Those who may have wondered if the Century League would be yet another in a series of failed baseball leagues received their answer in 1877. In a matter befitting the military background of league founder William Whitney the Century League soldiered on despite being staggered by the loss of two of its western outlets in Cincinnati and St. Louis. This perseverance paid off as the league turned in a good and competitive second campaign.
The league’s two weakest clubs in ’76 were much improved in their sophomore campaigns. Both Detroit and New York rose from the bottom two spots and came close to claiming the pennant. What stood in their way was the fourth-place finisher of the season before – Chicago.
William Whitney’s club was also improved from the season before and that improvement took them to a 40-20 record and the 1877 championship. With John Martin (.335) and Al Lowther (.320) leading the way, the Chicago bats were good enough to take advantage of the outstanding pitching of Hartigan O’Carroll (21-10, 2.79) and A.W. Morton (19-10, 2.70) in finishing six ahead of Detroit and seven up on New York.
There would be no repeat title – disputed or not – for Boston, who finished fourth with a 31-29 record despite the presence of Bill Badway who broke onto the scene with a .376 average (good for 2nd place behind Detroit’s Leonard Ziegler who hit a robust .392 and became the first player to reach double-figures in home runs with 14 for the Woodward club). Philadelphia saw many of its players leave and their replacements left a bit to be desired sending the Centennials tumbling into fifth place at 23-37. Brooklyn also fell hard, dropping to a 19-41 mark.
New York’s Harvey Bohannon, a rookie chucker from Dayton, Ohio led the league in both ERA (1.90) and strikeouts (168) and was the key reason the Knights turned their fortunes around so greatly.
Whitney reveled in the success of both his club and his league, and at least for 1878, would stay the course and not add any new clubs to replace the departed Cincinnati and St. Louis teams.