The 1910s Sports: Headline Makers

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The 1910s Sports: Headline Makers

Ty Cobb
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson
Jack Johnson
Walter Johnson
John McGraw
Francis Ouimet
Jim Thorpe

Ty Cobb (1886–1961) Ty Cobb, the "Georgia Peach," was one of the alltime great baseball players. His lifetime batting average (.366) is the highest in major league history. At the end of the twentieth century, he was second all-time in hits (4,189), first in runs scored (2,245), and fourth in steals (892). With one exception, Cobb was the American League batting champion each year throughout the 1910s. In 1936, he became the first ballplayer elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, Cobb was not the world's most beloved human being. He was reportedly mean-tempered and egocentric, a tyrant and a racist. Upon his death, only three baseball professionals attended his funeral.

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson (1889–1951) If not for his involvement, however great or small, in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson undoubtedly would be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his thirteen-year major league career he batted .356. During 1911, his first full season, he hit .408. The following year, his average slipped to .395. Babe Ruth even was known to have copied his swing. During 1920, his final season, Jackson hit .382. He was just thirty-one years old, yet his career was over. He and seven of his Chicago White Sox teammates were banned from baseball for life for throwing the 1919 World Series.

Jack Johnson (1878–1946) Decades before the rise of Muhammad Ali (1941– ), an African American heavyweight champ who shocked mainstream sensibilities, Jack Johnson ruled the boxing world and similarly angered the white majority. During the 1910s and for decades to come, African Americans were expected to accept their status as second-class citizens. Johnson refused to do so. He lived a flamboyant lifestyle and defeated all "great white hope" comers. Johnson fled the country in 1912 after being convicted of violating the Mann Act and lost his title three years later in a match in Cuba. He returned to the U.S. in 1920, was sentenced to a year in jail, and eventually drifted into obscurity.

Walter Johnson (1887–1946) Walter Johnson was one of the greatest pitchers ever to wear a baseball uniform. From 1907 to 1927, he pitched exclusively for the Washington Senators, winning an astounding 417 major league games. This is the second-most in history, behind Cy Young (1867–1955). Johnson won twenty or more games each season from 1910 through 1919; in 1912 and 1913, he totaled thirty-three and thirty-six victories. Yet amazingly, for almost half his career, he pitched for second-division teams. Additionally, for decades, Johnson held the all-time strikeout mark (3,506). His career ERA was 2.17, and he threw a record 110 shut-outs.

John McGraw (1873–1934) After starring at third base for the Baltimore Orioles during the 1890s, John McGraw became manager of the New York Giants in 1904. For the next three decades, he was one of baseball's most dominating skippers and most colorful, celebrated personalities. His teams earned ten pennants, winning four straight from 1921 to 1924. McGraw was famed for being a brilliant strategist and tough competitor who dominated his players; it was for good reason that he earned the nickname "Little Napoleon." He also was one of the first managers to acknowledge the value of relief pitching.

Francis Ouimet (1893–1967) Today, Francis Ouimet is not as well-remembered as other celebrated golfers, from Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. However, during the 1910s, Ouimet was responsible for popularizing the game. He accomplished this by winning the U.S. Open title in 1913, despite his working-class background. Ouimet, who was employed as a stockbroker, remained an amateur for the rest of his athletic career. In 1951, he became the first non-British citizen elected captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Jim Thorpe (1888–1953) Jim Thorpe was a Renaissance man among athletes. He first earned fame playing football for coach Glenn "Pop" Warner (1871–1954) at the Carlyle Indian School. At the 1912 Olympics, he won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon. He played major league baseball from 1913 to 1919 and professional football between 1915 and 1928. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1953. In 1950, the Associated Press (AP) named Thorpe the top athlete of the first half of the twentieth century.

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The 1910s Sports: Headline Makers

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The 1910s Sports: Headline Makers