Friday, July 22, 2005


July 22nd, 1912

Eddie Cicotte Purchased by White Sox

This one is a move that can filed under "Well, that was nice while it lasted," but more on that in a moment. Prior to being sold, Cicotte had been a pretty good pitcher on-and-off for the Red Sox as far back as 1909 but his inconsistency caused Boston to let him go for the waiver price. Cicotte was one of the first, quite possibly the first, to throw a knuckleball, although much of his success was attributed at the time to his "shine ball." Cicotte's shine ball (different from that of Dave Danforth) worked via Cicotte rubbing one side of the ball in the dirt and then the other on his pants to create a differentiating effect between the two sides that alternated crazily when the ball was delivered. Cicotte vigorously denied this however, claiming that it was "no exaggeration to say that out of 100 average balls [he throws], 75 are knuckle balls." He claimed further that "the so-called shine ball is a pure freak of the imagination."

However he was doing it, Cicotte came to the White Sox and became, while not necessarily a more consistent pitcher than he had been in
Boston, at least one whose highs were much higher (he led the league in ERA in 1917 and wins in 1917 and 1919) and whose lows were just league average pitching. However, due both to Charles Comiskey's greed (he forced his manager to bench Cicotte down the stretch to prevent him from reaching thirty wins and the $10,000 bonus Cicotte was due on reaching that feat) and Cicotte's loose morals "Knuckles" agreed to join the 1919 World Series fix.

In Game One, Cicotte famously hit Reds' lead-off man Morrie Rath to confirm the fix and would go on to pitch poorly (three and two-third innings, 6 runs, 7 hits) and although his performance in Game Four seems better (9 innings, no earned runs) both of the Reds' two runs--the margin of victory--came after an error on should've-been-easy-play by Cicotte. He finally redeemed himself in Game Seven--the series was best of nine that year—when, with the fix possibly off due to a lack of funds, Cicotte threw a complete game, scattering seven hits while giving up just one run. The Sox would lose the series in Game Eight however.

In the course of the investigation into the fix Cicotte was the first to confess, although he would later recant the confession and demand a trial. For the waiver price then, the White Sox got several effective seasons but at the extreme cost, due to a variety of factors, of a pitcher who was willing and able to play a major role in the throwing of a World Series and would later be a crucial factor in unraveling the plot. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

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