by Harold Friend
In early July 1919, the Chicago White Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Cleveland Indians were involved in a tight pennant race. By the end of July, the White Sox had opened up a six and one-half game lead over the Indians, and a seven and one-half game lead over the fading Yankees. The White Sox, one of the great teams of all time, easily went on to win their second pennant in three years.
The White Sox v. the Reds in the World Series
The White Sox would meet the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. The experts considered the teams so close in talent that the series was considered a toss-up, although some gave the Sox a slight edge, primarily because the American League was considered stronger than the Senior Circuit.
A Longer Series Would Help the Reds
For the first time, the World Series would be a best of nine game set. It was believed that the longer series would give the Reds an edge because they had a deeper pitching staff. The White Sox had the superior offense, but not by a large margin. The teams were rated even defensively. The managers, Kid Gleason of the Sox and Pat Moran of the Reds usually played for one run at a time.
Pitching Would Be the Key
As usual, pitching would be the key. The Reds, with Slim Sallee (21-7, 2.06), Dutch Reuther (19-6, 1.82), and Hod Eller (19-9, 2.39), were given a slight edge over Chicago's Eddie Cicotte (29-7, 1.82), Lefty Williams (23-11, 2.64), and Dickie Kerr (13-7, 2.88). The Reds finished second in the National League with a 2.23 team ERA. The Sox 3.04 ERA was fourth best in the American League.
Each Team Had Great Stars
The White Sox were led by the great Joe Jackson, who played almost flawless defense in the outfield while batting .351, and future Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins, who hit .319 and stole 33 bases. Jackson and outfielder Happy Felsch each hit seven home runs to lead the Sox, but it must be remembered that in 1919, only Babe Ruth hit home runs.
The Reds were no slouches. Future Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Roush led the team with a .321 batting average, and third baseman Heinie Groh hit .310, stole 21 bases, which was one more than Roush had stolen, and tied Roush for the team lead by slugging .431.
The Reds' Great Pitching
The Reds pitchers were outstanding. After the big three of Sallee, Reuther, and Ellis, the Reds had Ray Fisher (14-5, 2.17), Dolf Luque (10-3, 2.63), and Jimmy Ring (10-9, 2.26). Teams didn't do much scoring against the Reds' pitching staff, which had much more depth than the Sox' staff.
The Strain of the World Series
The strain of pitching in the World Series cannot be overestimated. The great Christy Mathewson, who shut out Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics three times in the 1905 Series, was quoted as stating that he felt more strain pitching nine innings in a World Series game than he had felt in all the regular season games combined.
The Dollar Sign on the Ball
Umpire Billy Evans pointed out that the reason there was so much pressure in the World Series was financial. A player on the winning team would receive between $3,000 and $4,000. The losing player's share would be about $1,500 less. Evans said that the extra money could give a player strange feelings.
Billy Evans related that he had covered a World Series for a newspaper. Evans wrote about the pressure in the series by relating a story about one star's problems.
"A certain star player, usually a classy fielder, had slipped up on two rather easy chances, and at the time one of the errors threatened to have a very important bearing on the final result. Considerable comment passed through the press box because of the star's mistakes. All kinds of reasons were offered"
A former player, who was near Evans and who had been in several World Series, commented.
"You may laugh at what I'm going to tell you, Any time a ground ball was hit to me I could see the dollar sign all over the ball. That old dollar sign makes many a hard chance out of an easy one."
Billy Evans ended his newspaper column with some prescient words.
"The big thing in the Series will be that dollar sign that most players will see on every ball that is hit and pitched."
ANALYSIS OF STRENGTH OF WHITE SOX AND REDS LEAVES WORLD'S SERIES RESULT IN DOUBLE :Managers of the Nines Which Will Battle for the World's Title. (1919, September 21). New York Times (1857-Current file),101. Retrieved August 27, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 96338719).
By BILLY EVANS, American League Umpire.. (1919, September 24). BILLY EVANS TELLS OF STRAIN ON PLAYERS IN WORLD'S SERIES TEST :DOLLAR SIGN BIG FACTOR IN SERIES Billy Evans Tells How Rival Players Are Affected in Baseball Championship Play. Seeing Dollar Signs. Makes Them Different. New York Times (1857-Current file),26. Retrieved August 27, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 96342498).