and Navy on May 26, 1918. Led by Archbishop of Boston Cardinal O'Connell, the mass drew more than 30,000 attendees, including several prominent politicians and businessmen who paid their respects to the fallen soldiers and sailors. On a less somber note, high school football returned to Fenway Park in November and December of 1918, after the Red Sox had won the World Series in September.
|1918 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park|
|May 26||World War I Memorial Mass*|
|November 5||High School of Commerce 33, Revere High School 0 (Football)|
|November 7||Dorchester High 7, Boston English 6 (Football)|
|November 8||Boston College High School 7, Boston Latin 7 (Football)|
|November 14||Boston Latin 0, Dorchester High 0 (Football)|
|November 15||Boston College High School 21, Boston English 0 (Football)|
|November 28||Boston Latin 28, Boston English 0 (Football)|
|December 7||High School of Commerce 3, Medford High 0 (Football)|
*Started in the 1910s, a late May memorial service coinciding with the Memorial Day weekend was often held at Fenway Park through the mid-20th Century.
Over 30,000 attended a solemn war memorial mass at Fenway Park on May 26, 1918. Scores of Bostonians, including large delegations from local businesses such as Jordan Marsh, Filenes, R.H. White, Lee Higginson Company, Heitzer-Cabot Company and American Express, marched to the park with "the vigor and spirit of soldiers," according to one eyewitness.
The head of the Boston Archdiocese, Cardinal William O'Connell presided over the mass, which was also attended by Governor Samuel McCall, Mayor Andrew James Peters, and many other politicians and public officials.
A large group of recently-drafted men joined with Coast Guard sailors, radio and aviation cadets, and parish society members as the crowd sang "Keep The Home Fires Burning," "Onward Christian Soldiers," and "Over There."