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Sox Century: Sept. 9, 1917

A forfeit brings the White Sox’ season series with Cleveland to a close

Cleveland’s Jack Graney.
Ernie Harwell Collection / Detroit Public Library

The White Sox wrapped up their season series with the Cleveland Indians today, although umpire Brick Owens was the one who brought it to a close in a bizarre forfeit.

The official score was a 9-0 White Sox winner. The scoreboard said it was a 3-3 game in the 10th, so the White Sox finally benefited from a curious ruling after ending up on the wrong end of several earlier controversies.

Jack Graney, described by the Chicago Examiner as “the foxy little left-fielder for the Indians” was at the center of the mess. He led off the top of the 10th with a single off Dave Danforth, then beat the throw to second on an attempted fielder’s choice. Both runners advanced on Tris Speaker’s long flyout, but Bobby Roth struck out. An intentional walk loaded the bases to bring pinch-hitting Bill Wambsganss to the plate.

Graney took a large lead off third base anticipating a pitch in the dirt, and Ray Schalk tried to foil it with a pickoff attempt at third. The throw glanced off Fred McMullin’s glove and trickled away, and that’s where the story begins.

The Examiner describes the play in question:

Graney, according to Umpire Owens’ version — “Brick” was standing on top of the play and in a position to see what was going on -- grabbed McMullin and pulled him away from the ball. Finally, he separated himself from the Sox third corner man and crossed the home plate, closely followed by [Ray] Chapman.

Owens immediately called out Graney, which made the third out. The umpire made his decision before the Sox players, led by [Pants] Rowland and [Kid] Gleason, had rushed out to make a protest.

And the Chicago Tribune summed up the aftermath:

The Indians swarmed around Owens, then they swarmed around [umpire Billy] Evans at first base, only to come back and talk to the plate umpire and repeat their trips between arbitrators until much valuable time was wasted, as it already was getting dark. After fully twenty minutes of stalling the Indians were compelled to take the field.

I.E. Sanborn of the Tribune said it was “the worst kicking and burlesquing seen in the American league for years,” and Owens considered calling it a Cleveland forfeit right then and there, but allowed the teams to take the field.

Owens wouldn’t allow a second delay, though.

Danforth came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 10th and struck out. As is the custom, the catcher, Steve O’Neill, fired the ball to third to throw the ball around the diamond. Or, rather, he fired in that direction.

Third baseman Ivan Howard, who’d just entered the game as a defensive replacement, let the throw go past him into left toward Graney, who turned his back on it. Owens didn’t tolerate that act of defiance, and called the game a forfeit in favor of the home White Sox.

It’d been a hard-fought game in poor weather up to that point, which might explain the hard feelings. When the Indians scored one in the top of the first, the Sox scored two in the bottom of the first on a Joe Jackson single. When the Indians scored two in the top of the sixth with help from two bad throws by Schalk, the Sox tied it up with another RBI single by Jackson, who raised his average to .297 with a 3-for-4 performance.

The victory gave the White Sox a 14-8 edge in the season series against Cleveland, and it stretched their league lead over idle Boston to seven games. With eight games in hand, the September schedule opened up for them. They wouldn’t play another official game for four days, as they didn’t have the need for the makeup days the way the Red Sox did.

Record: 91-47 | Box score