Undefeated — but not Untainted — White Sox Come to Town

For all outward appearances, the White Sox were still regarded as one of the best teams in the American League, and more than a few people saw the possibility of a repeat.

Inwardly, though, there was trouble. Almost as soon as the Reds had defeated the White Sox in the World Series, rumors started to brew that the series might have been fixed. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, rebuffed by American League President Ban Johnson as having sour grapes, hired his own private investigators to look into the matter.

The only player from the pennant-winning White Sox team that wasn’t on the 1920 squad was former Indian Chick Gandil, who had refused to sign his contract for 1920 and remained in California, playing for several other semi-pro teams. Manager Kid Gleason said that the White Sox had better pitching than the year before, but knew he’d have to fight off Cleveland.

“It is Cleveland we must beat out to win the pennant again,” Gleason said. “If Spoke can show us a real left-hander, the Indians are going to be a tough team to down.”

The first clash between the Indians and White Sox would have to wait. Ran forced the cancellation of the game April 26. In the series opener the next day, the White Sox would see a righty, Stan Coveleski. Gleason countered with Red Faber, like Covey a legal spitballer. Faber had been Chicago’s hero in the 1917 World Series, winning three games against the Giants, including the decisive sixth game.

The pitchers traded goose eggs for five innings, and the Indians went into the bottom of the ninth tied at two. With one out, player/manager Tris Speaker lifted Coveleski for a pinch hitter. Charlie Jamieson took a called strike, swung at the next pitch and watched two more balls sail past. He then swung and hit a ball to deep right. Nemo Leibold charged and made the catch, and Joe Evans tagged up at third and took off with the potential winning run.

Leibold fired, but the throw was wide. Evans scored the winning run standing up. The Indians had handed the White Sox their first loss of the season.

Speaker, using the one-two punch the Indians would have for the season, came back with Jim Bagby in the second game. Dickey Kerr took the hill for the White Sox. Kerr was a rookie in 1919, and won two World Series games for the White Sox that year – an even more impressive accomplishment given what hadn’t been made public about the team at that point. But that day, Kerr wouldn’t even last the first inning.

With the Indians already down 2-0 in the bottom of the first, Jack Graney led off with a single, and Kerr walked Ray Chapman. Speaker popped foul, and Sox first baseman Ted Jourdan caught it, but his throw to double up Graney at third sailed into the White Sox dugout. Graney scored, putting the Indians on the board, and Chapman moved to third. Smoky Joe Wood tripled to center field over Hap Felsch’s head, scoring Chapman, and Larry Gardner singled through the right side of the infield. Gleason lifted Kerr with the White Sox already down 3-0. Wilkinson gave up a long fly ball to Bill Wambsganss, but Felsch ran it down, caught it, and then doubled Gardner off first to get the White Sox out of the inning.

The White Sox clawed their way back, and were holding on to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But Wilkinson loaded the bases with two outs, and then walked Bagby, tying the game. Graney then singled to score Doc Johnston, but Steve O’Neill was out on the throw home.

With two outs and two on in the top of the seventh, up stepped Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson, who had become a star in Chicago after being dealt from Cleveland by Charles Somers to stave off bankruptcy, had already hit a two-run single in the top of the first and a home run onto Lexington Avenue in the sixth, launched a Bagby fastball to deep right center.

Speaker, patrolling center field, tore off running, and caught the ball a step shy of the wall to end the inning and probably save at least one – and more likely two – runs from scoring. Henry P. Edwards of the Plain Dealer said it was the greatest catch in the history of League Park. “I did not think it possible,” Gleason said after the game. “I did not think any man could get that ball. And there was only one and he was on the job.”

With the 5-4 win, the Indians remained atop the American League standings – tied with the Red Sox. For the third game of the series, the Indians pitched Elmer Myers, and Lefty Williams – another player whose name would come up in relation to the 1919 World Series – pitched for the White Sox.

The Indians loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, but could only manage one run, on a sacrifice by Wood. It was the only run the Indians would get in the game, losing 6-1 to leave town on a sour note. And it would be a lengthy trip. The Indians were going to play 17 of their next 18 games on the road, with the only exception being a make-up game from the opening series of the year, against the Browns at League Park.

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