Red Faber

From BR Bullpen

1916 M101-5

Urban Clarence Faber

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1964

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

1933 Goudey

Urban "Red" Faber was a career pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. He was a key player for the late 1910s White Sox teams, with his health and success having a critical impact on the team. He was the second-to-last man to throw a legal spitball in Major League Baseball, having been grandfathered when the pitch was banned after the 1920 season (fellow Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes was the last of the breed).

He was born near Cascade, IA in a family of immigrants from Luxembourg and grew up speaking German at home. His father became well-to-do and could send him to exclusive schools and to business college in Dubuque, IA. This is where he caught the attention of Pants Rowland, who signed him for the local Dubuque Miners of the Three-I League in 1909. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates late in 1910 and made their Opening Day roster in 1911, but was sent down without getting into a single game. He hurt his arm playing for the Minneapolis Millers that season, and learned the spitball from teammate Harry Peaster to compensate. At the end of the 1913 season, he was signed by the Chicago White Sox, did not play in the regular season, but then caught a break when he was asked to be a last-minute replacement for the great Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants on the World Tour between the two teams organized during the 1913-14 offseason. He pitched extremely well during the tour, and Giants manager John McGraw tried repeatedly to pry him from the White Sox, but in vain. Faber made his long-delayed Major League debut early in 1914 and immediately became a mainstay of the pitching rotation. Faber started three straight games for the 1917 White Sox; no major leaguer would copy that feat for 95 years, when Zack Greinke did it under unusual circumstances.

Red was at his best in the 1917 World Series, and probably would have won the World Series MVP award had it been given at the time. He threw a complete game victory in Game 2 and lost when the Sox were shut out in Game 4. He came on in relief on just one day of rest in Game 5, threw two scoreless innings, and was credited with the victory. He topped it off by pitching a series-clinching complete game victory in Game 6, again on just one day's rest. He is also famous for a baserunning blunder in Game 2, when he tried to steal third base even though it was already occupied by teammate Buck Weaver.

Faber threw just over 80 innings in 1918, losing the rest of the season to military service. Without Faber or star slugger Joe Jackson, the Sox slumped to a disappointing 6th place. Red came back in 1919 as the Sox won to another pennant, but he was sick with the flu (the notorious Spanish Flu which killed millions around the globe) and missed the tainted 1919 World Series.

Faber's unavailability may have indirectly contributed to the Black Sox Scandal. Without Faber, White Sox manager Kid Gleason had little choice but to leave conspirators Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams in his starting rotation even after he suspected them of throwing games. Had Faber been healthy, Gleason could have shifted to a rotation of Faber, rookie Dickie Kerr, and one of the conspirators (or even a two-man rotation of Faber and Kerr) as a way of minimizing the Black Sox's ability to throw games.

Faber bounced back from his 1919 troubles and generally difficult circumstances to put up some of his best seasons. His key pitch, the spitball, was banned starting in 1920, but Faber was one of 17 pitchers who were allowed to continue to throw the wet pitch. His spitball was as much a decoy as a real pitch, as he would often pretend to throw it while resorting to other pitches, keeping opposing hitters guessing as to when the spitball was coming; he used to chew tobacco on the mound to help him with the pitch, never using the stuff on other occasions (he was a dedicated cigarette smoker, however). The Black Sox conspirators were outed and banned from the game late in the 1920 season, leaving the team greatly weakened. And offensive levels soared as the Deadball Era ended and the Babe Ruth era began. Despite these trying conditions, Faber put up his best seasons, putting up 20 win, 300 inning seasons in 1920, 1921, and 1922. Although he never reached those heights again, Faber remained a productive, valuable pitcher well into his 40s, finally retiring after the 1933 season. After his playing career ended, he spent 1946 and 1948 as a Chicago White Sox coach.

His first Baseball Card appearance was in the 1915 M101-5 Sporting News set.

Quote: "Red wouldn't throw more than four or five spitters in some games. In fact, his best pitch was his fastball. He'd just keep the batters guessing." Ray Schalk.

Notable Achievements[edit]

1921 E121 Holsum Bread
  • 2-time AL ERA Leader (1921 & 1922)
  • AL Games Pitched Leader (1915)
  • AL Saves Leader (1914)
  • AL Innings Pitched Leader (1922)
  • 2-time AL Complete Games Leader (1921 & 1922)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 7 (1915-1917, 1920-1922 & 1926)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 4 (1915 & 1920-1922)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1921)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 10 (1915-1917, 1920-1923, 1925, 1928 & 1929)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1920-1922)
  • Won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 1917
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1964

Further Reading[edit]

  • Brian E. Cooper: "Urban Clarence 'Red' Faber", in David Jones, ed.: Deadball Stars of the American League, SABR, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2006, pp. 517-519.
  • Brian E. Cooper: Red Faber: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Spitball Pitcher, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7864-2721-5
  • Brian Cooper: "Red Faber", in Jacob Pomrenke, ed.: Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 42-46. ISBN 978-1-933599-95-3

Related Sites[edit]