Posts Tagged ‘Doc White’

1908: The AL Pennant

October 6, 2018

“Wahoo” Sam Crawford (note the sunglasses)

In 1908, the final day of the season was 6 October. On that date, the Detroit Tigers began the day 89-63, a half game ahead of both the White Sox and Cleveland. A Detroit win would clinch a title. As the baseball gods would have it, the Tigers played the ChiSox. Cleveland got the Browns.

The Browns dropped the game to the Naps (now the Indians) 5-1, making them 90-64 for the season. Both games were played in the Central Time Zone (St. Louis and Chicago). I was unable to find out if the Naps knew the outcome of the Chicago game before their own ended. I also couldn’t find out it the teams in Chicago knew that Cleveland won.

The Tigers sent Wild Bill Donovan to the mound to face Doc White. The game got out of hand quickly as the Tigers scored four first inning runs off the White Sox and tacked on another in the second. They added two more in the ninth to take the American League pennant 7-0. White didn’t get out of the first inning. Reliever Ed Walsh went a little more than three innings, and Frank Smith finished the game. Combined they gave up 12 hits, struck out six, and didn’t walk any. Donovan twirled a two hitter, both singles, walked three, and struck out nine. For the Tigers, Sam Crawford had four hits, one a double, and scored two runs. Ty Cobb racked up two hits, the big blow being a triple.

The final tallies for all three teams stood at 90-63 for Detroit, 90-64 for Cleveland, and 88-64 for the ChiSox. Detroit had a tie, Cleveland had three, and Chicago four. By the rules of the day, ties did not have to be made up. So the rules in play for 1908 gave the Tigers a half game lead and the pennant. That rule is different now.

In the National League it was another story. The Giants had a made up game the next day and won. That left New York at 98-55, in a dead tie with Chicago. But each team had a tie, the so-called ‘Merkle Game.” Under the earlier decision by the National League leadership, the game would be replayed 8 October.

 

“A Hard Guy”

January 25, 2012

The Swede

In some ways the least likeable of the eight Black Sox is Swede Risberg. He seems to be a particularly unloveable person. In Joe Jackson’s words, “a hard guy.”

Born in 1894 San Francisco, Charles Risberg was a third grade drop out (do you notice an educational pattern with a lot of these guys?). He excelled as a pitcher in semipro ball in the Frisco area. Between 1912 and 1916, he played for a series of Minor League teams in the West, doing well and eventually settling in as a shortstop. His last posting was with Vernon of the Pacific Coast League. His manager was 1906 World Series hero Doc White who recommended Risberg to his former boss Charles Comiskey.

Risberg made the big leagues in 1917 as a utility infielder but almost immediately became the every day shortstop. He hit .203 with no power and struck out more than he walked. As a shortstop he was nothing special. He led the American League in errors and finished fourth (of eight regulars) in putouts. Chicago made the World Series. Risberg batted twice, picked up a single and an RBI and helped the White Sox win.

1918 saw World War I intrude into baseball in a major way. Under a “work of fight” order a number of players like Risberg left the team during the season (he played 82 games) to work in Naval shipyards. Risberg went back to the West Coast to work in the Alameda Shipyard. Much of his job was to play ball and the whole idea bothered owner Comiskey. As with Happy Felsch (see earlier post) Comiskey felt Risberg was shirking his duty and held it against him for the rest of his career. Again, it’s difficult to determine how much this contributed to the crisis of 1919. One thing is certain, Risberg hated Chicago and the Midwest. He apparently was desperately homesick and spent as much time as he could back in California. This may also have contributed to what happened in 1919. Not liking the town, the owner, and a significant number of his teammates, Risberg was ripe for recruitment in the Black Sox Scandal.

He had a decent year in 1919, finally having 100 hits, hitting .256, and seeing his OPS rise to .662. I always hate writing something like that, because OPS was unheard of in Risberg’s day, but is so well-known today it needs to be quoted. During the World Series he hit a miserable .083 with one extra base hit (a triple), no RBIs, five strikeouts, and a World Series record eight errors at short. He blamed it on a cold.

Of course we know it was more than a cold. Risberg was one of Chick Gandil’s earliest recruits. A willing participant, he seems to have been the man who recruited both Lefty Williams and Jackson to the cause. He was responsible for getting Jackson’s money to him (via Williams) and is supposed to have threatened Jackson with physical violence when Jackson complained about the amount of money. That was Jackson’s story and Risberg never denied it (at least that I can find).

Risberg was having his best year in 1920 when the scandal broke. Acquitted by a jury, but banned by the Major Leagues, he played outlaw baseball and worked some in the minors, playing as late as the early 1930s. He told others he was making more money in the outlaw and minor leagues than he ever made in the Major Leagues. He ran a dairy farm, was involved in the Ty Cob/Tris Speaker gambling controversy (which came to nothing), lost a leg to osteomyelitis, moved back to California and ran a bar (another common thread among some of the Black Sox). He died in California in 1975, the last of the Black Sox.

I find it very difficult to like Risberg. I think that as a person he’s the one I’d least like to have known (which is different from saying which is most responsible for the fix). But he is intriguing because his career is the shortest. He seems to have been getting better when he was banned (as was Felsch) and I’d like to know how the “lively ball” era might have changed his stats. He was never going to be a big star, but he might have become a quality shortstop given time. That he didn’t give himself enough time lies with him.

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.

Opening Day, 1910: Chicago (AL)

April 17, 2010

Ed Walsh

This is going to sound a little redundant, but Chicago was, like Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit, one of the mainstays of the American League since its start. The White Stockings won the first AL pennant in 1901, then pulled off arguably the greatest World Series upset ever by knocking off the 1906 Chicago Cubs in six games. They remained close in both 1907 and 1908, but had dropped back to 20 games out in 1909. That set up wholesale changes in the team.

Out went the entire infield. In came four new players. Rookies Chick Gandil  and Rollie Zeider were now at first and second. Former bench player Billy Purtell took over third base, and another rookie, Lena Blackburn of baseball mud fame, was at short. Former starters Frank Isbell and Lee Tannehill were still around, but relegated to the bench.

The outfield was mostly new. Right fielder Patsy Dougherty remained. Newcomers were rookies Shano Collins and Pat Meloan at the other two spots. Collins was to remain until 1920.

The catcher remained Freddie Payne. Backups were Bruno Block and Billy Sullivan. Sullivan was the manager in 1909, replaced in the offseason by old-time outfielder Hugh Duffy. Sullivan stayed with the team the entire year, playing in 45 games. I’ve no idea how he and Duffy got along and if there was tension between them. If there was, no idea how it rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Little of the 1906 team remained among the hitters (only Sullivan, Isbell, and Dougherty), but the pitching staff was led by two veterans of the pennant winning team. Doc White (he was a practicing dentist in the offseason) was 11-9 in 1909, played 40 games in the outfield, and pinch hit. In 1910 he was expected to do better on the mound and keep up with the other aspects of his game (for 1910 he played 14 games in the outfield and hit .196). The other veteran was Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. He was 40-15 in 1908 and it took a toll on his arm. In 1909 he dropped to 15-11. He was still not fully recovered by 1910. Frank Smith and Jim Scott were holdovers from 1909 and Fred Olmstead, who had pitched n eight games the year before, became a starter.

The White Stockings were dropping fast in the standings. They moved to get younger, but it would take time for the rookies to become regulars. the pitching staff was a mixture of veterans and new guys and anchored by a man with a sore arm. Hugh Duffy would have his work cut out for him in 1910.