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1906  Sox vs. Cubs
When it was for all the Marbles

by Hal Vickery

It still rates as one of the great mismatches in World Series history.  The 1906 AL champion White Sox had been plagued by injuries all year.  Only four players played over 120 games.  They spent most of the first half of the season in the second division, and were still nine games out of first place at the end of July.  As a team they hit an anemic .230, the lowest batting average in baseball.  They did have a future Hall Famer in shortstop George Davis, but as the World Series began, he was ailing and unable to play.  The other future Hall of Famer was pitcher Ed Walsh.

On the other hand the NL champion Cubs had just set a record by winning 116 games, led the league in batting with a .262 avarage and had four future Hall of Famers in the prime of their careers in Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance, and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown.

The pitching staffs were more evenly matched than the offenses.  The Sox led both leagues with 32 shutouts.  The Cubs were second with 31.  The Cubs led both leagues with a 1.76 ERA compared to 2.13 for the Sox. 

The big difference was that the Sox were the recipients of a miracle.  Between August 2 and August 23, the Sox won 19 straight games and went from ten games down to 5.5 games in front.  The Cubs had coasted most of the season.  The Sox had clawed their way to a pennant.  The Cubs didn't have a chance.

Comiskey's Hitless Wonders celebrate their world championship over the over-hyped and overrated 116-win Cubs.  South Side Park is the site of the celebration!

Game one was played at West Side park on October 9.  It was cold and snow flurries fell that day, and that held the crowd down to just 12,693.  Sox shortstop George Davis was unable to play in the cold weather, so player-manager Fielder Jones had to move Lee Tannehill over from third base and insert George Rohe at third.  The pitching matchup was Nick Altrock (20-13) vs. Brown (26-6).

After four scoreless innings the visiting Sox drew first blood.  Rohe tripled to left field with one out.  Patsy Dougherty then bounced one to Brown, who threw to his catcher Johnny Kling as Rohe dashed for the plate.  Kling dropped the ball, and Rohe scored.  The Sox scored again in the sixth on a pair of singles by Jones and Frank Isbell.

In the bottom of the sixth with men on second and third, Altrock threw a wild pitch.  That was the only run the Cubs were able to score.  Both pitchers gave up just four hits.

Game two was played the next day in front of 12,595 fans at the 39th St. Grounds The Cubs sent Ed Ruelbach, who was just a cut below Brown that year with a 19-4 record.  The Sox countered with Doc White who was 18-6 and led the American League with a 1.52 ERA. 

However, White was suffering from a cold, and was lifted after just three innings.  The Cubs scored all they needed with three runs in the second, but they added another run in the third.  The Sox managed an unearned run in the fifth, but the Cubs got that back in their half of the sixth off reliever Frank Owen and then scored two more for good measure in the eighth.  The Sox were the victims of poor defense with errors by Rohe and second baseman Frank Isbell giving the Cubs five unearned runs.  The ten hits given up by White and Owen, didn't help either.  Neither did the fact that the Sox managed just one hit off Ruelbach, who was far from brilliant.  Ruelbach had allowed six walks and a hit batter.

The teams were back at the Cubs' stomping grounds for Game Three on October 11.  The cold weather kept the crowds down again, with only 13,667 showing up to see Ed Walsh (17-13) face off against Jack Pfiester.  Walsh gave up one more hit than Ruelbach had the day before, but he also struck out twelve Cubs.  Pfiester struck out nine Sox batters and only gave up four hits, but was the victim of a typical Hitless Wonders rally in the sixth.  

Tannehil singled to left to lead off.  Pfiester committed the unforgivable sin of walking Walsh.  Pfiester was now rattled and he hit Noodles Hahn in the face.  Hahn was taken to the hospital with a broken nose, and Bill O'Neill was sent in as a pinch runner.  Pfiester regained his composure and got the next two batters, but that brought Rohe to the plate.  The sub came through with a triple down the left field line.  The Sox were now ahead two games to one.

It was back to the 39th Street Grounds on Columbus Day for Game Four.  The weather warmed up to the 60s, and a crowd of 18,385 passed through the gates for a rematch of the starters of the opening game.  George Davis was back at shortstop, but he was no help, going 0 for 3.  Rohe, however remained at third base, as Jones opted to bench Tannehill.        

This time Altrock came out on the losing end as Brown pitched a two-hitter.  Hahn was back in right field after fixing his fixing his broken nose with tobacco juice, but should have considered taking the day off as he lost a Frank Chance fly ball.  Two sacrifice bunts sent the Peerless Leader to third, and he was driven home on a line-drive single by Johnny Evers.  That was the only tally for either side in the game.

Back to the west side for Game Five on October 13.  Ruelbach started for the Cubs, but this time Jones decided to go with Walsh on just a day's rest.  The 23,257 paying witnesses saw an early-day example of winning ugly.

The Sox scored early with a run in the top of the first.  Then the ugliness started.  In the bottom half of the inning, second baseman Isbell's throwing error was responsible for the first two Cubs runs.  The third scored when first baseman Jiggs Donahue dropped a throw.  The Sox tied it up in the third, though, when Donahue and Davis hit a pair of ground rule doubles.  Ruelbach was sent to the showers, relived by Jack Pfiester.  Patsy Dougherty was safe on a fielder's choice.  The Sox then pulled a double steal, Davis scoring when Kling failed to throw out Dougherty at second.

In the fourth Isbell and Davis hit consecutive doubles to drive out Pfiester, Orval Overall coming on in relief.  Overall was greeted by Jiggs Donahue, who doubled.  The Sox scored four runs all told.  Rohe's throwing error gave the Cubs a run in the bottom half of the inning, bringing the score to 7-4.  Rohe redeemed himself by singling in a run in the sixth, but then booted one in the Cubs half of the inning, making the score 8-6.  Walsh left after Harry Steinfeldt doubled to lead off the seventh.  He was replaced by Doc White who shut the Cubs out the rest of the way. 

Sox pitcher
Doc White

How ugly was it?  The Cubs scored six runs on six hits, but were aided by six White Sox errors.  Still the Sox won with an uncharacteristic twelve hits.  The hitless wonders wouldn't be hitless anymore, at least not in 1906.

The Sox were back at home for Game Six on October 14, and 19,249 paying customers shared the feeling with the Sox that now was the time for the kill.  It was Brown vs. White, but not for long.

The Cubs scored in the first when Wildfire Schulte drove in a run with a double.  The Cubs lead, and their hopes of tying the series again, lasted for less than half an inning.  The Sox loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning when Davis hit one into the crowd of fans standing in right field.  Schulte claimed that as he tried catch the ball, a fan pushed him from behind the rope that separated the standing-room crowd from the players.  The umpires missed that little detail and awarded Davis a double.  Donahue then doubled to left field, driving in two more.  

The Sox KOed Brown in the second inning with a two-out rally.  Noodles Hahn singled, and Jones walked.  Isbell, Davis, and Rohe hit consecutive singles.  Tinker and Evers messed up a double play attempt and Brown issued a walk, two more runs scoring.   Brown went to the showers and Overall came on in relief.  Overall stopped the bleeding at four runs, but the Sox were now up 7-1, and the Cubs were on the ropes. Jimmy Scheckard drove in a run in the Cubs half of the fifth on a groundout, and the Sox only managed to score one run off Overall, in the bottom of the eighth.  With two out in the ninth, the Cubs loaded the bases and had a run in but Schulte, grounded to Donahue at first to end the threat.  The Sox were World Champions for the first time!  For the Cubs it was the first in a string of "wait till next years" that has continued to this day with just two exceptions.

There were three keys to the Sox victory.  The first was the great play of Rohe a .258 hitter in 75 games during the season.  In the series he was7 for 21 (.333) with four key RBI.  

The second key was Jones sticking with the hot hand and benching Tannehill when Davis was ready to play.  

The final key was the Sox pitching shutting down the Cubs' strong (by deadball era standards) offense.  Although the Sox hit just .198, their pitching held the Cubs to a .196 average.  Of course most of the .198 Sox average came in games 5 and 6 when they blasted Cubs pitching for 26 hits after managing just 9 hits in the first four games.

Chicago fans have been waiting over ninety years for another Cubs-Sox showdown, but the teams haven't been strong at the same time since 1906.  Depending how you look at it, it is either fortunate or unfortunate that the Cubs front-office mismanagement seems to be delaying any anticipated rematch in the foreseeable future.  Sox fans will just have to be content with taking batting practice against Cubs pitching for six games of inter-league play each season.  It won't win us any world championships, but it is loads of fun.

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