They stood and cheered Hod Eller on October 5, 1919. Even Chicago White Sox fans had to tip their collective caps to the Cincinnati Reds’ ace pitcher, who had just struck out six in a row during Game 5 of the 1919 World Series. Eller fanned the side in the second and then did the same in the third. It’s a World Series record that still stands.
A baseball, said to be used by Eller that day, is now seeing the light of day, for the first time in 103 years.
Workers turning the buildings that once housed the offices of the Chicago Tribune into luxury condominiums ran into three old metal boxes that had been placed in cornerstones of the building. Inside one of them was a darkened old ball, coming apart at the seams.
The mystery of what it represented was solved when a letter inside an envelope was also discovered.
The letter was written by Tribune sports editor Harvey Woodruff in 1920.
“This baseball was used by Pitcher Horace (Hod) Eller of the Cincinnati Reds in the fifth game of the World’s Series baseball contests of 1919 against the Chicago White Sox,” he wrote.
Woodruff went on to detail some of the finances of the Series, which would be tainted by the revelation that some of the Sox players—including a couple of them Eller had struck out—had conspired with gamblers to give the Series to the Reds.
The ball even retains a small spot believed to be the residue of paraffin wax Eller was known to use on his “shine ball,” at a time when the spitball was still legal.
The baseball and the letter were shown at a news conference late last week. It will go on display at a nonprofit event at the Chicago Sports Museum next week. What happens to the ball after that will be up to the building’s new owners.
According to the Chicago Tribune, over 100 items were discovered in the trio of time capsules that were uncovered. Many of those items will go on display at the Chicago History Museum.