Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Cicotte’

Before the Sox Turned Black: back in Chicago

June 28, 2017

With the World Series tied two games each, the Series returned to Chicago for game five. If the two games in New York were shutouts and pitching dominated, game five was a shootout.

Game 5, 13 October 1917

Eddie Collins

Game five saw Reb Russell take the mound for Chicago. George Burns led off the game with a walk then went to third on a Buck Herzog single. Then Benny Kauff doubled to score Burns. And that was all for Russell. He’d pitched to three men and all had reached base, two by hits and a walk. The ChiSox brought in Eddie Cicotte to replace him. A fielder’s choice cut down Herzog at the plate for the first out of the inning. Another fielder’s choice cut down Kauff at home, but a Dave Robertson hit brought in a second run before Cicotte ended the inning.

Now ahead 2-0 the Giants sent Slim Sallee to the mound to hold the lead. He gave up a run in the third on an Eddie Collins walk and a Happy Felsch double, but the Giants got that run back, plus another in the fourth. Catcher Bill Rariden singled and went to second on a bunt. Burns singled and an error by right fielder Shano Collins let Rariden score. Two more errors brought Burns home to make the score 4-1.

Chicago got a second run in the sixth on three consecutive singles to make it 4-2, but New York responded in the top of the seventh with a run on an Art Fletcher double and a Rariden single. Going into the bottom of the seventh, the score stood 5-2 with Sallee cruising. With one out, Joe Jackson singled and Happy Felsch followed with another single. Chick Gandil then doubled to bring home both men.  An out moved him to third and a walk put Ray Schalk on first. Schalk took off for second and Herzog dropped the throw making Schalk safe and allowing Gandil to score to tie the game 5-5. A strikeout ended the inning.

Red Faber took over on the mound for Chicago in the eighth and sat down the Giants in order. In the bottom of the eighth Shano Collins singled and moved up on a bunt and scored on an Eddie Collins single. A Jackson single sent Eddie Collins to third. A Kauff throw failed to nip Eddie Collins, but New York third baseman Heinie Zimmerman thought he could catch Jackson going to second. His throw was wild and Eddie Collins scored while Jackson went on to third. A Felsch single scored Jackson but that ended the scoring.

With the score now 8-5, Faber went back to the mound. Two ground outs and a fly to left later, Chicago led the Series three games to two. So far all the games had been won by the home team. With game six back in the Polo Grounds there would be a game seven if that held.

 

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Before the Sox Turned Black: Games 3 & 4

June 26, 2017

With the 1917 World Series two games to none in favor of the White Sox, the teams left Chicago. They headed by train across the upper Midwest to New York. Games 3 and 4 would be played in the Polo Grounds.

Game 3, 10 October 1917

Rube Benton

For game three, the ChiSox sent game one winner Eddie Cicotte to the mound. The Giants countered with Rube Benton. It was a pitchers duel. Benton gave up five hits and didn’t walk anyone. Other than a Buck Weaver double in the eighth inning, all the hits were singles.

Cicotte was almost as good. Like Benton, he didn’t walk anyone, but gave up eight hits, two of them for extra bases (a double and a triple). Both extra base hits came in the fourth inning. Dave Robertson led off with the triple and Walter Holke’s double scored the first run of the game. With two outs George Burns singled Holke home from third. It was the last run by either team.

Benton’s complete game shutout came in his initial appearance in a World Series game. For Cicotte he was now 1-1 in the Series. A win the next day by New York would tie up the Series.

Game 4, 11 October 1917

Benny Kauff

For game four, also in the Polo Grounds, New York trotted out Ferdie Schupp while Chicago sent Red Faber back to the mound. The last meeting between the two resulted in a White Sox win. This time Schupp and the Giants turned the tables. Schupp went nine innings with a walk and seven hits. All except a fourth inning double by Eddie Collins were singles and Collins was subsequently picked off second by Schupp.

Meanwhile the Giants managed to score off Faber. In the fourth Benny Kauff hit a gapper that he turned into an inside-the-park home run because of his speed. It put the Giants up 1-0, a lead they would not relinquish. They got a second run in the fifth with Schupp driving it in. They tacked on a third run in the seventh on a single, a wild pitch, and a double play that plated Art Fletcher.

In the top of the eighth Faber was lifted for a pinch hitter. New pitcher Dave Danforth wasn’t the answer either. In the bottom of the eighth with one on Kauff drilled a home run to provide the final score of 5-0.

In two games in the Polo Grounds the Giants had evened the Series at two games apiece. Chicago had come to New York ahead and failed to score in either game. The World Series would head back to Chicago tied with one game there and a game six back in New York.

 

Before the Sox Turned Black: Games 1 and 2

June 22, 2017

The first two games of the 1917 World Series were played in Comiskey Park. The local White Sox had broken through to win their first pennant since 1906. They faced the New York Giants who were back in the Series for the first time since 1912.

Game 1, 6 October 1917

Eddie Cicotte

For the opening game, the Chisox sent ace Eddie Cicotte to the mound to face John McGraw’s Giants. New York countered with Slim Sallee. The game turned into a great pitchers duel.

Although a few men reached base, no one scored for the first two and a half inning. The White Sox broke through in the bottom of the frame that began with an out. Pitcher Cicotte singled, then was erased trying to go to third on a Shano Collins single. A great throw by Giants right fielder Dave Robertson nailed him, but it allowed Collins to move up to second. A Fred McMullin double plated Collins with the first run of the Series. In the bottom of the fourth Chicago tacked on another run on a Happy Felsch home run.

Down 2-0 New York struck in the top of the fifth. Lew McCarthy led off the inning with a triple. Pitcher Sallee then singled to bring him home with the Giants initial run of the Series. A double play and strikeout got Cicotte out of the inning without further damage.

And that ended the scoring. Both pitchers continued to record out after out through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. There were a couple of hits but no one motored beyond second. In the ninth the Giants went down in order and Chicago went up one game in the Series by a 2-1 score.

Both pitchers were stellar. For the win Cicotte gave up seven hits, a walk, and the single run. Sallee was almost as good. He gave up seven hits also, but didn’t walk anyone. The difference was the Felsch homer.

 

Game 2, 7 October 1917

Red Faber

If game one was a well pitched duel, game 2 wasn’t. The Sox sent future Hall of Famer Red Faber to the mound. The Giants countered with Ferdie Schupp.

Both pitchers had trouble initially. In the top of the second consecutive singles by Dave Robertson and Walter Holke put men on first and second with one out. A Lew McCarthy single to left scored both runs.

Chicago replied in the bottom of the second with four singles in a row.  Joe Jackson led off the inning with a single, Happy Felsch moved him to second, and Chick Gandil brought him home with the third single. Another single by Buck Weaver scored Felsch and evened the score at 2-2. A Ray Schalk bunt was unsuccessful with Gandil being out at third, but Schupp then walked Faber to reload the bases. That brought out McGraw for a pitching change. Fred Anderson, the new pitcher, picked up a strikeout, then saw a grounder to short get New York out of the jam.

It was the highpoint for Anderson. In the fourth the White Sox took his measure and put up four runs. Two singles, an out, and two more singles brought in two more runs and ran Anderson. McGraw brought in Pol Perritt to pitch. He was met by singles by Eddie Collins and Jackson that sent three more runners across home plate to make the score 7-2.

Meanwhile, Faber had settled down after the second inning and was setting down the Giants. For the game he gave up eight hits and walked one (the walk came in the eighth). After the second inning, no Giant got beyond second. By the end, Faber had his complete game victory and the White Sox were up two games to none in the Series.

 

 

Before the Sox Turned Black: the Chisox

June 20, 2017

“Pants” Rowland

A lot of people who know about the 1919 Black Sox and throwing the World Series don’t know that it wasn’t the first Chisox pennant winner. They’d won the very first American League pennant in 1901 and followed that up with a World Series victory in 1906. More to the point of the Black Sox, they’d also won a pennant in 1917, two years before infamy, and 100 seasons ago this year.

Manager Clarence “Pants” Rowland was a former minor league catcher who’d managed long enough to get the attention of the White Sox. For those curious, the nickname came from his childhood when he wore his father’s trousers while playing ball. He took the reins of the Chicago American League team in 1915 and stayed through 1918 (he was fired in a disagreement with ownership). He led his team to 100 wins. They led the AL in runs scored, triples, stolen bases, OBP; were second in both walks and slugging; and third in batting average, home runs, and hits. The staff was first in ERA, shutouts, and allowed the fewest walks; second in runs allowed; and third in strikeouts.

The infield consisted of Chick Gandil at first, Hall of Famer Eddie Collins at second, Buck Weaver at third, and Swede Risberg at short. If they sound familiar, they’re the same four that were the primary infield in 1919. Collins led the group with a .289 average, one of only a handful of times he hit under .300. He also led the infield in most other offensive categories (doubles, triples, runs, even RBIs). His 128 OPS+ was third among all starters and his 5.0 WAR was second among non-pitchers. And of course, being Collins, he led the team in stolen bases. Gandil and Weaver both hit above .270 and Weaver’s OPS+ was 110. His WAR was 2.9, while Gandil checked in at 1.2. Risberg was only 22 and new to the big leagues. He wasn’t a particularly great shortstop, even with the lower fielding numbers of the era, and managed to hit all of .203 with only a 76 OPS+ and -0.3 WAR. Fred McMullin was the only backup infielder to play more than 20 games. He primarily substituted for Weaver at third and for Risberg at short. He hit .237 with 14 RBIs.

The primary outfield consisted of four men playing three position. Right field was a platoon situation between right-handed hitting Shano Collins (no relation to Eddie) and lefty Nemo Lebold. Leobold hit .236 while Collins hit .234 and had the only home run. Between them they had 41 RBIs, 25 doubles, 160 hits, and 206 total bases. Leobold’s WAR was 1.2 and Collins was absolutely average with 0.0. Center fielder Happy Felsch led the team in hitting at .308 with an OPS of .755 (OPS+ of 128), had 4.7 WAR, and was considered a superior outfielder. So was left fielder Joe Jackson (“Shoeless Joe”). He hit .301, had five home runs (Felsch had six) and 82 RBIs (to Felsch’s 99) had an .805 OPS, an OPS+ of 143, and led the hitters with 5.8 WAR. Backup outfielder Eddie Murphy (obviously not the modern comedian) got into 53 games, hit .314, had a 135 OPS+, and produced 0.3 WAR.

Ray Schalk and Bird Lynn did almost all the catching. Hall of Famer Schalk hit .226, had both home runs, all five triples, and 12 of the 14 doubles. Lynn hit .222. Schalk produced 3.0 WAR but only had an OPS+ of 89. Schalk was a fine backstop. In a league where the caught stealing rate was 45%, he was at 54%, having caught 101 of 186 base stealers.

They caught a small, but competent staff. Dave Danforth was one of the first pitchers designated for use as a reliever. He’d played some before, but by 1917 was a main cog in Chicago’s pitching. He had a 2.65 ERA over 50 games (nine starts) and 173 innings (obviously not a modern closer). He struck out 79 (but walked 74), gave up 155 hits, 51 earned runs (one homer), and had nine saves (retroactively figured). It was one of the first big relief seasons. Four men started 20 or more games. The ace was Eddie Cicotte (of 1919 infamy). He was 28-12 with an ERA of 1.53 (ERA+ of 174) with seven shutouts, 150 strikeouts, and a team leading 11.5 WAR. Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber was 16-13 with 84 strikeouts and 85 walks over 248 innings. His ERA was 1.92 with an ERA+ of 139 and 2.6 WAR. Reb Russell was also under 2.00 in ERA (1.95) with 54 strikeouts in 185 innings and 4.2 WAR to go with a 15-5 record. Twenty-four year old Claude “Lefty” Williams (also of 1919 infamy) was the youngest hurler. He was 17-8 with an ERA of 2.97 and 1.5 WAR over 230 innings.

The Chisox managed, in 1917, to break the Boston stranglehold on the AL pennant. They would face the New York Giants in the World Series (I did something on the Giants a week or so ago, so look down the page for them.). Because of American League domination in the recent Series’ Chicago was favored to win.

 

 

Sport

September 22, 2016
"Sport" Sullivan

“Sport” Sullivan

Recently I took a quick look at Abe Atell, one of the gamblers involved in the fixing of the 1919 World Series. As important as Atell was in the entire affair, other gamblers should really hold center stage. One of the most important was “Sport” Sullivan.

Joseph Sullivan was born in November 1870. His parents were from Ireland, making him first generation. For most of his life his census records show him as a realtor, or at least someone working in a real estate office. And I suppose he actually did make some money at some point in real estate, but by 1903 he was considered the premier gambler in the Boston area. Newspaper accounts of the era detail him making $1000 bets on the 1903 World Series (he bet on Boston to win). Either he was making a lot of money in real estate or he’d already begun his gambling ventures.

He found sports gambling to be the most lucrative bets, leading to his nickname. He bet on baseball, but he came to prominence primarily as a boxing gambler. He was accused of fixing fights, and of trying to influence early auto races in the Boston area. And as a successful gambler he was recognized as an expert on the sports involved. After all only an expert could make money the way he did when it came to sporting events.

Of course we know there is another possibility that explains Sullivan’s expertise in sports gambling. He was, as early as 1906, getting in trouble with the Boston police for fixing sporting events. He’d pay fines and be back on the streets in hours, but I find no evidence that he spent time in jail. By 1916 he was the acknowledged king of Boston gamblers.

Hollywood's version of Sullivan (Kevin Tighe)

Hollywood’s version of Sullivan (Kevin Tighe)

As a gambler, and I suppose this is as good a time to point out that Sullivan seldom “gambled” on anything; he only bet on sure things, particularly things he could fix before hand. But as a gambler, Sullivan was well known in the community of ball players. He was known for cultivating them, dining with them, helping them out in a pinch (there is some speculation that he found them available female companionship). And that got him access to the 1919 Chicago White Sox and the idea of throwing the World Series. It’s impossible to tell who initially came up with the idea of fixing the Series, but Sullivan was front and center in the entire enterprise. He knew Chick Gandil (since at least 1912) and Eddie Cicotte played for Boston for five years (1908-1912). Things get a little murky here because Gandil said Sullivan proposed the fix while Sullivan laid the blame on Gandil (which ever one you believe, make sure you check to see that you wallet is still there when you leave them).

However it began, Sullivan provided much of the money to pay the players and got more from Arnold Rothstein. Not all of it went to the players and Sullivan made a lot of money betting on the Reds to win the Series. But there were consequences to winning all that money. When the dust settled in 1920 and 1921, Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned Sullivan from ball parks throughout the country.

That was the beginning of Sport Sullivan’s fall from the top of the gambling pyramid. Without access to the parks and players involved in the most important sport in the US, he rapidly faded. He still made money, but now was making ten bucks when previously he’d made thousands. He lived on to April 1949, mostly forgotten but not poor either.

Sullivan's grave from Find a Grave

Sullivan’s grave from Find a Grave

 

 

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.

“You Lied To Me, Eddie”

January 20, 2012

Eddie Cicotte with some guy named Ruth

In the wonderful baseball movie “Eight Men Out” there’s a scene involving Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn) and Ring Lardner (John Sayles). Cicotte swears the White Sox are clean and Lardner, desperate to believe him, accepts him at his word. Later, when it becomes evident the fix is in, Lardner comments to himself “You lied to me, Eddie.” In many ways Cicotte is the key figure in fixing the World Series. It’s a lot easier to throw a game if the pitcher is in on it. And in 1919, Cicotte was the team ace.

Born in 1884 in Michigan, Edward Cicotte left school before graduation to work as a box maker and support his widowed mother and his siblings. And before I go any further, there’s the little matter of how the family name was pronounced. I’ve heard it See-Cot, Suh-Coat-e, Suh-Cot, and even Sha-Coat-e. If anyone knows which he used would you please place it in the comments below and tell us how you know that’s correct? I’d love to know. Now back to the main point of all this.

By the early 1900s, Cicotte was pitching in the Minor Leagues in his home state. He was picked up by Detroit, spent a summer in Augusta, Georgia (Ty Cobb was a teammate), then went to Detroit in September 1905. He was 1-1 (the win coming ironically enough against the White Sox) with a 3.50 ERA. That cost him a trip back to the minors where he stayed until Boston picked him up for the 1908 season.

His Boston years were nothing spectacular. In five seasons he was 52-46 with a 2.69 ERA (not bad, but not great for the age).  He did develop an array of pitches that insured he could stick in the big leagues. His major pitch was a knuckleball, and he is credited with being the first great knuckleballer. He also developed a “shine ball”. He would pour talcum powder on his pant leg, then  rub the ball against his pant leg before throwing it. This made one side shinier and rougher than the other and was supposed to help the ball move (not to mention providing an occasional cloud of talc around the mound). No one’s quite sure how it really worked, but apparently it did.

He was traded in mid-1912 to Chicago, thus missing the Red Sox run to the World Series title (I couldn’t find a reference as to whether he got a partial Series winners share or not). He hit his stride with the White Sox, becoming, along with Red Faber, the team ace. He won 20 games three times (and lost 19 once) and threw a no-hitter in 1917. He picked up an ERA title in 1917 and had ERA+ numbers ranging from 99 to 186. In the 1917 World Series he went 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 23 innings, gave up two walks and had a WHIP of 1.087 (remember those numbers when we get to 1919).

In 1919 Cicotte won 29 games, led the American League in winning percentage and innings pitched, then went on to post a 1-2 record in the World Series. In 21.2 innings he gave up five walks, struck out seven, surrendered seven earned runs (2.91 ERA), and posted a WHIP of 1.108. Those numbers aren’t significantly worse than the 1917 numbers, but the subtle difference makes a world of difference in winning and throwing a World Series.

Cicotte was having a decent year in 1920 when the Black Sox scandal broke. He was summoned before a grand jury in Chicago where he admitted to helping fix the 1919 World Series for $10,000 cash up front (he used much of it to pay off a mortgage on his farm). As with the rest of the Black Sox, he was acquitted by a jury but Judge Landis banned him from the Major Leagues for throwing ballgames. He played outlaw ball for a few years then became in turn a game warden, the owner of a service station, and an employee of Ford Motor Company. He retired to his farm in 1944 and raised strawberries. He died in Detroit in  May 1969, not long after opening day fifty years after he threw the 1919 World Series.

A common thread among the Black Sox is how much they hated Charles Comiskey and how badly he treated them. In Cicotte’s case Comiskey is supposed to have ordered the manager to hold Cicotte out of games so he couldn’t obtain a bonus if he won 30 games in 1919 (he won 29). Maybe it’s true, but there’s a minor problem with it. In 1917 Cicotte started 23% of ChiSox games. In 1918, it’s 24% and in 1919 it’s 25%. That makes it sound unlikely that Comiskey was actually holding Cicotte out of games to save a bonus, especially as Chicago only won the pennant by 3.5 games (and it’s a short season, only 140 games played). I’m not sure what happened here, but I don’t find it a mitigating factor for Cicotte.

1910:Red Sox Postmortem

September 9, 2010

In 1909 Fred Lake left the managerial job with the Red Sox to go across leagues to the Doves. The team was awful and Lake was fired, never returning to manage in the Major Leagues. His replacement, Patsy Donovan, had better luck. The Red Sox finished fourth in 1910, at 81-72, 22.5 games out of first. That was down from a third place finish in 1909.

It wasn’t the hitting that was the problem. Every Sox starter except catcher Bill Carrigan hit over .250 (and Carrigan hit .249). The team was third in batting average, runs scored, and RBIs. They were second in slugging and first in home runs with first baseman Jake Stahl leading the American League with ten. In stolen bases they finished fourth. Tris Speaker hit .340, good for third in league.

The bench wasn’t anything special. Four players managed 20 or more games, two hitting under .200. But backup infielder Clyde Engle hit .264, stole 12 bases, and ended up with more hits than regular third baseman Harry Lord.

The weakness was the pitching. Eddie Cicotte (of 1919 Black Sox infamy) led the team with a 15-11 record. And his record is typical for the staff. Of the seven men who started double figures games, four had winning percentages of .550 or less, the definition of a mediocre staff. On the positive side all of them had more innings pitched than hits allowed and more strikeouts than walks, except for Frank Arellanes, who started 13 of 26 games. At 26, it was the second youngest staff in the AL (behind New York) so there was time for improvement.

All in all the BoSox are not a bad team. In 1911 they will fall back a spot,costing Donovan his job, but will win the AL pennant and the World Series in two years. You can see that coming if you look at the hitting. Speaker, Larry Gardner, Duffy Lewis, and Harry Hooper are all there.  As for the pitching, it needed work. It got it. By 1912, only three of the 1910 major starters would still be around.

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (AL)

April 16, 2010

Tris Speaker

New manager Patsy Donovan (former manager Fred Lake was now with the other Boston team) had a good enough team he could stand pat for the most part. There were two changes from the 1909 starting roster that finished 9.5 games out of first. Both were significant.

The infield had one of them. Jake Stahl remained at first base, Heinie Wagner at short, and Harry Lord at third. The new guy was Larry Gardner, a good fielding second baseman who would turn into a very good hitter for Boston. His arm was good enough that in the latter part of his career he would shift to third and Boston wouldn’t skip a beat.

The other big change was in the outfield. Duffy Lewis took over left field from Harry Niles. Tris Speaker remained the center fielder and the three hitter. Harry Hooper, who was the fourth outfielder in 1909 took on the right field post and led off. There was a time when fans, pundits, and historians refered to this trio as the greatest outfield ever. You don’t hear that much today, but it’s been recent enough that I recall a few old timers using that kind of talk about Lewis, Speaker, Hooper. Both Speaker and Hooper ultimately made the Hall of Fame.

The catcher was Bill Carrigan. He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but was a premier defensive specialist of his day. That seems to be a common theme of the era. The best teams have catchers who are good backstops and any hitting is gravy.

There were major trades during the 1910 season that really strengthened the Boston bench, but they began the season with Niles as the backup outfielder, Tom Madden the backup catcher, and a bunch of guys who didn’t get into 20 games as the infield.

The pitching staff was also fairly stable. The 1909 staff of Frank Arellanes, Eddie Cicotte, Smoky Joe Wood, and Charlie Chech was intact except for Chech. Ray Collins, Charley Hall, Ed Karger, and Charlie Smith were new and expected to solidify the mound. The problem was that most of them were inexperienced. Collins was a rookie in 1909, getting into only 12 games. Hall had pitched only 11 games the year before. The ones with experience weren’t very good. Smith came over from Washington where he hadn’t been very good. Karger was a career National Leaguer who hadn’t been particularly distinguished.

So Boston was improved, but the pitching was a question. If it reached its potential, then the team could move up. If not, well, it was going to be a long year.

Next: the White Sox

Double No-No

February 17, 2010

The other truly odd game of 1917 occurred on the 2nd of May. This game was in the National League and pitted home team Chicago against the Cincinnati Reds. It became famous at the double no hitter.

The Cubs sent lefty Jim “Hippo” Vaughn to the mound. There are a couple of stories about his nickname. One says it had to do with his size, the other with the way he walked. Don’t know which is true, but the Sports Encylcopedia: Baseball  lists him as 6’4″ and 214 pounds, not exactly hippo-like numbers. He was opposed by Cincinnati ace right-hander Fred Toney.

Both pitchers managed to get through a regulation game without giving up a hit. Both had a couple of walks, with Cubs outfielder Cy Williams being the only Chicago base runner (on two walks). In the tenth inning, Vaughn managed to get the first out, then light hitting shortstop Larry Kopf singled for the first hit of the day by either team. For the year Kopf was a .255 hitter with no power, a little speed (17 stolen bases), and a handful of runs (81). He went to third on an error and came home on a single by backup outfielder Jim Thorpe (Yes, that Jim Thorpe). Thorpe hit all of .247 for the year with 36 RBIs, none more famous than bringing home Kopf. Vaughn then shut down the Reds and Toney took the mound. He set the Cubs down in order to pick up the win and notch his only no hitter.

For years baseball carried the game as the only double no hitter ever pitched. When they changed the rules recently, Vaughn’s effort was washed away and only Toney now gets credit for a no hitter. I guess that’s fair, but it is kind of a shame.

For the season the Cubs ended up 5th 24 games back. Vaughn won 23 games against 13 losses with an ERA of 2.01 and 195 strikeouts. The Reds finished just ahead of Chicago in 4th place 20 games back. Toney was 24-16 with a 2.20 ERA and 123 strikeouts.

Over their careers, Vaughn did slightly better finishing 178-137 over 390 games with 1416 strikeouts and a 2.49 ERA. Toney was 137-102 (a better winning percentage) over 336 games with 718 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.69. But for one day, they were both superb and Toney was better.

This finishes a run of 3 posts on no hitters in 1917. In fairness, I need to point out there were 2 others that year, both in April. Eddie Cicotte of Chicago no hit the Browns on the 14th (and perhaps the two no hitters in May were payback by the Browns) and George Mogridge no hit the Red Sox on the 24th.  There were six no hitters in 1917. That ties 1908, 1915, 1969, and 1990 for most in a single season.