1920 Major League Baseball season

The 1920 Major League Baseball season was contested from April 14 to October 12, 1920. The Brooklyn Robins and Cleveland Indians were the regular season champions of the National League and American League, respectively. The Indians then defeated the Robins in the World Series, five games to two.

1920 MLB season
LeagueMajor League Baseball
DurationApril 14 – October 12, 1920
Number of games154
Number of teams16
Pennant Winners
AL championsCleveland Indians
  AL runners-upChicago White Sox
NL championsBrooklyn Robins
  NL runners-upNew York Giants
World Series
ChampionsCleveland Indians
  Runners-upBrooklyn Robins

This was the final season to be presided over by the three-person National Baseball Commission, which ran the major and minor leagues—composed of the American League President, National League President, and one team owner as president. In the wake of the Black Sox scandal, the credibility of baseball had been tarnished with the public and fans and the owners of the teams clamored for credibility to be restored. The owners felt that creating one position with near-unlimited authority was the answer. After the season, the commission was replaced with the newly created office of Commissioner of Baseball.

Each team had a 154-game regular season schedule, consisting of 22 games against the seven other teams in the same league. That scheduling had been used since 1904, except for 1919, and would be used until 1961 in the American League and 1962 in the National League.




World Series
AL Cleveland Indians 5
NL Brooklyn Robins 2


American League

Team Manager Comments
Boston Red Sox Ed Barrow
Chicago White Sox Kid Gleason Finished 2nd
Cleveland Indians Tris Speaker Won 1st AL pennant and World Series
Detroit Tigers Hughie Jennings
New York Yankees Miller Huggins Finished 3rd
Philadelphia Athletics Connie Mack
St. Louis Browns Jimmy Burke
Washington Senators Clark Griffith

National League

Team Manager Comments
Boston Braves George Stallings
Brooklyn Robins Wilbert Robinson Won NL pennant
Chicago Cubs Fred Mitchell
Cincinnati Reds Pat Moran Finished 3rd
New York Giants John McGraw Finished 2nd
Philadelphia Phillies Gavvy Cravath
Pittsburgh Pirates George Gibson
St. Louis Cardinals Branch Rickey

Creation of the office of the Commissioner of Baseball

Persisting rumors of the Chicago White Sox throwing the previous year's World Series to the Cincinnati Reds and another game during the 1920 season led to the game's brass looking for ways of dealing with the problems of gambling within the sport. At the time, MLB was governed by a three-man National Baseball Commission composed of American League President Ban Johnson, National League President John Heydler and Cincinnati Reds owner Garry Herrmann. At the request of the other owners, Herrmann left the office reducing the Commission to be deadlocked by two. With the owners disliking one or both presidents, calls began for stronger leadership, although they opined they could support the continuation of the leagues' presidencies with a well-qualified Commissioner.[1]

A plan that began to circulate and gain support was dubbed the "Lasker Plan," after Albert Lasker, a shareholder of the Chicago Cubs, called for a three-man commission with no financial interest in baseball. With the Black Sox scandal exposed on September 30, 1920, Heydler began calling for the Lasker Plan. All eight NL teams supported the plan, along with three AL teams. The three AL teams were the White Sox, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.[2] The teams in support of the Lasker Plan wanted federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to take the office of Baseball Commissioner. Johnson, who opposed the plan and thus, the appointment of Landis, had allies in the other five AL clubs, and attempted to get Minor League Baseball to side with him. However, the minor leagues would not, and when the AL teams learned their position, they relented and instead went along with the Lasker Plan.[3] The owners agreed that they needed a person with near-unlimited authority and a powerful person to fill the position of commissioner.[4]

The owners approached Landis, who eventually accepted the position as the first Commissioner of Baseball.[5] He drafted the agreement which gave him almost unlimited authority throughout the major and minor leagues – every owner on down to the batboys was accountable to the Commissioner – including barring owners from dismissing him, speaking critically of him in public or challenging him in court.[6] He also kept his job as a federal judge. Of course, a near autocratic leader was probably what was needed for baseball at the time as the Black Sox scandal had placed the public's trust in baseball on shaky ground as the owners accepted the terms of the agreement with a scant trace of opposition, if any.[7]

Effect of the Black Sox scandal on the AL pennant race

After an August 31 game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, allegations began to arise that the game was fixed. The state court in Chicago opened a grand jury to investigate gambling within baseball. Gambler Billy Maharg came forward with information that he worked with New York gambler Arnold Rothstein and former boxer Abe Attell to get the White Sox to throw the 1919 World Series.[8] The White Sox again were contending for the American League title and were in a near-dead heat with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. However, on September 28, eight White Sox players were indicted and suspended by owner Charlie Comiskey.[9] The Indians pulled ahead and won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.[10]


  1. Spink, pp. 54–55.
  2. Cottrell, p. 243.
  3. Cottrell, pp. 236–237.
  4. Cottrell, pp. 239–240.
  5. Cottrell, p. 244.
  6. Cottrell, p. 247.
  7. Watson, Bruce. "The judge who ruled baseball". Smithsonian, Volume 31, Number 7, October 2000, pp. 120–132.
  8. Pietrusza, p. 160.
  9. Cottrell, pp. 221–223.
  10. Cottrell, p. 227.


  • Cottrell, Robert C. (2002). Blackball, the Black Sox, and the Babe. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-7-86411-643-6.
  • Pietrusza, David (1998). Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. South Bend, Indiana: Diamond Communications. ISBN 978-1-888698-09-1.
  • Spink, J. G. Taylor (1974). Judge Landis and 25 Years of Baseball (revised ed.). St. Louis: The Sporting News Publishing Company. ASIN B0006CGPF6.
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