One of the reasons the White Sox lost the 1919 World Series, at least in the manner they did, was the absence of Red Faber. Faber missed most of the 1918 season while serving in the Navy in World War I, and he showed up to spring training in 1919 weakened by influenza. It’s not quite clear if he suffered specifically from the Spanish flu that ravaged the globe, but the effects were the same. The illness knocked him down, and ankle and arm injuries prevented him from getting back up over the course of the season. The hero of the 1917 World Series didn’t get to pitch in the Fall Classic two years later, and Ray Schalk insisted that the Sox wouldn’t have been able to throw the series with a healthy Faber heading the rotation.
This came to mind when seeing that the Field of Dreams Game will still take place on Aug. 13, albeit with changes. Instead of featuring the White Sox and Yankees, the White Sox will instead play the Cardinals. We’ll see what kind of attendance will be permitted for the 8,000-seat ballpark, although given that Iowa is on the travel advisory list of some states due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to make plans.
Faber came out of the Black Sox scandal untarnished and recovered to compile a Hall of Fame career, so he wasn’t a figure in the book or movie. If Faber were among those implicated, I’d imagine him coming out of the cornfield, limping, wheezing and urging everybody to get out before it’s too late.
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One of the reasons the Major League Baseball Players’ Association settled for a 60-game season without any bells and whistles was to retain its right to file a grievance. It’s a right that looked less valuable than it once appeared, because the final 10-game gap between the sides probably wouldn’t be enough to move the needle. Then again, that threat might have moved Major League Baseball away from the minimum schedule it could impose (48 games), so it appeared that both sides got something out of their posturing.
But then Rob Manfred up and appeared on Dan Patrick’s radio show and proved that the players were right to prioritize their ability to grieve.
“The reality is we weren’t going to play more than 60 games no matter how the negotiations with the players went, or any other factor,” Manfred told Patrick.
Eugene Freedman, a labor lawyer who has written about the negotiations for FanGraphs, said Manfred “made an admission against interest. He admitted his earlier proposals were never intended to reach agreement. That’s a violation of the best efforts provision.”
Freedman has generally sided with labor throughout the proceedings, but he previously said that Manfred did well for owners by diminishing the power of the grievance card, so he hasn’t been spinning every event in favor of the MLBPA. Also, he wasn’t alone.
Manfred later tried to add that the pandemic limited the schedule to 60 games …
“I think this is the one thing we come back to every single day: We’re trying to manage something that has proven to be unpredictable and unmanageable. I know it hasn’t looked particularly pretty in spots, but having said that, if we can pull off this 60-game season, I think it was the best we were going to do for our fans given the course of the virus.”
… but rationales for bargaining behavior can’t be established ex post facto. At the time both sides exchanged proposals, any concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic took a backseat to whether players could be paid less than their full prorated salaries.
Perhaps Manfred is counting on the pandemic making any kind of season impossible, which would make any number-of-games debate moot. Still, it baffled me then, just as it baffles me now, that the league didn’t heavily stress public health in its lobbying for a more compact schedule, because nobody could have debated the greater safety in fewer games. It also baffled White Sox union rep James McCann, and now the owners could be scratching their heads if this quote ends up coming back to bite them.
(Photo by Jana Taylor)
Nightengale with an attempt to help Manfred with the cleanup:
The second “spike” came to effect almost by the end of the negotiations. So the bad faith premise is still on.
I guess “if you build it, he will come” has limits.
I didn’t follow this saga very closely but with what little I did, seemed the owners never had any trouble running out the clock.
Too late, Bob. Damage done.
I think as long as the potential of a grievance is out there it will be a bargaining chip for the union during the CBA negotiations. The fact that pro-MLB journalists feel compelled to help Manfred show me that MLB knows it still is a potential problem for them.
Red Faber was from nearby Cascade, Iowa. There are signs noting that it’s Faber’s birthplace on US 151 as you enter town. I drive through it when I go to Dyersville from my home in Grinnell.
Have you ever been to the Red Faber Museum?
I have not. The only baseball museum in Iowa I’ve been to is the now-defunct Feller museum in Van Meter. I had low expectations but was quite pleased with the range of artifacts.
Didn’t the players’ first proposal call for 114 games and having the regular season go until Thanksgiving? And didn’t this proposal come after the players had initially said they were concerned about the safety of playing during a pandemic? This contradiction could be more problematic for the players than Manfred’s statement is for the owners.
I think the players are safe because they moved off the 114-game number. The league didn’t really move from the number of games it wanted to pay players for, which was 50something, and they started negotiating when there was time for 80-plus games.
Kopech a no show at camp dealing with a personal matter…. happy Friday!
Thanks for bringing up this overlooked a but important fact about the 1919 Black Sox . I like to think the if Faber had been healthy he would not have gone along with the fix. It would have been nice to have seen a least 2 other Sox from the 1919 team in the HOF . Joe Jackson and Eddie Ciciotte along with Faber, Eddie Collins and Ray Schalk . If 1919 had not happened it might have been a start of a baseball dynasty.