1910s: Sports and Games
1910s: Sports and Games
Baseball continued to dominate the American sports scene in the 1910s. Attendance at professional baseball games remained high throughout the decade, rising slightly from 6,206,447 in 1910 to 6,532,439 in 1919; the numbers might have been higher without the interruptions of World War I (1914–18). The American League dominated the World Series, winning eight of ten titles in the decade. The games biggest stars were Ty Cobb (1886–1961) of the Detroit Tigers, Walter Johnson (1887–1946) of the Washington Senators, and an emerging star—George Herman "Babe" Ruth (1895–1948) of the Boston Red Sox (and later the New York Yankees). Baseball received a black eye in 1919 when several players on the Chicago White Sox were involved in "throwing" (intentionally losing) the World Series for money; the event became known as the Black Sox Scandal.
Aside from baseball, American professional sports were just getting started in the 1910s. Professional hockey got its start in 1911 with the founding of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which overshadowed the fledgling National Hockey League, founded in 1917. Auto racing also got a boost in the decade with the founding of the Indianapolis 500. Ray Harroun (1879–1968) won the initial race—and the $10,000 prize—by averaging an amazing 74.6 miles an hour. Horse racing also gained respectability in the decade thanks to the introduction of the Triple Crown, a series of horse races that included the most famous race of all, the Kentucky Derby.
College football continued to be the most popular fall spectator sport, with Notre Dame becoming a dominant team in the decade behind the play of Knute Rockne (1888–1931), who became the team's coach late in the decade. Professional football was still limited to a small league in the Midwest. Unlike professional baseball, the early pro football leagues allowed black players to participate, and several black players starred on early teams. Native American Jim Thorpe (1888–1953) was the star of the decade in professional football, and he remained so into the 1920s.
Black boxer Jack Johnson (1878–1946) continued his reign as heavyweight champion in this decade, enraging racist white fight fans who could not stand the idea of a black man being in a position of dominance. Johnson finally lost his title to white boxer Jess Willard (1883–1968) in 1915. In 1919, a new champion, Jack Dempsey (1895–1983), took the crown. Dempsey would become the most celebrated boxer of the 1920s. Other sports also gained participants in the decade. Golf and tennis—once games of the upper classes—became popular among the American middle class. Golf champion Walter Hagen (1892–1969) became a minor celebrity.
Young Americans also enjoyed some fascinating new toys and games in this decade. Both Tinkertoys and Erector Sets allowed children to create toys modeled after the innovations of their day—cars and skyscrapers. Other children played with the newly popular Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. Each of these toys remained in production in the early twenty-first century.