The St. Louis Browns won Ban Johnson’s $500 prize for the best-drilled team in the American League, and that was about all the could win in 1917. The White Sox cemented St. Louis’ fourth consecutive losing month by sweeping a doubleheader on Aug. 29 by a combined score of 17-1 — 6-0, then 11-1. The next day, they came back took a quick 6-0 lead to put Eddie Cicotte on easy street for an 8-4 victory.
As I.E. Sanborn of the Chicago Tribune put it:
The Browns may be great in the military stuff, but apparently they have neglected the national pastime of late, for their defense was poor in both battles, and, although they made a fight in the early rounds, they were far in the background at the end.
Reb Russell went the distance in the opener by throwing a seven-hitter, and Ernie Koob kept him honest over the first two-thirds of it, as it was a 1-0 affair heading into the seventh. Russell had to ward off a big threat in the third when he faced runners on second and third with nobody out after two inning-opening hits. He came back to strike out the side on 10 pitches to strand the runners.
The Sox finally KO’d Koob in the seventh, bleeding him for four runs through a lengthy sequence that featured a single, an unsuccessful fielder’s choice, a pickoff, an error, a single, two walks, a run-scoring groundout and one more single. The outburst put the Sox up 5-0, and they tacked on one more against Rasty White for good measure.
Dave Danforth picked up where Russell left off, picking up the win with 7 2⁄3 no-hit innings ... in relief.
Joe Benz started the game, but he gave up an unearned run in the first, followed by more trouble in the second. He left Danforth with runners on second and third with one out, but Danforth stranded both runners, then handled the next seven innings allowing only one Brown to reach, and on an error.
From that point, it became a matter of when the Browns’ pitching staff would blink. The Sox manufactured a tying run in the second, but they finally seized control of the game with a six-run, 12-batter fifth. Everything went wrong for St. Louis, as Tom Rogers allowed four hits, three walks and plunked a batter, with Doc Lavan contributing an error to boot (pun intended). The game got out of hand to the point that Wright came out for a second time on the afternoon and gave up four more runs on an inning of work.
The next day brought more of the same, with the Browns collapsing under steady pressure from the Sox. This time, it came earlier in the game. Fielder Jones’ crew tried gaining the upper hand on Cicotte by questioning the integrity of the ball in the top of the second, but they instead wore it in the bottom half of the inning.
The Rowlands scored six runs in the awful second inning on two singles and while they were doing it the game was delayed and disgraced by a constant succession of autopsies, inquests, postmortems and other Brown alibis. The Browns and umpires examined the ball that Cicotte was pitching with the closest scrutiny, using everything except pocket microscopes for the purpose. They tested it for licorice, they tested it for talcum powder, they gave it an acid bath to disclose, if possible, the use of paraffin, and any other ingredients which rival managers and club owners have imagined the White Sox pitchers were using.
That might sound bizarre if opponents hadn’t been calling for umpires to inspect suspected doctoring by Cicotte and Dave Danforth all season. However, the bottom of the second introduced something novel. From the Chicago Examiner:
In the second inning, with [Swede] Risberg on first base as the result of a walk, Pitcher Bob Groom deliberately threw the ball into the White Sox coop. Risberg circled the bases for a run, but [umpire Bill] Dineen sent him back to first, recovered the ball and had it put in play again. Had Groom thrown to the outfield the run would have scored, so why not on the heave over third? Here is another one for Mr. Johnson to figure out.
Sanborn devoted more of his recap to the play, and recapped other disputed calls that went against the Sox over the course of the otherwise charmed season.
We have seen an American league umpire call an alien runner safe at the plate on the ground that he was deliberately blocked off by the Sox catcher. We have seen a Sox runner called out at the plate when he was deliberately blocked off by an alien player until he could recover a muffed throw and tag said runner.
We have seen an American league umpire call a balk when a catcher tried to stop play because of dust in his eyes and give a game against the White Sox, and we have seen the same umpires constantly permit a batsman to force “time” by stepping out of the batsman’s box without penalty. Yesterday was the first time we ever saw the ball in play deliberately thrown away and an American league umpire rule that such an act suspended play automatically.
Yet even with the apparently kind ruling by the umpire, Groom couldn’t retire a batter in the second, and Allan Sothoron and the St. Louis defense didn’t help matters. The first five Sox reached without a hit — two walks, a hit batter and two errors. They built a 6-0 lead with the help, which was a large enough cushion to secure the game even without the best run prevention from Cicotte and Co. The Sox ace gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks, but he still went the distance.
The Browns were just worse, as the records might indicate. Not only did they allowed 10 hits, eight walks, two hit batters and three errors, but they also allowed the Sox to swipe seven bases. With Boston and the Philadelphia Athletics wrestling to a 1-1 tie, the White Sox extended their lead to five games.