In 1901, at the very dawn of the American League, the Chicago White Stockings won the first of their six pennants after stealing their nickname from the crosstown Cubs (originally called the White Stockings). The pitching staff was anchored by manager Clark (the Old Fox) Griffith, who won 24 of 31 decisions. The infield was anchored--perhaps literally--by shortstop Frank Shugart, whose 73 errors make you wonder if he actually wore a glove, and the top run scorer (120) was inaptly named Fielder Jones. Three years later Fielder took over as skipper, and two years after that he guided the Pale Hose to the first of their three (1906, 1917 and 2005) world championships.
It was baseball's Dead Ball era, and the lifeless batsmen of '06 were called the Hitless Wonders. No player batted above .279 or hit more than two home runs. In fact, the team batted .230, yet the Sox rode a 19-game winning streak to a 93-58 record and slipped past the New York Highlanders for the AL title. In the Series the Sox were underdogs to the Cubs, who had finished 116-36. To the wonder of everyone but owner Charlie Comiskey, the Wonders won in six games. The South Siders didn't outhit the North Siders (.198 to .196) as much as outpitch them, relying on righthander Ed Walsh, the winner of Games 3 and 5. In his first start Big Ed struck out 12.
Baseball's alltime career ERA leader (1.82), Walsh became the franchise's iconic player of that punchless era. Since then numerous Chisox have come to embody the team's play during their decade or, in the case of Luke Appling, decades.
BIG ED WALSH, 1904-16
Of all the great pitchers whose careers were ruined by overwork, the spitball pioneer is at the top of the rotation. His sensational 1907 season--24 victories, 206 strikeouts, a 1.60 ERA and a league-leading 422 1/3 innings pitched--was surpassed by his '08 campaign, in which he went 40-15 with 269 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.42 in 464 innings. He wasn't just the team's ace starter (11 shutouts! 42 complete games!) but also its ace reliever (5-1 with six saves).
Alas, no other Sox pitcher did even half as well in '08, and Chicago's hitters had a combined batting average of .224 with three homers. Walsh pitched seven times in the final nine games, winning four and losing one. Two of those victories down the stretch were complete games--in a doubleheader.
In 1910, the year Comiskey Park opened, Walsh (1.27 ERA) was at his most unhittable. His teammates, however, offered no offense, which explains Walsh's 18-20 record and the team's finish: 35� games off the pace. He won 27 games in both '11 and '12 but racked up 761 innings. Once he faded, he faded fast: eight wins in '13, two in '14, three in '15 and none in '16.
SHOELESS JOE JACKSON, 1915-20
The Hitless Era became the Shoeless Era on Aug. 21, 1915, the day Chicago sent three players and $31,500 to cash-strapped Cleveland for Jackson. In the eighth season of his career and already tabbed the "greatest natural hitter" by Babe Ruth, Jackson immediately made the Sox a contender. Chicago won the pennant in 1917 and beat the New York Giants in the Series, four games to two.
In 1919 Jackson hit .351, and the Sox won the pennant by 3� games. Though heavy favorites to beat Cincinnati in the Series, they went down quietly in eight games. Even before the opener (won by the Reds 9-1) word spread that a fix was in (page 67). Jackson seemed above suspicion: After all, he batted .375 and hit the Series' only homer.