Thursday, May 26, 2016

Skitz Win Wednesday, Lucky History

The Biscuits pulled one out of their assorted back pockets, Johnny Field bending a long fly ball around the fair pole to tie the game and then Kean Wong knocking in a run to walk off winners in the tenth.

Chris Kirsch started and pitched very well, giving way to the pen after seven strong innings. It was a merry Kirsch-mas indeed as the Lackawanna Lefty piled up six strikeouts.
Brad Boxberger

Rehabber Brad Boxberger had no problems in the 8th, pitching a clean inning with one punchout.

Beleaguered relievers Schrieber and Ames each dealt out a run but it was Jeff Ames turn to benefit from the late rally to pick up his third win of the year.

Schreiber gets a postgame handshake from Dick Bosman


The Burgers for Burger-Fest were large and delicious, and a dollar cheaper than my usual choice, so that was great! Brad Boxberger was nice to talk with even though I could tell he was abit tired, he signed a baseball for me and when I brought up his dad's no hitter Brad said "Isn't that going back a ways?"

Yeah, it is a minute, but thats just how I roll! haha

Speaking of history stuff, I have a nice piece that I would like to share for the History Week. I put this out a few seasons ago in segments, about a notable Montgomery player that few people would recognize. 

He is a World Series hero, one of the few ever to lead Montgomery in Home Runs in Back-To-Back seasons, the All Time leader in Games Played in the Minor Leagues. Involved in two curses, suicides and death-defying high dives, the story is a little long but I find it one of the most interesting tales of any Montgomery player.


Looking again at the 1909 Climbers roster, one of my fave topics, George Whiteman is a name that doesn't stand out to the casual observer, but is one of the most interesting characters on the team, and perhaps in all of baseball.

George was known as "Lucky", a name perhaps brought with him after his first career - daredevil. The Climbers outfielder would go on to star in the RedSox last World Series before the Babe is traded and is one of, if not the most prolific minor leaguer in history.

SABR describes him as a "cross between Roy Hobbs and Crash Davis" and he is forever linked with Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Tris Speaker.
He is connected with two curses and a string of pennants and championships.

Among the nicknames he garnered during his career are "Chief", "Whitey" and "Bandit Pete" but Lucky seems most appropriate for this man and the events of his life, which included winning a batting championship, a world series title and repeatedly taking teams to the top of the standings.

George was born in Peoria Ill in December of 1882 to a German immigrant mother and presumably, a father.

Little is known about his early life, but it is thought he was brought up in that small town setting, likely until he was able to make his own way.

That way was as a diving daredevil.

Beginning in his teens, he and his partner would appear at carnivals and fairgrounds, diving from a tower into a barrel of water. When George's partner was killed in a dive, the act fell apart and Whiteman looked for a new career. 


George Whiteman with Boston
George "Lucky" Whiteman came to baseball late, at age 22. The outfielder-third baseman quickly begain putting in over a hundred games annually, starting in '05 with Waco, then Cleburn and two seasons in Houston.

In 1906 with Cleburn, Lucky won a pennant and a batting title in just his second season. His .281 average was second on the Railroaders, but the team leader didnt get enough at bats to qualify for the league title so Whiteman won it even though he trailed by over a hundred points!

It was in the following year that he joined the Houston Buffaloes, where he was not so lucky to find that he had to split time in the outfield with a teenage Texan named Tris Speaker.

Whiteman clubbed five homers and hit pitchers for a pedestrian .242 pace with Houston, yet the RedSox were desperate for warm bodies and scouted Lucky to join them in Boston. Luckily for Boston, Buffaloes owner Doak Roberts wanted out of the baseball business and demanded the RedSox take young Speaker along with Whiteman the top prospect, or no deal.



1907 was the first of Lucky's trips to the big leagues. Whiteman got into four September games at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.

spacious outfields were often ringed by fans, in play!

Beginning September 13th, George Whiteman appeared twice as a pinch hitter and twice in the RedSox outfield where he handled his two chances cleanly and also picked up his first two career hits and first career RBI.

Future HOF Tris Speaker, the throw in

Tris Speaker also made his first foray into the lineup the day before Lucky, on September 12th, at just nineteen years of age. He would stay in the game for twenty-one more seasons, not a bad throw in to the trade.

Cy Young 1908
On the other end of the spectrum was the veteran of the Boston pitching staff. 40 year old Cy Young would win 21 games for the lowly Sox to lead the team in victories. Young wasn't anywhere near done yet though, winning another 51 games over the next four seasons on his way to that staggering 511 career wins.

Young had spent a week managing the Boston team, and three other managers would fill out the lineup card for the Red Sox - just before the season began Chick Stahl, manager of the team, committed suicide under very mysterious circumstances.

Chick Stahls death may have resulted from Stahl being told to cut Collins from the team. The subject of Stahl's last words "I couldn't help drove me to it..." remain a mystery.

The season went downhill quickly after that.

Other than Young, the Boston Americans pitchers lost more games than they won. The team batting average was a paltry .231, six of the regulars hit less than .245. Only the 100+ loss Washington Senators were worse than Boston in the standings that September.

The Sox had dealt an aging Jimmy Collins to Philly, Collins would be elected to the HOF in the 1940s, creating an opening on the roster for a fourth outfielder. Collins, the first Boston manager, had been suspended multiple times and given the manager chair over to Stahl after 1906.

Scout George Huff signed both Texas league prospects to fill the Boston outfield needs. Boston was the perfect situation for a Texas League player to break into the big leagues.

1908 saw Lucky back with Houston when Boston didn't bring him back after his cup of coffee with the Red Sox. In Houston, Whiteman had a nice season - hitting .271 with six homers in over five hundred at bats. That summer Whiteman made a pitching appearance in relief, earning his only career victory on the hill.

Lucky Whiteman makes it to Montgomery in 1909, a fresh start from his four straight tours in the Tx League.

However he would see improved levels of pitching he was facing, and offered up a considerably lower average than his previous numbers - batting just .237 with a pair of home runs the first season. His eight triples suggests that he had opposite field power, which in Montgomerys park leads to a spacious portion of the outfield with plenty of room to run.

Your 1910 Montgomery Climbers, Whiteman front row second from left
Champ Osteen
While with the Climbers the long time outfielder starts making appearances at third base, taking over in 1910 when regular third baseman Champ Osteen was injured sliding into second base.

Osteens injury was a break for Lucky, who got into more games by playing a second position. He saw his appearances rise from 128 games to 141, second only to Osteen. Though at the plate his average dipped he smacked 15 doubles and 10 triples.

November 23, 1910, the Atlanta Constitution reported that George was sold to the Mobile Gulls for “the measly sum of $400.” Apparently, he wasn’t getting along with some of his teammates.

Once the former daredevil left the Climbers and the Southern League behind, he signed with Missoula but appeared in just under two dozen games before coming home to the Texas League. Lucky takes up with Houston again, and after a bad season in 1911 he regains his batting stroke.
In 1912 Whiteman puts up his first career .300+ average, slugs .425 and bangs out 25 doubles on his way to a career year.

Back again in 1913 with Houston, Lucky play in over 150 games and enjoys the success of every day play when it attracts the eyes of big league scouts. This time its the Yankees who are interested in Lucky.

Former Cub great Frank Chance skippers the Yankees at the Polo Grounds, not yet the Bronx Bombers - this '13 edition is made up of names like Birdie Cree and Ezra Midkiff. Well on the way to losing 94 games, the Yanks are playing out the string when Lucky shows up.

1913 New York Yankees - can you find Lucky?
Whiteman has his best major league totals while with New York, getting 11 hits in 11 games at a .344 pace. Lucky also swipes two bases, takes seven walks and is credited with a pair of sacrifices. He scores runs, hits the ball and runs the bases well.

Whiteman also miffs two of the 32 chances hit his way in the outfield, earning his first career errors.
George Whiteman with NY

Its back to the minors, but this time its a step up - Double-A baseball in Montreal. He would spend two seasons in the International League with the Royals, feasting on pitching as he posted batting averages of .313 and .312. Eight home runs and twenty doubles in 1914 turned into 14 homers in 1915 as Lucky led the league in round trippers and runs scored. With numbers like that, the big leagues might soon be calling again.

In 1915 as the season wore down, Lucky got a chance to play in New York again, though this time it was the outlaw Federal League that wanted him. The Brooklyn Tip-Tops were interested, and George even jumped his contract to join them, but never appeared in a game.

John McGraw is said to have expressed interest in the former daredevil diver, but it was back to the minors for Lucky, where he signed on with Louisville for 1916.
1916 Louisville would win another Pennant for Lucky

After the championship campaign in Louisville where he hit .273 he was brought back and resigned, but it took all of three games for Lucky to decide to head back north. He spent the rest of 1917 in Toronto, helping the Maple Leafs to the International League title by batting .342. Another pennant for Lucky.


Things are about to change for George "Lucky" Whiteman, and for the rest of America. World War I has sapped many teams of players, but 35 year old Lucky Whiteman is too old for drafting into the service.

At the start of the spring Toronto sells his contract to the RedSox for $750. There is speculation that Sox owner Harry Frazee and Whiteman are friends, being both from Peoria and both about the same age.

For the first time, Lucky will spend the entire season on the big league roster. He plays 71 games,

1918 Boston Red Sox - Whiteman center row, third from left
This time however, its not on a team playing out the string in seventh place. The 1918 Red Sox win twenty more games than they lose and take the American League pennant easily. It was a great team powered by hard hitting pitcher Babe Ruth.

Ruth pitched and played outfield, sharing left field patrols with Lucky Whiteman. Lucky swiped nine bases, hit .266 and drove in 28 runs.

Mogridge served it up
Late in the summer, during the last game of the season - the second game of a labor day doubleheader during the final road trip to New York, Lucky hit his first and only big league home run. It came off of Yankees lefty George Mogridge at the Polo Grounds. It was a solo homer in the top of the second inning, and ties the game at one run each. Lucky was batting cleanup that afternoon, and rewarded skipper Ed Barrow for penciling him into the lineup.




“I’m lucky against these left-handed pitchers. No one is figuring that I’ll do much in the Series and you know it’s the unexpected fellow who usually does the heavy work.” 
George Whiteman - Sept 1918

1918 Cubs Sluggers
 When the Cubs met the Red Sox in the 1918 Fall Classic, all eyes were on the big pitchers on both teams. Ruth was the #3 pitcher for a Sox team that featured Carl Mays, Sad Sam Jones and Bullet Joe Bush - opposing them was Hippo Vaughn's Cubs, a team running away with the National League, winning almost two games for every loss.

Game One Ticket
Ruth started the first game of the series on the mound for the RedSox, giving Lucky the start in the outfield. The Bambino only won 11 games and spent more time in the field, but Boston manager Barrow wanted to start the lefty Ruth vs the Cubs.

Lucky rapped two hits in four trips with his father in attendance, his first time seeing George in a major league game. His Dad traveled from Texas to see Lucky, who had a big moment with a hit over the shortstop to move a runner into scoring position - that runner would later score the games only run as Ruth pitches a shutout.

Game Two ticket
Again Lucky gets the start hitting fourth, Whiteman triples and walks in three at bats, plus he drives in a run. But Lucky grounded into a double play, and Lefty Tyler defeats Bullet Joe Bush as the Sox lose in Comiskey to the Cubs evening the series at a game apiece.
Cubs pitcher Lefty Tyler

Game Three ticket
Whiteman again batting cleanup as Ruth rides pine, watching Lucky as he gets hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and scores after a pair of Boston hits. Whiteman also robs Paskert of an extra base hit in left field. Lucky steals a base off of the Cubs Hippo Vaughn and the Red Sox take a two games to one advantage home to Boston.
Cubs James Hippo Vaughn

During the 1918 World Series, players on both teams met with each other to discuss the lacking compensation owners were giving as World Series shares. As the shares were pretty much equal to most players annual salary, it was a bone of contention among players when it was felt that they were getting shorted, due in part to low attendance.
Players demanded more, and refused to play unless it was given.
How serious were they? When players get to Boston the first game there is delayed an hour until players were assured that they were getting the money they expected to get from owners.

From the start of game four onward, there are those who point to certain actions by players in the series and statements by others about the possibility of the Cubs throwing games. 

World Series souvenir

Babe Ruth pitches again. Lucky hits fourth again.
In his second plate appearance Whiteman takes a walk and after a groundout erases the runner ahead of him, Lucky stands at second base as the worlds greatest power hitter steps to the plate. Cubs manager Fred Mitchell elects to have Lefty Tyler pitch to The Bambino.

Cubs mgr. Fred Mitchell didn't issue walks

Not quite the Hollywood result though not far from it - Babe drives the ball to deep right center field - banging it against the wall and dropping onto the outfield grass. Lucky scampers home with the first run of the game and Ruth ends up at third with a triple.

Whiteman would tap back to the mound in the sixth and in the 9th inning he would leave the game.

Down just one run in the ninth, Babe allows a hit to Merkle and walks the Cub third baseman as well, forcing a pitching change by putting the potential tying and game winning runs on base.

Ruth was removed as pitcher and shifted to left field, replacing Lucky Whiteman.

Bullet Joe Bush comes on to pitch and when the Cubs fail at a sacrifice, Bush gets a ground ball double play to end the game and push the Red Sox to needing just one more win.

Bullet Joe Bush - deadball era bullpen specialist

1918 Grandstand ticket
Lucky's success has given him the cleanup spot in the batting order and today he helps the Red Sox in the field as well. Whiteman makes a diving catch in the top of the first and threw to second to catch Hollocher before he could get back - double play. Later he would thow Hollocher out at the plate in the seventh inning.
Charlie Hollocher Chi

At the plate Lucky would add to his hot series numbers with a seventh inning single, but the Red Sox would fall to the Cubs 3-0.

With Boston, Lucky Whiteman was a big leaguer for a full season for the first time, found himself batting cleanup and playing left field for a team with Babe Ruth as his backup, and only one win removed from a World Championship.
Ruth/Whiteman LF listed fourth in batting order on 1918 World Series scorecard

George was the oldest player on the Red Sox nine and in the series only Cubs outfielder Dode Paskert is older than Whiteman's 34 years. For Lucky, this is the biggest moment of his career - far removed from the Texas League, his time as a Climber at Cramton Bowl and the minor league success of Montreal.  Having played at so many levels, making so many stops and finding teams with success at nearly every turn, perhaps Whiteman knew what was within grasp. Perhaps it drove him, motivated him. Perhaps he knew the Cubs were in on the fix, or knew that he might not get another shot at a world series title, or he just wanted to play to impress.

First at bat for Lucky, when a groundout leaves runners at second and third, the Cubs decide not to walk Whiteman with first base open, instead pitching to him with runners in scoring position.
As a reward to the Cubs for thinking he was an easy out, Lucky drives a well struck ball to the outfield where it is misjudged and dropped - two runs score on the error and Whiteman stands at first having supplied the Sox with a two run lead.

Lucky then tries to push his luck - while on first base, McInnis singles to the shortstop - after a long run to corral the ball, the shortstop throws the ball to first but the speedy McInnis has beaten the toss. However Lucky has rounded second and heads for third. Cubs first baseman Fred Merkle makes an historic mistake but it isnt here - the alert infielder throws to third where Lucky is thrown out easily. The final out of the inning.
Whiteman thrown out at third

In the fourth inning, Lucky is unable to throw out a Cub runner at the plate and the lead is cut to just one run.

At the top of the eighth inning with the RedSox still up just one, a Cub pinch hitter leads off with a sinking liner to left that Lucky races in to grab. Diving to make a shoestring catch just inches off the ground, Whiteman makes the out as he rolls into a somersault. Lucky realizes something isnt right when the next hitter lifts a popup between him and the shortstop, after the play he will remove himself with an injured neck.

Boston will deploy his backup - Babe Ruth. Lucky comes off the field to a roaring ovation from the 15 thousand Fenway fans. Red Sox pitcher Carl Mays retires the next four batters he faces and the Boston Red Sox defeat the Chicago Cubs in six games to win the 1918 World Series.

There is no celebration on the field. 

George Whiteman was the hero of the World Series. Writer Hugh Fullerton called him "greater than Cobb". Children followed him, newspapers wanted interviews.

There was no MVP voting for the World Series in 1918, but consider that Babe Ruth had shared a bat during the Series with Lucky, and afterwards gave it to Whiteman, along with his first Boston uniform, to thank him for veteran leadership in teaching the Babe how to handle outfield duties when not pitching.

Boston owner Harry Frazee announced after the World Series that the Red Sox would be keeping George Whiteman in 1919. Then the war ended. In February Babe Ruth signed to return to Boston, and Lucky Whiteman was placed on waivers, with the purpose of giving him an unconditional release.

After hearing of his availability, Toronto secured the veteran to play left field once again. Lucky hit .302 with 39 doubles in 1919 and held out for more money the next spring. He got it, and rewarded the team with a .271 average as the Maple Leafs won 108 games.

In July of 1920 it was known that Lucky would not return to Toronto the following season.

In 1920 Lucky took on a new task, managing the Houston Buffaloes as well as playing left field back in the Texas league.

1921 Houston Buffs
Hitting .280 with Houston that year and working an agreement with Branch Rickey to be an affiliate of the StLouis Browns, becoming the first affiliated minor league team. 38 year old Lucky Whiteman would stay in Texas as a player manager for another ten seasons.

Lucky would spend 25 games in the PCL with the Oakland Oaks in 1923, then back to the Texas League to split time between Wichita Falls and Galveston. Always putting in over a hundred games a year, always hitting the ball well - Lucky posts batting averages over .270 every season after his World Series appearance until his final year.

At age 46 Lucky hits .267 and knocks ten home runs for Winston-Salem in the Piedmont League before hanging up the spikes for good. When he does finally walk away, he does so as the career leader in minor league hits, third all time in doubles and third all time in triples.

He is also at the top of the list of games played in the minor leagues - a record that still stands seventy-four years later.

In 3,282 minor league games, George Whiteman collected 3,388 hits, had 671 doubles, 194 triples, stole 556 bases and batted .283 over 24 seasons.

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