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Random Game Callback, May 18, 1917
2006-05-18 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

The defending champion Boston Red Sox came into Chicago this day in first place and riding the strong left arm of Babe Ruth, who had won eight straight games, and had people buzzing that he could approach Smokey Joe Wood's then-record 16 straight. But the White Sox made quick work of Ruth, knocking him out early en route to an 8-2 win.

Chicago manager Pants Rowland (given that nickname because he seemed to wear pants most of the time) picked a lefthander of his own, Reb Russell to start. Presumably Russell got his nickname because he hailed from Mississippi. Although I think he wore pants too.

Ruth got a lead in the second when third baseman Larry Gardner and shortstop Everett Scott hit back-to-back doubles to give the Red Sox a run. The White Sox responded with three of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Ruth walked Happy Felsch to start the inning. First baseman Chick Gandil followed with a single. Shortstop Swede Risberg walked to load the bases. Catcher Ray Schalk singled in two runs. After Russell made out, Shano Collins singled home Risberg.

It got worse for Ruth in the third. Eddie Collins reached on an error by Scott. Joe Jackson followed with a dribbler that Barry (who played second in addition to managing) couldn't get to in time to catch Jackson at first. The Boston Daily Globe called Jackson "Dixie Joe". Felsch grounded out, but the runners moved up. Gandil then singled home both runners to make it 5-1. Barry yanked Ruth and replaced him with King Bader.

The White Sox added three more runs off of Bader in the sixth. Shano Collins and Buck Weaver singled and moved up on a ground out. Jackson grounded to Scott who tried to throw out Collins at home, but threw the ball into the stands to let two runs score. Felsch singled home Jackson.

The Red Sox got doubles in the ninth from Del Gainer and Jimmy Walsh, but Gainer didn't score until Gardner grounded out. Russell went the distance for the win. And Ruth picked up his first loss of the season.

If you paid attention to baseball in 2005, you would probably know that 1917 was the previous year that the White Sox had won the World Series. The White Sox went 100-54 and beat out the Red Sox by nine games. The White Sox scored the most runs in the AL and gave up the fewest, which is usually a guarantee of success.

Felsch led the offense with a .308 average. Jackson batted .301, which was his lowest figure for a full season. Jackson had a career batting average of .356. The White Sox hit 18 home runs, which was actually the third highest total in the AL. (The Yankees led the league with 27.)

The White Sox pitchers were the strength of the team. Eddie Cicotte would go 28-12 with a 1.53 ERA in 346 2/3 innings of work. Cicotte's speciality was the spitball. Russell went 15-5 with a 1.95 ERA, but missed the World Series with an arm injury. The White Sox used just eight pitchers for the whole season and had a staff ERA of 2.16. The White Sox would go on to win the World Series over the New York Giants in six games. It was their second World Series title.

Boston still had a pretty good team. Ruth went 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA. Carl Mays was 22-9 with a 1.74 ERA. Ruth batted .325, but hit just two home runs. But in 1918, he would lead the AL with 11 and most of you know the rest of the story. On June 23, 1917 Ruth started a game against Washington and walked the leadoff man. Ruth argued the call and was ejected (some reports say he hit umpire Brick Owens). Ernie Shore came into relieve and the runner, Clyde Milan was caught stealing, and Shore went on to retire the next 26 batters he faced. Ruth and Shore ended up with a most unusual combined no-hitter (it was considered a perfect game for many years, but the Powers That Be say no). Shore does get credit for a complete game shutout however.

The Red Sox win the AL and the World Series in 1918. But people have heard about that. And the White Sox won the AL in 1919, but lost the World Series. But that's another story too.

Sources: Boston Daily Globe, Retrosheet,

2006-05-18 09:18:01
1.   Suffering Bruin
Bob, there better be a book in your future. Heck, a yearly calendar with RDGC's? Your sitting on a gold mine!

I often wonder how Ruth would've done with today's press coverage. Not that yesterday's press was a kindler, gentler version of today's scribes but you could pick a number of incidents in Ruth's career that would've drawn considerable attention for a considerable period of time from today's media. Also, I have little doubt that Ruth would've taken steroids.

Babe Ruth on steroids. I think I'll stop there.

2006-05-18 09:36:34
2.   Bob Timmermann
Thank you for the kind words.
2006-05-18 11:30:14
3.   das411
Yeah, between the drinking (during Prohibition), smoking, womanizing, small ball era, and everything else we still probably haven't heard about, doesn't it seem kind of ironic that Ruth probably was as hated by the media back then as Bonds is today?
2006-05-18 11:38:30
4.   Bob Timmermann
Babe Ruth was not hated by the media much at all. Not many sports figures have been as vilified as Barry Bonds.

Even the Black Sox have better PR than Bonds.

2006-05-18 20:24:17
5.   grandcosmo
3. I doubt any athlete ever got better press than Ruth.
2006-05-18 22:55:55
6.   Bob Timmermann
Christy Mathewson may have been close, but Ruth had more kinds of media available (films, radio).

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