The Tigers Played a Game with Replacement Players and Lost 24-2. What?!

Ty Cobb, Bobby Veach, and Sam Crawford

One of the most bizarre events in baseball history happened on May 18th 1912. The Philadelphia A’s overpowered a makeshift Detroit Tigers team. The Tigers played that game with replacement players and of course, Ty Cobb had something to do with it. On the field, Ty Cobb’s legacy was unmatched. He could be categorized as one of the best hitters of all time. But character wise, he has been known for violent acts and racist comments.

This series of events that led the Tigers to field a replacement team, started a few days earlier in a game against the New York Highlanders. Even before the start of the game, Ty Cobb and a fan started hurling harsh insults at one another. Something must have set Cobb off, because in the third inning, Ty Cobb stormed the stands and attacked his heckler. It seems as if Cobb was preparing for this moment for a long time. Cobb struck this fan with multiple punches in the face which knocked him down and also kicked the helpless man while he was on the ground. Unbeknownst to Cobb, the fan was disabled. The heckler lost one of his hands and part of another in a printing press accident a year earlier.

Unfortunately for Cobb, the American League President was in the stands that day. He later had a meeting with Ty Cobb to speak about the incident. Cobb told his side of the story without remorse. After the President heard this, he suspended Cobb indefinitely.

In response to the suspension, The Tigers players shockingly voted to protest the suspension. To avoid a $5,000 fine that could have been fatal to the Tigers organization, the owner Frank Navin put together a team of twelve “baseball players” to play for the Tigers. The misfit players included eight non-baseball players, three players members of the Detroit Tigers, which included the manager Hughie Jennings, and one player that would go on to eventually play in one more MLB game. Of the eight non-baseball players, there were 2 amateur boxers. The starting pitcher was a student at St. John’s University and the first baseman and the catcher were over 40 years old. It was the first ever strike in MLB history. From the owners point of view, it was a success.

After the first two innings, with the score 6-0, close to 3,000 fans ran to the box office to demand a refund, but weren’t awarded one. After the 5th, it was 18-2 and the makeshift Tigers had lost hope. The bloodbath ended and the Tigers lost 24-2. The A’s scored 24 runs on 26 hits, and the Tigers committed 7 errors. After the humiliating loss, Ty Cobb urged his teammates to end the strike so they did. Which put the end to baseball’s first strike.

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