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Sox Century: June 23, 1917

White Sox outlast Indians in 15-inning war of attrition featuring Reb Russell in left

Reb Russell as a Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder in 1923.
Bain News Service / Library of Congress

The White Sox weren’t able to get to Jim Bagby over nine innings in the second game of this series against Cleveland, but they were able to get to him before the end of one inning in this one.

And that inning was the 15th, and with the White Sox playing at home, it all added up to a 2-1 walk-off winner.

In Bagby’s defense, the defense let him down. He walked Eddie Collins to start the inning, but a Joe Jackson sac bunt and a popout by Shano Collins gave him one out away from pushing it to a 16th inning and closer to impending darkness (the game was nearing four hours, which teams didn’t plan for).

Bagby pitched around Chick Gandil to face Fred McMullin, and in the era before instant replay, the Chicago Tribune’s James Crusinberry did the best he could:

Fred McMullin then hit an easy ground ball right down to [shortstop Ray] Chapman, one of the stars of the visitors’ team. Something happened. Anyway the ball went through Chapman and rolled slowly out to left field and Eddie Collins sprinted home with the needed run.

The Chicago Examiner’s Irving Vaughan seemed to have more of an eye on it:

McMullin then slammed a hot one to Chapman; he let the ball get through his underpinning and E. Collins legged it for home.

Lefty Williams improved to 8-0 with four innings of scoreless relief, which followed five innings of perfect relief by Eddie Cicotte. Pants Rowland had to lean heavily on his relievers because he exhausted his bench in a series of switches. He used Joe Jenkins, Ted Jourdan, Eddie Murphy and Byrd Lynn as pinch hitters.

In fact, it looks as if Rowland used Jenkins and Jourdan in the same sequence. Going from the box score, it looks like Rowland pinch-hit the right-handed Joe Jenkins for Nemo Leibold in order to get the matchup advantage over Cleveland lefty Fritz Coumbe. When Indians manager Lee Fohl countered with righty Stan Coveleski, Rowland went back to the bench for the left-handed Jourdan.

And when Jourdan couldn’t come through sending the game to the 12th, Joe Jackson shifted over from left to center, and taking the place in the corner was not the first baseman Jourdan, but the spot starter Reb Russell.

If you had to put any pitcher in the outfield in an emergency, Russell would be a pretty good choice. In fact, he was pretty much Rick Ankiel 90 years before anybody knew who Ankiel was. Russell’s pitching went south in the second half of the 1918 season, and he faced only two batters in 1919 for the White Sox.

He didn’t resurface in the big leagues until 1923, and as an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, with whom he hit .323/.377/.568 with 21 homers and 133 RBI in just 154 games over two seasons.

Today might have set Russell on track for that second life, because Crusinberry did see how Russell responded to tests in his outfield debut:

During Reb’s spell as an outfielder he had three chances, two of which were humdingers, the kind that would have made Joe Jackson or [Tris] Speaker or [Happy] Felsch or any of them hustle, and Reb handled them just as if playing left field were his passion. Once he raced back within a yard of the wall and grabbed [Steve] O’Neil’s long drive, meant for adouble, and once he dashed over into foul territory and plucked [Jack] Graney’s long foul fly with one hand just before he bumped into the fence.

Record: 38-20 | Box score