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Sox Century: Aug. 20, 1917

The White Sox open a crucial series with Boston by splitting a doubleheader

Red Faber
Bain News Service / Library of Congress

The Boston Red Sox rolled into Chicago with a chance to erase the White Sox’ two-game lead in a single day. A doubleheader kicked off a four-game, three-day series.

The White Sox snuffed out that dream pretty quickly. Red Faber threw a four-hitter as Chicago routed Boston 7-0 in the opener, and while the Red Sox salvaged a split, the White Sox succeeded in keeping their chief rivals at arm’s length.

Yet the proceedings were a little bit unsatisfactory for everybody, because a downpour descended on Comiskey Park during the sixth inning of the first game. It only rained for 20 minutes, but the field was submerged after 10, and the Chicago Tribune said the umpires dragged their feet on making a decision. Everybody went the passive route, meaning they resumed playing after an 80-minute delay. Not only did they retake a muddy mess of a field, but it meant the teams had to finish the second game in the dark.

Larry Woltz of the Chicago Examiner noted that the cloudburst struck shortly after Faber doubled for his first hit of the year, saying, “Faber’s hit probably disturbed the elements.” The timing of it triggered a dispute between the clubs and umpires, according to the Tribune:

For this fiasco the umpires, [George] Moriarty and [Brick] Evans, were at fault. After the game Umpire Evans blamed the home management, and asserted that Manager [Jack] Barry of the Red Sox was willing to call it off for the day after the rain, but that Manager [Pants] Rowland wanted the first game awarded to Chicago on the score when play stopped and to start the second game later. This was denied absolutely by both President [Charles] Comiskey and Manager Rowland. And anyway, the rules of baseball give the club owners or managers no say at all in the matter. It rests wholly with the umpires whether or not play shall continue after a game has been stopped by rain.

Faber was the story of the day. Making his first start in six days because short starts and extra innings forced him into relief work in between, he made easy work of the Red Sox. Woltz wrote, “It was the best exhibition of hurling dished out by the Cascade wizard in many a day and means considerable to the pennant hopes of the South Side favorites.”

The White Sox had an easier time with Faber’s counterpart, (the other) Rube Foster. Joe Jackson and Chick Gandil provided all the runs Faber needed with RBI singles in the second inning, but they tacked on runs before and after the rains came.

Maybe they were too effective, because the game lasted long enough for the Tribune to note a breach of the rules:

The second game was commenced in violation of the rule that no game for the pennant shall begin less than two hours before sunset, and before the second inning was completed clouds and fog made it so dark it was difficult to see, but the umpires made them go until eight rounds were finished.

But 25,000 fans is 25,000 fans, so they played on. Under these conditions, the team that could strike first would hold an advantage, and the Red Sox came through. After Eddie Cicotte loaded the bases with a single and two walks, player-manager Barry came through with a bases-clearing triple to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

Cicotte settled in afterward and kept the Red Sox in check, but the White Sox couldn’t get to Carl Mays until the eighth inning. Eddie Murphy pinch-hit for Ray Schalk and walked to start the inning. He moved to second on a Nemo Leibold single and took thid on a Fred McMullin blooper to load the bases with one out.

That’s when Barry called for his big gun in Babe Ruth. It didn’t work initially, as Ruth walked Eddie Collins to force home a run. After the initial slip-up, he roared back to strike out Jackson looking and Happy Felsch swinging, after which Evans called the game on account of darkness.

Record: 73-45 | Game 1 box | Game 2 box