White Sox's most explosive inning buried Senators in 1943

Luke Appling finished second in the 1943 American League Most Valuable Player voting.
Luke Appling finished second in the 1943 American League Most Valuable Player voting. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

The biggest, most productive inning in Chicago White Sox history was met with a collective yawn in 1943.

The Chicago Tribune crammed a barely noticeable five-paragraph story on the game on the third page of its sports section. It was positioned to the right of "Dick Tracy" and "The Gumps" comic strips and on top of an advertisement for a $3.42 bottle of Three Feathers blended whiskey.

The city of Chicago and the world, understandably, had more important things on its mind on the morning of Sept. 27, 1943, than a White Sox-record 13-run inning in a 15-3 victory at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The most prominent front page headlines in the Tribune that day, after all, were "Russians Fight to Ring Kiev," and "American Troops and Tanks Gain in Naples Drive," as World War II in Europe was still two years away from its conclusion.

The lead story in the sports section was the Chicago Bears' season-opening 21-21 tie with the Green Bay Packers in front of a then-Green Bay-record crowd of 23,675. Also rating more attention was the Chicago Cubs' doubleheader split with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Wrigley Field.

Yes, White Sox fans, some things never do change.

The Chicago White Sox have had some massive innings in their history.

Thanks to the White Sox's 11-run inning in a 17-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday at Great American Ballpark, though, it is appropriate to give the overlooked events of 80 years ago the spotlight it deserves.

The 13 runs the White Sox scored on Sept. 26, 1943 (a Sunday afternoon) in the fourth inning of the first game of a doubleheader in our nation's capital is a franchise record.

The Sox scored 12 in an inning in a 15-4 win over the Philadelphia Athletics in 1952. The Sox have now scored 11 in an inning three times. The first two times (before Sunday in Cincinnati) were against the Kansas City Athletics in 1959 and against the Kansas City Royals in 2007.

The 13 runs in the fourth inning against the Senators in 1943, in front of a crowd of 12,000, came out of nowhere.

It was a White Sox team that finished a respectable 82-72-1 for manager Jimmie Dykes, in fourth place in the eight-team American League, 16 games behind the pennant-winning New York Yankees.

But it was also a White Sox team that struggled to score runs over nine innings, let alone one.

The 1943 Sox averaged just 3.7 runs a game, the third-fewest in the American League. Its 33 home runs were the second lowest (the Philadelphia Athletics hit just 26), and 508 RBI and .320 slugging percentage were all second-fewest in the league.

Detroit's Rudy York, for example, hit more home runs (34) than the entire White Sox team combined. The Yankees' Charlie Keller hit 31. First baseman Joe Kuhel led the Sox with five.

The White Sox did have future Hall of Fame shortstop Luke Appling in 1943. Appling, 36 years old in 1943, would lead the league in hitting at .328 and finish second in the American League Most Valuable Player voting to pitcher Spud Chandler of the New York Yankees.

Appling, though, hit just three homers and scored just 63 runs for the White Sox in 1943 despite 192 hits and 90 walks, and a league-leading .419 on-base percentage.

The Sox in 1943, of course, like all major league teams, were missing key players who were serving in the military. Among the players missing from the Sox lineup in 1943 were hitters such as Dario Lodigiani, Taffy Wright, Myril Hoag, Bob Kennedy, and Dave Philley. Also gone were pitchers Johnny Rigney and Ted Lyons.

The White Sox of 80 years ago were great in one-run games (31-16 record) but were also just 14-18 in games decided by five runs or more. They pounded the bad teams, going 42-24 against teams under 500 (the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Athletics).

Scoring 13 runs on the road in one inning and winning 17-4 against a Washington Senators team that would finish second in the league (84-69), therefore, just didn't make sense.

The White Sox's fourth inning against 23-year-old Senators' righthander Early Wynn (a future White Sox Cy Young Award winner 16 years later in 1959) started slowly. Wynn got Appling to pop out to shortstop John Sullivan to open the inning.

The next out in the inning would take a bit longer to arrive.

Wynn then allowed back-to-back triples by Ralph Hodgin and Kuhel (his only triple of the year) as the Sox took a 1-0 lead. Skeeter Webb followed with a RBI single and promptly stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Washington catcher Tony Giuliani.

Mike Tresh singled to right field to score Webb for a 3-0 White Sox lead and Sox pitcher Eddie Smith followed by singling Tresh to second. Smith's single knocked Wynn, who went 10 innings against the Yankees a week earlier, out of the game after just 3.1 innings.

Jim Mertz, a 26-year-old rookie who would not pitch in the major leagues after 1943, relieved Wynn. Mertz struggled with his control, walking Wally Moses to load the bases. Thurman Tucker then singled in Tresh and the rattled Mertz then walked Guy Curtright and Appling for two more Sox runs.

Mertz was taken out of the game with the White Sox now up 6-0 in favor of reliever Bill Lefebvre. The White Sox, which led the league with 173 stolen bases in 1943, didn't allow the 27-year-old Lefebvre to get comfortable.

Before Lefebvre could throw a pitch to Ralph Hodgin, all three Sox baserunners took off. Tucker stole home, Curtright stole third and Appling stole second for a rare triple steal as the Sox took a 7-0 lead.

Hodgin then doubled in both Curtright and Appling for the eighth and ninth runs of the inning. Kuhel followed with a bunt single to move Hodgin to third and Webb grounded out to short, scoring Hodgin for a 10-0 lead.

Tresh made it 11-0 with an RBI single and Smith then hit the only home run in his 10-year career (531 at-bats) for the 12th and 13th runs of the inning.

The 13 runs came up just short of the American League record at the time (since 1901) of 14 runs in an inning by the Yankees in 1920 against the Senators.

The major league record for runs in an inning (since 1901) is now 17 by the Boston Red Sox in 1953 against the Detroit Tigers. The Texas Rangers scored 16 in an inning against the Baltimore Orioles in 1996 and the Brooklyn Dodgers scored 15 in an inning against the Reds in 1952.

The White Sox's 13 runs against the Senators came on 10 hits, an error, four stolen bases, and three walks. The Sox's 11 runs on Sunday against the Reds, by comparison, came on eight hits and three walks.

Lefebvre would finish the game for the Senators, going 5.2 innings and allowing 10 hits and six runs. Wynn took the loss to fall to 17-12 on the year. He would recover from the 13-run inning to beat the Cleveland Indians three days later to end u at 18-12 with a 2.91 earned run average for the year.

The final five hitters in the Sox order (Hodgin, Kuhel, Webb, Tresh, and Smith) were a combined 15-for-23 with 11 runs scored and 11 RBI. Smith, an All-Star in 1941 and 1942 despite going 20-37 combined in those two seasons, had three hits for the only time in his 282-game career.

The Sox would lose the second game of the doubleheader that day at Griffith Stadium, 5-2, scoring twice in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Tucker and Curtright.

The Sox and Senators would play another doubleheader the very next day with the Sox winning both games.

The White Sox would play four doubleheaders in a row, sweeping the Athletics in Philadelphia on Sept. 25, splitting with the Senators on Sept. 26 and earning a sweep on Sept. 27, and then splitting with the Yankees in New York on Sept. 29.

The White Sox were no strangers to doubleheaders in 1943. The Sox, in fact, set a major league record that season by playing in 44 doubleheaders. Almost half the double headers (18) were forced by rainouts. They were 46-42 in their 88 doubleheader games on the year.

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