April 15th will mark 100 years since the great ship went down. It also happened to be opening week of the baseball season. Thanks to the Chicago Tribune deep archives, we can look at how the Sox did as news of the sinking raced around the world.
I'm a bit of a Titanic history buff. We used to enjoy our black and white photos of Titanic and other White Star Liners. We could salivate over blurry underwater photos in peace.
Then the movie came along.
It made a billion dollars and exposed a great many people to the Titanic story. But we also had to separate ourselves from the screaming crying mass of preteen girls who saw the movie 10 times because they wanted a glimpse of Leo.
But that's neither here nor there. Let's take a trip back to April of 1912, shall we?
Carter Harrison was Mayor of Chicago. William Howard Taft was President. Later, he would lose the election to Woodrow Wilson. The Titanic - the largest ship in the world - sailed from Southampton on April 10th.
The Chicago White Sox celebrated opening day on the 11th. Outfielder Nixey Calahan was the player-manager. As the Titanic made its final stop in Queenstown, Ireland....our Sox kicked off the 1912 campaign with a 6-2 win over the St. Louis Browns at Comiskey Park.
The ballpark was still brand new. Like the Titanic, Comiskey was considered a marvel of modern engineering. It was still one of the newest ballparks in the majors, behind the Polo Grounds in New York and Griffith Stadium in Washington. Fenway, Tiger Stadium, and Crosley Field in Cincinnati would open in 1912.
The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 PM on April 14th. That morning, people in Chicago would read about how the Sox were shut out by St. Louis 2-0.
ERRORS BEAT SOX, ST LOUIS WINNING BY SHUTOUT, 2-0 was the headline in the Trib.
WALK, TWO ERRORS, AND WILD PITCH RESPONSIBLE FOR BOTH TALLIES IN THE SEVENTH.
PETERS ALLOWS THREE HITS
CALAHANS HELD TO FIVE BINGLES
1912 sportswriting was a work of art. Here's how Sam Weller described the game.
On the Major League Debut of Otto Casper "Rube" Peters:
"There was little hitting on each side because each team had a recruit pitcher on the slab who was out to earn his spurs, and each man seems quite well primed for the contest. Peters was the man for Chicago, and Young Mr. Brown (Elmer Brown) for St. Louis. When it was over, a pair of spurs was coming to each young man for both had done exceedingly well.....Peters more than came up to expectations, and was loudly applauded the fans after the inning in which the game was lost."
On the Sox inability to score a run:
"The Sox made vicious attacks on Young Brown in each inning, but he cooly warded off their blows. Altogether they made five hits and they were so scattered that they did no good. Only in the first inning did Chicago come near scoring. That time the Sox had a made shot dead at the plate. When the last of the ninth arrived, Manager Calahan became desperate and called out his militia. One was dead and he sent his prize Frenchman, Jacques Fournier, to bat for (First Baseman Rollie) Zelder. The husky recruit made good with a screaming base hit and Shano Collins hit for (Buck) Weaver but fanned. Jimmy Block's best was a stiff grounder to the second baseman and the game was over."
The Titanic sank at 2:20 AM local time on April 15th. Slowly, word of the disaster reached the US. Amateur wireless operators were able to pick up the Titanic's distress calls. Relay stations on the Atlantic coast could only get bits and pieces from the overlapping wireless traffic. There were reports that the Titanic sank. There were reports that the Titanic was disabled and being towed to Halifax. There were reports that everyone had been saved. There were reports of massive casualties. While the drama played out in newsrooms across the country, the Sox were starting a three game series against the Detroit Tigers.
The Sox topped the Ty Cobb-less Tigers 12-7 on the 15th.
According to Weller:
"The game between the White Sox and Tigers was the most exciting of the season. it was filled with base hits, sparkling plays, and ginger, and the White Sox clouted their way to great victory."
But - the crowd really wanted to see Ty Cobb, who was out with a nasty cold.
"A splendid Monday gathering of almost 7,000 was out, and it's safe to say that 6,000 of them anticipated joy in watching the machinations of the Terrible Tyrus."
As the week went on - the truth came out. Over a thousand people went down with the Titanic. 705 survivors were steaming to New York on the liner Carpathia. The front page of the Tribune was full of lurid stories of what they claimed happened as the Titanic sank. The first class men acted in a calm, dignified manner..bravely accepting their fate. The Irish and Italian immigrants in Third Class were wailing, screaming, and praying all the way to the end. If only they had half of the dignity of a J.J. Astor!
The Carpathia arrived in New York on April 18th. The ship was met by a fleet of boats chartered by newspapers. They were bribing passengers to jump into their boat to tell their story.
As the world waited for the Titanic survivors to come ashore....the Sox were rained out.
MIXTURE OF AQUA KNOCKS OUT GAME. SOX AND TIGERS FORCED INTO IDLENESS BY DELUGE OF RAIN AND SLEET.
"Rain and sleet and a northeast wind made it impossible to play baseball here yesterday (April 17), so the White Sox and Tigers enjoyed a day of rest......The Tigers left on an afternoon train to Detroit to be ready for the opening of their new ball park tomorrow, and the Sox departed at 11:30 o'clock for St. Louis to start a series of four games against the Browns to-day."
All wasn't lost for Nixey Calahan. He took his kids to the circus.
As the survivors told their stories to reporters in New York...the Sox kicked off a 12 game road trip.
The Sox finished 1912 in 4th place with a 78-76 record. 28 games behind the World Series champion Red Sox. Nixey Calihan was replaced by Pants Rowland in 1915. He died in Boston in 1934.
So - if you find yourself watching the 3D re-release of Titanic...just remember that Nixey and Rube were hard at work thousands of miles to the west of Leo and Kate.