This article was written by Kevin Larkin
Game Five of the 1917 World Series was back in Chicago and the winner would be on the cusp of a championship. Skipper Pants Rowland’s White Sox had taken the first two games of the fall classic in the Windy City, but John McGraw’s Giants came back to take Games Three and Four at the Polo Grounds. Despite playing on the road, the Giants were favored by bettors.1
On the hill for the visiting Giants was southpaw Harry “Slim” Sallee, who had lost Game One to Eddie Cicotte on October 6. Sallee was a 10-year veteran who had after the 1917 regular season a record of 138 wins and 118 losses. Making his first start in the Series for the White Sox was Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell. Russell, like Sallee, was a left-hander and during the 1917 regular season he finished fourth on the White Sox with 15 wins, behind Cicotte (28), Lefty Williams (17), and Red Faber (16).
The 27,323 fans in attendance watched Russell walk the leadoff hitter, George Burns, with four pitches wide of the plate. 2 A double by second baseman Buck Herzog advanced Burns to third base and he scored on Benny Kauff‘s double that had Herzog going to third base. Kauff continued his hot hitting; he had hit two home runs in Game Four on Thursday.3 Rowland wasted little time and replaced Russell on the mound with Cicotte. A fielder’s choice by Heinie Zimmerman resulted in Herzog being thrown out at the plate by Buck Weaver. Kauff advanced to third base and he too was thrown out at the plate when Art Fletcher grounded to third baseman Fred McMullin, who threw home to catcher Ray Schalk. Dave Robertson hit for Jim Thorpe (the former Gold Medal-winning athlete from the 1912 Summer Olympics), and he singled to score Zimmerman, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead. Chicago came back with a run in the third inning on a walk to Eddie Collins and Happy Felsch’s two-out double.
In the fourth inning the Giants broke through the White Sox lines with Cicotte in trouble and his supporting cast in danger of breaking into countless fragments.4 Bill Rariden singled through the hole between second baseman Collins and first sacker Chick Gandil. Then after a round of applause as he approached the plate,5 Sallee sacrificed Rariden to second base. He scored when Shano Collins erred trying to pick up a ball hit to him by Burns. Burns scored the second run of the inning when Weaver fumbled Herzog’s groundball and Gandil made a throwing error to Cicotte on a grounder by Kauff; it was Chicago’s third error of the game. Zimmerman grounded to McMullin at third base to end the frame with the Giants ahead 4-1. Sallee had allowed the White Sox just two hits at this point.
Neither team scored in the fifth inning, and after a scoreless top of the sixth, the White Sox hit three straight singles that had Weaver scoring their second run of the game.
Swede Risberg had pinch-hit for Cicotte in the sixth inning and Claude “Lefty” Williams, in only his second full major-league season, took over in the top of the seventh. Williams gave up a double to Fletcher to lead off the inning. Williams made an error (Chicago’s fourth of the game) on a bunt by Robertson and the Giants had runners on first and second with no outs. Williams struck out the side, but not before Rariden’s single scored Fletcher and made the score 5-2.
Sallee was still on the mound for the Giants when Chicago came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sallee got Eddie Collins out easily, on a popup to shortstop. It then got interesting when Shoeless Joe Jackson stepped to the box. Home-plate umpire Silk O’Laughlin called Sallee’s first pitch a ball. That brought about loud protests from both Sallee and Rariden.6 Shoeless Joe singled on Sallee’s next pitch, and Felsch sent him to second with another single. Both scored on Gandil’s double to center field. Weaver’s grounder to shortstop sent Gandil to third base and a walk to Schalk put runners at first and third with two outs. Schalk stole second base and when Herzog muffed Rariden’s throw, Gandil scored the tying run and Schalk advanced to third base. Sallee struck out Byrd Lynn, pinch-hitting for Williams, to end the inning with the scored tied, 5-5.
Red Faber replaced Williams on the mound in the top of the eighth and retired the Giants in order. In the bottom of the inning Shano Collins singled and went to second on a sacrifice by McMullin. Shano Collins scored on Eddie Collins’s single to center. Jackson singled to center; Kauff’s throw to third attempting to cut down Eddie Collins was late, and when Heinie Zimmerman threw wild to second, Collins scored. The White Sox led 7-5. Sallee was replaced on the mound by Pol Perritt, who gave up a single to Felsch that made the score 8-5.
Now the game went into the ninth. Faber came back to the mound to close it out. He got Fletcher on a grounder to shortstop and Robertson on a fly to left, and faced Giants first baseman Walter Holke with a chance to give the White Sox a three-games-to-two lead in the Series. Holke fouled off several pitches and then hit a groundball to McMullin at third base. McMullin gloved it and threw to Gandil at first base for the final out of the game.7
Now both teams were headed back to the Polo Grounds for Game Six with Chicago needing just one more win to clinch the Series title.
There was an interesting side note to Game Five. It was the first time McMullin, Jackson, Felsch, Gandil, Weaver, Cicotte, Risberg and Williams all played in the same game. These were the infamous Black Sox, who were all banned from baseball on August 3, 1921, by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. A ninth player in Game Five was also banned by Landis: the Giants’ Benny Kauff. Landis ruled Kauff ineligible for his part in a scheme with his brother involving stolen cars received at a Manhattan automobile accessory business they owned. Kauff was acquitted on the charges but Landis called the acquittal a miscarriage of justice and banned Kauff from baseball in 1921.
In addition to the game story and box-score sources cited in the notes, the author consulted the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites’
1 “Giants Favored Over White Sox in Series Betting on Eve of Fifth Game,” New York Times, October 13, 1919:10.
4 Grantland Rice, “Giants Routed After Leading Up to the Seventh,” New York Tribune, October 14, 1917: 17.
5 “Detailed Account of Game by Innings,” New York Times, October 14, 1917: 20.
6 Walter Trumbull, “Umpire’s Ruling a Factor,” Chicago Tribune, October 14, 1917: 17.
7 “Detailed Account of Game By Innings.”