Sunday, June 19, 2011

WSC Vintage: Lefty Williams

Card #39 - Lefty Williams

Claude Preston "Lefty" Williams owns a World Series record and he is solely responsible for that. Lefty was the first player to lose three games in a single World Series, a feat which would be equaled , honestly, in 1981, by George Frazier.

Williams intentionally lost each game that he started in the 1919 World Series. For his part, he received $5,000, which was almost double his salary that year. The repercussions of that decision were not immediate, but they would be permanent.

Claude started his MLB career with the Detroit Tigers in 1913. He appeared in six games over two years for Detroit and found himself with the Sacramento Bees in 1915. There, he turned a corner and pitched well enough to have his contract purchased by the White Sox for the 1916 season.

He made the most of his second chance and helped the Pale Hose win the World Series in 1917. The next year, he joined teammates Joe Jackson and Byrd Lynn in the shipyards, in order to fulfill their military duties, but still stay close to their families. This created a rift between Williams and Charles Comiskey. Many ballplayers who chose this path were considered cowardly and were blacklisted for a short time. A sixth place finish in 1918 convinced Comiskey that he acted rashly and reinstated his blacklisted players.

In 1919, Lefty had his best season, sporting a 23-11 record and recording a career low 2.64 ERA. He had also started a Major League high forty games in 1919. Williams was one of the lowest paid players on the Sox, so the temptation to make easy money must have been great. Rumors of the Cubs throwing the World Series in 1918, and getting away with it, sealed the deal for most of the players involved.

1920 continued to shine brightly for Lefty. He compiled a 22-14 record, on his way to another pennant race. Williams would not be available to finish the 1920 season. He and his co-conspirators were pulled from the roster on September 27th. Claude confessed to taking part in throwing the 1919 World Series, but was acquitted in a court of law. He and seven other White Sox players received a lifetime ban from organized baseball shortly after the acquittal. Lefty continued to play on barnstorming teams and in outlaw leagues, but never again saw the success of the majors.

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