Baseball BeatOctober 29, 2004
The 1918 Red Sox Revisited
By Rich Lederer

Everyone knows by now that the Red Sox had not won a World Series in 86 years.

Everyone also knows that the Curse of the Bambino has now been 86'd.

Furthermore, everyone knows that the last time the Red Sox made it to the World Series was in '86.

But how many know that Fred Thomas, the last surviving member of the 1918 Boston Red Sox, died in '86?

Although Frederick Harvey Thomas (1892-1986) only played 41 games at third base for the Red Sox in 1918, he played more games at the hot corner than anyone else that year. Nine different BoSox manned the position, including first baseman Stuffy McInnis and catcher Wally Schang.

Thomas was a 25-year-old rookie in 1918. He made his debut on April 22, played sporadically throughout the season, and then started every game in the World Series as the Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs four games to two. Thomas went 2-for-17 in the Series with no extra-base hits, runs or RBI. You might say he had a World Series like Scott Rolen. However, Thomas at least won a ring.

Tommy, as he was known, went on to have an undistiguished career. He played for the Cleveland Indians in 1919 and for the Indians and Washington Senators in 1920. His final game was August 9, 1920. He had lifetime on-base and slugging averages below .300 and an OPS+ of 65.

Other than playing in the World Series, Thomas' claim to fame might be the fact that he hit one of Boston's 15 home runs in 1918. A fellow by the name of Babe Ruth hit 11 and four others (including Thomas) had one each.

Ruth not only led the major leagues in home runs that season, but he also topped all players in extra-base hits (48), slugging average (.555), OPS (.966), and OPS+ (194). Oh, I almost forgot. Ruth finished ninth in the American League in ERA (2.22), second in WHIP (1.05), fourth in H/IP (.75) and W-L % (.650), and ninth in CG (18 out of 19 GS).

If that wasn't enough, Ruth was 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA in the World Series. He threw a complete game shutout in Game One and was the winning pitcher in Game Four when he blanked the Cubs for seven innings before giving up two runs in the eighth. Having completed 13 scoreless innings in his first World Series two years ago, Ruth strung together a total of 29 2/3 consecutive shutout innings--a World Series record that stood until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961.

Gosh, 1961. That was 43 years ago, an equidistance between the Red Sox World Series victories in 1918 and 2004.

(For those readers who are interested in learning more about the 1918 Red Sox, I suggest purchasing Allan Wood's, Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox. Allan, who maintains The Joy of Sox website, will personally autograph the book if you order it directly from him. I bought the book for my son--an ardent Red Sox fan--last year, and I know he thoroughly enjoyed it.)


Richard, another bit of info on Fred Thomas: he was part of a disastrous trade for the Red Sox (this one was pre-Ruth). In 1916 Boston got Thomas and Sam Jones (respectable pitcher: 229 career wins, traded to Yankees in 1921 and won World Series two years later) from Cleveland and in return traded away TRIS SPEAKER, one of the 20 greatest players of all-time (Hall of Fame, 1912 MVP, 1916 batting champion, 3514 career basehits, all-time career leader in doubles, .345 career batting average, played for '12 and '15 Red Sox championship teams, etc, etc). Many more would follow for Boston (bad trades, that is, not championships).

Jay - With respect to that trade, it must be pointed out that the Indians also parted with $50,000 in cash (which, at the time, was one of the largest sums ever) to secure the services of Speaker, who had refused Red Sox owner Joe Lannin's attempt to cut his salary after the Federal League went bankrupt following the 1915 season and was no longer in a position to compete for the star players of the day.

Interestingly, Speaker not only was a Red Sox holdout that spring but he continued to hold out until he was awarded $10,000 of the purchase price.

Although the Red Sox won the World Series again in 1916, Speaker won the A.L. batting crown with a .386 average and led the league with 211 hits, 41 doubles, a .470 on-base percentage, and a .502 slugging average.

Parenthetically, I agree with you that Speaker is one of the 20 greatest players of all time.

In an article I wrote last December, entitled "Mantle's Stats and Rankings Unplugged" (, I placed Speaker in a group of what I believed were the top 25. I listed 11 players that I felt deserved a higher ranking than The Grey Eagle, but a case can definitely be made on his behalf for a spot as high as #12.