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.

The Detroit Dynamos had become something of an enigma. After back-to-back pennants in 1907-08 (with a championship in the latter season) and another pennant in 1911, the team had bounced up and down in the standings - usually contending for portions of the season before ending up third or fourth. The one constant had been the stellar play of Jim Golden. Entering the 1916 season, Golden had thrice led the league in victories but was known mainly as a hard-throwing workhorse who had yet to really reach his potential. In 1916 he finally put it all together with a season for the ages. And that made a big difference for the Dynamos.