instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

The Chalmers Race: Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title that Became a National Obsession

In 1910 auto magnate Hugh Chalmers offered an automobile to the baseball player with the highest batting average that season. What followed was a batting race unlike any before or since, between the game's greatest but most despised hitter, Detroit's Ty Cobb, and the American League's first superstar, Cleveland's popular but aging Napoleon Lajoie. The Chalmers Race captures the excitement of this strange contest--one that has yet to be fully resolved.

The race came down to the last weekend of the season, igniting more interest among fans than the World Series and becoming a national obsession. The plot only thickened when Cobb, thinking the prize safely his, skipped the last two games, and Lajoie suspiciously had eight hits in a season-ending doubleheader played against the lowly St. Louis Browns. Although initial counts favored Lajoie, American league president Ban Johnson, the sport's last word, announced Cobb the winner. Amid the controversy both players received autos.

The Chalmers Race details a story of dubious scorekeeping and questionable statistical systems, of performances and personalities in conflict, of accurate results revealed seventies years too late, and of a contest settled not on the field of play but by human foibles.