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Race to the Bottom: Game 69

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Fortunes have improved of late, but the 2018 club hasn’t yet stepped up enough to put the notion of becoming the worst White Sox team in history in the rear-view mirror

Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians
Flashback: Bob Feller, pictured here at age 86, might have been able to defeat these all-time worst White Sox teams as an octogenarian. But we know for sure that at age 29 in 1948, he breezed through the Pale Hose lineup.
Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Well, that didn’t take long.

Winning series against division leaders like the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox bred enough optimism a week ago that there was passing thought that Race to the Bottom might be a one-and-done series, rather than a season-long tracking.

But those hopes have been revealed as a bit premature, so 16 games after the first edition, let’s trot another out.

(The first: Race to the Bottom: Game 53)

As the 2018 team attempts to avoid becoming the worst White Sox club in franchise history, Race to the Bottom takes a look at how it compares to the very worst White Sox team ever (1932) and two other close “rivals” (1948 and 1970).

Just 16 games ago, the 2018 White Sox were on track to become the worst White Sox team in history. Today? There’s a new leader in the clubhouse!


1948 White Sox ⚾️ 23-45-1 ⚾️ 54-107-1 pace ⚾️ 8th (last) place, AL ⚾️ 19 12 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 53-107-2

The team that would end up with the second-worst winning percentage in White Sox history has taken the “lead” through 69 games. The 1948 Pale Hose lost 10-2 on July 7, 1948 against Bob Feller and Cleveland, in a night game at Cleveland Stadium. The White Sox touched Bullet Bob for two runs in the top of the first — Don Kolloway and Dave Philley singled to start the game, and with two outs Taffy Wright singled to score them — and no more.

Pretty good, huh, two runs straight away against Bullet Bob? Sure. One problem: Cleveland rallied right back for six runs in its half of the first. Not sure if manager Ted Lyons was extra tough on his starters, given his greatness on the mound, but he wasn’t fooling around in this game: Lyons yanked starter Earl Caldwell just seven batters into the game. To be fair, Caldwell retired just one batter, surrendering five singles, a walk and four runs in the process. Feller would go the distance and even his record at 9-9, with five walks, six Ks, eight hits and a 64 game score.

One strange play, with the game already out of hand, benefited the White Sox: In the bottom of the eighth, Joe Gordon led off with a walk and was doubled off of first base by White Sox left fielder Pat Seerey. How, with no one out and the play in front of him, was Gordon could be doubled off of first base, from left field?

2018 White Sox ⚾️ 24-45 ⚾️56-106 pace ⚾️ 4th (of 5) place, AL Central ⚾️ 12 GB

Game 69 came at home, which has been a house of horrors for the White Sox when the Detroit Tigers are in town. Chicago fell to 0-5 on the season while hosting Detroit, which is mounting an improbable pitch to take the AL Central in a “rebuilding” year. The Bengals undoubtedly will be sending the White Sox a thank-you note if all ends up well, given Chicago’s uncommon hospitality. On June 16, the White Sox rallied to tie the game, 5-5, in the sixth inning. But Chicago’s shoddy defense and inconsistent relief pitching pushed Detroit ahead 7-5 in the eighth, a score that would hold.

1932 White Sox ⚾️ 25-44 ⚾️ 59-103 pace ⚾️ 7th (of 8) place, AL ⚾️ 22 12 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 53-109

In 1932, the last season before the establishment of an All-Star Game and thus an All-Star break, Game 69 came in the middle of a quirk of scheduling. It was the first game of a July 4 doubleheader, which in itself isn’t bizarre. What is strange is that the doubleheader was the only home date the White Sox had in more than three weeks — a stretch that had them playing 22 of 24 games on the road. Also strange: The Sox hit the rails from St. Louis after their game on July 3, played a doubleheader at Comiskey Park on July 4, and then had two days off and didn’t play again until a July 7 doubleheader in Philadelphia.

Anyhow, the White Sox lost Game 1 of the July 4 twinbill vs. Cleveland, 4-2, but gained a split by taking the nightcap, 2-1, behind Lyons. In the Game 69 loss, Wes Ferrell handcuffed Chicago with a complete game win, striking out three and surrendering just seven hits, for a 67 game score. Milt Gaston pitched well for the White Sox in the loss, going eight innings but dropping to 3-7 on the season. The entire doubleheader took just three hours and 26 minutes.

Topps

1970 White Sox ⚾️ 25-44 ⚾️ 59-103 pace ⚾️ 5th (of 6) place, AL West ⚾️ 19 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 56-106

In 1970, Game 69 was the nightcap of a doubleheader loss against the California Angels, in front of 38,956 out at Anaheim Stadium on June 24. Mel Queen and Eddie Fisher held the White Sox to two hits in the game, a single from Syd O’Brien and a double from Duane Josephson. Bill Melton fast fact: In 1969 and 1970, his second third years in the league, Beltin’ split his time between the outfield and the hot corner, and in this game, Melton played right field. Sox starter Barry Moore had a quality start, but it’s hard to win when your offense puts up two hits; Moore fell to 3-7. For the doubleheader overall, the White Sox scored just two runs and had a total of five hits.

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[For the 1932 and 1948 teams, records are extrapolated from 154 to 162 games.]