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An Alternative History of the Yankees: the 1910s

The virtual Yankees win a World Series before their real life counterparts did.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB via Getty Images

Using the game Out of the Park Baseball 21, we’ve been going back through history and rewriting Yankees and baseball history. The computer is controlling all teams, and all real life transactions have been turned off. Therefore, it’s possible the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter will never end up in pinstripes, while other notable names end up as Yankee stars. You can read part one here, let’s see what happens next.

When we last left off, the then Highlands had an inauspicious first decade of existence, finishing above .500 just once. However, young prospect Shoeless Joe Jackson was beginning to make an impact, and the team hired Patsy Donovan as manager. What will happen to the Highlanders in the 1910s?

1910: 92-62, 2nd in AL, 1 GB, Team WAR Leader: RF Shoeless Joe Jackson (6.5)

Donovan’s hiring and the emergence of Jackson as a star paid immediate dividends as the Highlanders jumped all the way to second in the AL. They came one game short of Ty Cobb’s Washington Senators, who would beat the Giants in the World Series.

1911: 82-72, 3rd in AL, 14 GB, Team WAR Leader: RF Shoeless Joe Jackson (9.2)

In total, the team took a step back, but Jackson took a giant step forward, winning AL MVP. He hit .410/.469/.629 with 30 triples, which fell one short of the single season record. The Senators went back-to-back, this time beating the Pirates in the World Series.

1912: 82-72, 2nd in AL, 8 GB, Team WAR Leader: RF Shoeless Joe Jackson (8.8 WAR)

Despite putting up the exact same record of the season before, the Highlanders finished one place higher and six games better in the standings. This time, it was the St. Louis Browns who took the AL and the championship.

1913: 80-74, 3rd in AL, 16 GB, Team WAR Leader: CF Clyde Milan (7.5)

The Highlanders officially changed their name to the Yankees, but on the field, they fell back a little bit, dropping to third. Even still, four-straight years over .500 is vastly better than anything that happened the previous decade. Meanwhile, the Senators regained their AL and World Series crowns. In prospect news, the Reds have acquired a young pitcher named Babe Ruth, who also shows promising signs at the plate.

1914: 70-84, 7th in AL, 24 GB, Team WAR Leader: RF Shoeless Joe Jackson (6.2)

The Yankees top performers mostly had solid years, but something went wrong that caused them to fall all the way to seventh. The Athletics would take the AL and the World Series, but better things were in sight for the Yankees.

Elsewhere, that Ruth guy made his debut, putting up about league average pitching and hitting numbers.

1915: 98-56, 1st in AL, Team in WAR Leader: SS Roger Peckinpaugh (10.3)

For the first time in franchise history, the Yankees had won the American League. They had done so thanks to great seasons from AL MVP Jackson, but also the emergence of shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, left fielder George Burns, and Cy Young Award winning pitcher Reb Russell. Those four and helpful contributions from others led to the Yankees running away with the pennant, finishing 19 games ahead of second place.

They were matched up in the World Series against the Boston Braves, who were led by NL MVP Tris Speaker. The Yankees went in as favorite, but lost in five games. They actually held Speaker in check, but Boston’s Lee Magee won MVP after hitting .412/.500/.706. In losing, the Yankees became the first AL team to lose the World Series since 1907.

1916: 88-66, 1st in AL, Team WAR Leader: SS Roger Peckinpaugh (10.1)

The Yankees took a step back the following year, but managed to squeak out another pennant, finishing two games ahead of the Red Sox. This time, they would be the underdog against the 97-win Phillies. This time, Doherty’s team would not be denied.

The Yankees swept the Phillies, with Jackson taking home MVP. He hit an astounding .571/.647/.857. It was impossible to deny how much he wanted to win that series. Meanwhile, the Yankees pitching staff held NL MVP George Sisler to fairly average numbers.

1917: 86-68, 3rd in AL, 10 GB, Team WAR Leader, SS Roger Peckinpaugh (10.8)

Jackson wins his third MVP, but despite that and another excellent season from Peckinpaugh, the Yankees drop to third in the AL. They finish with nearly the same record as the year before, but a dominant Senators team was too much. Washington falls in the World Series to the Reds, where Ruth put up 11.4 WAR between hitting and pitching and being an olden day Shohei Ohtani (whoever that is, this is 1917). Ruth allowed just five runs across 18 innings while OPSing .890 in the series. Despite that, Harry Hooper actually wins World Series MVP for Cincinnati.

1918: 82-72, 4th in AL, 17 GB, Team WAR Leader: SS Roger Peckinpaugh (10.4)

Peckinpaugh continued his run of really good seasons. If you’re wondering why he’s not getting mentioned more, it’s that he’s put up a lot of those gaudy WAR totals via defense. His hitting is very good, but none of the numbers are particularly cartoonish. The Yankees’ dip comes in part due to the loss of star pitcher Russell, who throws just 36 innings.

The Senators came out of the AL again, but lost again, this time to the Cardinals.

1919: 83-57, 2nd in AL, 7 GB, Team WAR Leader: SS Roger Peckinpaugh (7.2 WAR)

The Yankees improve but again fall short of the Senators. Jackson’s hitting remains as good as ever, but it’s not enough to take the pennant. Meanwhile, Cobb leads Washington back over the last hurdle, avenging their World Series losses from the previous two seasons. He gets some help from the likes of Wally Pipp, for whom it’ll be tough to see anyone unseating him anytime soon.

To wrap up this decade, here are the best players in baseball history who ended up in a different spot than where they did in real life:

  • Ty Cobb: Washington Senators
  • Walter Johnson: St. Louis Cardinals
  • Grover Cleveland Alexander: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians
  • Eddie Collins: Washington Senators
  • Tris Speaker: Boston Braves