Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18, 1912: Replacement Players Take The Field For THe Striking Tigers

     On May 18, 1912, the Detroit Tigers got hammered by the defending Champion Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park in Philly. At least it appeared to be the Detroit Tigers. The men who usually donned the uniform with the big D insignia had decided to go on strike due to the suspension of Ty Cobb who had assaulted a handicap man who was heckling him in New York just three days before this contest, and to avoid a $5,000 a day fine (which would be nearly $120,000 today) the owner of the Detroit squad, Phil Navin put together a misfit squad that included a future priest, five sandlotters, and two future boxers. The future priest, Alan Travers pitched the ballgame and went the distance, and gave up all 24 runs, although, only 14 of them were earned as the defense behind him was suspect to say the least. This was the first ever strike in the history of Major League Baseball.

     The fan was disabled and an irritated Cobb beat the man mercilessly after he repeatedly taunted the future Hall of Famer. The fan, Claude Lucker had lost all but two fingers in a printing press accident, and when Cobb attacked him many fans pleaded for him to stop. Before order was restored the Pittsburgh Press  reported that blood was flowing freely from the face of the fan.

     Cobb picked the wrong day to pull this stunt, as the President of the American League happened to be in the ballpark, and he witnessed the whole thing. Johnson condemned the actions of Cobb, and suspended him indefinitely. Cobb, claimed that the man had heckled him on other occasions, and that day he had asked the fan to stop, and when he did so the fan let loose with some of the worst insults he had ever heard. It was the straw that broke the camels back, and it was also the straw that busted Lucker's face open.

     After the suspension was handed down, Cobb's teammates held a secret meeting, and decided they would not play, if Cobb could not play. They were serious. Ban Johnson was serious as well, and he made it known by threatening to fine the Tigers' owner. Navin pleaded with his players to end the strike. They heard his plea, and returned to the field on May 21st. Luckily for Navin, this club was off for a couple of days after the debacle in Philly. Ultimately, Cobb received a 10 game suspension

     I looked through at least 15 newspapers while researching this fact, and the picture that will accompany the fact is going to be a combination of two of them. The first one is an Associated Press piece that was found in the Spartanburg Herald out of South Carolina, while the other is the only boxscore I was able to find. The boxscore was found in the Milwaukee Sentinel. I will also include a link below that was written by Gary Livacari who is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research. I too am a member of SABR, and I urge anybody that has a serious interest in baseball history to join.

The piece by Mr. Livacari is about Allan Travers, who took the mound in that historic game.

If you happened to be interested in joining the Society of American Baseball Research you can view membership benefits here:


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