September 18, 2021

The Ultimate Seven-Game Fall Classic: Game Three

November 6, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

In part one of my Ultimate Seven-Game Fall Classic series, I featured Game One of the 1988 World Series between the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Dodgers.  Part two featured an epic 14-inning battle between the Boston Red Sox and Brooklyn Robins in Game Two of the 1916 Fall Classic.  For Game Three, I’m staying in the Deadball Era and featuring a game and Series that’s remembered as much for what happened off the field as on, and because a rookie southpaw came to his city’s rescue and became a cult hero when he pitched his team to victory and avoided what could have been an embarrassing sweep at the hands of an underdog.

October 3, 1919—Cincinnati Reds at Chicago White Sox: By the end of the 1919 season, the White Sox were regarded as one of the best teams in American League history.  Years later, long-time baseball executive Ed Barrow insisted they were the best, ranking the 1919 White Sox ahead of the 1927 Yankees. Sportswriter Fred Lieb called the club, “one of the most compact ever put together.” Twenty-five years after the 1919 season ended, sportswriters still considered them one of the top two teams of all time, placing them second to the ’27 Yankees.

The Reds, on the other hand, were in their first World Series. American League teams had won eight of the previous nine World Series, including a 4-2 victory by the White Sox over the New York Giants just two years prior. Needless to say, the Reds were not expected to be able to break the A.L.’s monopoly on the title.

Rumors that the White Sox were going to throw the World Series to the Reds began to surface even before Sox ace Eddie Cicotte plunked Reds second baseman Morrie Rath with his second offering to lead off the bottom of the first inning of the first game. The strategically placed pitch allegedly served as a signal to gamblers that key members of the White Sox team had agreed to throw the Series.  (Cicotte told reporters after the game that hitting Rath “unnerved” him, that the play had a “strange effect” on him, and that he “felt so badly” about hitting Rath that he “lost all control” in the fourth inning. Cicotte later admitted that he intended to walk Rath, but accidentally hit him instead, and that, “It hurt my conscience and I realized I was doing wrong.”

The Reds pounded Cicotte in Game One for six runs on seven hits and two walks in only 3 2/3 innings.  They scored three more runs off Roy Wilkinson and Grover Lowdermilk to easily take the first contest, 9-1, behind the fantastic hurling of Dutch Ruether, who allowed only one unearned run on six hits in nine innings.  Ruether also proved to be Cincinnati’s hitting star, rapping out three hits, including two triples, and knocking in a team-high three runs.  At the time, the eight-run margin of victory was the largest ever in the first game of a World Series, and the loss marked an omen of bad things to come for Chicago—only three times in the first 16 World Series had a team lost the first game, then gone on to win the Series (1903, 1911, and 1915).

Things got worse for Chicago when Game Two starter, Lefty Williams, melted down in the fourth inning when he issued three walks and surrendered two hits in a three-run inning that effectively put the game on ice.  Williams, who finished fourth in the A.L. in walks per nine innings pitched during the regular season at 1.76, handed out six free passes in eight innings of work en route to a 4-2 loss that put the Pale Hose in a two-game hole going into Game Three.  Four of the six men Williams walked came around to score.

The plot to throw the 1919 World Series is convoluted and difficult to follow, especially because there are multiple accounts of how the whole thing went down. According to Cicotte, the plot was first hatched on a train during a White Sox road trip. The story goes that some White Sox players began discussing a rumored plot by Cubs players to throw the 1918 World Series for $10,000. One of the White Sox players half-jokingly suggested they should do the same if they made it to the Series, and the idea took hold. The players began to meet one or two at a time and agreed to throw the World Series to the Reds if they could get their price.

Cicotte met with former major leaguer “Sleepy Bill” Burns at the Ansonia Hotel in New York three weeks before the end of the season and told Burns that “something good was coming up” and that if the Sox made it to the World Series, Cicotte would contact Burns and fill him in on the details. Burns was a former pitcher who had toiled in relative mediocrity for five seasons, winning 30 games and losing 52 for five different teams from 1908 to 1912. Two of those teams were the White Sox, whom he pitched for in parts of 1909 and 1910, and the Reds, whom he pitched for in parts of 1910 and 1911. After retiring from baseball, Burns went into the oil business selling leases.

A few days after their first meeting, Cicotte met Burns again at the Ansonia. White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil was present at the second meeting, as was Billy Maharg, a low-life ex-fighter from Philadelphia who was Burns’ friend and bodyguard. Cicotte told Burns that six White Sox players—Cicotte, Gandil, Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin, Lefty Williams, and Happy Felsch—were willing to throw the Series for $100,000.

Burns left for Montreal and Maharg headed home to Philadelphia, where he explained the plot to a gambler friend of his, who told Maharg that the only man who could finance anything that large was Arnold Rothstein, a New York gambler who was worth a fortune and was always looking to make more. Burns eventually returned from Canada and met Maharg in Philadelphia, and they made an appointment to meet with Rothstein at the Aqueduct race track on Long Island. When Burns and Maharg approached Rothstein at the track, the gambler paid them little attention and suggested they leave him to his racing and that he might get back to them. He agreed to meet Burns and Maharg at the Astor Hotel later that evening. When Burns and Maharg finally revealed the plot to Rothstein, he rebuffed them and told them “he would not handle it.”

Less than a week later, Burns bumped into Hal Chase and showed him a letter from one of the White Sox conspirators that claimed that Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver had also agreed to the fix and that eight players were now involved in the plot. Chase, a notorious gambler and game-fixer, had been suspended by the Giants for allegedly fixing games during the 1919 season. In fact, he had a long list of infractions dating back to 1910 and probably beyond, and would serve as the perfect ally in the plot to throw the Series. Burns and Chase met again at the Ansonia a few days later and discussed the plot with Abe Attell, a former boxer and Featherweight champion, who claimed to be representing Rothstein, and David Zelcer, described by Maharg as “Rothstein’s First Lieutenant.”

Attell told Burns and Chase that Rothstein had finally agreed to finance the fix. Burns set up a meeting with the players that took place at the Sinton Hotel in Cincinnati a day before Game One of the Series. Seven of the eight White Sox conspirators were present for the meeting (Jackson was not), which took place in Gandil and Risberg’s room. Burns told the players that Rothstein had agreed to finance the fix, then introduced them to Attell. After hours of negotiations a deal was finally struck—the players would be paid $20,000 before the first game, then $20,000 after each loss, the money to be divided between the eight players and Burns.

Whether Rothstein was involved or not has never been proven. Attell showed Burns a telegram at one point during the Series that Burns called into question because it looked like a fake. When he tried to verify its validity with the telegraph office, he was told that no record of the telegram existed. Although he was alleged to have pocketed $350,000 betting on the Series, Rothstein denied any involvement. Supposedly Rothstein felt the plot was too risky.

But Attell was certain that the plan had merit, so he took a gamble himself and told Burns later on that Rothstein had changed his mind and was willing to front the fix. Rothstein learned of Attell’s Machiavellian behavior, but not before Joseph “Sport” Sullivan had discussed the fix with the powerful gambler and had allegedly convinced him that it would be in his best interests to get involved. Rothstein allegedly offered the players $40,000 to ensure the fix was actually on. The remaining $40,000 was to be paid at the conclusion of the series, assuming the White Sox lost.

Historian Harold Seymour claimed that affidavits found in Rothstein’s files after his death prove that he did, in fact, pay out $80,000 to finance the fix. A.L. president Ban Johnson thought Rothstein was guilty of financing the conspiracy as well.

But, as I said, the plot was so convoluted, it’s impossible to know who financed the plot, how many conspirators were involved, and who approached whom about what. One version of the story has Gandil contacting Sullivan at Boson’s Buckminster Hotel three weeks before the Series and telling him, “I think we can put it in the bag for you.”  It’s also been speculated that Gandil contacted Attell first.

There were so many gamblers and gambling syndicates involved from so many different cities—Des Moines, St. Louis, Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Providence, to name a handful—it’s impossible to accurately recount the exact details of the plot.

Prior to the start of the Series, Cicotte demanded $10,000. “I was the first one that spoke about the money end of it,” Cicotte later admitted. “There was so much double-crossing stuff, if I went in the Series [‘to throw ball games’] I wanted the money put in my hand.” Cicotte left his hotel room to visit with Red Faber and Shano Collins, and when he returned at 11:30, he found $10,000 under his pillow. He didn’t know where it came from or who put it there. It didn’t matter. The fix was on.

According to some sources, White Sox skipper Kid Gleason interrupted a meeting the conspirators were holding in Cicotte’s room after Game One and threatened the players. Apparently they reached an agreement, as each player shook Gleason’s hand while leaving the room. Whether the fix was off at that point is debatable. After the 9-1 drubbing, Bill Burns and Billy Maharg went looking for Abe Attell to collect the $20,000 the players had been promised for losing Game One. Attell told Burns and Maharg he didn’t have the money because it was “out on bets.” When Gandil learned that no money was forthcoming he was livid and accused Attell of not “living up to his agreement.” Attell told Burns he’d get the money to him in the morning before Game Two. He was lying.

Prior to Game Two, betting odds shifted. Where the White Sox had been favored at 5 to 6 prior to the opening game, the Reds were now favored at 7 to 10. Burns was supposed to have received the money owed him and the players from Attell that morning, and was supposed to signal the players that all was “going smoothly.” But no money exchanged hands and no signal was given. Burns didn’t even attend the game.

Just as they did after the first game, Burns and Maharg went looking for Attell and the money he owed the players—now $40,000. The pugilist finally paid up, but gave the men only $10,000, complaining that everybody knew about the fix, which made it difficult to profit from their wagers. He also told Burns “another [gambling] ring is in on it,” which partially accounted for the shortage, and insisted the players would have to wait until the end of the Series to get the rest of their money.

He then had the audacity to ask the players to win Game Three so the gamblers could get better odds. Ironically, of all the games they were most likely to throw, the third tilt was the one. The players insisted there was no way they’d win for rookie pitcher Dickie Kerr, whom they called a “Busher.” They would try to lose that one too.

The Series shifted to Chicago. Kerr, who was starting in the absence of an injured and ill Red Faber, faced nine-year veteran right-hander Ray Fisher, a spitballer who was in his first year with the Reds after spending eight years with the Yankees. Cicotte allegedly asked Gleason if he could pitch on only a day’s rest and Gleason almost acquiesced, but tabbed Kerr instead. And most thought that 19-game winner and shine ball artist Hod Eller would get the start for Cincinnati, but Reds manager Pat Moran went with Fisher.

“The legend is that Moran had selected Fisher to pitch to-day because he used to play in the American League before Colonel Ruppert, with a cruel impulse, sold him down the river to Cincinnati,” wrote W.O. McGeehan in the New York Tribune.  “Consequently Fisher was supposed to know all about the lights and shadows and odors of Comiskey Park.  He was the only acclimated pitcher that they had.”

Reporters figured that all the Reds had to do was take one of the three games in Chicago, then return to Cincinnati to put the series away. But the Boston Globe reminded readers that the White Sox had once come from a three-games-to-none deficit to defeat the Cubs in a postseason exhibition series in 1912, and that Boston had come from a three-games-to-one deficit to defeat Pittsburgh in the 1903 Fall Classic.

Many believed the Reds had been lucky, including both managers, and if they continued to get all the breaks, they’d sweep the White Sox in five games in the best-of-nine series. Betting odds shifted again and favored the Reds at 9 to 5.

James Cruisinberry reported in the Chicago Tribune after Game Two that the White Sox players were “fighting mad” and only the closest of friends were safe approaching any of the players as they boarded a train back to Chicago. “I’m glad they are too, because it will make them fight tomorrow” Gleason told Crusinberry. “This team isn’t beaten at all.”

Harvey Woodruff, also of the Tribune, wrote, “We are two down with seven to go. The situation has driven all the advance confidence or over-confidence out of both [White Sox] players and their followers. Only an optimistic detective could find a White Sox smile anywhere in this city tonight…Defeat for the Sox tomorrow will reduce chances of ultimate success, almost to a minimum, while victory will mean much at this time. It is the crisis of the series up to this point.”

The morning of the game, Attell asked Burns to phone Gandil and ask him what the players planned to do. Gandil reiterated that they planned to lose; he told Burns things were “going the same way.”  Moran expected his team to sweep the Series after beating the White Sox’s two best pitchers in the first two contests.

But the diminutive Kerr was no pushover.  The 25-year-old rookie southpaw went 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA, bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen.  He completed 10 of his 17 starts and finished second in the A.L. in games finished with 20.  Kerr’s performance was somewhat of a surprise to Damon Runyon, who once described the pitcher as, “Not much taller than a walking stick…the tiniest of the baseball brood.  Won’t weigh 90 lbs soaking wet…Too small for a pitcher, especially for a left-handed pitcher.  Too small for too much of anything, except, perhaps, a watch charm…”  But only a month into his first big league season, he had impressed the local writers.  “He has pitched good baseball in spots…” trumpeted the Chicago Tribune in mid-May. “As a batsman and base runner and in fielding his position he is one of the best and wisest recruits that has come into fast company in years.”

Kerr’s opponent, Ray Fisher, missed the entire 1918 season after he was drafted into the army during World War I, then enjoyed his second best season in 1919, going 14-5 with a 2.17 ERA that ranked eighth in the N.L., and five shutouts.  It wasn’t until the ’19 season that Fisher finally bumped his career record over .500 to 90-83.  From 1910-1917, he was only 76-78, but that was due mostly to the fact that he’d pitched for some bad teams.  In fact, his career ERA of 2.91 was eighth best in the American League during that period and he ranked in the top 20 in all of baseball after the 1919 campaign.

According to James O’Leary of the Boston Globe, when the White Sox took the field for pregame warm-ups, the Chicago fans let them know how displeased they were with the the team’s efforts in Games One and Two.  “When the Cincinnati players appeared on the field, they were cordially received, but when the White Sox came out about 10 minutes later, there was a silence that might well be regarded as the most potent eloquence.”  But according to Harvey Woodruff, when the White Sox took the field for the top of the first inning, they received a warm welcome from their fans.  “While there were large patches of vacant seats in the unreserved bleacher and pavilion sections, it was probably caused by the fact fans thought there was no use going to the park,” wrote Woodruff.  “When the Sox appeared on the field there was a roar of applause that showed Sox rooters are no more quitters than their team…It undoubtedly nerved and braced the already determined Gleasons.”

New York city appeared to be more enthusiastic than Chicago, as thousands of fans crowded into Times Square, most of them cheering for the White Sox.  “Not even on Election Night and New Year’s Eve has humanity more completely filled the main corner of Gotham’s busiest triangle,” reported the New York Times.  “As far back as the NEW YORK TIMES scoreboard was even faintly visible, men and women stood closely packed together from the moment that Dicky [sic] Kerr pitched the first ball to Morris Rath until the finishing touches had been applied…”

Kerr was masterful in the first, effectively mixing his pitches and retiring the side in order on a groundout to Risberg by second baseman Morrie Rath, a flyout to Felsch in center field by first baseman Jake Daubert, and a strikeout of third baseman Heinie Groh on four pitches, the last of which was a low offering on the outside corner that Groh waved at and missed.  The little lefty needed only 12 pitches to erase the Reds.  Fisher was almost as good and even more efficient, using only nine tosses to get out of the bottom of the first.  Right fielder Nemo Leibold led off with a line shot to right that Greasy Neale snared off his shoe tops for the first out.  “The slippery one scooted in for the ball as it was within about an inch of the ground,” McGeehan wrote later.  “One paw intercepted it and Neale rolled over and over, but he held the ball.”  Eddie Collins bounced an easy grounder back to the mound for out number two, and Buck Weaver lofted a pop up to Daubert to retire the side.

Kerr allowed his first hit of the day with one out in the second on a Pat Duncan Texas League blooper to right center, but retired Edd Roush, Larry Kopf, and Neale on groundouts, two to Risberg and one to Collins.  Risberg could have turned an inning-ending double play, but failed to handle the ball cleanly enough to force Duncan at second and had to settle for the sure out at first.  Regardless, Kerr used only nine pitches and seemed to have Reds batters baffled from the start.  “He seemed to understand that his job was to put more stuff on the ball than the Reds had on their bats,” wrote Grantland Rice, “and with this estimable purpose in view he cut away all wasted motion and began to stand the Reds upon their closely cropped heads.”

Fisher wasn’t up to the task in the second and the White Sox broke through for two runs on two hits and an error.  “The climax, which happened all too prematurely, came as the wind from the stock yards laden with life-giving balsam to the White Sox wafted over the diamond,” wrote McGeehan.  “It tickled the nostrils of Joe Jackson, the first of the Sox to bat in the second inning.”  Shoeless Joe led off the inning with a two-strike single to left, then advanced all the way to third when Fisher fielded Felsch’s sacrifice bunt and threw it into center field trying to get Jackson at second.  Felsch also advanced an extra base and the White Sox had runners at second and third with no outs.

“It so happened that just before cracking one at Felsch,” Rice wrote, “Fisher had anointed the ball with a saliva dressing and as a certain soothsayer of renown once remarked, ‘The evil that men do lives after them.’  He must have nabbed the ball upon the slippery sector, for with an easy double play in sight, he pegged the ball far and high above Rath’s quivering reach…”

Ironically, Chick Gandil, the man who insisted the players involved in the gambling conspiracy would never win for a “busher,” plated the first two runs of the game with a single to right, then advanced to second on Neale’s throw to the plate, which might have nabbed Felsch had catcher Bill Rariden played it properly.  “Instead of placing himself on the line, in a position to block Felsch, which he could have easily done and still made the play with the certainty of getting his man,” wrote O’Leary, “he caught the ball on a high bound about a yard in front of the plate and ‘Hap’ just ran straight for the plate and was past before Bill could intercept him.”

Risberg walked to put runners at first and second.  “By this time there was considerable anxiety evident in the Reds’ dugout,” wrote McGeehan.  “Heinie Groh walked over to Fisher for a consultation and the visitors from Rhineland began to raise entreaties that Fisher be removed.”

Whatever Groh said to Fisher worked.  The pitcher made a play on Ray Schalk’s bunt that saved him from further embarrassment.  “Fisher was plainly rattled,” wrote J.V. Fitz Gerald in the Washington Post, “but he recovered his composure quickly enough to foil the Sox.  Schalk, trying to sacrifice, sent a bunt toward third.  Groh was covering the bag and Fisher had to go after the ball.  He did, and picking it up on the run threw to Groh, just in time to force Gandil.”

Hugh Fullerton claimed that Gandil loafed on the play in an effort to kill the White Sox’s rally, and the movie Eight Men Out depicted Gandil (played by Michael Rooker) taking his sweet time getting to third base.  “Gandil, coming up from second, had the play beaten by a block,” wrote Fullerton, “but he stood up and seemed to be conversing with Kid Gleason (coaching at third base), when Fisher suddenly grabbed the ball and flashed it to Groh.”  Christy Mathewson credited Fisher with making a great play, but admitted that Gandil might have helped the Reds by not sliding into the bag.  No other writer that I could find blamed Gandil for poor or suspicious base running, all crediting Fisher with a heads up play.

With Risberg at second and Schalk on first, Fisher coaxed a grounder by Kerr back to the box, and the Reds hurler threw again to Groh for the force out.  Then Groh speared Leibold’s grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.  “…and what had begun to look like the utter demoralization of the Cincinnati team stopped abruptly,” waxed McGeehan.

Kerr took the hill for the third inning and kept the ball down in the zone, but too far down for home plate umpire Ernie Quigley to call a strike on Reds catcher Bill Rariden.  Kerr went to 3-0 on Rariden before firing two strikes, then getting the Cincinnati backstop to ground to Weaver at third for the first out.  Fisher tried to atone for his error by singling to third, but it was hardly an impressive belt.  He topped a grounder toward third that Weaver backed away from in hopes that it would roll foul, but in his enthusiasm, Kerr raced over to field the ball and fell on top of it in fair territory.  Kerr quickly recovered, though, and got Rath on a pop up to short and Daubert on a grounder to Collins at second.  Collins flipped to Risberg to force Fisher and retire the side.

The White Sox looked to add to their lead in the bottom of the third when Collins smoked a single just past the outstretched glove of Kopf at short, and Weaver followed with a hit-and-run bloop single to a spot vacated by Kopf when the Reds shortstop went to second to cover the bag on Collins’ steal attempt.  Cincinnati was able to keep Collins at second and Weaver at first, however, which proved to be the White Sox’s undoing.  After Weaver’s hit, Moran ordered Eller and “closer” Dolf Luque to start warming up.

Jackson, who was by far the team’s best hitter that year and one of the best in the history of the league, stepped to the plate with a chance to stake Kerr to a bigger lead, but Gleason employed a Deadball Era play and ordered his slugger to lay down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up 90 feet.  The play wasn’t foreign to Jackson or any of the White Sox for that matter; they had sacrificed a league-leading 224 times and the shoeless one had done so 17 times that year.  Jackson wasn’t able to get the ball down, however, instead popping it up over Fisher’s head for what looked like a hit.  But Daubert raced in from first and snagged the weak fly before it hit the ground.  One batter later, Fisher’s defense saved him again when Groh stopped Felsch’s smash to third, picked it up and threw to Rath, who relayed to Daubert for a nifty inning-ending double play.

Thus began the fourth.  “In the fourth inning the Chicagoans were breathing their own odorous air in short anxious gasps,” wrote McGeehan.  “In the first two games it was the fourth that proved the fatal inning for the White Sox.  Cicotte was batted from the box in the fourth of the first game.  Williams went wild in the fourth of the second game.”  White Sox fans held their collective breath when Kerr walked Groh to lead off the frame.  “…the apprehension could be scented,” McGeehan continued.  “The fate of the Sox, their chances of a reasonable hold on first money in the series, lay in Dick Kerr, the left-handed Texan.”

Roush slapped a grounder past Kerr’s glove, but Risberg raced in, grabbed it, and nipped Roush at first with a strong throw.  Groh advanced to second on the play, but was retired when Duncan lined out to Risberg, who flipped the ball to Collins to complete the double play.  “The fateful fourth started again with a walk,” wrote the Chicago Tribune.  “Both other times it had started a walkover.  But the third fourth was a safe, sane, glorious fourth.”

The White Sox shortstop played a key role in the bottom of the inning as well when he tripled to right with one out, a shot described by the New York Times as a “seething drive to right…sliced over to the foul line” that gave Greasy Neale fits.  Neale tried to make a one-handed stop, but misplayed the ball and it got past him.  When he recovered, he still had time to nail Risberg at third, but made a poor throw that Groh couldn’t handle.

“Risberg hit a long one to right field and Greasy Neale became depressed and befogged by the local ozone,” quipped McGeehan.  “The ball rolled by the greasy one for a three-bagger.”  Rice called the triple a “fluke,” Mathewson called it “scratchy,” and O’Leary insisted it would have gone for only two bases had Neale played it properly.  But none of the Sox or their fans complained when Risberg came home on Schalk’s successful squeeze bunt, which eluded Fisher and went for a single.  Rariden gunned down Schalk on a steal attempt for the second out of the inning, and Kerr grounded out to Kopf at short to end the threat.

With a three-run lead in the top of the fifth, Kerr surrendered his first solid hit of the game, a hard grounder by Kopf that sped past Collins’ glove and into right field.  That would be the highlight of the Reds’ afternoon.  Neale grounded to Gandil, who fired the ball to Risberg for the force at second; Rariden grounded to Collins, who threw to first for the out, Neale advancing to second on the play; Fisher grounded to Weaver at third, who tossed across to Gandil to end the inning.

Fisher had no trouble in the bottom of the fifth, retiring Leibold, Collins, and Weaver on three ground balls, the last two easy tappers back to the mound that Fisher handled himself.  In the top of the sixth, Gandil made a nifty catch of Risberg’s wide throw to retire Rath, Daubert lofted a routine fly to Jackson, and Weaver fielded Groh’s grounder and tossed him out at first.  Still 3-0 in favor of Chicago, the contest got heated in the bottom of the sixth and had cooler heads not prevailed, things could have gotten ugly.

It appeared that the bad blood began during Jackson’s at-bat to lead off the bottom of the sixth, but the truth is things had been chippy between the clubs from the start.  Jimmy Smith, a 24-year-old little-used utility infielder had been riding veteran second baseman and future Hall of Famer Eddie Collins from the Reds’ bench since Game One, and Collins had had just about enough of Smith’s chatter.  But he held his tongue and kept his composure.

But Jackson and Fisher took it to the next level in the sixth.  When Jackson took a lusty cut at Fisher’s first offering, missed, and fell down, Fisher took offense that an enemy batter would swing so healthily at one of his offerings, and buzzed Jackson’s head with his next pitch.  Jackson retaliated by drag bunting down the first base line, knowing that Fisher would have to field the ball and putting him in Jackson’s direct path to first base.  “The ball rolled foul, probably as Jackson intended it should,” O’Leary surmised, “and when Ray came over to the base line, Joe gave him a shove and a few remarks were passed.”

When the at-bat commenced, Shoeless Joe dropped a “short lob” over Kopf’s head and into left field for a hit.  Then Bill Rariden took matters into his own hands.  Jackson took off for second and Rariden gunned him down for the first out of the inning.  Felsch walked and tried to steal second, but was also erased by Rariden’s right wing.  Fisher caught Gandil looking at strike three to end the inning.  In terms of baseball, the action in the seventh inning was nondescript: Kerr retired Roush, Duncan, and Kopf in order on a pop up to first, a strikeout, and a fly ball to right; Fisher was equally effective retiring Risberg, Schalk, and Kerr on two grounders to Groh and one to Rath.

But tempers finally boiled over and to no one’s surprise Jimmy Smith was right in the middle of the fracas.  According to the New York Times, Collins went after Smith and the two had to be separated by umpire Billy Evans.  “Smith is the official goat-getter of the Reds,” wrote the Times.  “His business in life is to tarry on the base lines and tell the opposition what awful ball players they are.”  In the top of the eighth, Kerr set down the Reds in order again, getting Neale, Rariden, and pinch hitter Sherry Magee on a strikeout, groundout to second, and flyout to right.

In the bottom of the inning, Smith, who was now coaching at third, sarcastically asked Felsch when he was planning on getting a hit.  Felsch was Chicago’s third best hitter behind Jackson and Collins, but he’d yet to hit safely in almost three full World Series contests.  Felsch responded by asking Smith what bush league he expected to be in next year.  “This so enraged Jimmy that it required the entire force of umpires and all the Cincinnati club to get Smith back to the bench,” wrote Christy Mathewson.  According to Matty, the crowd enjoyed the scrappy play of both teams, and he was relieved that the “I beg your pardon for touching you so hard” style of play seen in the first two games had fallen by the wayside.

Dolf Luque, “The Pride of Havana,”  took over pitching duties for the Reds in the bottom of the eighth.  Luque was Cuban, and despite baseball’s unofficial color line, was able to break into the majors because of his light skin.  “In race-conscious North America, at a time when dark-skinned Latinos had trouble breaking into baseball, Luque’s light skin was to his advantage,” wrote Jill Barnes.  “A newspaper story of the period describes him as ‘looking more Italian than a full-blooded Cuban.'”  Though he wasn’t the only Cuban player in the game in 1919, he was clearly the best.  In his first full season that year, he went 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA in nine starts and 21 relief appearances.  Eventually he would become an effective starter who would lead the league in wins, ERA, and shutouts, and win 194 games in 20 seasons.

Luque began the bottom of the eighth with a strikeout of Nemo Leibold, and when Groh began taunting Leibold from third base, the White Sox right fielder charged down the third base line still carrying his bat.  Fortunately Gleason, who was coaching at third, intercepted Leibold before he could reach the target of his ire.  Collins then grounded to Daubert, who flipped to Luque for the out, and Weaver grounded out to Rath to end the frame.  Kerr only needed three more outs for the victory and he got them easily, getting Rath to ground out to Collins, striking out Daubert, and coaxing a game-ending grounder to Weaver, who threw out Groh at first to complete the win.

With the victory, the White Sox were back in the Series and Kerr received plaudits all around.  “All that Kerr had was keen speed, a cracking curve and control that carried both where he wanted to plant them,” waxed Grantland Rice.  “The big feature of his first championship was the rare coolness that he showed at every turn and the unending grip that he kept upon his nervous system until the last Red faded out.”

“As inning after inning passed by with the midget Kerr keeping the bags practically clear of runners, and not a Redleg coming within even hailing distance of the plate, the twirling marvels of the past faded into insignificance…,” wrote the New York Times.  James O’Leary was less poetic than most.  “Kerr stopped the Red sluggers with a suddenness that made their teeth rattle,” he wrote.

Indeed, through nine innings of work Kerr allowed only three singles, walked a batter and struck out four.  He faced only 30 batters, retiring the last 15 straight.

When “Sleepy Bill” Burns approached the players before Game Four with $20,000 of David Zelcer’s money—Zelcer told Burns to bet the money on the Reds and if the Sox lost, he could pay them their money—Gandil told Burns the fix was off and they won Game Three because they felt they’d been double-crossed (in fact, Gandil drove in two of Chicago’s three runs).  From then on, Gandil insisted, the White Sox would be playing to win. Someone forgot to tell the Reds.  They fell to Kerr again in Game 6, but took the best-of-nine series in eight games.

On Deck: The Ultimate Seven-Game Fall Classic: Game Four


One Response to “The Ultimate Seven-Game Fall Classic: Game Three”
  1. Rich Johnson says:

    Outstanding piece! Among other things, the quotes from the 1919 sportswriters are priceless.

    One thing about the Black Sox, though — they just weren’t as good as commonly believed. The Sox’ run differential in 1919 was 1 per game. The Reds achieved 1.3.

    I have little doubt that some of the Black Sox attempted to throw at least some of the games in the 1919 Series. The fact is, however, that the Reds might very well have won even if slimes like Burns, Maharg, and Rothstein had never existed.

    I write with a bias: Groh and Roush are two of my favorite old-timers. I just hope that in reflecting justifiably on the corruption of the Black Sox, people don’t lose sight of the real achievements of the 1919 Reds.

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