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Sox Century: April 22, 1917

White Sox sweep St. Louis in a game that featured plenty of overmanaging

Happy Felsch in 1917.
Library of Congress / Bain Collection

After poor defense defined the first three games of the White Sox-Browns series, both teams tightened up considerably.

In fact, they might have been too tight. The White Sox won 3-2, but they needed two runs in the ninth off Bob Groom to seal the sweep. Happy Felsch delivered the walk-off single, avenging a strategically curious intentional walk to Joe Jackson that capped off a day of overactive tactics.

The ledes from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Examiner accounts are worth reading for different reasons. The Trib’s I.E. Sanborn opened his story with an analytical bent ...

After frittering away runs enough to win several games in the early innings the White Sox rallied in the ninth and snatched victory out of impending defeat just before it was too late. Score, 3 to 2.

Too much strategy was employed on each side. Jones outguessed Rowland in the first half when straight baseball might have sewed up the contest, and Rowland outguessed Jones at the finish when the latter deliberately ordered the winning run pushed within scoring distance of the plate by an intentional base on balls.

... while Irving Vaughan and the Examiner went the erotic route.

Fielder Jones and his Browns came within two outs of victory yesterday at Comiskey Park. They got that close to the coveted goal and then something happened. Rowland’s ‘White Sox tore loose, sent the venerable Bob Groom sky high, sandwiched with a pair of free tickets, and in the twinkling of an eye turned an apparent 2 to 1 defeat into a 3 to 2 win. It is needless to mention the actions of a 25,000 crowd during those sweet, hot moments of pastiming.

We here at South Side Sox aim to split the difference.

Regarding the strategy, the White Sox failed to score in the second inning because Buck Weaver missed a squeeze bunt and hung Chick Gandil out to dry, only to hit a grounder that would have scored Gandil if he were alive to see it. Two innings later, Pants Rowland took the bat out of Eddie Collins’ hands by having him bunt Swede Risberg over to third with nobody out. Risberg was thrown out at home on a contact play, and then Gandil lined out to end the inning.

As a result, the White Sox only led 1-0 through four, and that turned into a 2-1 deficit when George Sisler doubled off of Chick Gandil’s glove in the top of the fifth, cashing in an error and a bunt single.

In the end, though, Fielder Jones’ overmanaging proved decisive. With one out in the ninth, Groom walked Risberg, and Collins singled him to third to bring Jackson to the plate. With second base open — not first base, second base -- Jones called for Groom to intentionally walk the bases loaded. The first-guessable call backfired in a crazy sequence, which Sanborn describes:

Felsch sent a hit crashing over second. [Doc] Lavan threw himself flat and stopped the ball, but too late to get anybody. Risberg scored the tying run and Collins overran third. Lavan, instead of playing safe by throwing home to turn Eddie back, threw to third to head off his retreat, and Collins scored the winning run while [Jimmy] Austin was trying to complete a phantom play at third.

Felsch’s walk-off hit gave Lefty Williams his first victory of the season. Williams didn’t start the game, but he pitched the final eight innings, starting his afternoon by pulling an El Duque in the second inning to bail out Dave Danforth. Here’s Vaughan:

Williams’ rescue stunt was a masterpiece that brought the 25,000 rooting, tooting individuals to their feet. With the sacks loaded and none dead the Browns were just about conceded a cinch chance to score a couple of runs. Williams started to clean the mess by getting Lavan on a soft infield popup to Gandil. [Hank] Severeid then drove a hard bounder to short and the inning ended scoreless on a double killing, Risberg to E. Collins to Gandil.

Record: 8-2 | Box score