“Tainted Winners”?

A close look at the 1919 season statistics reveals the Reds should have been favored to win the 1919 World Series.

(This is a condensed version of this portion this two page section of the book (pgs. 202-203)

One reason the White Sox would have been heavily favored was that the AL had won 8 of the last 9 World Series and they were the better known team. They won the WS in ’17 and had been strong contenders since 1916. They played in a major city and featured two great players in Eddie Collins and Joe Jackson.

The Reds had never won an NL pennant, and had spent most of the decade in the 2nd division. No one considered them pennant contenders in 1919. 

The White Sox would have finished 8 games behind the Reds had they played in the same league. The Reds won 96 games, the White Sox 88. The White Sox scored 90 more runs, but the Reds pitching gave up 133 fewer runs.

A position by position analysis also suggests the Reds should not have been underdogs:

1st base: Chic Gandil vs Jake Daubert: Both players were excellent fielders; both were in their 30’s. But Daubert was the better offensive player. Edge: Reds

2nd base: Eddie Collins vs Morrie Rath: Collins – a HOFer – is one of the three or four best 2nd baseman in history. Roth was a good glove, but had little power. Big Edge: White Sox

SS: Swede Risberg vs Larry Kopf: Neither Kopf nor Risbert had distigusihed careers, but Kopf had avery good year in 1919 – he was rated as the best clutch hitter in the NL and was a better fielder than Risberg. Edge: Reds

3B:  Buck Weaver vs Heine Groh : Weaver was an above average offensive and defensive player, but for several eyars i nthe late teens, including 1919, Groh was the best third baseman in all of baseball. Big Edge: Reds

C: Ray Schalk vs Ivy Wingo/Bill Rariden: Shalk is in the HOF, but is one of th more quesstional selections. He was an average hitter in 1919, and not nearly as productive as Ivy Wingo, the LH half of the Reds platoon. Edge: Even

LF: Joe Jackson vs Pat Duncan: Duncan was in his rookie year; the veteran Jackson was one of the top offensive players of his eara, and would certainly be a HOFer ifit wee not for his role in the scandal. Big Edge: White Sox

CF:  Happy Felsch vs Edd Roush: After Collins and Jackson, Felsch was the best player on the White Sox. He had good power and was a fine defensive player. However, the Reds had a better fielder in Roush; he also out hit and out slugged Felsch. Edge: Reds

RF: Nemo Leibold/Shano Collins vs Greasy Neal: Chicago platooned Leibold and Collins with decent results from Liebold. Neale was above average defensively and had little power. Edge: White Sox

Pitching:  Cicotte/Wiliams/Kerr vs Ruether/Sallee/Fisher/Ring/Eller: The veteran Cicotte (29 wins) ha da great year and Williams (23 wins) had a good year with big win totals that impressed the publc and sportswriters. Pat MOran spread out the starts over his deep rotation and while the Reds didn’t pile up the wins (Sallee’s 21 led the club), Ruther was nearly as dominateing as Cicotte and the other five starters were as effective as Williams. Edge: Reds

The Reds may have been a one year wonder, but they were a great team in 1919 and one of the best of the decade. That stature of the White Sox grew with the mythology of the scandal but based on the facts, their image as a great dominating team in 1919 is unwarranted. The Series win will always be tainted, but based on the 1919 season statistics, the Reds should never be remembered as unworthy winners.

All “Reds trivia” posts come from Greg Rhodes and John Snyder’s fabulous book, “Redleg Journal” (see link for purchasing) and are used with Greg’s permission.

Thanks again to Greg Rhodes for permission to use his material.