Posts Tagged ‘Pants Rowland’

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.

 

 

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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.