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Sox Century: Sept. 18, 1917

Buck Weaver returns to the lineup ... and his old position

Buck Weaver in 1916.
Charles M. Conlon / Detroit Public Library

After wrapping up their home schedule with a victory lap -- and victory — at Comiskey Park over the Browns, the White Sox headed east for their last 12 games of the season, starting i Philadelphia.

It also started with another victory. The 6-1 triumph was their 23rd in 25 games. The win restored the White Sox’ lead to eight games, and their magic number to six.

The game was closer than the score indicated. The White Sox only led 2-1 heading into the eighth, and Red Faber ended up scattering 10 hits over his complete-game effort, with the Sox cutting down three runners at the plate over the course of the game.

Then the Sox batted around and scored four runs in the eighth to put the game out of reach.

More than the win, the big news was the return of Buck Weaver, and the start of a new infield alignment.

Weaver had missed six weeks of action after breaking his finger applying a tag at third base on Aug. 10. It’s hard to say the White Sox missed Weaver, as they went 27-6 in his absence, but Swede Risberg was looking more and more like a liability toward the close of his rookie season.

Risberg played in 142 of the team’s first 144 games, but his game started to come apart. He batted just .153 since Aug. 1, and he’d committed 23 errors over those 44 games, including five games with multiple mistakes. Fred McMullin, on the other hand, batted .264 in Weaver’s absence at third base, and committed just three errors over the 25 games leading to Weaver’s return.

Weaver was a better third baseman than a shortstop, and he spent his entire pre-injury section of the season at the hot corner. However, he wasn’t far removed from his original position. He’d made 59 starts there the year before, and with Risberg committing errors in bunches, Weaver might have been no less reliable at short, even if his shift to third was a revelation.

So when Weaver returned to the lineup playing his old position with McMullin at third, it looked very much like preparation for the World Series. Pants Rowland said Risberg was sick, but the Chicago Tribune wasn’t buying it:

While it was announced Risberg was ill today, many thought it an excuse to take him out. McMullin has been hitting and fielding so well that Manager Rowland hates to remove him now that Weaver has recovered. Risberg has been a weak hitter all season.

There would be more batting strength to bench Risberg, and little loss of defensive power.

If Risberg truly was under the weather, Weaver’s play might have forced the issue regardless. He went 2-for-4 in his return to the lineup, but he was even better at short, according to the Chicago Examiner:

The coming champions played brilliantly throughout. Weaver, in his first game since his injury several weeks ago, was a sensation at shortstop. He was all over the field and added lots of life to the already scrappy play.

Record: 95-48 | Box score