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Sox Century: May 18, 1917

The White Sox usurp the Red Sox for first place by handing Babe Ruth his first defeat

Babe Ruth
National Photo Company Collection / Library of Congress

After winning two consecutive World Series in five games apiece, the Boston Red Sox rolled into the 1917 season as the team to beat, and Babe Ruth emerged as the leader of the staff. He went 23-12 with a league-leading 1.75 ERA over a league-high 40 starts during Boston’s second championship season.

Neither the Red Sox nor Ruth showed signs of slowing as they came to Chicago for the first of the season series. Boston held a half-game lead over their fellow Sox thanks in large part to Ruth. He started the season by winning his first eight starts, and he went the distance in the first seven. The Cleveland Indians made him look mortal in the outing prior to today, roughing him up for five runs on nine hits and three walks over 523 innings, but he still came away with the win.

The White Sox were the first to defeat him, and Ruth didn’t even get out of the third.

Ruth took a 1-0 lead into the second inning, but the Sox started the inning by loading the bases on a walk, single and walk. Ray Schalk smashed a line drive that deflected off first baseman Del Gainer for a two-run single, and two batters later, Shano Collins drove in a third run with a groundout to first (which the Chicago Tribune said he beat out easily).

Eddie Collins led off the third by reaching on an error by shortstop Everett Scott, and that put Ruth “on his deathbed” according to the Chicago Examiner. Joe Jackson followed with a bunt single past Ruth, and Chick Gandil singled them both home to knock Ruth out of the game.

Ruth’s final line: 213 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K. He suffered his first loss and watched his ERA go up to 2.54. He also struck out in his only plate appearance, which was another benefit of getting him out of the game early. He entered the day batting .414 with three doubles and a triple in 30 plate appearances.

“While his teammates were whaling the composite liver out of Ruth” — I.E. Sanborn’s words -- Reb Russell went the distance, holding the Red Sox to two runs on four hits and a walk. The Red Sox took a quick lead in the second when Larry Gardner and Everett Scott hit back-to-back doubles, but when the White Sox ripped those five runs off Ruth, Russell made sure they held. He didn’t allow another Boston run on the board until the ninth, and the White Sox had already stung King Bader for three unearned runs by then.

The result: an 8-2 White Sox winner and a move into first place.

If that sounds like a bad time to think about changing managers, the White Sox agreed. Charles Comiskey shot down the random rumor that popped up the day before saying former Red Sox manager was coming to Chicago to interview for Pants Rowland’s job. From the Examiner:

Bill Carrigan nor any other gent well-intentioned scribes may appoint will not supplant Clarence Rowland as manager of the White Sox. President Comiskey yesterday expressed complete satisfaction with his leader and could not account for the report that Carrigan was coming West to talk shop.

It seemed like an attempt at an unnecessary distraction at a key time, and the Tribune continued to go with the idea that it came from across town.

From others close to the throne, however, it was learned that the incident may fracture all friendly relations between the White Sox and Cubs owners, unless a satisfactory explanation is forthcoming.

The yarn was timed just right to affect the morale of the White Sox on the opening day of a series on which much depends in the American league pennant race. What object any one connected with the Cubs could have in lessening the White Sox chances for the pennant cannot be guessed.

Record: 21-12 | Box score