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Sox Century: Aug. 10, 1917

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Walter Johnson returns to dominance and Buck Weaver breaks his finger

Walter Johnson
Paul Thompson / Library of Congress

Walter Johnson is back.

The Washington ace was in the midst of his worst season since becoming the Big Train, including a pair of losses to the White Sox earlier in the season.

But Johnson had straightened himself out by the time August rolled around. After throwing an 11-inning shutout against the Browns three days earlier, he one-hit the White Sox in this one for a 4-0 Senators shutout.

The victory was Johnson’s sixth straight, as he pulled his record to 13-13 on the season. Meanwhile, the White Sox lost their fourth game in five tries, and saw a three-game lead lopped in half because Boston swept a doubleheader against Detroit.

Ray Schalk tallied the only hit against Johnson, a two-out single in the fifth that led to nothing. Johnson also walked three White Sox, but no runner reached third on his watch.

If the loss of the game wasn’t bad enough, the White Sox also lost Buck Weaver, who broke his finger when catcher Eddie Ainsmith slid into him on a play at third base in the third inning. The description from the Chicago Tribune:

Johnson followed [the leadoff walk to Ainsmith] with a single to right on which Ainsmith lumbered around to third. [Joe] Jackson threw out the big catcher by a couple of parasangs, but he hurled himself feet first at Weaver and the bag. Buck tagged Ainsmith a yard from the base, but the force of the collision broke the index finger of Buck’s left hand and knocked the ball out of it. Ainsmith, of course, was called safe, and Weaver contracted an error in addition to the injury.

The extra out mattered, because Faber was able to keep Ainsmith at third through the next two batters with a popout and a strikeout. Alas, Clyde Milan singled home Ainsmith with Johnson taking third on a Jackson bobble, and Sam Rice scored Johnson with a single of his own and a 2-0 lead.

Faber then gave up a couple more runs in the fifth inning — including the first earned one — but they were besides the point, given the way Johnson pitched.

Fred McMullin took over for Weaver to finish out the game. The question afterward was how long Weaver would be out. With Boston re-closing the gap, the Tribune called the injury a potential “mortal wound,” and for once, it wasn’t quite an overreaction.

Record: 67-41 | Box score