Red Faber could feel Brian Omogrosso's pain ... if he hadn't died 35 years ago. (Bain News Service / Library of Congress)
In his big-league debut, Brian Omogrosso cost the White Sox a shot at history.
He took the mound with a runner on first, one out, and the White Sox holding a 19-0 lead. However, after one double snuck past Eduardo Escobar and another shot down the right-field line, the Rangers finally found a way to put two runs on the board.
In the process, the Rangers spoiled the White Sox's bid for the biggest shutout in the history of the franchise. Instead, they had to settle for a mere 17-run triumph and a five-way tie for the third-largest margin of victory in the White Sox's 112 years of existence.
Nevertheless, the Sox still joined a select group of teams to pull off such gluttonous wins. Six other White Sox teams won a game by 17 runs or more, and there are some interesting stories behind those games and the players in them. We'll see if the 2012 Sox turn out to have the wrinkles of their predecessors.
Reeling from the Black Sox Scandal at 58-90, the White Sox picked on somebody their own size -- the 51-94 Philadelphia Athletics. The Sox jumped out to a 10-0 lead through the first two innings, with Earl Sheely leading the way (4-for-6, five RBI).
The White Sox were even closer to a shutout victory than Tuesday's Sox, and it would still stand as the franchise's shutout record today, but Red Faber allowed an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth. So Omogrosso has some company, and a Hall of Famer at that.
It's impressive enough that Ted Lyons threw a one-hitter against the eventual American League champs. The Senators were 91-50 at the time, and they hit .304 as a team, led by future Hall of Famers Sam Rice (.350) and Goose Goslin (.334). Lyons' game score was the third-highest of his career, behind back-to-back starts in 1926.
But the Sox also scored 17 runs on 24 hits against Tom Zachary, the weakest link in a staff that included Walter Johnson. Hell, Lyons himself outhit the entire Washington offense, going 3-for-5 with a double.
Before today, I knew nothing about Ray Morehart besides his name. And why would I? The second baseman played just 104 games over his two years with forgettable White Sox teams (1924 and 1926), hitting a respectable but wholly ordinary .277/.343/.360. The Sox traded him to the Yankees after the 1926 season, and he played one more year in the big leagues before disappearing into the minors for the rest of his playing days. Then again, if your last season is on the 1927 Yankees, it's hard to complain.
But on this day, when Eddie Collins' Sox piled on 15 runs over the last three innings to thrash Ty Cobb's Tigers, Morehart played the game of his life. Batting behind leadoff man Johnny Mostil (who you may remember from his Hall of Fame Library profile as the guy who attempted suicide with a razor blade), Morehart went 5-for-6 with six RBI. He hadn't had a three-hit game in his career up until that point, so you'd think it wouldn't get any better.
However, that was just the first game of a doubleheader. In the second, Morehart went 4-for-4, giving him the record for most hits in a doubleheader with nine. He shares the mark with eight players.
The White Sox had 23 hits on the day, and the only starter without one was shortstop Moe Berg. He would be better known after he converted into a catcher, and later, a a spy for the OSS. He took footage of Tokyo in advance of a US bombing in 1942, and then there's this one from 1944:
On another mission Berg posed as a German businessman in Switzerland. His job order from the OSS was to carry a shoulder-holstered pistol and assassinate Werner Heisenberg, the top scientist suspected of working on an atomic bomb (if indeed the Germans were moving ahead on the A-Bomb). Heisenberg divulged nothing. Berg, who was to shoot him on the spot and then take cyanide to avoid capture, concluded that the Germans were nowhere close to an atomic bomb. Heisenberg and Berg were to live another day.
But back in 1926, Berg was merely a glove-first infielder and a scholar. Lyons, who was Berg's friend and favored batterymate, was the guy who noted that Berg could speak a dozen languages, but "he can't hit in any of them." That certainly played out in this 17-run victory.
And speaking of Hall of Fame pitchers, Faber went the distance for the Sox again.
The Sox could have been charged with assaulting the elderly. They knocked out the 48-year-old Phil Niekro in the fourth inning, but the Indians didn't have much behind him, either, as the 101-loss Tribe had a league-worst 5.28 ERA that year. Their offense wasn't much to speak of either, and that combination allowed the Sox to post the biggest shutout in franchise history.
This game also represents the peak of Kenny Williams' playing career. He went 2-for-4 with a homer, walk, four RBI and three runs scored out of the ninth spot. That boosted his line to .302/.338/.465, and it was pretty much downhill from there. It was the last day he had an .800 OPS (at least with solid playing time), and it was his only four-RBI game, too.
The same can be said for starting pitcher Scott Nielsen. He pitched a six-hit shutout. Take that game out of his log, and he had a 7.22 ERA in 1987, his only year with the Sox.
A guy named Bunky Stewart took the mound for Washington (birth name: Veston Goff Stewart), so the Senators were doomed from the start. He faced five batters, and he didn't retire a single one (single, walk, single, single, walk). Walt Dropo was the only White Sox hitters who failed to reach base three times -- he had to settle for a 2-for-4, four-RBI performance. The Sox jumped out to an 11-0 lead before Washington got on the board.
Even pitcher Dick Donovan singled, doubled, and walked -- along with throwing a complete game.
Along with the record margin, the White Sox also set a franchise record with 29 hits. Chico Carrasquel and Sherm Lollar each collected five hits, and Minnie Minoso had four. Bob Nieman had a measly three hits by comparison, but he's the guy who set the tone for the blowout. He collected all seven of his RBI in his first three at-bats -- a three-run homer in the first, a two-run single in the second, and a two-run blast in the third.
Jack Harshman allowed the six A's runs over seven innings, but that was good enough to pick up the win. Anyway, Harshman already proved his mettle by throwing a 16-inning shutout the year before (Tango's pitch count estimator puts him at 245). I stumbled across that game on Sox Machine two winters ago, but I'll find any reason to bring it back up. See?