Posts Tagged ‘Chicago White Sox’

28 June 1914: the AL

June 25, 2014
Harry Coveleski

Harry Coveleski

Continuing a look at where Major League Baseball stood on 28 June 1914, the date the assassination in Sarajevo began the process that ushered in World War I. Today the American League gets a view.

As with the Federal League there were only three games played on Sunday the 28th of June. Two were a double-header between the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox. The other a single game between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians). Chicago and Cleveland were the home teams.

In game one in Chicago, the Sox took ten innings to dispatch the Browns 2-1. Losing pitcher Bill James (obviously neither the guy pitching for the Braves that season nor the modern stats guy) gave up two unearned runs, both to left fielder Ray Demmitt. He also game up three walks, two of them to Demmitt. He struck out four and saw the game lost on an error. For the White Sox, righty Jim Scott gave up only one run. It was earned. He also walked three, but struck out ten (James had four strikeouts). For James it was his fifth loss against seven wins while Scott picked up his seventh win against eight losses.

In the nightcap, the White Sox completed the sweep winning another 10 inning game, this time 3-2. Later Black Sox player Buck Weaver scored one run, fellow Black Sox Eddie Cicotte started the game. Later White Sox players Shano Collins and Ray Schalk played. Collins scored a run and knocked in another. Schalk had three hits with an RBI. Third baseman Jim Breton playing in his last season stole home. Hall of Famer Red Faber entered the game in the 10th and picked up his fifth win against two losses. Cicotte went eight innings giving up both runs. Joe Benz pitched one inning in relief giving up no hits and no walks. Browns starter Carl Weilman also went eight innings, giving up two earned runs. Reliever George Baumgardner took the loss to run his record to 7-6.

The game in Cleveland was more high scoring than both Chicago games combined. With Ty Cobb taking the day off, the Tigers won 6-4. After spotting Cleveland a run in the top of the first, they struck for four runs in the bottom of the inning. Naps starter Fred Blanding only managed two outs before being pulled. He would take the loss running his record to 1-8. Detroit later tacked on single runs in both the third and the sixth, with Cleveland getting one in the fifth and two in the seventh. Harry Coveleski (brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Stan Coveleski) got the win going five innings to set his record at 11-6. Hooks Dauss pitched for innings for his third save (a stat that didn’t exist in 1914). Hall of Fame player Sam Crawford went one for three with a walk and a strikeout for the Tigers while fellow Hall of Famer Nap LaJoie went one for three and was involved in two double plays.

At the end of the day, Philadelphia was three games up on Detroit in the standings with St. Louis 4.5 back in third. Chicago was sixth, 6.5 back (but still had a winning record at 33-32). Cleveland was dead last 16 games back. By seasons end Cleveland and Chicago would maintain the positions, although Chicago would have a losing record. The Browns would drop to fifth (and also have a losing record), while Detroit would end up in fourth (with a winning record). Philadelphia would remain in first, winning the pennant by 8.5 games. It would, of course, lose the World Series in four straight games.

The 50 Greatest White Sox

December 11, 2012
Luke Appling, the 2nd Greatest White Sox

Luke Appling, the 2nd Greatest White Sox

Concluding comments on the ESPN poll of the 50 greatest players on given teams, today I want to remark on the White Sox list. As far as I could find there are only five of these on ESPN (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and White Sox). If I find others, you’ll be second to know (behind me).

1. The top 10 White Sox in order are: Frank Thomas, Luke Appling, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Paul Konerko, Eddie Collins, Ted Lyons, Joe Jackson, Harold Baines, and Minnie Minoso. And again the guy just off the top 10 in eleventh is Ed Walsh.

2. To put together a complete team you first have to decide what to do with Thomas. He’s a first baseman, but ultimately spent the bulk of his playing time as the DH. His positioning determines who makes the team. I decided to place him as the DH, where he spent the most time, so that makes the infield Konerko at first, Fox at second, Appling at short, Robin Ventura (number 15) at third. The outfield is Jackson, Baines, and Minoso, with Carlton Fisk (number 13) catching. A four man rotation with at least one lefty yields Lyons, Walsh, Mark Buehrle (number 12), and Billy Pierce (number 14), with Hoyt Willhelm (number 18)  as the closer. With Thomas at first, Konerko drops out and Aparicio becomes the first duplicate position player and thus the DH.

3. Most of the 1919 “Black Sox” make the list. Jackson is listed above, Eddie Cicotte is 16th Buck Weaver is 39th, Happy Felsch is 41st, and Lefty Williams in 50th. Only Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, and Fred McMullen were left out.

4. The 1906 World Champs is also well represented with Walsh listed above, Doc White at 30th, Fielder Jones at 33rd, and Nick Altrock at 42.

5. Which brings me to the most glaring omission, George Davis of the 1906 team. My guess is they decided he wasn’t there long enough (and that’s strictly a guess).

6. Dick Allen comes in at 20th. I’m not sure what I think of that. He was probably better than most of the guys ahead of him, but he was only there a couple of years. I’m not sure how you decide that. But to be honest I’m not sure what to do with Dick Allen period.

7. I have real problems with Konerko at fifth, above Collins, Lyons, and Baines (among others). I don’t mind Konerko being well touted, after all he started out with my Dodgers, but fifth?

8. I think that putting both Lu Aps (Luke Appling and Luis Aparicio) in the top four is probably correct. What I’m surprised about is that they got the order right. 

9. Let me ask this. What does it say about a franchise when their third best player (Fox) has a career OPS+ of 93, 35 home runs, and more caught stealings than stolen bases? Always liked scrappy Nellie Fox, but putting him third does point out why the ChiSox have only  been in the World Series twice since 1919 and only picked up one victory.

10. You know the Jackson, Baines, Minoso outfield might be the least powerladen of all the teams, but it is a heck of a fielding team.

El Senor

May 6, 2011

 

Al Lopez calling out for a pizza at Chicago

Between the coming of Casey Stengel in 1949 and the end of the Yankees Dynasty in 1964, the Bronx Bombers won every American League pennant except two. Those were the 1954 pennant won by Cleveland and the 1959 pennant won by Chicago. Know what those teams had in common? Well, the both featured Early Wynn on the mound. They also had Larry Doby, although Doby, a center piece in 1954 only had a few games with Chicago in 1959. They also had Al Lopez as their manager. Between 1949 and 1964 Lopez was the only non-Yankees manager to win an AL pennant.

Lopez was from Florida and got to Brooklyn for a three game cup of coffee at age 19 in 1928. He settled in as the Dodgers’ front line catcher in the 1930s, playing a career high 140 games in 1934. Early on he earned the nickname “El Senor” (roughly, “The Man”). He stayed with Brooklyn through 1935, then went to Boston (the Braves not the Red Sox) and Pittsburgh before finishing up with Cleveland in 1947, the year before they won the last pennant before the Yankees dominated the next 16 years. For his career he hit .261, slugged .337 with an OBP of .326 for an OPS of .663 (OPS+ of 83). He hit 51 home runs, 206 doubles, and 1992 total bases. He scored 613 runs and knocked in another 652. By the time he was through he had caught more games than any catcher in Major League history, a record that lasted into the 1980s. As a backup catcher for the latter part of his career, he was considered especially knowledgable about the game and considered an exceptional handler of pitchers. I’ve discovered that backup catchers, particularly aging ones, frequently get labeled as knowledgable and a handler of pitchers. I’ve never known if that was true or simply way of justifying keeping a low-cost player who wasn’t going to appear in many games around.

For Lopez it was apparently true. In 1951 he took over managing the Cleveland Indians. In 1950 the Indians finished fourth. With essentially the same roster, Lopez guided them to second in his rookie year as manager. They stayed there the next two years, then swept to a pennant in 1954. They set an AL record with 111 wins (not bested until 1998). But there was a flaw in that stat. They beat up on the second division teams and had only moderate success against the second and third place teams. Of course in the World Series you don’t get to play a second division team and Cleveland was swept by the Giants led by Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes.

Lopez stayed with Cleveland through 1956, never finishing below second. In 1957 he jumped to Chicago and again guided the White Sox to a second place finish (you starting to notice a pattern here?). The Sox were also second in 1958, then won their first pennant since 1918 in 1959. They lost the World Series in six games. The White Sox dropped to third in 1960, fourth in 1961, and fifth in 1962 before bouncing back to second in 1963. They stayed there until Lopez’s retirement after the 1965 season.   He remained retired until Chicago brought him back in 1968 for two short stints (they fired a manager, had Lopez replace him as interim, then fired the new guy and had Lopez finish out the season). He managed 17 games into 1969 then retired permanently. For his career he was 570-354 for a .617 winning percentage. Between his debut in 1951 and 1959 his teams never finished lower than second. He had three years outside the top two slots, then finished second three more times. In fifteen full seasons Al Lopez teams finished lower than second three times. That’s quite a feat in the American League when you are never the Yankees manager. He made the Hall of Fame in 1977 and died in 2005 at age 97.

I have, in previous posts, be critical of managers. I’ve said I have little idea how to judge the effect of a manager on a team. Given the talent of the 1927 Yankees I could have won a few games as manager (write in Ruth and Gehrig a lot and pitch Hoyt and Pennock a bunch). I could have eked out a few wins for the 1930s Yankees (pitch Ruffing and Gomez, bat DiMaggio and Gehrig three and four). Heck, I could have even managed the 1962 Mets to 140 or so losses (instead of 120). Talent seems to matter most. But somehow Lopez is different. He wins every time. Yep, he has good talent, but he also wins with weaker teams like the mid-1960s White Sox. In 1954 he acquires Hal Newhouser from Detroit, shifts him to reliever and gets one last good year out of the future Hall of Fame pitcher. Obviously I like Lopez a lot and think he made a major difference to his teams. For most of his career he was overshadowed by Stengel, which is too bad.

The Obligatory Second

February 21, 2011

When I was in the army one of my best friends was a black guy from New York. We did a lot of things together, including heading to a few parties. I had a car, he didn’t, and it was easiest for us to head out together in my Dodge. I remember we pulled up to one party and as we were getting out he commented, “I wonder who the obligatory second is?”  Not unreasonably, I asked, “What the heck is that?” “The people throwing the party can’t admit to tokenism, so they have to invite a second black person to the party so no one can say either of us was a token. That’s the obligatory second.” I told him I thought that sounded terrible. “Actually, sometimes it’s not bad. Sometimes they pick a good-looking girl and I get lucky.” I remember the obligatory second that night was a girl and I also remember driving home alone. He did better than I. Larry Doby was, in many ways, baseball’s obligatory second.

Larry Doby

Larry Doby was born in Jim Crow South Carolina in 1923. The family moved to Paterson, New Jersey where Doby caught the eye of the nearby Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. He was signed in 1942 at age 17 to playsecond base. He was good from the beginning, but lost 1944 and 1945 to the Second World War. Back in Newark in 1946, he helped lead his team to the Negro League World Series, a set of games they won 4 games to 3.  Doby didn’t do particularly well. He hit .227, but walked to begin the rally that won game 7 for the Eagles.

In 1947, the Cleveland Indians determined it was time to bring a black player to the American League. The picked Doby over teammate Monte Irvin. Irvin was considered by many contemporary writers as the man who would integrate the AL, but Indians owner Bill Veeck wanted more power and Doby gave him that over Irvin (and Irvin was considerably older). Unfortunately for Doby, the Indians already had a good second baseman, Hall of Famer Joe Gordon. Veeck’s solution was to make Doby an outfielder. Doby made his Major League debut on 5 July 1947 in Chicago. He pinch hit and struck out. The day before, 4 July, Cleveland had a home game which they won 13-6. I’m not sure why they didn’t let Doby play on Independence Day in front of a home crowd. For the 1947 season Doby played in 29 games, going 5 for 32 (.156).

By 1948 he was the starting center fielder. Cleveland got hot, Doby did well, and for the first time since 1920, the Indians made the World Series. They won in six games, Doby hitting .318 with a home run. For the regular season he hit .301 with an OPS of 873 and 14 home runs. As a fielder the results were mixed. He led the AL in errors in center field, but was third in the league in assists.

He remained with Cleveland through 1955, twice leading the AL in home runs, and once in both RBIs and runs. In the 1954 111 win season he finished second the the mVP race (to Yogi Berra), being  acknowledged as the most valuable Indian. Unfortunately for Cleveland, 111 were all the wins they were going to get as the Giants swept the World Series. Doby was part of the reason they lost. He hit a buck-25 with no extra base hits and four strikeouts (he had two hits and two walks). In 1956 he was traded to Chicago where he took over center field for the White Sox. His career was on the slide. He went back to Cleveland in 1958, then to Detroit and back to Chicago in 1959. He retired at age 35. He became the third American player to head to Japan when he joined the Japanese Leagues in 1962. He coached at both Montreal and Cleveland, then in 1978 became manager of the White Sox. Again, he was second. Frank Robinson had become the first black manager in the Major Leagues (ironically enough at Cleveland) and Doby was overlooked again. He remainded somewhat overlooked until 1998 when the Veteran’s Committee elected him to the Hall of Fame. His death came in June 2003.

For his big league career, Doby hit .283 with an 876 OPS (136 OPS +). He had 253 home runs, 970 RBIs, 2621 total bases, 1515 hits, and 960 runs (Note the closeness of the RBI and runs number. You don’t see that a lot.) Not a bad career. But over the last few days around here there’s been a lot of comment (including mine) about just how good Negro League players were. Well, with Doby we actually have something like a complete career.  Signed at 17, he’s in the Negro Leagues at ages 18 and 19. By 20 and 21 he’s in the military. At 22 he’s back in the Negro Leagues, and makes his Major League debut at 23. That’s not a bad career progression for the era. Think of 18 and 19 as inital years in the minors then, like a  lot of other minor leagues he goes off to war. He returns to the minors in 1946, then makes his cup of coffee debut at 23. Hank Bauer, to use only one example of a player whose career is interrupted by war, makes his debut (19 games) at age 25. None of that is meant to imply that 1940s Negro League teams were only minor league in quality, but is meant only to give an age progression comparison. So unlike a lot of Negro Leaguers of the first generation who get to the Majors in mid-career, Doby gives us a look at how a  good  young Negro League player could play at the highest level. That was pretty good.

Cocky

October 18, 2010

Eddie Collins

Baseball has a world of wonderful stats. One of my favorites is this: who’s the only player to hit .300 in four different decades? Answer, Eddie Collins.

Collins is the only member of the Athletics “$100,000 infield” I haven’t profiled. Primarily that’s because he’s the most famous, and thus the one readers are most likely to know. It’s time to change that omission.

Collins was from New York, attended Columbia University in New York City and, unlike a number of players who only attended college, graduated. He was a good ballplayer and in 1906 got to the big leagues with the Philadelphia Athletics. With eligibility remaining at college in 1906, he played under the name Sullivan for that season. It didn’t do him any good. Columbia knew what was going on and Collins was not allowed to play his final season. Instead, he served as a student coach and completed his degree. Already a good hitter and a fine second baseman, a combination made him a starter in 1909, he sent previous second sacker Danny Murphy to the outfield (where Murphy continued to have a stellar career). Collins spent most of his career hitting second where he developed a reputation for great bat control, timely hitting, ability to place the ball,  just all the basic things a Deadball Era two hitter was required to do well.

While in Philadelphia, Collins helped lead the A’s to pennants in 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914, winning the World Series in all but the final year. With the forming of the Federal League in 1914, baseball started a new round in a salary war. Connie Mack, A’s owner, strapped for cash and losing some of his best players, sent Collins to the Chicago White Sox in 1915 for cash. While at Philadelphia, Collins managed to lead the American League in runs in 1912, 13, and 14, in slugging in 1914, and in stolen bases in 1910. A Chalmers Award, the Deadball equivalent of the modern MVP, came his way in 1914. He’d also made a reputation for himself as being very confident in his ability. This earned him the nickname “Cocky.”

He was every bit as good in Chicago. In 1917 and 1919 he was instrumental in bringing pennants to the White Sox. His mad dash home in the 1917 World Series is credited as the defining moment in the Series and led ultimately to a ChiSox victory over the Giants. In 1919 it was a different story. Collins was one of the “Clean Sox” who did not conspire to throw the World Series. Sources indicate that Collins heard rumors of the “fix”, but did not believe them. Unfortunately, he had a terrible Series, batting .226 with only seven hits (only one of them for extra bases-a double), one RBI, and was caught stealing in a key moment. After the Series he was one of the critics of the “Black Sox” and testified at their trial.

Neither the Black Sox scandal nor the end of the Deadball Era seemed to effect his play. He continued hitting over .300, peaking at .372 in 1920, and hitting .344 in 1926 his last year in Chicago. He led the AL two further times in stolen bases (1923 and 1924). In 1925 he became a player-manager for Chicago, taking the team to a fifth place finish, its highest finish since 1922 (also fifth). They remained fifth in 1926, and he lost his job to former teammate and “Clean Sox” Ray Schalk.

 He went back to Philadelphia in 1927, but never again played 100 games in any season. 1927 was his last productive year. He hit .336, played in 56 games at second, stole 12 bases, and scored 50 runs in 226 at bats. His on base percentage was .468. In 1928 he got into 36 games, almost all as a pinch hitter. In 1929, he played in nine games, all as a pinch hitter (racking up no hits). His last season was 1930, when he went one for two and scored a run. His .500 batting average in 1930 made him the only player to average at least .300 for four different decades (1900’s, 19 teens, 1920s, and 1930s). OK, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s still a fun bit of baseball trivia.

By this point he was already doing a bit of coaching. He continued through 1932, then became General Manager for the Boston Red Sox in 1933. He remained in that position through 1947. He was instrumental in bringing such players as Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky to the big leagues. In 1946, on his watch, the Red Sox went to the World Series for the first time since 1918. They lost to St. Louis.  Unfortunately, he continued the Red Sox tradition of not integrating the team. He retired in 1948 and died in 1951. His Hall of Fame induction came in 1939.

Collins numbers are staggering. He hit .333, had 3315 hits, scored 1821 runs, stole 741 bases, walked 1499 times, had a .424 on base percentage, put up 4268 total bases, and slugged .429, which isn’t bad for a player with only 47 home runs. He is the only player to play at least 12 seasons for two different teams (Philadelphia and Chicago). He played on six pennant winners, and four World Series champions. In World Series play he hit .328, scored 20 runs, had 42 hits (good for 10th all time), 14 stolen bases (tied with Lou Brock for the most ever), and his four doubles in 1910 is tied for the most in a four game series. On top of all that, Collins was a good second baseman, leading the AL in putouts seven times and in assists four. He is still second all time in putouts and first in assists among second basemen. An argument can be made that he is the third best player of the Deadball Era, behind Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner (not sure I’d make it).

Collins is consistently rated among the five greatest second basemen in Major League history (Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Nap LaJoie, and Charlie Gehringer are the other names most commonly, but certainly not exclusively, mentioned). You won’t get an argument from me. I’m not sure I’d rate him first, but he’s certainly in the running.

1910: White Sox Postmortem

August 27, 2010

By the end of August 1910 the Chicago White Sox were out of pennant contention in the American League. Depending on exactly how many ties needed to be made up they were eliminated on 29 August or about a week later. When the season was over they finished 68-85, 35.5 games out of first.

You can’t say the Sox weren’t trying to fix the problem. Manager Hugh Duffy used 25 position players (and pitcher Doc White put in 14 games in the outfield), an AL leading number. The problem was that most of them weren’t all that great. Of the bench players who got into 20 or more games (12 of them), only five hit above .200. Harry Lord, who took over as shortstop after coming over in a trade, had the best year hitting .297 (20 points better than the next bench player), stealing 17 bases, and showing a .370 slugging percentage.

The starters weren’t any better. Outfielder Patsy Dougherty led the starters with a .248 batting average and 43 RBIs, while center fielder Paul Meloin led in slugging with .324. Second baseman Rollie Zeider stole 49 bases to go with 62 walks. The problem was that first baseman Chick Gandil (yes, that Chick Gandil), starting shortstop Lena Blackburn (of baseball mud fame), and right fielder Shano Collins all hit under the Mendoza line. Obviously it wasn’t much of a hitting team finishing last in average, slugging, and hits. There were a couple of hopeful signs. Only Dougherty was over 30 (33) and rookie Collins had 10 doubles and 10 stolen bases in only 62 hits.

The hope lay in the pitching staff. With all that weak hitting, the pitching was going to have to carry the team and some of it actually held up. Doc White still had a few wins in him going 15-13 with more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks. Frank Lange pitched in 23 games, 15 of them starts. He managed 9-4 and also had more innings than hits and more strikeouts than walks. Then there was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. Walsh went 18-20 over 46 games (36 of them starts and 33 of them complete games). In 370 innings (second in the league to Walter Johnson) he gave up only 242 hits. He walked 61 and struck out 258 men (again second to Johnson). He led the league with a 1.27 ERA. He was also only 29, so barring arm injuries he had a long career ahead of him at the end of 1910 (his injury came in 1913).

As a brief aside, stats like Walsh’s always fascinate me. He led the AL in ERA and had a losing record. That’s happened a few times. I remember Nolan Ryan doing it while at Houston. It shows how unrelated those two stats are even though they are frequently linked.

Unlike the Browns, there are a few promising things about the White Sox. Walsh is good, Collins looks promising, and Lord just might pan out (He went to third in 1911 and had a few good years). So it least there was a little something to build on in Chicago.

Can’t Buy a Hit

February 16, 2010

The second bizarre pitching performance of the 1917 season includes the hapless St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. In 2 of 3 games over 2 days, the Browns no hit the Sox. The Browns had their number for at least one weekend.

On Saturday, 5 May 1917, the Browns and White Sox played a single game in St. Louis. For the White Sox, ace Eddie Cicotte took the mound, opposed by lefty Ernie Koob. In the first, Buck Weaver singled. It was a close play, made difficult by the fact the second baseman hadn’t fielded it cleanly. By the end of the day the official scorer had consulted with a number of reporters and officials and changed the play to E4 (error by second baseman Ernie Johnson). It’s a crucial change, because it was the only hit Koob gave up that day. With the change, Koob had thrown a no hitter besting Cicotte 1-0. The score wasn’t in doubt, only the hit. So Koob, who won only 24 games for his entire career, had a no hitter.

The next day, 6 May, was a Sunday. The teams played a double header. In game 1, the Browns beat up on the White Sox 8-4 with Eddie Plank taking the win. Right hander Bob Groom relieved in the eighth inning, pitched two no hit innings and picked up a save. Then Groom started game 2. Like Koob, he didn’t give up a hit, winning 3-0. This time there was no controversial play. So Groom had pitched a total of 11 no hit innings during the day picking up both a win and a save (which he never knew, dying prior to the save becoming a stat).

Neither Koob nor Groom were particularly great pitchers. Koob went 6-14 with a 3.90 ERA in 1917. For a career he was 24-31 with an ERA of 3.13 over 125 games and ended up with more walks than strikeouts (186 to 121). His final season was 1919 and he died in 1941. Groom was 8-19 (the 19 losses led the AL), with an ERA of 2.94 in 1917. For his career he was 120-150 with a 3.10 ERA over 367 games. He had 783 walks and 1159 strikeouts. He ended his Major League career in 1918, only a year after his no hitter, and died in 1948.

A couple of interesting points to make here: First, it’s the only time the same team threw no hitters on back to back days (in 1968 there were no hitters on back-to-back days, but by different teams, and in 1990 there were two no hitters thrown on the same day, but in different leagues). Second, the Browns were on their way to finishing a dismal 7th (in an 8 team league) 43 games back. The pennant winner? The Chicago White Sox, who won the pennant by nine games and the World Series in six games. So the Sox were a better team, but for one weekend they simply couldn’t buy a hit off two marginal pitchers playing for a weak team in St. Louis. Who would have guessed it?

1908: That Other Race

February 1, 2010

The 1908 season is most famous for the National League pennant race and the Merkle Game. but there was a heck of a race in the American League too. Three teams were in contention on the last day.

After five months of solid baseball, the American League race came down to September and October. Detroit was in first place with St Louis (the Browns, not the Cardinals), Chicago, and Cleveland all bunched 2.5 games or less behind. By the 23rd, the date of the Merkle Game, St. Louis had fallen off, but the other 3 were still tightly bunched with Cleveland 2.5 games ahead. On the 25th, Detroit would begin a run that led to 10 consecutive wins against the A’s, Washington, and St. Louis. Then they dropped two in a row to the White Sox.

Meanwhile the ChiSox and Cleveland had kept pace. On 2 October they met each other in one of the finest pitching duels ever. White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh, on his way to a 40 win season, struck out 15 and gave up a single run. Addie Joss, the Naps hurler, was even better. He threw a perfect game.

By 6 October, the end of the regular season, Detroit was a half game up and played Chicago. They won 7-0 to put the Sox back 1.5 games. Cleveland beat St. Louis 5-1 to finish a half game back. Detroit ended the season 90-63, Cleveland 90-64, and Chicago 88-64. Only the Naps had played a complete schedule, both Chicago and Detroit losing a game to a rainout. Under the rules of the day, the  game didn’t have to be made up. So the Tigers went to the World Series and promptly lost in 5 games. The American League moved to change the rules requiring ties and rainouts be made up if they impacted the pennant. There is no record of the Naps’ asking “What took so long?”

On an individual basis, Walsh ended the season 40-15 over 66 games (49 of them starts) and led the league with 269 strikeouts and 7 saves (a stat not yet invented). Joss’ 1.16 ERA topped the league. In hitting Ty Cobb won the batting, slugging, hits, doubles, triples, and RBI titles, while outfield teammate Wahoo Sam Crawford took the home run crown (in 1909 Cobb would complete the Triple Crown). The other Tigers outfielder, Matty McIntyre, led the league in runs scored , making it one of the more productive outfields ever. Chicago’s Patsy Dougherty led in steals with 47.

Over the years the American League race has been obscured by the National League. That’s a great shame because it was equally sensational. There just wasn’t one game and one incident that turned the season quite so dramatically as Fred Merkle’s dash toward second.

When Their Sox were still White

January 31, 2010

The Chicago White Sox team of the last half of the second decade of the 20th Century is known primarily for one thing, the Black Sox scandal. But prior to 1919 they were a pretty good team and when they played well and with a will to win they could be superb. Two years before the 1919 World Series, the Sox kept their hose white.

The 1916 ChiSox had finished two games behind Boston in 1916. Over the off-season they changed first basemen and shortstops but kept the heart of the team intact. In 1917 they overcame the two games and finished first in the American League by 9 games. The starters were the same as the 1919 team with Chick Gandil at first, Hall of Famer Eddie Collins at second, Swede Risberg at short and Buck Weaver completing the infield at third. The outfield had Joe Jackson in left, Happy Felsch in center and the platoon system of Nemo Leibold (the lety) and Shano Collins (the righty) in right. Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk completed the position players. Jackson and Felsch hit 300 as did pinch hitter Eddie Murphy. In fact, Felsch had a great Deadball era year. He hit .308, slugged .403, was second in the league with 102 RBIs, third in the league with 177 hits and led the team in runs scored, tied with Collins at 91. That total was good for fourth in the AL.

The pitching consisted of Eddie Cicotte with 28 wins, Lefty Williams with 17, Hall of Famer Red Faber getting 16, and Reb Russell with 15. Dan Danforth started 9 of 51 games and led the AL with 11 saves (a stat that hadn’t been invented yet). Cicotte also led the league in innings pitched (347) and ERA (1.53) and his 150 strikeouts trailed only Walter Johnson’s 188.

They faced the New York Giants in the World Series. The Series went 6 games with the Giants taking 3 and 4 in New York. Eddie Collins was the hitting star batting .409 with 9 hits, and four runs scored. The most famous run occured in game 5’s eighth inning. With one out and Collins on first, Joe Jackson singled sending Collins to third. When the Giants left home uncovered, Collins raced home with an insurance run.

The pitching hero was Faber who won three games (2, 5, and 6) while losing one (4). He pitched 27 innings giving up 21 hits, 3 walks, and posting a 2.53 ERA. Cicotte had both the other win and the other loss.

The next season with Eddie Collis and Risberg in the military and Jackson, Felsch, and William all off doing war work, they slipped back to 6th.   Manager Pants Rowland was tossed and Kid Gleason took over as the new skipper. That set up the 1919 season when the regulars returned and the fix was in.

1906: The Greatest Upset Ever

November 20, 2009

When the regular season ended in 1906, the Chicago Cubs had the most wins in Major League history, they had the highest winning percentage in Major League history,  and led the National League in most pitching categories. Then came the World Series. They managed 2 more wins, unfortunately, they needed four.

Their opponents were the crosstown Chicago White Sox. The Sox had the worst hitting team in World Series history.  They were dead last in batting average, hits,  and home runs  (In all of Major League baseball only the Braves had a lower average or less hits and no one at all had less power.). They could pitch, leading the league in shutouts and saves (with all of 9) So how did they win?

To begin with they were in the middle of the pack in runs scored and led the league in walks. So they were able to maximize their baserunners and produce runs when they needed. Also, don’t forget those 32 shutouts. That’s a third of their win total.

Looking at the numbers, the series should have been a blowout in the Cubs’ favor. It wasn’t. They lost game one 2-1, won the only blowout (7-1) in game two, then split the next two before dropping games 5 and 6 by scores of 8-6 and 8-3. The Sox figured out how to hit the Cubs pitchers and the Cubs failed to hit at all. Actually neither team hit above .200 for the series (there were no home runs), and only the White Sox hit triples.

The series was something of a fluke, the White Sox went back to 3rd place in 1907 and 1908, while the Cubs won the next 2 World Series, but for one year the weakest team in Series history won it all.

A good book on the subject is When Chicago Ruled Baseball by Bernard A. Weisberger.