Cleveland Indians History: The only time a team ever lost a title by a half-game

(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

In 1908 the Cleveland Indians became the only team in baseball history to miss the playoffs by a half-game. Maybe the only team in any sport to do that.

Cleveland Indians fans may be thinking: “What? How could that happen? Clearly one of the two teams had a game they needed to make up.”

It’s true. Today teams make up games if needed to determine who wins the championship. Even 100 years ago they did that. But 110 years ago, they did not. The Tigers had a September game against Washington rained out. The game wasn’t made up. The Tigers finished 90-63.  The Indians, at 90-64 were a half-game behind. That’s how it ended.

Worse – there was time for a makeup game. The Cubs and New York Giants finished tied for the regular season and (even back then) had to do a one-game playoff. Detroit and Washington could have played a makeup game, but did not.

Yeah, but would it have mattered?

Maybe. Washington had young (age 20 at the time) Walter Johnson (14-14, 1.65 ERA) rested and ready to go.

The Tigers, desperate to finish ahead of the Indians, used their top pitcher Bill Donovan on the last day of the season. The second best pitcher, Ed Summers, beat Johnson earlier in the month. But this time – who knows?

Of course this scenario hinges on the Senators putting in an all out effort to keep Ty Cobb out of the World Series, which hinges on them hating Ty Cobb.

Yeah, I’d say there was a good chance.

Had Washington won that game the Indians had Addie Joss – he of the 1.16 ERA in 1908 – rested and ready to go.

Enough revisionist history – how did it really end?

The Tigers went on to lose the World Series to the Cubs. There is at least a chance that the Indians could have beaten the Cubs in 1908. That wouldn’t have made 2016 feel any better, but maybe my great-great-grandfather would have enjoyed a laugh at the Cubs’ expense.

After the 1908 season the league passed a rule, stating that any cancelled game that could affect the final standings had to be made up. That helped Cleveland a whole lot… Not.

dark. Next. Pitcher wins and Corey Kluber’s latest feat

But if the Phil Dawson Rule has taught us anything it’s this: You win some, you lose some.