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Sox Century: Sept. 3, 1917

The White Sox sweep a second doubleheader from the Tigers, and both teams would eventually have to defend the effort

The New York Times headline from Jan. 13, 1917.

So much for the doubleheader angst.

For the second time in as many days, the White Sox took two games from the Detroit Tigers. They rallied back from a 5-2 deficit to take Game 1 by a score of 7-5, and then took advantage of three-detroit errors to win a slobberknocker of a Game 2, 14-8. The White Sox led 4-0 through one and trailed 7-5 heading into the bottom of the third before Eddie Cicotte calmed things down with six innings of one-run ball in relief.

The timing was fortuitous. Not only did the White Sox pick up four wins in two days, but Boston dropped both games of a doubleheader to the New York Yankees today, allowing the White Sox to stretch their league lead to a season-high 6½ games.

The combination of the wildness of play and the boost it gave to the White Sox’ chances made for headline fodder 10 years later, as Swede Risberg dragged Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis back into the scandals of the decade. From the New York Times on Jan. 13, 1927:

[Risberg] further stated that the four games Detroit had played at Chicago Sept. 2 and 3, 1917, had been sloughed (that is, thrown) by Detroit to Chicago; that the Chicago team had paid money to Detroit players therefor, and that Chicago had sloughed to Detroit two of the three-game series of Sept. 26, 27, and 28, 1919, in appreciation (but not for a money consideration) of Detroit’s 1917 sloughing.

Risberg’s accusations were explosive, not just because of the subject, but because, according to the Chicago Tribune on Jan. 2, 1927, he said Pants Rowland set it up, and that Eddie Collins and Ray Schalk, two clean members of the 1919 team, had contributed to the collection. Risberg’s words from the story:

“After the series was over Rowland said we ought to do something for the Detroit players. It was my understanding that he meant pitchres. Chick Gandil and I were appointed to collect $45 from each of the players. We got the money together one afternoon while we were staying at the Ansonia hotel in New York. that was about two weeks after the fake series, which was played on Sept. 2 and 3.” [...]

“When we had all the money Chick and I went over to Philadelphia where Detroit was playing. We went to the Aldine hotel and found Bill James, George Dauss, Donie Bush (new manager of Pittsburgh), and others playing poker. Chick called James outside the room and said:

“‘Here’s a little donation from our boys.’

“James took the money, between $1,000 and $1,100, and said he would take care of the boys. He mentioned Howard. He meant Howard Ehmke, one of the pitchers. Others were Boland, Dauss and Cunningham.”

Landis called for a hearing days later with players of the 1917 and 1919 White Sox and Tigers, where Chick Gandil backed Risberg, while Sox personnel like Pants Rowland, Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk and others said money wasn’t collected for purposes of lying down.

It didn’t help Risberg’s case that his story shifted. The Chicago Tribune found Happy Felsch, who said Risberg’s testimony was correct, except Rowland had nothing to do with it. Rather, Felsch said, Gandil was the one who made it happen. Risberg himself said that Rowland said nothing about money, and that they didn’t have any specific knowledge of where the mistakes were coming from. He and Gandil pointed to circumstantial evidence, like the number of bases the White Sox stole and errors committed, or that the pitchers weren’t putting a lot into their effort.

Also, while money was collected and distributed to the Tigers, the timetable didn’t exactly line up with the supposed motivation. The money wasn’t collected until weeks after when the Sox’ lead was safe, and it was supposedly distributed to pitchers who didn’t factor into the series.

The alternate explanation for the money had more merit — that, going back to the New York Times story, the Sox in attendance did admit that Gandil and Risberg did collect money to be paid to Detroit pitchers, but “in appreciation of, or as a reward for, their beating Boston three games, Sept. 20, 21, 1917, Boston being Chicago’s closest contender in the American League pennant race of 1917.”

James’ testimony backed this up, saying he only talked to Gandil before the fourth game of the series. From the Times story:

Gandil then inquired what “I thought our pitchers would do against Boston. I told him they would do good; that we had two pitchers that always caused Boston trouble — Dauss and myself — being side-arm pitchers, and Boston not liking it, and that we were generally effective against them.” He said: “I want you to tell Dauss [who was not in Chicago] that there is $200 in it if you beat Boston and there is $200 in it for any other pitcher that beats Boston.” That was all that was said by him at the time.

James further testified that after the fourth game, as he was going out of the park, Risberg ran up to him and said: “Did you have a talk with Chick [Gandil] — did he tell you what we are goin to do for your pitchers?” that James replied: “Yes,” that Risberg then said: “Is it all right with you?” to which James replied: “It is fine.”

Because of the inconsistencies and an inability to prove that the series was more than a wild back-and-forth affair, Landis ruled that the money was a “gift fund” rather than “bribe fund.” Landis also acknowledged that one could look way too much like the other, so he ruled that any future form of gift-giving would result in a one-year suspension.

Like the gamblers’ riot at Fenway Park, this was one of those instances that showed just how much baseball was vulnerable to a major betting scandal two years before the Black Sox became the ones to take it too far.

Record: 87-47 | Game 1 box | Game 2 box