All About Pants


The last time a Chicago team won three straight in a World Series before last night was 1907, when the Cubs swept the Tigers 4-zip in a five-game set (you could look it up). If the White Sox go on to win the championship — take nothing for granted, sports fans — the name of manager Ozzie Guillen will be forever joined to that of Pants Rowland.

Sox cognoscenti — Lydell, I expect that’s you — will recognize the name of the South Side nine’s last title-winning manager. First, this is just more proof of the oft-lamented fact that the quality and color of baseball nicknames is in a sad state of decline. The ’17 Sox were loaded, moniker-wise. In addition to Pants, they had Shoeless Joe, Shano, Buck, Happy, Chick, Nemo, Swede, Ziggy, Birdie, Lefty, Red, Reb, and Knuckles. This year: Hmmm. They’ve got El Duque. And The (Non-Playing) Big Hurt. Other than that, a bunch of Dustins, A.J.s, Scotts and Jermaines — though mixed with non-nickname handles like Timo, Tadahito, Pablo and Raul that would never have been on a 1917 big league roster.

But let’s get back to Pants. According to one online account, the tag dated from his Iowa boyhood: "Rowland started in baseball at age nine, where he earned his nickname, ‘pants,’ from base-running antics while wearing his father’s overalls at games of the Dubuque Ninth Street Blues." Eventually, he became a minor league manager in Peoria. Then, perhaps because his services came cheap, a quality highly valued by Sox owner Charles Comiskey, he wound up in Chicago for four years; he was bounced a year after winning the Series. After that, he became an American League umpire and later president of the Pacific Coast League. Given the high quality of PCL talent and the rapid growth of the league’s franchise cities, his dream, apparently, was to establish a new major league on the coast.

He died in 1969, age 91, in Chicago. This Associated Press obit from The New York Times has the story. Both the subject and the way it’s handled are throwbacks.

(Photo above: Sox hurler Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte, left, and manager Pants Rowland, c. 1915-18. From George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-133664.)

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Obligatory White Sox Post 2

Faithful Correspondent Lydell yesterday pointed out some interesting online mercantile activity involving White Sox tickets. The team’s Web ticket exchange had a bunch of Game 2 seats for sale. Top price, when I looked: Just under $10,000 per seat. There’s a lot more serious cash out there — heirloom jewelry being sold off, ancient mattresses getting raided for Grandpa’s rainy-day savings, big lines of credit getting tapped — than I ever imagined. The Sox ticket exchange says all the listed tickets are gone. But check out Chicago Craigslist: Someone offering tickets for the Houston games at anywhere from $1,900 to $2,300 a seat. (And on the other end of the spectrum: A buyer offering to pick up tickets for face value — the range is $125 to $185, which sounds almost modest — generously pointing out that tonight’s predicted rain would kill the scalpers’ market.)

By way of perspective, the eight Sox players indicted for throwing the 1919 Series were reportedly bribed something like $5,000 to $10,000 each.

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Obligatory White Sox Post

One sort of obvious statistical things I haven’t heard the broadcast guys talk about is the long roll the White Sox are on. Going back to the last week of the regular season, they’re now 13 out of 14, the only loss coming at home to the Angels in the first game of the second round. The run includes a sweep of the Indians, who had looked like they might be ready to overtake the Sox; a sweep of the Red Sox in the first round; and the 4-1 rout of the Angels. All this from a team that had gone into free fall after the first week of September (losing 10 of 14 at one point and with a record of 7-12 for the 19 games before they learned how to win again).

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At the end of a truly crummy day, Kate and I watched the finish of the Cardinals-Astros game. The Cards were down two runs with two out in the ninth and no one on when Fox flashed a graphic for Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday in Chicago. Looking out at the TV from the kitchen, I thought the graphic depicted the Astros logo alongside the White Sox logo.

“Jinx,” I said. “They jinxed it. The Cardinals are going to win this one now.”

David Eckstein, the Cards’ shortstop and Little League lookalike, fought off a pitch from Astros’ closer Brad Lidge and rolled a single into left.

“See,” I said. I was thinking of Game 6 of the ’86 World Series, when Gary Carter came up for the Mets in top of the 9th and the Red Sox an out away from their first title since 1918. Kate was a Mets fan and was sad to see her team about to lose. We were watching at our friends Larry and Ursula’s house in the Sacramento suburbs. “Not over,” I told Kate. Carter lined a single to center, and the game and the Series turned out not to be over.

Jim Edmonds batted for the Cards and walked. Two on. Albert Pujols coming up. But still, the odds for the Astros: Their nearly unhittable closer on the mound. An out away from winning. The run that could kill them in the batter’s box. A threat, but more potential than imminent.

Pujols swung and missed a breaking ball low and outside. The next pitch stayed up and over the middle of the plate. When Pujols hit it, everyone knew. A replay showed Astros’ starter Andy Pettite jerking his head to follow the flight of the ball. You could read his lips: “Oh, my gosh.”

What I like best about crowd photography — sporting events, political rallies, concerts — is to search the faces of the extras, the people watching people launch the winning shot or make the speech or sing the aria, for the hopes and expectations and foreknowledge and fears there. During a replay of the Pujols home run, which turned out to win the game, Kate pointed out the woman in left of the frame. She’d had two or three seconds to take in what just happened. In an instant, she gets more dramatic and puts her hands on her head. For now, she’s just shocked.