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45. 1918 Toronto Maple Leafs
Record: 88-39
International League (Triple-A)

By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians

1918 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

In 1918, due to wartime travel restrictions caused by America’s involvement in World War I, every minor league in the land, save one, stopped play in June or July. The one league that continued on to its scheduled conclusion was the International. Its champion in 1918 was the Toronto club, although the MapleLeafs wouldn’t win the laurels without a struggle.

The city of Toronto, located on the north shore of Lake Ontario in the Canadian province of Ontario, entered teams in several professional 19th century leagues. Among them were the Canadian(1885) and Eastern Leagues (1886-90). The team, which was called the Canucks, won one flag during this time, besting Buffalo by three games in 1887.

In 1895, Toronto rejoined the Eastern League, remaining in the loop through the league’s change of name to International in 1912. The team, now named the Maple Leafs after Canada’s national symbol, finished first in 1902, with a top 100 team, and in 1907. As World War I engulfed the globe, the team won another flag in 1917, setting the stage for even a better champion the following season.

Minor league baseball entered the 1918 season with ten leagues in operation. However, the United States had a “work or fight” order in place, stating that non-essential workers like baseball players would have to join the war effort either as a part of the armed services or a war-related industry. In addition, travel, a necessity for baseball leagues, was severly restricted. With this collar in place, the ten leagues began to fall by the wayside. In June, the Blue Ridge and Virginia Leagues as well as the Southern Association suspended operations. The Pacific Coast, Western, Eastern, Pacific Coast International, Texas and American Association followed suit in July. That left only the International League standing, with the stipulation that their season would end three weeks early, on September 2.

At this time, Toronto played its home games at 18,000-seat Maple leaf Park, located at Hanlan’s Point, adjacent to an amusement park and a zoo on an island in Lake Ontario. It was the third facility on the site, opened in 1910, after two earlier wooden ballparks had burned down. Fans reached the park by ferry.

All through the abbreviated 1918 campaign, Toronto and an upstart franchise from Binghamton, known as the Bingoes, battled for the bunting. Binghamton got out to an early lead and by the end of June was 32-9, 7.5 ahead of Rochester. Toronto started out slowly, but had a hot July, pulling within percentage points of the Bingoes by the end of the month. The two clubs raced neck-and-neck through August and by September were in a virtual tie. After the games of Saturday, August 31, Binghamton held a one point lead over the Maple Leafs, 82-37, .689 to 86-39, .688. On Sunday, Binghamton took a double-header from Baltimore 4-1 and 2-0, while Toronto was idle. Both teams had morning-afternoon double-headers scheduled for closing day, the Bingoes at home against the Orioles, the Maple Leafs at home against Buffalo. Both teams won the morning games, Toronto, 4-1 behind Fred (Bugs) Hersche, who won his 21st game, and Binghamton, 2-1, although Baltimore collected 11 hits off John Verbout. If the Bingoes won the afternoon contest, they won the pennant. Toronto’s only hope was a Binghamton loss while the Leafs defeated Buffalo. At Binghamton, the two staff aces faced one another, Ralph Worrell, the league’s top hurler going for his 25th victory, for the Orioles and Johnny Beckvermit (17-3) for the Bingoes. Beckvermit was working with only one day’s rest. On Saturday he had pitched a 3-0 shutout over Baltimore. The Orioles scored single runs in the first and second innings and Worrell made them stand up. Although he gave up nine hits, Binghamton scored only once, in the fourth. That game was over while the Leafs and Bisons were still playing and the result was posted on the Toronto scoreboard. Each team scored two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth and that’s the way it stood after nine innings. Buffalo scored one run in the tenth and the Leafs tied it once again. In the bottom of the 12th, Toronto had runners on first and second with one out. Leo Callahan was walked intentionally to load the bases. Then, Fred (King) Lear hit a long drive to deep center field to score the winning run and give Toronto the pennant. Lear’s hit climaxed a great day. He went 3-for-6, drove in four of Toronto’s five runs, stole three bases and handled 20 putouts at first base. As a result, the Leafs claimed the pennant by a razor-thin .693 to .691 margin.

The ’18 Leafs were managed by 32-year-old Dapper Dan Howley, who also served as the team’s number two catcher. Howley, a life-long resident of Weymouth, MA, had jumped from semi-pro ball to Indianapolis of the American Association at the age of 20 in 1906. In his first professional appearance he caught an exhibition game against the World Champion New York Giants, which Indianapolis lost to Christy Mathewson 2-1, and threw out three runners trying to steal. Howley caught for Indianapolis for four years, then for Utica and Portland (PCL) before reaching the majors in 1913 with the Phillies. He appeared in only 26 games, batting just .125 and was traded to Montreal. In mid-1914, Dan was appointed Montreal manager at the age of 28 and led the Royals through the 1917 season. He was then appointed manager of Toronto and had some big shoes to fill. In 1917, the immortal Nap Lajoie had led the Maple Leafs to the pennant while hitting a league-leading .380, but he resigned in a salary dispute and went to Indianapolis in 1918. Toronto had to rebuild their team as well. By the time the 1918 season started, only two members of the ’17 champions, pitchers Jack Warhop and Hal Justin, remained. After winning the 1918 title, Howley was appointed coach at Detroit, but after a disagreement with manager Hugh Jennings, he left to manage Hartford in 1920. Ty Cobb replaced Jennings in 1921 and re-hired his friend Howley as coach. After two years, Howley returned to Toronto to manage in 1923 and finished fourth, second and second the next three seasons. In 1926, as the Maple Leafs opened their new mainland stadium, Howley led the team to another International League pennant, dethroning Baltimore after the Orioles had won seven consecutive championships. The Leafs capped the season by defeating Louisville (American Association) five straight games in the Junior World Series. In 1927, Howley moved up to the majors to become manager of the St. Louis Browns, finishing seventh, third and fourth in his three seasons there. His 1929 team was the last Browns club to reach the first division until 1942. He left St. Louis to take over the reins at Cincinnati, but with little money to spend, the Reds finished seventh once and eighth twice during his tenure. Howley returned to Toronto in 1933, but left after a salary dispute following one fifth-place season. He came back to the Maple Leafs once more in 1937-38, but after two second-division finishes he retired from managing. Howley later became a scout for the Red Sox and was serving in that capacity when he suffered a fatal heart attack in March, 1944.

Holding down first base for the Leafs was 25-year-old left-handed hitting Ed Onslow (.318), one of the all-time greats in International League history. After hitting .235 in 52 games for Detroit in 1912-13, he joined Providence for the first of 17 consecutive seasons in the International League. Playing for five different teams including Toronto, Rochester, Baltimore and Newark, he set the league’s career records for most years, games (2,109), hits (2,445) and triples (128). Ironically, he never was a season leader in those or any other offensive departments. After five years with Providence, Onslow moved to Toronto for seven consecutive seasons interrupted only by two games with Cleveland at the end of 1918. In 1922 he replaced Lena Blackburne as Toronto manager. After a fifth place finish, he returned to the playing ranks when Howley came back in 1923. Onslow had one more shot at the majors, hitting .222 in nine games for Washington in 1927. His last season as a player was 1929 when he hit .308 for Baltimore and Newark. Onslow had a career minor league average of.327 with 2,712 hits in 2,326 games. He managed for 11 years, starting in 1930, and later scouted for the White Sox and Athletics (1949-53). Eddie’s older brother, Jack Onslow, a former catcher, managed the White Sox in 1949-50.

Lear was the Maple Leafs’ leading hitter at .345, fourth in the league, and was second in walks (60). He had been a star athlete at Villanova where he suffered an arm injury playing football that bothered him throughout his baseball career. He went from college to the Athletics for two games in 1915, then was sent to the minors. The Cubs acquired him in 1918 and optioned him to Toronto. He played for Chicago in 1919 and the Giants in 1920 with a .235 major league average in 75 games. Lear’s best years were with Milwaukee, hitting .358, .354 and .297 in 1921-22-23. He played three seasons of outlaw baseball for Kenosha in the Midwest League before returning for one final season in Organized Baseball with Milwaukee in 1927. He later scouted for the Pirates and White Sox. Lear called himself “the last of the choke hitters.” Off the field, he was well known as a raconteur and pianist.

One of the Leafs’ most interesting players was speedy outfielder Alex “Midget” Reilley, who came from Indianapolis in mid-season. Reilley, a switch-hitter, stood only 5’4 ½ “ tall and weighed 148 pounds. In a 19-year minor league career (1905-23) he stole 676 bases, the seventh highest total in minor league history. His only appearance in the majors was in 1909 when he bated .210 in 20 games for Cleveland.

The third baseman was 32-year-old Billy Purtell (.311) whose playing career spanned 25 years (1904-28). In 1910, Purtell set one of the majors’ most unusual records, one that still stands. While batting .210 in 151 games for the White Sox and Red Sox, he hit only 6 doubles, the fewest by any major league player in 150 or more games. He did have 5 triples and two home runs! Purtell hit .227 in 335 major league games in five seasons with Chicago, Boston and Detroit (1908-11, 1914). He played in the International League for six years between 1912 and 1920 for Jersey City, Montreal, Toronto and Akron. His younger brother Marty, a shortstop during most of his career, was a player for 15 years and a player-manager for 16 more although he never reached the majors. Marty got into a few games at the age of 50, in 1939. He scouted for the Giants, Braves Yankees and Pirates for 13 years.

Outfielder Dave Callahan (.317) hit .200 in 19 games for Cleveland in 1910 and 1911. Outfielder Johnny Mokan batted only .212 for Toronto, but later had a seven-year .291 average for the Pirates and Phillies (1921-27), three times hitting over .300.

Hersche, a 31-year-old, stocky, 5’8” right-hander from Parker’s Landing, PA, was the Leafs’ best pitcher (21-6, 1.88), third in the league in wins and seventh in ERA. He pitched 25 complete games in 29 starts. This was his first year in Toronto and his best season in a career going back to 1910. He was with the Leafs again in 1919 (16-5, 3.13), his last year in Organized Baseball. Neither Hersche nor Toronto’s other two big winners, Hal Justin (19-10) and Alex Peterson (18-8) ever pitched in the majors.

The best known of the Toronto pitchers was 34-year-old Jack Warhop (4-2, 3.73) who had a 69-93, 3.09 record in 7+ years with the New York Highlanders/Yankees from 1908-15. He is forever enshrined in baseball history as the pitcher off whom Babe Ruth hit his first two major league home runs, on May 6 and June 2, 1915 when Ruth was a Red Sox hurler. Warhop also is one of only four major league pitchers to steal home twice during their careers. A 1915 “Baseball Magazine” article about Warhop was titled “The Unluckiest Pitcher in the American League.” In 1912 his ERA was 2.86 with a 10-19 record and in 1914 it was 2.36 with an 8-15 mark. Typical was a 1914 game against the White Sox; he shut them out for 12 innings only to lose 1-0 in the 13th on an error, a sacrifice and a single. Warhop was one of the few pitchers with an underhand delivery to reach the majors. Contemporary articles describe him as “diminutive”, although the record books list him as 5’9”, 160-165 pounds. New York writer Tom Meany, describing Warhop at a 1951 old-timers reunion, referred to him as a “tiny wisp of a man.” His nicknames included “The Flea,” because of his size, and “The Crab,” because he was always complaining (perhaps justified if it was due to lack of support by his teammates). He was sometimes called “Chief” by people who thought he was of Indian ancestry because of his last name and his high cheekbones. However, Jack said he was of French-Irish descent and the family name originally Wauhop.

In his three years before joining New York, Warhop won 82 and lost only 20: 29-7 for Freeport (Wisconsin-Illinois) in 1906, 30-6 for the same team in 1907 and 29-7 for Williamsport (Tri-State) in 1908. In 1907 he struck out 330 and his 13 shutouts were the second most in a season in minor league history. After he left the Yankees, Warhop pitched for Salt Lake City and Baltimore before arriving in Toronto during the 1917 season. He was out of Organized Baseball in 1919, pitched for Norfolk and Columbia in 1920-21-22 and played semi-pro ball from 1923-26. On June 8, 1927, six weeks into the season, Warhop signed with Bridgeport (Eastern). In his third start for the Bears, June 22, two weeks before his 43rd birthday, he pitched a complete 17-inning game, losing to Hartford 4-3. On August 10 he became possibly the oldest man to pitch and win a complete double-header. In the first game he beat Albany, 5-3 in nine innings, then pitched a ten-inning 1-0 six-hitter in the nightcap. For the season he was 11-7, 2.49, ninth in ERA, pitched 177 innings and completed 15 of his 18 starts. Warhop pitched one more season before retiring.

During its last 50 years in the league, Toronto won its share of honors, placing three more teams (1920, 1926 and 1960) in the top 100 list. In 1967, the Maple Leafs left the International League. Nine years later, the Toronto Blue Jays joined the American League, where they remain today.

In a war-strained year, the 1918 Leafs, after surviving a frantic pennant chase, represented the year’s sole surviving minor league with honor. In addition, of the four Toronto first place teams in the top 100, none have finished with a better mark then the 1918 champions.

1918 International League Standings
TEAM W L PCT GB TEAM W L PCT GB
TORONTO 88 39 .693 - ROCHESTER 60 61 .496 25.0
BINGHAMTON 85 38 .691 1.0 BUFFALO 53 68 .438 32.0
BALTIMORE 74 53 .583 14.0 SYR/HAM 38 76 .333 43.5
NEWARK 64 63 .504 24.0 JERSEY CITY 30 94 .242 56.5

1918 Toronto Maple Leafs batting statistics
BATTER POS GP AB R H BI 2B 3B HR BB SO SB BA
Ed Onslow 1B 100 358 61 114 9 6 2 33 .318
King Lear 2B,1B 99 345 76 119 14 8 5 27 .345
Joseph Wagner SS,2B 96 348 63 89 16 3 2 26 .256
Billy Purtell 3B 101 367 43 114 8 1 0 12 .311
Alex Reilley OF 65 258 54 72 3 0 0 27 .279
Leo Callahan OF,1B 60 208 45 66 14 2 1 15 .317
Johnny Mokan OF 55 184 29 39 3 6 1 8 .212
Fred Fisher C 91 298 27 63 8 3 2 2 .211
Andy Anderson 2B,OF,SS 77 284 22 75 15 3 0 8 .264
Fred Hersche P,OF 58 180 28 40 5 1 0 3 .222
Dan Howley C,OF 50 163 14 26 3 0 0 3 .159
John Warhop OF,SS,P 49 177 16 36 4 0 0 8 .203
Loren Thrasher OF 41 162 10 33 11 1 0 7 .204
Hal Justin P 32 98 13 18 4 2 0 0 .184
Alex Peterson P 28 73 5 5 0 0 0 0 .069
Frank Dolan OF,3B,SS,1B 22 81 12 21 2 1 1 4 .259
Fred Bailey OF 21 76 14 19 6 0 0 6 .250
Frederick Lied OF 18 77 9 23 3 2 0 2 .299
Eusebio Gonzales SS,3B 16 55 13 15 1 0 0 9 .272
Sam Lewis P 12 36 1 5 1 0 0 0 .139
George Crable P,OF 8 22 7 1 0 0 0 .318
King Bader OF,P 7 25 6 2 0 0 0 .240
Herb Thormahlen P 2 3 1 0 0 0 0 .333
Bannon PH 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 129 4161 585 1076 144 40 17 466 437 213 .259

1918 Toronto Maple Leafs pitching statistics
PITCHER W L PCT G GS CG SH SV IP H BB SO ERA
Fred Hersche 21 6 .778 29 26 25 244 205 80 118 1.88
Hal Justin 19 10 .655 32 30 27 272 247 71 87 2.75
Alex Peterson 18 8 .692 27 25 23 236 190 59 115 2.06
Sam Lewis 7 2 .778 12 9 8 95 73 24 44 1.61
John Warhop 4 2 .667 7 6 6 41 46 16 27 3.73
King Bader 3 0 1.000 3 3 3 27 16 6 15
George Crable 2 3 .400 7 6 5 52 57 29 33 4.50
Herb Thormahlen 0 1 .000 2 1 1 11 11 2 3