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Sox Century: April 11, 1917

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The White Sox open with a comeback victory in St. Louis over their former manager

From the Chicago Examiner on April 12, 2017.

Embarking on what would be their second championship season, the White Sox faced the man who piloted the Pale Hose to their first.

Fielder Jones, the manager of the 1906 White Sox, was in his second year of leading the St. Louis Browns. The Browns exceeded expectations in Jones’ first year, finishing with a record of 79-75. That was only good for a fifth-place finish, but his SABR bio says the Browns looked like two different teams over the course of the season. From June through August, they posted a 55-34 record. Earlier in the year, they dug a hole as Jones showed too much loyalty to his former Federal League players. At the end of the season, they ran out of depth and finished the season losing 18 of 27.

At Sportsman’s Park on this day, the Browns opened their season in a way that echoed their previous one by crumbling down the stretch.

I.E. Sanborn, still on his kick of loading up his copy with way too many war metaphors, summarized the game in his lede for the Chicago Tribune:

Baffled by brilliant fielding for seven innings, the White Sox kept on shooting and finally busted wide open the St. Louis bombproofs, achieving whirlwind victory in the opening championship skirmish by a score of 7 to 2.

Granted, the teams did participate in pregame mandatory military drills, instituted by American League President Ban Johnson in an acknowledgement of the country’s recent entry into World War I. Sanborn noted that, unlike the Sox, the Browns “were put through comparatively simple formations and did not attempt anything in the manual of arms.”

Irving Vaughan of the Chicago Examiner showed a lighter touch with the theme, yet it somehow ended up darker:

It actualy rained hits in those two closing frames. The popping of wood agaisnt leather failry drowned out the martial airs being rendered by a corp of musicians. Some facetious gent called for a funereal march, but the band did not hear. The slow music wasn’t needed, however. At lesat, not by the Browns. The funeral tone of the enemies’ cannonading was enough for them so they curled up and died with a prayer that the morrow would bring them better luck.

St. Louis starter Earl Hamilton held the Sox scoreless through seven, trying to preserve a two-run lead generated by single tallies in the first and second innings. The Browns battered Lefty Williams for four hits, but only scored once thanks to outfield assists at home plate from Joe Jackson and Nemo Leibold.

Pants Rowland ditched Williams after that. The change to Jim Scott didn’t yield immediate results due in part to leaky defense —- Leibold botched a fly, Eddie Collins had to settle for an out at first when he bobbled away a potential play at the plate — but he settled in for five scoreless innings afterward.

He picked up the much-deserved victory after the Sox exploded in the eighth. Chick Gandil, the man whose signing generated Series-predicting headlines, hit a sizzling single that turned into two bases after a misplay, and the extra bases came in bunches afterward. Buck Weaver drove him home with a double, and after a Ray Schalk sacrifice bunt, Joe Jenkins pinch-hit for Scott and dropped a double down the right-field line, tying the game. Shano Collins then tripled to center to put the Sox ahead.

Dave Danforth relieved Scott and continued holding the Browns scoreless, and the Sox resumed scoring in the ninth. An error allowed Happy Felsch to reach base, Gandil doubled, Weaver doubled, and Ray Schalk punctuated the affair with an inside-the-park homer over the head of center fielder Armando Marsans to punctuate the victory.

It wasn’t the prettiest of efforts, but considering the Sox had spent the entire spring playing minor-league, semi-pro and collegiate teams, it seems strange to expect the team to appear all that polished. In a quote given to the Examiner, Charles Comiskey kept some perspective.

“A team that can trail until the eighth inning and then battle its way to victory certainly has the spirit of champions. The performance of the Sox proves to my satisfaction that Manager Rowland’s men have the courage needed by a successful flag contender. It was this phrase of the team’s showing that impressed me the most.”

Record: 1-0 | Box score