Red Faber: When spit was legal (stories from the minors)

Red Faber was a spit-baller and proud of it. Pitching at a time when rubbing some saliva on the baseball was accepted, Faber was a dominant right-hander with the Chicago White Sox. He won three games for Chicago in the 1917 World Series, which the Sox won in six games over the New York Giants.

Faber also lost a game in that World Series and is still the only pitcher to have been involved in four

Red Faber

World Series decisions.

He spent the 1911 season with the Wichita Jobbers/Pueblo Indians and was 12-8 with a 1.87 ERA. Faber debuted in the big leagues in 1914 and won 254 games, which is tied for 43rd in baseball history. He also ranks 39th in innings pitched (4086.2) and 59th in complete games (273).

And he attained much of his success with a spit ball that was outlawed by major league baseball after the 1920 season. At least MLB announced it was outlawed; many pitchers continued to use a more subtle spitter for years.

Faber reportedly went to the spitter after suffering an arm injury during the 1910 season, when he pitched in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League with Dubuque, his hometown. So it was as a pitcher for Wichita in 1911 that he first broke out the wet pitch.

Even after the spitter was banned, though, Faber had success. In fact, two of his best seasons with the White Sox were in 1921 (25-15, 2.48 ERA, 32 complete games) and 1922 (21-17, 2.81 ERA).

Faber was 23-13 for a 96-56 White Sox team in 1920 that included three other 20-game winners: Eddie Cicotte (21-10), Lefty Williams (22-14), and Dickey Kerr (21-9). A season later, the White Sox stumbled to 62-92 but Faber’s 25 wins were the most of his big-league career.

He was, typical of the era for pitchers, an iron man. In the 1917 World Series against the Giants, Faber won Game 2, 7-2, with a complete game. On three days rest, he started Game 3 and was beaten by New York, 5-0.

Faber returned for two innings of relief in Game 5 and got the win with two perfect innings.

And just two days after that, at the Polo Grounds in New York on Oct. 15, Faber again went the distance, allowing only six hits and two runs as the White Sox won a tight one, 4-3.

Legendary Giants manager John McGraw saw enough of Faber in that World Series to last a lifetime and expressed his admiration to reporters after one of the right-hander’s performances.

“That fellow has a lot of stuff,” McGraw said, according to baseballreference.com. “He’s got the best drop curve that I’ve seen along the line for some time. And his spitter is a pippin’, too.”