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Sox Century: May 25, 1917

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The White Sox make it 11 wins out of 12, and the difference is defense

Joe Benz
Bain News Service / Library of Congress

Three games against the Senators, three wins, and three complete games.

Joe Benz went the distance this time, holding Washington to just one run on five hits and a walk. That was partially because the White Sox outclassed the Senators on defense, and the team effort added up to a 5-1 victory and the 11th win in 12 games for Pants Rowland’s crew.

The left side of the infield stood out in the newspaper accounts. I.E. Sanborn of the Chicago Tribune said Buck Weaver “was target for a whole case of grape and canister, but knocked down everything he could reach and faced the hottest fire without quailing, converting every missile into a boomerang by retiring somebody on it.”

Most notably, he lent Benz a hand in his roughest inning. The Senators found a way to scrape together three hits in the sixth inning for their lone run, but it could’ve been four had Weaver not knocked down a hot shot from Clyde Milan, forcing out Joe Judge at third.

Alongside Weaver, Swede Risberg thwarted a scoring threat in the second inning with what both the Tribune and Chicago Examiner considered to be the toughest play:

Risberg furnished the real sensation by a mad chase into left field for [John] Henry’s low pop in the second and a lightning throw to first base, doubling [Joe] Leonard. That catch probably stopped Benz from a blow up.

Harry Harper could have used the kind of support Benz received. Instead, three of the four runs he allowed were unearned.

One thing to know about Harper: Back in 1913, he bought a truck and developed a thriving business with it in the offseason, eventually becoming a millionaire. It’s valuable background for reading the Examiner’s lede:

Harry Harper, the southpawing junk man of Hackensack, N.J., had more business than he could handle yesterday and the White Sox trimmed him, 5 to 1, making the third straight defeat for the [Clark] Griffith bunch and the eleventh victory out of twelve games played by the Rowland pennant chasers.

Harper pitched good enough ball, but lost because he was hopelessly surrounded by the kind of material his concern purchases at the rear doors of Hackensack homes during the Winter months.

Irving Vaughn uses the word “junk” a half-dozen more times in describing the defense or the way the White Sox scored.

  • “The junk man was opposed to Joe Benz and the latter turned in a neat job.”
  • “[The White Sox] grabbed the initial tally in the first frame on a freak occurrence and another in the third when the junk cropped out.”
  • “A little more junk was of assistance in landing a pair in the fifth and the last tally in the eighth was also picked off the junkpile, a wild pitch being directly responsible fro the marker.”
  • “There was so much junk scattered around the infield in the Sox third that Harper thought he was back at his shop in Hackensack.”
  • “Eddie Collins shoved an easy one to Harper and the junk man tossed wild to second.”
  • “[Happy] Felsch fanned and [Chick] Gandil’s roller was junked by Foster, Weaver scoring.”

Thesauruses had been in circulation for 65 years, but Vaughan did make the point. Four Washington errors and a wild pitch played a part in all of the White Sox’ runs, whereas Benz tightened up as the game proceeded. He closed out the game by going nine up, nine down.

At this point in the season, the White Sox had allowed just 82 runs over 38 games, the stingiest pitching in the American League.. The Red Sox, still up by a half-game, were second with 91. They had played seven fewer games at the time.

Record: 25-13 | Box score