Saturday, March 9, 2013

World Series Weirdness (Part II)

As promised, here's the second installment of my latest series:

 The Debacle of 1919--Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago White Sox
Making a Show of It

Most reasonably informed fans know about the 1919 Fall Classic--How eight Members of the White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the Series. What many people don't realize is that not all of the conspirators performed poorly on the diamond.

Pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams carried the brunt of the dirty work, combining for a 1-5 record while collectively yielding 31 hits, 13 walks and 19 earned runs in 38 innings. (That's a 4.50 ERA) 

Shortstop Swede Risberg played in all 8 games and compiled a miserable .080 batting average (with 4 errors). Center fielder Happy Felsch wasn't much batter at .192.

But burdened by a guilty conscience, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson played hard throughout, collecting 12 hits. Third baseman Buck Weaver did little to hurt the club with a .324 average. First-sacker Chick Gandil collected 5 RBI's--2 of them game winners--while utility man Fred McMullin got paid mostly for keeping his mouth shut. He was 1-for-2 at the plate.

Players who did not participate in the fix reportedly received a bonus from owner Charles Comiskey in the Fall of 1920. "The Old Roman" worked hard to rebuild a winner, but the ChiSox ended up in the second division for 15 straight seasons. 

1922 World Series--New York Yankees vs. New York Giants--Game 2
Called on Account of Lightness

At the end of the tenth inning, the score was tied at 3. It was exactly 4:40 according to the center field clock in the Polo Grounds when umpires George Hildebrand and Bill Klem declared the game a tie on account of darkness. But according to numerous accounts, there was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was still shining (though just beginning to fade). 

The crowd of 38,000 let out a roar of disapproval when the announcement was made and a mob of angry fans surrounded Commissioner Mountain Landis's box, shouting insults and epithets. He was escorted by police from the stadium as a riot was narrowly avoided. Rumors immediately surfaced that the two teams had allowed the tie to happen in order to increase revenue, but Landis quickly put an end to this when he announced that the proceeds (more than $120,000) would be donated to charity. 

Apparently, Landis was unhappy with the ruling, himself, and had confronted Hildebrand after the game.
"Why in Sam Hill did you call the game?" he demanded.
"There was a temporary haze on the field," the ump replied.

The Giants won the next three games to claim their second straight world championship. Game 2 was the last tie in Series history as guidelines were established to continue suspended matches at a later date.   

1925 World Series--Washington Senators vs. Pittsburgh Pirates--Game 3
A Secret Carried to the Grave

After a split in Pittsburgh, the Series moved to Washington. In the seventh inning of Game 3, the Senators scratched out a pair of runs off of Pirates' hurler Ray Kremer to take a 4-3 lead. Washington's player/manager Bucky Harris made a defensive shift in the eighth, moving Sam Rice to right field and installing Earl McNeely in center. It would prove to be a good move as Bucs' catcher Earl Smith hit a long drive to the deep recesses of the park. Rice tracked the ball all the way to the temporary bleachers that had been installed and made a lunging stab at it, flipping head over heels into the stands. For ten full seconds, he was out of view of the umpires. When McNeely pulled Rice to his feet, the ball was in his possession. After a heated debate, the umpires ruled that it was a fair catch. The Senators went on to win, 4-3. Commissioner Landis questioned Rice if he had actually made the catch after the game and the enigmatic outfielder replied: "Judge, the umpire said I did."

The Senators lost the Series in 7 games. In the years that followed, members of the media hounded Rice for the truth about the catch. He could have made a lot of money selling his story, but declined, insisting that the mystery was "more fun." At the request of historian Lee Allen,  Rice drafted a letter to be opened after his death. It ended up in the hands of Hall of Fame president Paul S. Kerr and, when Rice passed away in 1974, it was opened publicly. The play was recounted in great detail. At the end of the memo, Rice asserted: "At no time did I lose possession of the ball." 


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