“Yes, Herrmann Day is a go in Chicago. The [Cincinnati] Blaine Club will be the guest of the Chicago American League team during the National Republican Convention, and I know it will be a joyous occasion for the boys. I do not see where there can be any harm in accepting this courtesy from our rivals, the Americans, as peace and baseball are now running hand in hand.” ~ Garry Herrmann1
On an afternoon with perhaps even more pomp and circumstance than the season’s opening day, a thrilling finish between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Naps at South Side Park was hidden in the colossal shadow of a parade of politicians visiting Chicago for the 1904 Republican National Convention.
The city was thrown into the national spotlight by hosting the 13th iteration of the quadrennial event at the Chicago Coliseum, aimed at propelling incumbent Theodore Roosevelt’s bid for election to the United States presidency three years after he had succeeded William McKinley, slain by an assassin’s bullet.2 Meanwhile, its American League baseball team was months into a journey it hoped would thrust Chicago into the sporting spotlight later in the year as league champion.
The White Sox declared June 21, the first meeting of a three-game series with the Naps, as “Garry Herrmann Day,” a tribute to the leader of the National Baseball Commission and president of the Cincinnati Reds. Herrmann had also served as a prominent Republican figure in Cincinnati’s political scene since the 1890s. Following him to the RNC on a 12-hour train ride were some 300 individuals from the Cincinnati Blaine Club, a Republican organization, who, along with numerous tallyhos each drawn by six horses, paraded five miles to the game and then around the field behind John C. Weber’s brass band.
Other distinguished guests included major Ohio political figures like Governor Myron Herrick, U.S. Senators Joseph B. Foraker and Charles W. F. Dick, Cincinnati mayor Julius Fleischmann, and influential Cincinnati Republican George B. Cox. Others attending were American League President Ban Johnson, National League President Harry Pulliam,3 and George Cortelyou, the first Secretary of Commerce and Labor of the United States, who two days later would be elected as chairman of the RNC.
Not only did all that political clout steal the headlines in the next day’s newspapers, it robbed the White Sox the recognition of a splendid comeback victory in a game that deserved “more than passing notice.”4
The game between two hopeful pennant contenders was deadlocked at 1-1 after the third inning, and both Cleveland’s starter Red Donahue and Chicago’s Frank Owen buckled down and battled for the victory. It wasn’t until the bottom of the ninth that either offense found a rhythm again, and the White Sox struck quickly. George Davis singled with the bases loaded and one out to pick up a 2-1 victory and snap a modest two-game losing skid.5
Gus Dundon drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, and Fielder Jones followed with a bunt single – just the third hit of the game off Donahue. After Jimmy Callahan became the fifth strikeout victim for the White Sox when he failed to lay down a sacrifice, Danny Green drew a walk to load the bases.
Davis stepped into the box hitless on the afternoon, but to the delight of most of the unusually large Tuesday afternoon crowd of 7,550,6 he extended his hitting streak to five games with the game-winning single into left field. Left disappointed was the contingent from Cincinnati who were naturally rooting for the other team from their home state. Coincidentally, the Cincinnati Reds were hosting the Chicago Cubs at the Palace of the Fans, but that matchup drew only 3,312 spectators.
The game-winning single helped put the season on track for Davis, who broke into major-league baseball with the Cleveland Spiders as a 19-year-old in 1890 before becoming a star with the New York Giants. After hitting .299 or better each season from 1893 to 1902, he missed all but four games in 1903 due to a contract dispute between the White Sox and the Giants that rose all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Back in Chicago for 1904, Davis was off to a slow start and came into the game against Cleveland with a .248 average through 53 games. He eventually ran his hitting streak to 18 games, improving his average by 23 points during that stretch, but still finished the season with a disappointing .252 mark in 152 games.
The Naps were on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Donahue, Elmer Flick, and Bill Bradley hit successive singles. In the bottom of the inning, Jones brought home Dundon with a single, and the game remained tied until the ninth. Outside of the third and ninth innings, there were only five other hits in the game, and each team had a pair of walks and committed one error.
Owen improved to 11-4 with the victory and moved to 4-0 when not allowing an extra-base hit.7 The 24-year-old right-hander was on the path to his first of three straight seasons with more than 20 victories for the White Sox. Donahue, who engaged in a salary dispute with Naps management during the offseason and didn’t report to the team until mid-March,8 was holding up his end of his salary demand after winning seven straight outings from May 6 through June 3. Through the start against Chicago, he had nine wins with a 1.25 ERA, and in his four losses, he had surrendered a total of 10 unearned runs.
Chicago continued on to beat Cleveland in the next two games to produce its first series sweep of the season. For the first time in franchise history, the White Sox swept a series with one-run victories in each game.9
Despite that mid-season swell, the White Sox fell short in their efforts to raise the American League pennant (as did the Naps), but those attending the RNC had plenty to celebrate later in the year. In the 1904 presidential election, Roosevelt won a resounding victory over Democratic challenger Alton B. Parker,10 and Republicans saw their majority swell in the House of Representatives with a strong showing across the country and maintained a solid majority in the Senate.
As for baseball, Chicago was in striking distance of the league lead all season and held a slim edge in the standings at several points in August. The White Sox finished 89-65, third in the league behind the Boston Americans (95-59) and New York Highlanders (92-59). Cleveland was fourth, three games behind Chicago in the win column at 86-65.
This article was fact-checked by Gary Belleville.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the Baseball-Reference.com, Stathead.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for pertinent materials and the box scores noted below. He also used information obtained from game coverage by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chicago Inter Ocean, Cincinnati Post, and Cincinnati Enquirer.
1 “Herrmann Returns From Chicago,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 29, 1904: 4.
2 Chicago was hosting its sixth RNC. The 1904 convention became the first of five straight to take place in the city. Through 2020, Chicago has hosted the event 14 times, though not since 1960.
3 Pulliam’s presence earned him a new $100 suit from Garry Herrmann. A friendly wager had been placed between the two over whether Pulliam would be in attendance for “Garry Herrmann Day” at his league’s rival ballpark. C.L. Doran, “Shower of Money,” Cincinnati Post, June 22, 1904: 5.
4 Jack Tanner, “Garry Herrmann Proves a Mascot for White Sox,” Chicago Inter Ocean, June 22, 1904: 4.
5 During the 1904 season, the White Sox lost three games or more in a row only five times.
6 The last time Cleveland traveled to Chicago for a Tuesday game was on June 2, 1903, when just 870 fans were in attendance.
7 In his next start on June 25, Owen lost to the Detroit Tigers without allowing an extra-base hit.
8 “Pitcher Donahue Signs,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 15, 1904: 6.
9 On June 22, the White Sox beat Cleveland 6-5 in 10 innings, and on June 23, Chicago again won by a 2-1 margin.
10 Roosevelt won 32 states with 56.4 percent of the popular vote and carried 336 of the 476 available electoral college votes.