In what was described by Bert Walker of the Detroit Times as “one of the most vicious slugfests seen on the local diamond this year,” the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox combined for 43 hits and 31 runs at Navin Field in the Motor City on Tuesday, June 2, 1925. The Tigers enjoyed a seemingly insurmountable 15-5 lead at the end of six innings, until the White Sox made what James Crusenberry of the Chicago Daily Tribune called “one of the greatest uphill fights ever seen” to tie the game in the ninth. The stage was set for the Bengals’ 38-year-old player-manager Ty Cobb. “The prayers of the fans were answered,” wrote Walker, as the Georgia Peach blasted a walk-off homer to give the home team an exciting 16-15 victory.
Detroit entered the game in sixth place with a disappointing 19-26 record, but was arguably the hottest team in baseball. They had won 10 of their last 13, averaging an eye-popping 9.6 runs per game in their victories. The Tigers continued their offensive juggernaut against player-manager Eddie Collins’s South Siders. Chicago had finished in last place in 1924, but was a surprise team in 1925 with a record of 23-19, good for third place. Following an exciting conclusion to the first contest of the clubs’ three-game series the day before (Detroit’s Frank O’Rourke belted a walk-off, two-run clout in the ninth),1 the Tigers jumped on Chicago starter Sloppy Thurston, considered the “star of the Sox staff,” for four runs in the first inning, highlighted by RBI doubles by O’Rourke, Cobb, and right fielder Harry Heilmann, who had blistered opponents for a .553 average (21-for-38) in his previous 10 games.2 (Heilmann finished the 1925 season with a .393 batting average to capture his third crown in five years.)
Detroit’s starter, Hooks Dauss, a 35-year-old right-hander in his 14th campaign, was aiming for his 200th career victory. He breezed through the first four innings, yielding only one run when third baseman Willie Kamm smashed a towering solo shot “over the scoreboard” in left field in the fourth.3 Dauss helped his own cause in the bottom of the fourth by belting a two-run double to increase the Tigers’ lead to 6-1, and later scored on left fielder Al Wingo’s single for a six-run cushion.4
Chicago made the game interesting in the top of the fifth when 38-year-old manager and second sacker Eddie Collins smashed a double off the scoreboard, driving in two runs. Following a one-out walk to left fielder Bibb Falk, right fielder Harry Hooper and Kamm belted consecutive run-scoring singles to make it 7-5 and drive Dauss from the mound. With two on and one out, lefty Ed “Satchelfoot” Wells set down the next two batters to put out the fire.
The Tigers’ onslaught continued in the fifth and sixth innings. Heilmann led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice, and scored on catcher Larry Woodall’s two-out single.5 Reliever Wells and third baseman Fred Haney followed with run-scoring triples to make the score 10-3 and send Thurston to the showers. O’Rourke greeted right-handed reliever Frank Mack with a monstrous blast to “deep center” for two more runs. (Thurston was charged with a career-high 11 runs, 10 earned.)6 Wingo and Cobb followed with singles, but the inning ended when Cobb was caught in a rundown on what Bert Walker described as an attempted double steal.7 After Wells held the visitors scoreless in the sixth, the Bengals went back to work, loading the bases with two outs. Haney singled, his fourth hit of the game, driving in two runs. O’Rourke followed with a run-scoring single for a 15-5 lead.
But the game was far from over. “The desperate Sox kept battling back against heavy odds,” wrote Walker.8 “A lot of folk,” noted Crusinberry, “had gone home to supper thinking the Tigers were so far ahead, they couldn’t be caught,” and consequently missed an exciting comeback in the top of the seventh when Chicago exploded for seven runs. Four of the first five White Sox batters of the inning clouted extra-base hits off Wells, accounting for three runs. The beleaguered hurler was finally removed after surrendering consecutive two-out singles with the score 15-9. “The pitchers seemed equally bad,” quipped H.G. Salsinger of the Detroit News, and added, “(T)he heat must have effected (sic) the pitchers.”9 The White Sox had no mercy on reliever Lil Stoner, who could not register an out. Cleanup hitter Earl Sheely rapped an RBI double and Falk slashed a single over second base, scoring two more runs to pull within three, 15-12. “Pitchers came and went all afternoon,” wrote Crusinberry. “One felt sorry for them.” Lefty Bert Cole relieved Stoner and erased Hooper to end the inning.
The ninth inning began with the score 15-12, but Cole could not close the deal. With the bases loaded and one out, Hooper hit a long sacrifice fly to Heilmann in right field to drive in Collins and end Cole’s afternoon. In a career day, Willie Kamm greeted Detroit’s fifth pitcher, Jess Doyle, with his fourth hit, a double, to drive in his fourth and fifth runs and tie the score.
Due to bat second in the ninth inning was Ty Cobb. Once the game’s biggest attraction, Cobb had seen his star eclipsed by Babe Ruth, whose home-run-hitting exploits had singlehandedly changed baseball and demonstratively announced the end of the Deadball Era. The two had a heated rivalry that reached its nadir when they brawled during a game at Navin Field on June 13, 1924. “The Babe was a great ballplayer,” once said Hall of Famer Tris Speaker, “but Cobb was even greater. Babe could knock your brains out, but Cobb would drive you crazy.”10 In his fifth season as player-manager, Cobb announced before the season that he planned to play in only 75 to 100 games (down from 155 in 1924) to conserve his body. In spring training he suffered from a severe case of the flu and made only one appearance, as a pinch-hitter, in the Tigers’ first 12 games. It had seemed as though Cobb were on his last legs. Ever competitive, Cobb once claimed he could be a home run hitter like Ruth, but preferred to hit for average.11 Almost as if to prove his point, Cobb belted five home runs and drove in 11 runs in two games on May 5 and 6, 1925. It was the first time a big leaguer hit five homers in consecutive games since Cap Anson in August 1884.
With the score tied and fans eerily quiet, Cobb stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with one out and promptly took three balls from Chicago reliever Ted Blankenship. After looking at two strikes, Cobb moved his bat on the sixth pitch. Cobb “swung from his hips to his shoulders,” exclaimed Crusenberry. “The ball went on a straight line to right center and cleared the screen” for a dramatic walk-off solo shot.12 Cobb’s blast was “undoubtedly the longest hit he has ever made on the Detroit lot,” opined Detroit sportswriter Salsinger.13 The fans were “wild as bedlam,” wrote Crusenberry.14 Reported Bill Walker, Cobb “trotted around the bases, being halted at intervals on the way by a crowd that thronged on the field to shake hands with him.”
Cobb’s “heroic homer,” the Tigers’ 22nd hit of the game, gave the victory to Doyle (3-1) and saddled Blankenship with the loss (1-5) in the highest-scoring game (combined runs for both teams) of the season for both clubs.15 Newspapers remarked about the game’s length, 3 hours, 2 minutes, which proved to be the longest nine-inning game in the AL in 1925. The Tigers played only two games that were longer and the White Sox one; all three were extra-inning games. “Despite the huge score,” opined Walker, “it was not a badly played game. Some clever fielding was done and only one error was made by each side. Either the pitching was bad or the hitting sensational.”16 Coincidentally, the Tigers had defeated the White Sox by the same unusual score at Navin Field about 14 years earlier, on June 18, 1911.
Staying true to his promise to play less in 1925, Cobb played in 105 games in the outfield, and also added 16 pinch-hit appearances. In just 415 at-bats, he tied his career high with 12 home runs, arguably none as big as his game-winner on June 12, and finished fourth in batting average (.378).
This article appeared in “Tigers By The Tale: Great Games at Michigan and Trumbull” (SABR, 2016), edited by Scott Ferkovich. To read more articles from this book, click here.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, Retrosheet.org and Baseball-Reference.com were also accessed.
1 James Crusenberry, “O’Rourke’s Long Homer in the 9th Beats Faber and Sox, 8 To 6,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, 1925, 20.
2 John C. Hoffman, “Detroit Crushes Sox; Thurston Driven Off,” Chicago Daily News, June 3, 1925, II 23. This article provides a play-by-play summary of the entire game and was an invaluable resource.
4 Although the box score for the game on Baseball-Reference.com credits Dauss with just one RBI, contemporary papers credit him with two on his double.
5 Woodall replaced backstop Johnny Bassler in the first inning when the latter injured his hand on a foul tip by cleanup hitter Earl Sheely.
7 Bert Walker, “Tigers Play Sox in Last Game Today,” Detroit News, June 3, 1925, 18.
9 H.G. Salsinger, “Tigers Drive Out 99 Hits for 125 Bases in Six Games,” Detroit News, June 3, 1925, 38.
10 Jim Hawkins, Dan Ewald, and George van Dusen, Detroit Tigers Encyclopedia (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing, 2003), 44.
11 Hawkins et al, 45.