During my White Sox archaeological excavations, certain players have taken on reverential and referential status.
This is because of a feat or a nickname or a physical attribute or, yes, annoyingly frustrating and sustained incompetence or failure to meet expectations (sorry Royce Clayton and Adam Dunn).
Hollis “Sloppy” Thurston, who was born on this date in 1899, is one of those folks.
In fact, ol’ Sloppy gets a mention at almost every time I watch a Sox game.
Thurston is the only pitcher in White Sox history to strike out the side on nine pitches, aka an “immaculate inning.”
On Aug. 22, 1923 at Comiskey Park, the right-hander from Fremont, Neb., retired Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in the 12th inning in order, on strikes on nine pitches.
To paraphrase the famous cartoon “Baseball Bugs:” Beauty McGowan, 1, 2, 3 strikes yer out! Chick Galloway, 1, 2, 3 strikes yer out! Sammy Hale, 1, 2, 3 strikes yer out!
History wasn’t exactly a charm for “Hollie” that day even though he is the only hurler to go 9-for-9 in extras.
The 24-year old screwballer gave up a run in the 13th and took the loss in a 3-2 setback during a stretch in which the Sox would go nearly two months – TWO MONTHS – without winning back-to-back games.
Why the fixation on Sloppy?
There have been two more perfect games in White Sox history than immaculate innings.
There have been two more World Series titles in White Sox history than immaculate innings.
There have been six more walkoff grand slams in White Sox history than immaculate innings.
That’s how rare this is.
The immaculate inning also embodies one of the endearing qualities of baseball: Every player, no matter how obscure, holds some sort of record or distinction.
Sloppy pitched nine mostly non-descript seasons in the bigs from 1923 to 1933. While he was a 20-game winner, Thurston never played in the postseason or never won any major awards.
Sloppy Thurston, who gave up 1,859 hits in 1,542.2 big league innings, will always have his immaculate inning.
The immaculate inning also highlights another aspect of baseball I love: In every game, no matter how mundane, something incredibly special can happen. It could be so unique it may have happened before or never will happen again.
I have been practically begging for another White Sox immaculate inning.
After almost every strikeout, I check the pitch count. If a pitcher is within striking distance of striking distance of the feat, I will bellow out to I don’t care who’s listening: “He’s got a ‘Sloppy’ going.”
My obsession has even reached my co-workers. “Does he have a ‘Sloppy’ going, Dave?” is a question I will hear when strikes start piling up on a batter.
Invariably, when the streak is ruined, I will mutter: “You’re safe, Sloppy. … FOR NOW.”