The gentlemen are topped in skimmers, the straw hats that crowned a crowd in a wooden baseball park. Or, if fall was in the wind, blowing off Lake Michigan or trailing along the Charles River, the gents topped off their coats and ties with black derbies. Mustaches were in vogue, the better to twist and twirl if the few demure ladies with their parasols happened to float past.
The National Pastime was a bastion of male persuasion in those days about a century ago. Did we say gentlemen? There were some on the premises, to be sure. But there, too, would be a gaggle of gamblers and sharps, puffing their cigars or spitting tobacco juice on the wooden stands. Their pleasures at the baseball matinee surely were heightened by a long lunch -- brats, beer and free hard-boiled eggs -- at the corner saloon where the spittoons and the conversations were brass.
It was in this atmosphere that the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox plied their trade on the bumpy ballyards of the early 1900s. They used thick-handled bottle bats, soft spheres fashioned from horsehide and little gloves of varying leathery hues.
The "ballists" of the era wore heavy wool uniforms and tiny caps, often with broad pinstripes, featuring the team insignia. Under their heavy colored socks, which in early days contained dye that could be dangerous if rubbed into an open wound, the players wore white "sanitary socks" for their protection.
Ah, yes, the socks. They led to the nicknames of several teams over the years. The Brown Stockings reflected the beery nectar of St. Louis. The Cincinnati Reds wore crimson hose, of course, perhaps mirroring the beety flesh of the good burghers.
Tale of the Tape
Red Sox vs. White Sox
|Red Sox||White Sox|
|Buffalo/Western League 1899|
|Sioux City/Western League, 1893|
|Americans, Puritans, Red Stockings|
|Cornhuskers, Saints, White Stockings|
Other terms of endearment
|Pale Hose, South Siders|
Years in the AL
Regular season wins
World Series appearances
|86 years (1918-'04)|
|88 years (1917-present)|
Hall of Fame players *
Rookie of the Years
|The Black Sox|
|Dirty Water, Sweet Caroline|
|Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye|
Transportation to ballpark
* Played majority of games for that club
Strangely, the Soxified teams of the American League were linked by more than nicknames. They also wore the shackles of long-standing inability to win the big one -- the World Series. The famous "curse" finally ended last fall for the Red Sox. But the White Sox jinx lingers on, and has since 1917.
That October, the White Sox, under the managerial reins of one Clarence "Pants" Rowland, downed the New York Giants in six games. These were the White Sox of the famed right-hander Eddie Cicotte, who won 28 games, and outfielder Happy Felsch, who led the dead-ball clouters with 102 RBIs and a mere six home runs.
This was also the team renowned for Shoeless Joe Jackson who, two years later, became enmeshed in the Black Sox scandal. These were Sox of a different and darker color, indeed.
In 1917, though, the White Sox skipped away from New York with the World Series title in the sixth game. A brief review of the the fourth inning is in order here, merely for the Giants' fielding woes, which put smiles on the faces of the Sox under their little caps:
Eddie Collins was safe on third baseman Heinie Zimmerman's high throw and right fielder Dave Robertson botched Jackson's fly ball. Zimmerman fielded Felsch's ground ball and Collins fled for home, Zimmerman in hot pursuit. Alas, Collins dodged past the catcher and the other infielders were noticeably absent as Collins won the race to the plate. Chick Gandil whacked a single for two more unearned runs and a 4-2 victory would enter the books.
One could only imagine how the fans at the Polo Grounds reacted to those shenanigans. The White Sox haven't looked like they've been dipped in so much lye soap since. You can bet your Aunt Gertie's mustard plaster on that.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.