The Mystery of the 1906 White Sox

How Did a Club with a .230 Batting Average Win it All?

It was incredible.

The 1906 Chicago White Sox hit a meager .230 as a team and won the American League pennant. Then, they rolled a powerful Chicago Cubs team in six games to win the World Series.

How did they do it?

Offensively, the '06 White Sox line-up wasn't exactly an early version of the '27 Yankees "Murderers Row":

Billy Sullivan C .214 avg./.262 obp

Jiggs Donahue 1B .257 avg./.320 obp

Frank Isbell 2B .279 avg./.324 obp

George Davis SS .277 avg./.338 obp

Lee Tannehill 3B .183 avg./.254 obp

Bill O'Neill OF .248 avg./.301 obp

Ed Hahn OF .227 avg./.335 obp

Fielder Jones OF .230 avg./.346 obp

On the bench, player-manager Fielder Jones had guys that hit .258, .233, .196 and .135.

Along with compiling the lowest team batting average in the league, the pennant-winning White Sox also finished last in hits, home runs, slugging percentage and total bases. Even though this was during baseball's "dead-ball" era, a time when batting averages were at historic lows, the White Sox were a poor hitting team. The last-place Boston Americans hit seven points higher as a club and registered almost hundred more base hits over the course of the '06 campaign than the Sox.

Dubbed the "Hitless Wonders" by the Chicago press, the White Sox were blessed with a dominat array of pitching. Led by 22-game winner Frank Owen and 20-game winner Nick Altrock, the team's earned-run-average for 1906 was a miniscule 2.13.

After facing staff aces Owen and Altrock, league batters had to face Ed Walsh (1.88 era), Doc White (1.52 era) and Roy Patterson (2.09 era). White Sox pitchers allowed the fewest number of earned runs (460) and were the stingiest in the league in allowing free passes (255).

The eventual World Champs may not have been getting their hits but the opposition was having an even tougher time getting on-base in their turn at bat.

It's true, outstanding pitching was the main reason why the White Sox won the pennant and World Series in 1906. But to win games, a team needs to score at least a few runs and the Southsiders did some other things well to compensate for their lack of hitting punch. For starters, they were a hustling team that played smart. They were opportunistic, swiping 216 bases, good for 3rd in the league, an incredible number considering the team's overall lack-of-hitting.

The '06 White Sox were patient at the plate, leading the American League in walks. The team was loaded with guys who could drop a great bunt and were tops in sacrifice hits. And they weren't afraid to "take one for the club" and led the Junior Circuit in hit batsmen.

The White Sox finished 2nd in the league with a .963 fielding percentage, so they weren't killing themselves by making a lot of bonehead plays on defense. When it came to intangibles, they were a determined bunch and didn't give an inch or let-up on the field.

The Sox got out of the gate slowly in '06 and were 7.5 games out-of-first at the end of July. An incredible 19-game winning streak in August moved them into first place; after a tough September race with Cleveland and New York, the White Sox crossed the finish line as league champs.

No one gave them much of a chance to beat the cross-town Cubs in '06 World Series. Backed by potent hitting and outstanding pitching, the Cubbies roared to a 116-36 record for an all-time best winning percentage of .763.

Everyone knew the White Sox were toast.

Everyone, that is, but the White Sox themselves.

The Cub juggernaut never materialized. Despite the fact that the White Sox only hit .097 in the first four games of the series, they hustled and scratched their way a couple of wins. In game five, helped by new ground rules at the Cubs' West Side Park, the White Sox smacked several doubles into the roped-off, standing-room-only crowd that ringed the outfield and won, 8-6.

In the sixth game, they rocked a tired Mordecai Brown (who had already pitched two complete games in the series) and beat the shocked Cubs, 8-3 to win it all.

Hubris probably played a large part in the Cubs' downfall. After all, the "so-called "experts expected them to crush their weak-hitting opponents. But the White Sox had certain strengths (great pitching, good defense, sound fundamental skills, a fierce determination to win) and kept hustling, like they had done all-season long. No one thought they'd win the pennant, either.

When the dust cleared, late in the afternoon of October 19, 1906, the Chicago White Sox were World Champions.

Not a bad ending for a bunch of hitless wonders.

Published by Christopher Williams

CAREER HISTORY Along with being a regular contributor to Yahoo Voices, I am a staff historian/writer for "The Baseball Almanac" website and a contributor to "Phillies Nation," a websit...  View profile