1920 Sports: What Happened 100 Years Ago? Champions, Births, Milestones, and More
We take a look back 100 years at the world of sports in 1920, from famous births to milestones and more. It was a year in which Cleveland won a World Series and the Olympics were held. From the Gipper to golf and beyond, here’s our annual 100-year dive into history.
The Cleveland Indians win the best-of-nine World Series, beating the Brooklyn Robins five games to two. It is the team’s first of two World Series championships. Cleveland has the best record in baseball, at 98-56.
An unassisted triple play is pulled off in the World Series. Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss snags a line drive (one out), steps on second base to get the runner off the base (two out), then turns to tag the runner coming from first (three out). Only 15 unassisted triple plays have occurred in the Majors, with three by Cleveland players.
Indians players born this year:
• Early Wynn, who won exactly 300 games and spent 10 of 23 years with the Indians.
• Bob Kennedy played with the Indians from 1948 to 1954.
• Wally Westlake, who played with Cleveland 1952-55. He died in September at age 98.
• Bob Lemon, who played all 13 of his seasons with the Indians.
Dave Garcia is born. He managed the Indians 1979-82 and died in 2018 at age 97.
Ray Chapman dies after being struck by a pitch in August. He remains the only Major Leaguer to be killed by a pitched ball during a game.
Marion Motley, one of the first African-American players in the NFL, is born. He went to McKinley High School in Canton and played for the Cleveland Browns for the first eight of his nine seasons.
Jim Bagby is baseball’s only 30-game winner. He leads the Majors with 31 victories and tops the American League with 30 complete games. Bagby remains the only Cleveland pitcher to win 30 or more games.
• Hall of Famer Stan Musial is born.
• The Negro National League is founded.
• Philadelphia’s Cy Williams (15) and New York’s Babe Ruth (54) are the home-run champs. It is Ruth’s first season in New York.
• The batting champs come from teams in the same city: St. Louis Cardinals’ Rogers Hornsby (.370) in the National League and Manchester, Ohio-born George Sisler (.407) of the St. Louis Browns in the American League.
• Chicago Cubs’ Grover Alexander (173) and Cleveland’s Stan Coveleski (133) are the strikeout leaders.
• The American Professional Football Association begins play. It will be renamed the National Football League in 1922.
• George Gipp dies at age 25. He is referenced in Knute Rockne’s famed locker-room speech, when the coach told his Notre Dame team: “Sometime, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys – tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.” Notre Dame beat Army that day. Ronald Reagan portrays Gipp in the 1940 movie, “Knute Rockne, All American.”
• Harvard defeats Oregon, 7-6, in the game then known as the Tournament East-West Football Game – now Rose Bowl – in Pasadena, California. All the scoring is in the first half, and Oregon misses three drop-kick field-goal attempts.
• Ohio State finished the 1920 regular season 7-0. The Buckeyes then lost on Jan. 1, 1921, in the Rose Bowl to California.
• Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren is born in Honduras. His father was a fruit inspector, and after his parents died when Van Buren was 10, he moved to New Orleans. He went to Louisiana State University before starring as a halfback with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.
Gaston Chevrolet wins the Indianapolis 500. Fewer than six months later, he dies in a race in Los Angeles. The Swiss-born driver is one of three brothers that included Louis, co-founder of the car company of the same name. A wired.com story includes this anecdote about Gaston Chevrolet’s final, and fatal, race: “When the race ended some hundred miles later, it turned out that Gaston Chevrolet had won the national race-car-driving championship on the basis of points from previous wins that year. Posthumous champion Gaston Chevrolet was 28 years old.”
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