The Detroit Tigers supported suspended teammate Ty Cobb by striking in Philadelphia on May 18, 1912.
Ty Cobb was undoubtedly the most productive hitter and base runner of the Deadball Era, perhaps in baseball history. As so, he often drew the wrath of opposing fans. In New York in mid May 1912, Cobb was being taunted and razzed by the New York fans. One fan, Claude Lueker, particularly irked the Detroit star and he leapt into the stands and beat him pretty soundly.
American League president Ban Johnson suspended the outfielder indefinitely. Supporting Cobb, Tiger teammates threatened to strike if the suspension wasn’t lifted. Johnson called their bluff and the players walked off the field during batting practice on May 18th.
Detroit management was forced to field a team of replacement players to avoid a fine. 48-year-old coach Deacon Jim McGuire caught that day and 41-year-old coach Joe Sugden played first base.
Local residents, boxer Bill Maharg (later implicated in the Black Sox affair) and a bunch of university students filled out the roster. Manager Hughie Jennings pinch hit. The 24-2 loss to Philadelphia counted in the official league standings, just like any other game.
The insurrection lasted only one game as Cobb pleaded with his teammates to return to the field and Johnson threatened them all with blackballing.
Each striker was fined $100 and Cobb ultimately served a ten-day suspension. Tigers’ owner Frank Navin stepped in and paid the players’ fines.
Among other things, the strike led to the creation of a players union, that at times served effectively through the Federal League scare.