Cicotte's 29 Wins in 1919
By David Marasco
The topic of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago Black Sox surfaces
from time to time on Rec.Sport.Baseball. One of the justifications
that is given for the fix is that Charles Comiskey, owner of the
White Sox, underpaid his players. One story that is often repeated
is that he sat star pitcher Eddie Cicotte rather than allow him to
attempt a 30th victory, which would have triggered a bonus clause in
Do the facts back up this tale? In 1919 Eddie Cicotte did indeed fall
just one win short of thirty. But was he benched or did he simply come
up short? I hit the microfilm to comfirm what I've heard in the past, that
the Comiskey/Cicotte story is a myth. I make no claim to original research,
just that I did a little homework so that there would be a URL available for
this topic in future times.
On September 19, 1919, Cicotte faced Waite Hoyt of the Boston Red Sox and
pitched a complete game to win three-two. This was his 29th (and last)
victory of 1919.
On the 20th the White Sox played two against the Red Sox. Obviously Cicotte
should not be expected to pitch in either game. He didn't. Claude Williams
started against Babe Ruth in game one. Ruth hit his 27th homer of the year.
Dickie Kerr got the nod in the second game against Herb Pennock.
On the 21st-23rd of September the White Sox played no games. According to
an article in the September 24 edition of the Chicago Tribune, Cicotte went
to his farm near Detroit after he pitched his game in Boston. He would have
been allowed to stay there for a few more days if the White Sox had clinched
against the Red Sox. Instead he was to appear in Chicago on the 24th to pitch
against the Browns.
The headline for that games reads "Cicotte Routed In Clash That Nails Flag For
Sox, 6-5." Cicotte started poorly, giving up three runs in the first and then
another in the third. He was yanked in the seventh when he gave up back-to-back
triples that pushed the score to five to two. He was replaced by Dickie Kerr.
The Sox put up a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh, and were able to
push across two more in the home half of the ninth to clinch the American League.
The next three days saw Williams, Sullivan and Noyes get starts. On September 28,
the last day of the season, Cicotte took the mound on three day's rest. In poor
weather, Cicotte started and lasted two innings. He only gave up three hits and
a run, and left leading the game two to one. The White Sox would go on to lose by
a final score of ten to nine.
Why yank Cicotte after only two innings? Thirty wins seems to have been a big deal
to only Cicotte and Comiskey, the Chicago Tribune never made a mention that Cicotte
was closing in on that barrier. The game was on September 28. The first game of
the World Series was October 1. That means that when Cicotte took the mound for
Game One, he was working on two day's rest. It certainly makes sense not to let
Cicotte go deep into the last game of the season, it was meaningless, when Game One
is hanging above your head.
Note that according to a
chronology published on the web, Cicotte was in on the fix on September 19, 1919,
the day that Cicotte won his 29th game, but before he had any knowledge of whether
or not he would be given a chance to go for thirty.
Was Comiskey cheap? He had the reputation. Did Cicotte fall just shy of thirty wins
in 1919? Yes. Was this because he was benched? No.
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