Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Why no Faber in the "Black Sox" Series?

In a listserv discussion the other day, some baseball researchers were comparing notes on why Red Faber did not play in the 1919 World Series which, as we all know, was "thrown" by eight of his teammates. Since I have just spent three years researching Faber's life and career, a SABR member asked me if I had any insight into the question. My reply:

Faber had a bout with influenza – apparently, part of the Spanish Flu pandemic – about the time he was leaving the Navy in 1918-19. He lost about 30 pounds, and in his weakened condition he tired easily and lost velocity and movement on his pitches. As early as spring training, newspaper accounts reported that Faber did not look well. In his season preview, I.E. Sanborn of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Faber, who combines both youth and experience in ideal quantities, was expected to have his best year this season, but for some reason which neither he nor any one else can understand he cannot deliver the goods.” Faber did not pitch well throughout the season. His ERA ballooned to 3.83. His winning record (11-9) could be attributed to the fact that he had the American League champs playing behind him. Sometime in late summer he reportedly suffered an ankle injury. After a five-week layoff, in a test of his preparedness for possible World Series duty, Faber earned the victory – but was shellacked by the Athletics in a slugfest. The White Sox kept him on the World Series roster, but he rode the bench throughout.

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