Cleveland Indians: 1920 World Series Champions, 100 years later

On the 100th anniversary of the 1920 World Series, first of two titles for the Cleveland Indians, we look back on the series and history of the team.

Today, October 12, marks the 100th anniversary of the 1920 World Series, the first of what would be two World Series titles that have come home to the Cleveland Indians.

From October 5 to October 12, 1920, the Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Robins went seven games to decide the winner of the coveted World Series. The Indians had only been around for 20 years while the Robins were in just their seventh season under that moniker while the club had been around since 1883. The Robins are more commonly known as the Brooklyn Dodgers and an eventual move to become what the team is known today as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 1920 Cleveland Indians were managed by Tris Speaker who also served as one of the team’s outfielders. Under Speaker, the Indians strolled to a 98-56 record to win the American League pennant, finishing two games ahead of the second place Chicago White Sox.

The Indians were led by the one-two punch of the mound of Jim Bagby and Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski who each tossed over 300 innings over the course of the season and appeared in more than 40 games each.

At the plate, six of the eight every day players for the Indians maintained an average above .300 with another two consistent players off the bench doing the same. Speaker led the team with 50 doubles while Larry Gardner tallied a team-high 118 RBI on the season.

As for the series, it was a hard fought battle for both teams. Playing all seven games of the series, the Indians won five of the seven games to take home the title and it was in large part due to their stellar starting pitching.

A three-man rotation was used by the Cleveland Indians in the series with Coveleski starting games one, four and seven. Bagby followed in the rotation, taking games two and five while Ray Caldwell took the bump in game three, but was replaced by Duster Mails in game six.

In the first game of the series, the Indians jumped out early with a two-run second inning and added an insurance run in fourth in what would be a 3-1 final to go up 1-0 in the series. Starting catcher Steve O’Neill was the hero of the game for Cleveland, logging two doubles and two RBI. On the mound, Coveleski pitched the entire game, striking out three while allowing just one run on five hits and one walk.

The bats for the Cleveland Indians went silent in the second game of the series with the Robins edging out a 3-0 win. The Indians and Robins each had seven hits and the Indians also drew four walks, but Cleveland wasn’t able to string them together for a run.

Game three then saw the Robins take a 2-1 series lead following another poor offensive performance for the Indians. In a close 2-1 final, Cleveland tallied just three hits while the starting pitcher, Caldwell, lasted just one-third of an inning, giving up two runs in the first. However, this would be the last game the Cleveland Indians would lose during the 1920 season.

The Cleveland offense awoke in game four, exploding for five runs on 12 hits to claim a 5-1 win to tie the series at two games apiece. The Indians used a team effort to capture the victory with no extra base hits in the game and four different players registering an RBI. George Burns was the only player with multiple RBI in the game with two after entering the game as a pinch hitter.

The bats stayed hot in game five for the Indians in an impressive and dominant 8-1 win, however, it was the pitching that took the headlines. Bagby went the entire game for the Indians, giving up just one run despite allowing 13 hits. At the plate, Bagby also had a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

Game six saw a regression in the run department, but the result was the same with the Cleveland Indians winning their third straight game of the series in a 1-0 final. Mails was on the mound for Cleveland after Caldwell struggled in game three. Mails went all nine innings, pitching a shutout while allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out four.

The final game of the series saw the Indians close out the 1920 World Series with a 3-0 shutout. Speaker logged a triple in the game as well as an RBI while the pitching once again was stellar. Coveleski won his third game of the series on the mound for Cleveland to clinch the win.

The 1920 World Series was the first of two championships won by the Cleveland Indians. In just the club’s 20th season, they brought home the title. It wasn’t until 1948 that the Indians returned to the World Series, again capturing the title. From there, the Indians have since appeared in four World Series, being 1954, 1995, 1997 and 2016.