The N.L. -- Another year of war with the American League brought an element of battle fatigue to the National League in 1902. A three-man Executive Committee, chaired by John T. Brush, directed the war effort during the season, chalking up its greatest triumph when it purchased the Baltimore American League team and sabotaged it by releasing its better players to sign National League contracts ....
A hollow victory was won when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that Nap Lajoie, Bill Bernhard, and Chick Fraser had to leave the Philadelphia Athletics to return to the rival Phillies, to whom they were bound by the reserve clause. Fraser returned, but Lajoie and Bernhard evaded the court order by joining the Cleveland American team and keeping out of Pennsylvania all season. In addition to not retaining these two, the Phillies lost Elmer Flick, Ed Delahanty, Red Donahue and Al Orth to further American League raids. Outside of Pennsylvania, state courts generally ruled against the reserve clause and, thus, in favor of the new loop.
The Pittsburgh Pirates managed to avoid any losses to the American League's raiding tactics for the second consecutive year, and the strong Buc squad trounced all the weakened competition in waltzing to a repeat championship by a margin of 27 1/2 games over distant runner-up Brooklyn. The Pirate total of 103 wins topped any team's record in the 27-year history of the league .... League batting champion Ginger Beaumont, manager Fred Clarke, and Honus Wagner all swung hot bats through the year, and Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, and Deacon Phillippe gave the Bucs three 20-win aces, with Chesbro's 28 wins topping the league's hurlers. In addition, third sacker Tommy Leach led the circuit in home runs with six clouts.
Brooklyn's second-place finish was due in good measure to Willie Keeler's .338 batting and good pitching by Frank Kitson and Wild Bill Donovan. After losing its entire offense and top pitchers to the new league in two years, Philadelphia dropped into seventh place. The New York Giants got off to a dismal start, and even the infusion of Baltimore talent could not stop a basement finish; nevertheless, new manager John McGraw, Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, and Don McGann would all serve the Giants well in the years to come.
....Events followed each other rapidly after the conclusion of the playing season. New raids by the American League stripped Brooklyn of Wee Willie Keeler, Frank Kitson, and Wild Bill Donovan, relieved Pittsburgh of Jesse Tannehill and Jack Chesbro, and took Sam Crawford off Cincinnati's hands. The controlling ownership of the New York Giants was pirchased by John T. Brush, and his position as head of the Executive Committee was rendered obsolete by the election of Harry Pulliam of Pittsburgh as President of the National League in December.
The A.L. -- Midway through its second season, the American League found its Baltimore outpost in the hands of the enemy, making the completion of the loop schedule a muddy issue. Baltimore manager John McGraw was constantly running afoul of League President Ban Johnson. Several times during the 1901 and 1902 seasons he was suspended by Johnson for harassing the league umpires and when the Little Napoleon continued his arbiter-baiting, Johnson dry-docked him indefinitely in July. McGraw decided not to take such treatment lying down and started negotiations which resulted in the Orioles being bought by John T. Brush, Chairman of the National League Executive Committee. With the enemy within its walls, the American League suffered a severe body blow; the new owner released McGraw, Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan, Dan McGann, Cy Seymour, Joe Kelley, and Jack Cronin to sign with the National League clubs, leaving Baltimore with a skeleton crew. When, on July 17, the Orioles could not field a team to meet St. Louis, Johnson used a league regulation to revoke the Baltimore franchise. He planned to operate the team for the rest of the season on league funds, arranged for each team to contribute players to stock the sabotaged team, and appointed local hero Wilbert Robinson to manage the reconstructed squad. The Orioles finished last, but that they finished the schedule at all represented a triumph of American League resiliency and solidarity....
St. Louis replaced Milwaukee in the 1902 circuit, and the new club raided the St. Louis Cardinals, of the old league, for several top players, luring Jesse Burkett, Bobby Wallace, Dick Padden, Snags Heidrick, Jack Harper, and Jack Powell into its fold. St. Louis represented the fourth city in which the two leagues both fielded teams and, in every instance, the new team outdrew the National League team. High salaries continued to induce stars to join the American League teams....
Connie Mack won his first pennant by directing the Athletics to a good second half, which gave them the championship over the new St. Louis Browns. Even with the loss of Lajoie, Mack could field a hard-hitting lineup led by third baseman Lave Cross, and rightfielder Socks Seybold; six .300 hitters dotted the Athletics scorecard, making Lajoie's loss less noticeable. The pitching staff survived the loss of Bernhard when Mack purchased lefty Rube Waddell in May from Los Angeles of the California League. Daffy to a fault and colorful to an extreme, the brash Waddell used a blazing fastball to post a 24-7 season mark with a league-leading 210 strikeouts. Steady Eddie Plank developed into a star in his second season by chalking up 20 victories. St. Louis, Boston and Chicago pursued hotly but could not catch the stretch-running A's. Washington's Ed Delahanty led all batters with a .376 average, while Cy Young of Boston again paced the pitchers with 32 wins.
At the season's end, the Baltimore situation was settled by transferring the franchise to New York, where players for the new squad were pirated from the senior loop. This move, along with the other calamities during the season, convinced the National League [that] peace was cheaper than war and in January 1903 the National League proposed to sit down and talk to the American League. The senior circuit first proposed a merger, which Johnson wisely refused. After many words and abandoned strategies, the final treaty recognized both leagues as majors, agreed to respect the contracts and reserve clauses of all teams, and allowed the American League to keep practically all the players it had corralled from the National League. When the negotiations were over, the senior circuit was not certain what it had won, but only that it had neutralized the enemy. And that was a victory.
--David S. Neft, Richard M. Cohen, Michael L. Neft
The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (22nd ed.)
The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (2002), David S. Neft, Richard M. Cohen & Michael L. Neft
Copyright 2002 by David S. Neft, Richard M. Cohen & Bert Sugar
Published by St. Martin's Press (New York), 2002
The most recent edition is available at AMAZON