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Sox Century: Oct. 6, 1917

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Comiskey Park hosts its first World Series, and the White Sox emerge victorious in Game 1

The Chicago Examiner’s sports page.

After a five-day layoff, tens of thousands of ticket requests and countless topics of speculation, the White Sox finally got back to the field. For the first time in 11 years, the White Sox returned to the World Series. For the first time, Charles Comiskey’s “Baseball Palace of the World” would host an event worthy of the title.

The New York Giants rolled into town as a team on the rise, returning to the World Series for the first time since they won their third consecutive pennant back in 1913. John McGraw’s team was the class of the National League by a wide margin, leading the Senior Circuit in both runs and ERA. The tale of the tape:

White Sox vs. Giants -

White Sox Category Giants
White Sox Category Giants
100-54 Record 98-56
4.21 Runs/Game 4.02
2.96 RA/Game 2.89
.253 AVG .261
.329 OBP .317
.326 SLG .343
98 OPS+ 105
219 SB 162

The Giants had a triple-digit OPS+ at seven of eight positions, while the White sox could only boast four. New York benefited massively from a first full season of Heinie Zimmermann. The Giants acquired the temperamental third baseman in August of 1916 after he wore out his welcome with the Cubs, and he represented a major instant improvement over Bill McKechnie. Throw in Bennie Kauff, who cemented himself as an upper-echelon outfielder after two years of leading the Federal League in everything, and the Giants had a complete lineup, while the Sox were able to cover up a couple of weak spots with the late switch from Swede Risberg to Fred McMullin, and a platoon in right field.

The White Sox had the edge in pitching. For one, Ferdie Schupp, Slim Sallee and Rube Benton all had strong seasons, but they weren’t the equivalent of Eddie Cicotte. Also, they were all left-handed, and the White Sox hit lefties pretty well.

Those two elements combined to decide Game 1 of the World Series, which was played in front of 32,000 at Comiskey Park. The White Sox were resplendent in their red, white and blue uniforms, including the star-spangled Sox logo, which were special to a World Series played in the middle of World War I. The timing was not lost.

Cicotte and Sallee went the distance, but Cicotte was the only pitcher who had to throw nine. The White Sox ace prevailed in a 2-1 victory in which Happy Felsch provided the difference with a solo shot.

The right-handed Felsch led the team in homers with six, and he was the biggest power threat against left-handed pitching over the course of the season. He came to the plate with one out in the fourth and the Sox leading 1-0. From the Chicago Tribune:

Jackson was stowed away before Hap came up and waited till he saw one coming across that he fancied. He met it squarely with every ounce of power in his muscles, backed by the full swing of his body. If he had missed it he might have broken his back, but he didn’t. The crash was unmistakable, and there was not an instant’s doubt about the ultimately destination of that ball.

The Chicago Examiner added a bit of color that’s probably difficult to verify:

The ball dropped in the lap of a youth who sat sixteen hours or such a matter on a soap box in they alley waiting for the gates to open.

The Sox overcame a baserunning out by Cicotte to score their first run. He was thrown out trying to go from first to third on Shano Collins’ single, but Fred McMullin followed with an RBI double — misplayed by Kauff — to put the White Sox ahead, 1-0.

But Felsch’s run ended up being the necessary one, as the Giants were able to scrape across a run in the fifth. Lew McCarty reached on a triple, and Sallee drove him in with a lucky bat-handle single that restored the margin to one.

The Giants couldn’t get a second run, though, and Jackson was a big reason why. With one on and one out in the seventh, McCarthy slashed a liner to left. From the Tribune:

Jackson raced in, saw he could not get to the ball on the fly so dove headfirst for it. His hands reached for the pill before it hit the grass and somehow he held it, although he turned a complete somersault. Two umpires, [Billy] Evans and [Cy] Rigler, ran out to make the decision and simultaneously they raised their arms, signaling the batsman was out.

In a first-person article relayed to the Chicago Examiner, Giants captain Buck Herzog called it the game’s turning point.

His dive was desperate and he turned all the ay over, but clung on to the ball. And when he completed that play he broke up the hit-and-run and left us with two down and a man on third. Can you see what it would have meant to us had that extraordinarily brilliant catch not been made?

Charles Comiskey, in a first-person article relayed to the Chicago Tribune, said of Jackson’s catch, “I know my heart went right up into my mouth when that ball was hit and I saw Joe going after it. I didn’t think he could get it, but he did.”

That marked the end of the drama, as Cicotte closed it out for a satisfying opening victory, although it didn’t change the sentiment for what observers saw as an evenly matched series. On one hand, the Giants dropped a well-pitched game by Sallee. On the other, the White Sox needed their best run-prevention effort to win, and Cicotte couldn’t take the ball every day. Red Faber would get the ball in an attempt to deliver a worthy encore.

Series: White Sox lead 1-0 | Box score