Sunday, April 01, 2007

Eyewitness account of baseball history

One of the unintended benefits of my Red Faber biography project is hearing from people who have their own stories and connections to Faber or the White Sox. On Thursday, for example, I received an e-mail from a great-nephew of Red's second wife, Fran. During my research, I was unable to locate any of her relatives.

It has been nearly 74 years since Faber pitched his last Major League Baseball game. He retired at age 45 after the 1933 season, when he was the majors' oldest player.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised Saturday when I received an e-mail from someone who saw Faber pitch one of his last games. Merrill Smith Jr., the son of a former Dubuque sportswriter and Guttenberg (Iowa) editor, contacted me after reading the Faber biography. Now in his early 80s, and living in Florida, he shared a story of his own:

In 1933 I was 8 years old and went to the world's fair in Chicago. But the real highlight of the trip was that August 18-inning game between the Sox and the Yankees. I never believed the game was stopped because of darkness. It was really stopped because the Yanks had to catch the train.

I don't know about the train aspect, but it is true that on Aug. 21 1933, the White Sox and Yankees played 18 innings before the game was declared a 3-3 tie. After 4 hours and 11 minutes of play - remember, there were no night games in Chicago yet, and the contest started about 3 p.m. - visibility might well have been a factor.

I looked up accounts of that game. Some other interesting features that day:

  • The Yankees broke a scoreless contest with a run in the top of the ninth inning. The White Sox scored in the bottom of the ninth to send the contest into extra innings.

  • The Yankees scored twice in the 11th - and the White Sox again matched them in the bottom of the frame.

  • Over all 18 innings, neither team committed an error.

  • Faber, soon to turn 45, pitched seven scoreless innings and gave up only two hits.

  • The game featured no fewer than TEN future Hall-of-Famers, not including Babe Ruth, who sat out with an injury. (Yankees: Pennock, Lazzeri, Dickey, Gehrig and Sewell. White Sox: Dykes, Simmons, Appling, Lyons and Faber.) Pitcher Ted Lyons' contribution was as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning.

What a great game for any fan - let alone an 8-year-old boy -- to attend!

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