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Sox Century: June 9, 1917

Dave Danforth picks up the win with eight innings of relief

The Chicago Examiner headline.

The closer role wasn’t really a thing in 1917, but Dave Danforth was the closest thing to it for the White Sox. He led the American League with 50 appearances, 26 games finished and nine saves, but thanks to some lights-out pitching by the White Sox rotation, he hadn’t seen much work during the team’s overall hot streak. His only action since May 19 had been in an exhibition game around the halfway point of this idle period.

Pants Rowland took advantage of Danforth’s well-rested state. When Jim Scott was hammered for two runs in the first, Danforth came in and finished the game, even though he often found himself in an equal amount of distress. He allowed eight hits and eight walks over eight innings, but somehow limited the damage to just two runs. His effort allowed the White Sox to split the series and take over the American League lead with a 5-4 victory.

Amazingly, one of those runs came in the ninth, which the White Sox started with a 5-3 lead. With one out, Danforth allowed a single, walk and a single to bring home one run and put the tying run on second. Still, Danforth remained in the game and induced a grounder to Buck Weaver, who stepped on third and threw to first for the game-ending 5-3 double play.

Washington’s side of the box score had a similar shape. Harry Harper — you may remember him as “the junk man” — walked two of the first three batters, then was lifted after starting Joe Jackson with three pitches out of the zone. Bert Gallia then relieved him and pitched the next 723 innings. He had wildness problems himself, walking only two batters, but throwing four wild pitches and dealing with a passed ball on top of it.

The White Sox used those wild pitches to score or set up their first four runs over three innings. Swede Risberg then did all the work himself by hitting a solo shot in the fourth. That was it for the scoring, but Danforth made it hold up against considerable odds. According to Tom Tango’s basic pitch count estimator, Danforth’s relief appearance may have required 141 pitches or so.

Record: 32-15 | Box score