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Detroit Tigers history: The 1905 Tigers

Something truly franchise-altering happened to the Tigers this season.

Old-time Scoreboard At Baseball Game Photo by Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

1905 saw things begin to turn around for the Tigers. They had a new future superstar in their midst (though they couldn’t have possibly known it at the time, since he only came to the club in late August), and the club managed to post a winning record at long last under new manager Bill Armour (who would later go on to become president of the Toledo Mud Hens in 1911). Armour would only coach in Detroit for two seasons, and in that time, scouted and signed Ty Cobb, and may have invented the modern concept of platooning, given how he used his catchers.

But we’ll see how his time with the team ended in our 1906 installment.

1905 History

In Canada, 1905 saw the westward expansion into provinces Saskatchewan and Alberta; and in the US we saw the founding of the city of Las Vegas. On January 2, we saw the Bloody Sunday massacre in St. Petersburg, considered the impetus of the Revolution of 1905 which led to the establishment of the Duma, an elected assembly. (not to be mistaken with the February Revolution of 1917, which actually saw the collapse of the Russian empire, or the October Revolution which ultimately led to the murder of the entire royal family, RIP Anastasia).

In April, the Kangra earthquake in India kills over 20,000 people. In June, Norway declared its independence from Sweden. The mutiny on the battleship Potemkin happened in June as well. In October the renowned arts school Juilliard opens in New York.

1905 was the year Albert Einstein completed his doctoral research and began to publish papers that would come to definite physics as we know it even to this day. This included “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” which introduces special relativity, one of the two structures of the famed “theory of relativity.” Later this same year we see the first publication of his most famous formula, E = mc2.

Notable births include: designer Christian Dior, divisive author Ayn Rand, singer Maris von Trapp (whose life story inspired The Sound of Music), actor Henry Fonda, existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, actress Greta Garbo, and pilot/millionaire Howard Hughes.

Notable deaths include: science fiction author Jules Verne.

1905 Tigers

This was a big year for the Tigers whether they knew it or not at the time. Under skipper Bill Armour, they finished third in the AL with a winning record of 79-74-1 (though they drew the lowest attendance of all eight AL teams, sadly). They outscored their opponents 602-512.

Their record wasn’t the big news of the 1905 season, however. The contract of an 18-year-old outfielder was made in August, and he made his debut for the Tigers that year. While he appeared in only 41 games and batted .238/.286/.298, Ty Cobb would go on to become one of Detroit’s most enduring icons.

It was another dismal deadball era for homers, though Sam Crawford managed to get six of them, putting him on top for the team. It should come as no surprise, then, that Sam had the best record on the team, hitting .297/.357/.430. There weren’t a lot of other standout performances to highlight, though our two-way superhero from 1904, George Mullin, continued to perform admirably on both sides of the plate. He hit .259/.320/.289 and had a 2.51 ERA and 2.96 FIP.

Fellow starter Ed Killian had a solid season as well, with a 2.27 ERA and 2.92 FIP, collecting a team-leading 23 wins for the season.

Spotlight On: Germany Schaefer

Born on February 4, 1876 in Chicago, Illinois, Herman “Germany” Schaefer was a lifelong ballplayer, sticking with the sport professionally almost until the time of his death in 1919. Schaefer was indeed Germany by heritage, otherwise that nickname might have been pretty ironic, but he parents were both German immigrants living in Chicago. (It is worth noting here, though, that when the US declared war on Germany in 1917, Schaefer changed his own nickname to “Liberty.”)

A Chicago boy by birth, it should come as no surprise that Schaefer’s first pro club was the Chicago Cubs, where he played in 1901-02, where he didn’t make it through the second season owing to a dismal performance. His next efforts at the major league level were when he moved to the Tigers from 1905-09. The Tigers were so desperate for a middle-infielder in the 1905 season they were willing to scour the American Association where they found Scheafer with Milwaukee.

Schaefer, while well-liked at the time and considered to be a clever player, is actually responsible for a shift in how baseball games are played. Germany Schaefer is responsible for players not being able to steal bases in reverse. Yes, believe it or not, once upon a time players could steal first base backwards in an attempt to better set up a double-steal (one runner steals second, and in the confusion the runner at third tries to steal home). This move was one Schaefer was notorious for, having tried it with both the Tigers and the Washington Senators.

This was by no means the extent of Schaefer’s famously silly onfield shenanigans. According to his SABR bio, “Among Schaefer’s other supposed antics: during a steady rain he once appeared at the plate wearing rubber boots and a raincoat, and he once ventured to the plate sporting a fake black mustache. In both instances, his outlandish behavior reportedly resulted in his ejection.” There’s more where that came from, including carrying his bat around the bases following a home run, pretending to shoot the crestfallen pitcher. Imagine in a season where a whole team scores on 20 home runs seeing a guy peacock like that? What a guy. (Genuinely, read the bio posted below, it’s incredible)

During his career, he would frequently spend time barnstorming, and his goofy antics actually became a full-on vaudeville act, and were so popular and renowned that Schaefer is actually considered to be part of the inspiration for the Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra film Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Schaefer died at the age of 43, less than a year after retiring from play, due to complications from tuberculosis. He was eulogized by Malcolm W. Bingay who lovingly said, “Germany Schaefer was the soul of baseball itself, with all its sorrows and joys, the born troubadour of the game.”

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