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White Sox Feats of Strength: Yam Yaryan's walk-off homer

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect ... on the career of the holiday's White Sox patron saint.

Clarence Everett "Yam" Yaryan
Clarence Everett "Yam" Yaryan

While catching for the Wichita Witches of the Western League in the late 1910s, Clarence Everett "Yam" Yaryan became known for his home-run power at the same time the American League discovered the scale of Babe Ruth's. Yaryan only hit 22 homers over his first three seasons combined, but in 1920, the 27-year-old exploded for 41 homers, along with 39 doubles, over 151 games. He batted .357 and slugged .652.

That caught the attention of the White Sox, who were looking for a backup for Ray Schalk. Evidently, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Yaryan lived up to the billing in spring training, if this Chicago Tribune article from March 10, 1921, is any indication:

[Manager Kid] Gleason was especially anxious to get a line on Mr. Yaryan, who unbuckled the high clouting mark in the Western league last year and poled forty-one homers, likewise thirty-nine doubles. From the outset the Wichita catcher demonstrated he will do and he socked every ball in murderous fashion.

But ol' Yam couldn't knock one out of the park his first year. He hit well outside of the lack of homers -- .304/.366/.422 over 115 PA -- but his only extra-base hits only came in the form of eight doubles and two triples.

He wouldn't break through until a solo shot off the Yankees' Bullet Joe Bush in July 16, 1922. That was one of too few highlights in an otherwise forgettable year. He didn't hit well when he played -- his average dropped to .164 after an 0-for-4 day against the Tigers on Sept. 5. And he barely played, because Schalk was nearly impossible to keep Schalk out of the lineup. Yam had to settle mostly for isolated at-bats with the Sox trailing late. Looking at his game log, the Sox were 9-27 when Yaryan played: 7-8 when he started, and 2-19 when he came off the bench.

One of those two winners took place against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 7, and Yaryan could take ownership of it.

The game found Yaryan in the top of the 10th inning, when a foul tip tore open Ray Schalk's finger and forced him out of the game. It put Yam on the spot further in the bottom of the inning, because Schalk's spot was due up first.

So Yam dug in against lefty George Winn, and the Tribune recap from the next day describes the at-bat thusly:

Yam Yaryan picked out a hero role for himself by slapping the pill into the left field seats in the tenth frame yesterday and capping a loose affair from the Indians, 9 to 8. [....]

Then the portsider [Winn] ran into Yaryan, who was leadoff man in the tenth. Yam let a couple go past but the third looked good and he leaped on it for his circuit clout.

Schalk's injured finger gave Yaryan a window of playing time, but it closed early, and on his finger, too. On Sept. 12, 1922, another wayward foul tip -- this one off the bat of Smoky Joe Wood -- knocked Yaryan out of the game in the second inning.

(Now we see where the current Cleveland Indians get their White-Sox-hand-injuring ways from!)

However, Yaryan was in the game long enough to be involved in another item of franchise history.

The Indians started the game by loading the bases off rookie Cecil Duff, but he would escape what the Tribune described as "utter ruin" when Larry Gardner grounded to Eddie Collins, who started a 4-6-3 double play. Bill Wambsganss, who was the runner on second, tried to catch first baseman Earl Sheely napping by continuing to round third, but Sheely fired home in time to Yaryan, who applied the tag for the eighth triple play in White Sox history.

The finger injury and the return of Schalk limited Yaryan to just two more plate appearances, both as a pinch hitter in losses. He did come up with a hit in the latter game, an RBI single off Washington's George Mogridge on Sept. 24, 1922. But that would be the final at-bat of his big-league career. He headed west, signing with the Seattle Wolvertons of the Pacific Coast League for the 1923 season, and spent the rest of his career as a successful minor-league player and manager. He spent the most time in Birmingham, playing for the Barons from 1926 to 1930 and never hitting lower than .335 during his stay.

Over the last 90 years, Yaryan's feats have been lost in time. Walk-off homers aren't particularly special -- B-Ref has itemized the last 113 hit by the Sox, and that only dates back to 1948. Triple plays are a little rarer, but the Sox turned 22 after the one Yaryan completed.

However, when it comes to names, there hasn't been a more Thanksgiving player in White Sox history, before or after, than Clarence Everett Yaryan.* So as we continue the Feats of Strength series, it seems fitting to let the holiday serve as inspiration to share these stories about Yam.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

(*Unless you ask Paul Konerko, who would probably give plenty of thanks for Jimmy Gobble.)