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Sox Century: Oct. 13, 1917

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After losing home-field advantage with a coin flip, the White Sox win Game 5 with a thrilling comeback

The Chicago Examiner on Oct. 14, 1917

Through four games, the White Sox and Giants were knotted up at 2 games apiece, and you could interpret the series two ways.

  1. The Giants had the momentum, having shut out the White Sox in both games at the Polo Grounds.
  2. The White Sox had home-field advantage, and the home team was 4-0 this series.

But wait — even the second point worked against the Sox, because hosting the first two games didn’t dictate home field advantage back in 1917. The league waited until the day before Game 5 to determine via coin flip which team would host the seventh game of the World Series if it needed to be played. Charles Comiskey called heads, but the coin landed on the rug of his office tails side up. The White Sox and Giants would return to New York for Game 6, and they would stay there if they needed to play beyond that.

This being the case, the White Sox were in even deeper trouble entering the bottom of the seventh. The Giants held a 5-2 lead, answering a Chicago run in the bottom of the sixth with one of their own in the following frame. Slim Sallee was more or less cruising, while the Giants had forced Pants Rowland to use three pitchers.

Reb Russell started, but he didn’t even record an out before Rowland went to Eddie Cicotte. The Giants took a 2-0 lead before the Sox came to the plate, then tacked on two more against the White Sox ace over his six innings of relief. Lefty Williams wasn’t much luckier, as a catch by the pitcher was overturned when umpire Billy Evans ruled the ground could cause a fumble after Williams slipped. That led to a Giants run, and when combining the early deficit, the lack of thunder and now the bad luck, the 27,000 White Sox fans in attendance had little to cheer about.

One inning later, the Chicago Tribune described the scene:

All we can remember except the din of noise from the throng present was the capers of Buck Weaver in front of the White Sox bench. He danced around in a manner which indicated he had completely lost himself. He tossed his cap late in the air and followed with his sweater and a dozen bats and three or four hats that belonged to spectators, and if there had been anything else within reach it, too, would have gone into the air.

Sallee and the Giants imploded, and Comiskey Park exploded. The White Sox scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth, and Red Faber closed out the game with two scoreless innings to send the World Series back to New York in style.

Joe Jackson started the first of the surges with a one-out single. Happy Felsch followed suit, and both scored on Chick Gandil’s double to make it a one-run game. Weaver bounced out to shortstop, but Gandil was able to take third on the play, which turned out to be a big 90 feet after Ray Schalk walked. From the Tribune:

With Gandil on third Schalk was sent down to second to draw the throw. [Catcher Bill] Raridan, to check any attempt at a double steal, threw to Sallee, and the latter, seeing that Gandil had not started in, wheeled and shot the ball to [second baseman Buck] Herzog. There only was an outside chance to get Schalk at best, but when Herzog muffled the ball squarely there was no chance at all, and Gandil came in with the tying run.

That sent Weaver and the Comiskey faithful into bedlam, and when John McGraw used Sallee to start the eighth, the Sox didn’t let up. Shano Collins blooped a single to right, then moved to second on a sac bunt. The other White Sox Collins, Eddie, singled him home for the go-ahead run, which broke the volume knob at the stadium according to Damon Runyon.

When the winning run crossed the plate in the eighth the tension of the Chicago bench snapped simultaneously with a general snapping of tension in the crowd. The players leaped and swung their bats and blankets and gloves and sweaters in the air and danced about like a Russian ballet.

Over on the Giant bench the brown-sweatered men from Manhattan were watching the mad scene dumbly. They could scarcely credit their eyes.

The Giants on the field might have battled the same issues, because they caved in. Jackson singled to right, and Collins took third on the plate. Giants right fielder Dave Robertson threw to third, and when that was unsuccessful, Heinie Zimmerman fired to second to try to get the trailing runner. Jackson was safe, and the ball caromed off Herzog’s foot and into center field, which allowed Collins to get home. Jackson took third on the play and scored on Felsch’s single for the game’s final tally.

The victory gave the Sox a 3-2 edge in the World Series, and the comeback was a blow to the Giants side. Walter Trumbull of the New York World wrote, “It was a bitter contest played upon a bitter autumn afternoon, but bitterest of all to the Giants was the fact that defeat came only after victory seemed ours.”

I.E. Sanborn of the Tribune said the Giants gave it what they had:

The Giants fought madly, desperately, and with all the roughneck tactics they have learned in their years of service under their old school manager. They blocked runners and shattered the atmosphere with profanity, calling the conquerers everything known to the vocabulary of a New Yorker.

At one time, it looked as if [shortstop Art] Fletcher and Rowland would break into the pugilisite column after the inning in which the Giant shortstop had handed the Sox the game.

Rowland was ready to put the belligerent shortstop out of commission for the rest of the series at the cost of being banished from the sides lines himself, but Umpire Evans rushed in between them and averted the slugging match that was brewing.

It was the rottenest, most uproariously exciting, rowdiest, and gamest fight ever seen in more than a decade of world’s combats.

The White Sox still had to break the Giants’ serve in home-field advantage to win the World Series, but this one gave them two shots at it.

Series: White Sox lead 3-2 | Box score