The Chicago Chiefs were the original professional baseball club, created in 1876 alongside seven other clubs; only they and the Philadelphia Keystones (who were then called the Centennials) remained. And while the Chiefs had often been good, they had not won a pennant since 1881. In the span of the 35 seasons that followed, the Chiefs finished second nine times and third seven more. Sure, there were some very lean years in there too, but in general, the Chiefs were a decent club that just couldn't get over the final hurdle and capture the pennant. In 1917, that finally changed.

Like virtually every pennant winner then and now, the Chiefs excelled in at least one facet of the game. In their case, it was pitching and defense. The 1917 Chiefs allowed just 408 runs, and posted an ERA of 2.07 - far below everyone else: the average amongst the entire FABL was 2.75 that season. Their defense was rock solid and the pitchers took advantage - they were only fourth in the league in strikeouts, but their fielders turned batted balls into outs. Chicago's top three pitchers were Bob Wilson (20-11, 1.67), Marty Jones (22-11, 1.94) and Denny Wren (24-11, 2.08). Their infield defense was led by the team's best player - a 27-year-old Mexican-born second baseman named Pedro Valenzuela. Using modern metrics, Valenzuela could have been the prototype for a Gold Glove middle infielder. He also led the team in batting average with a .268 mark: the one area in which the '17 Chiefs were not top-notch was hitting. They were sixth in both runs scored and batting average.

Pittsburgh, who had finished fifth for four straight seasons and had last won a pennant in 1907, also had a resurgence, posting 89 victories and a second-place finish. They had the league's fastest player in SS Johnny Carlson who led the circuit with 82 steals while leading his team with a .306 average, which was fourth in the league (he was also the best defensive shortstop in the Fed, if not all of FABL). Boston finished third with their outstanding corner outfielders Fred Huffman (.319-2-72) and Bill McMurtrie (.316-0-57) again leading the way for the league's 2nd-rated run producing lineup (1st-place Pittsburgh was just six runs better). Boston was done in by a lack of pitching (again). Fourth-place New York had an all-around average season, finishing just over .500 and in the middle of the pack in both hitting and pitching. The Gothams' Ed Ziehl did win another batting title with a .323 average, just ahead of the Huffman-McMurtrie tandem in Boston.

The bottom half of the Fed standings had the defending-champion Dynamos falling to fifth as they won 21 games fewer than they had in 1916. The falloff was largely due to the pitching: the team allowed over 100 runs more in '17 than they had the year before, but the lineup dropped off too, scoring 54 fewer runs. Washington was a half-game behind Detroit in sixth place with the league's worst offense. Both St. Louis and Philadelphia were flatout bad again, but it looked like help was on the way as both had some promising youngsters down on the farm.

The Continental race went to another team that hadn't won in a long time: the Cleveland Foresters. Cleveland had one pennant on its resume, a 1901 flag that saw them lose the World Series in lopsided fashion. The 1917 edition of the Foresters posted the most wins in club history (87) though the '01 team had a better winning percentage. Still, Cleveland needed a one-game playoff victory over Montreal to claim the flag as each had finished with identical 86-68 records. That one-game playoff (the first in baseball history) was a great one, a 1-0 win by Cleveland that fans would long remember. The Foresters also had the most intriguing player in baseball in pitcher-cum-outfielder Max Morris. Morris, at age 22, was a good pitcher: he posted a 21-17 mark with a middling 3.17 ERA. But he really excelled at the plate where he posted a team-best .318 average (which would have been 3rd in the league if he had qualified) and led the league with 13 home runs: and he did it in just 371 at-bats. 

The Montreal Saints were officially the runners-up thanks to that heart-breaking 1-0 loss that snapped their run as league champions. They still had a great team which led the Continental in runs scored (593) and produced an incredible 121 triples on the season. If only they had some pitching... the Saints staff allowed a league-high 571 runs and many of their victories were of the one-run variety. Still, the Continental as a whole was very even in 1917 - the Foresters' league-best pitching allowed 3.3 runs per game while the Saints & Sailors allowed the most at 3.7 and the average was 3.5 for the year. The Saints did have Charlie Firestone who went 28-18 (tied for league lead) with a 2.01 ERA (2nd in the league).

The Baltimore Clippers were arguably the most talented group in the Continental - after all they had the best hitter ever seen in Powell Slocum who had a season so far above everyone else that it almost sounds like mythology. Slocum hit a ridiculous .423 in a league in which the league average was .252 and he won the batting title by nearly 100 percentage points over runner-up John Dibblee's .339 average. Slocum led in runs (99), hits (236), total bases (332), doubles (38), was third in triples (26) and second in RBIs (74). He was in a word: unbelievable. And he had just turned 30 years old in a season that saw him go over 2800 hits for his career. Barring a catastrophic turn of events, there was little doubt he'd soon pass Zebulon Banks as baseball's all-time hits king.

A bizarre (to the fans) and sad story that had its start in the end of the 1916 season grabbed the attention of baseball fans early on in the 1917 season. Mike Marner, the tremendously talented Baltimore right-hander, began complaining of a dead arm towards the end of a 1916 season that saw him finish 29-16 with a 2.71 ERA. That dead arm didn't recover over the winter and in the spring, Marner's velocity was down. The stunner came on APril 29th. Marner had made one short two-inning outing for the Clippers when the team abruptly released him. He caught on with Detroit, pitched once for them - a 4-2 complete game victory - and then refused to make his next start because his arm was again dead. The Dynamos cut him on May 20th. In early June Marner was signed again, this time by Brooklyn. He spent the rest of the season with the Kings, going 9-16 with a 3.73 ERA in 28 starts, but it was obvious his arm was shot and it was unknown what the future would hold for a pitcher who had just turned 30 in June.

The Brooklyn Kings finished fourth with a 78-73 record in a season in which they scored and allowed the exact same number of runs (so they overachieved a bit in the win column). After three straight seventh place finishes, this was seen as good progress in Brooklyn. The Cougars finished fifth with a lineup that only outscored the league's worst team (New York) by a handful of runs, thanks the league's second-best pitching with ERA champ Luke Smith (1.81) leading the way. The Sailors finished sixth, just a game behind Chicago - their pitching wasn't good, but the lineup was showing signs of life. The Wolves still had Charlie Sis, and he was still pretty good (28-18, 2.31), but the rest of the team wasn't and they posted a 69-83 record, just two games out of the cellar, which was held down by the New York Stars who were done in by an anemic lineup that scored just 3.1 runs per game (the pitching was average so a bit of hitting would have made a big difference).

The World Series saw the Chicago Chiefs claim their first championship since the early days of the old Century League back in 1881 with a four-games to two win over the Foresters. Cleveland won only the games Max Morris pitched, which dampened some of the fervor of the growing number of people who wanted the Foresters to use Morris exclusively as an outfielder. Cleveland also may have blundered by not changing their standard practice of not playing Morris in the outfield on the days before he pitched, meaning he only started in four of the six Championship Series games (he pinch hit in the other two). 

The Whitney Awards went to Pittsburgh SS Johnny Carlson in the Federal Association and to Powell Slocum (who else?) in the Continental.

One major development in 1917 was the entry of the United States into the massive war taking place in Europe. While the war would not have much impact on the 1917 season, the same could not be said of 1918 (or 1919 for that matter).