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Sox Century: April 15, 1917

The White Sox tame the Tigers in Detroit to set tone for season series

Jim Scott in 1914.
Library of Congress / Bain News Service

A day after Eddie Cicotte twirled a no-hitter in St. Louis, the White Sox opened a series against the Tigers at Navin Field in Detroit.

The Tigers had been a first-division team more often than not, and were considered a hurdle for the White Sox to clear. And the White Sox started the season series by knocking them down a peg.

Jim Scott allowed eight more hits than Cicotte did, but he still went the distance after his offense gave him a comfortable lead. The Californian nicknamed “Death Valley” didn’t seem to have a problem with what I.E. Sanborn of the Chicago Tribune described as “Alaskan conditions.” His lede:

With the air full of frost and occasional snowflakes and the stands nearly full of out-patients of bedlam, the White Sox licked the Tigers in a game of freezeout.

Irving Vaughn of the Chicago Examiner ramped up the rhetoric:

Some 16,000 freezing, snow-flecked fans saw a real ball club in action to-day. They saw a club that displayed its worth as a pennant possibility and they also saw the man-eating Tigers tamed and humiliated.

It was the fourth game of the season.

That said, the White Sox did solve a pitcher who gave them fits the season before. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say Harry Coveleski (spelled “Coveleskie” in both accounts) was his own worst enemy. The Detroit southpaw helped the Sox get their first two runs with a series of misplays that foreshadowed the 2006 World Series. Here’s Sanborn describing the White Sox’ early burst:

[Happy] Felsch led the second inning rally by beating out a roller to Coveleskie. The tall pitcher then muffed a toss to first base, which gave Gandil life and followed by a bone play trying to force Felsch at third on [Buck] Weaver’s good bunt. [Ray] Schalk singled, scoring Felsch. Scott fanned and [Nemo] Leibold walked, forcing Gandil to score.

That was it for Coveleski, although reliever Bill James put one more run on his bill by starting with a wild pitch. That gave the Sox a 3-0 lead, and Scott took it from there.

Only Ty Cobb gave him a hard time. The Georgia Peach went 3-for-4, and he reached on a Weaver error in his only hitless at-bat. Cobb scored both Detroit runs, and if that wasn’t enough, he also threw out a lollygagging Scott at first base from right field on what should have been a single, helping limit the fifth-inning damage to just two runs.

Regardless, the Sox eventually stretched the lead to 6-0 before Cobb could cross the plate, and Scott improved to 2-0 through just four games.

Record: 3-1 | Box score

While the White Sox were in Detroit, Chicago’s South Side wasn’t completely idle.

My grandpa was born there on this day.

He took baseball seriously, and he was a good instructor of kids as long as they could handle blunt assessments (he gave me a Chuck Knoblauch flat-bat stance because “you’re not going to hit for power”). This stemmed back to his Army days, when he played for and managed his regiment’s team. He’s top left:

It’s accurate to say he managed the team until it disbanded. According to the story he told time and time again, it’s more accurate to say he managed the team into its disbandment.

He was a sergeant, and a major wanted to play. Specifically, the major wanted to catch. My grandpa didn’t think much of his abilities, and certainly didn’t want him involved in every play, so my grandpa never let him. His superior finally issued an ultimatum: If I can’t be the catcher, there’s not going to be a team.

Like I said, my grandpa took baseball seriously.