Vol. 2 Luxembourgers in the United States: Red Faber

Urban Clarence "Red" Faber was born near Cascade, Iowa, on September 6, 1888 to Nicholas Faber and Margaret Gries. His grandfather, Jean Faber, sailed from Canach, Luxembourg and arrived in New York on June 29, 1846 aboard the 'Brig Amalia' with many other Luxembourgers. 

German was the primary language spoken in the Faber home and at the Catholic elementary school the Faber children attended. Nicholas Faber operated a tavern and later on opened the Hotel Faber. With his real-estate holdings and successful hotel, he became one of Cascade’s most affluent citizens. The Fabers could afford to send the children to out-of-town prep schools and colleges. Red Faber attended prep academies associated with colleges in two Mississippi River communities — Sacred Heart, in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and then St. Joseph’s in Dubuque, Iowa. In 1909, when he was 20 and studying at a Dubuque business school, he joined the college varsity of his prep alma mater, St. Joseph’s.

Faber’s performance for St. Joseph’s and semi-pro clubs caught the attention of Clarence “Pants” Rowland, former owner of Dubuque’s minor-league team and an acquaintance of Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey. Rowland encouraged Faber to sign with the Dubuque Miners, who were struggling in the Class B Three-I (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) League. Joining the team with two months left in the 1909 season, Faber went 7-6. In August 1910, during his first full season as a professional, Faber (18-19) threw a perfect game against Davenport; only one ball reached the outfield. The Pittsburgh Pirates bought his contract the next day.

Faber made the Pirates’ 1911 Opening Day roster, but manager Fred Clarke never used him and in mid-May sent him to Minneapolis of the American Association. Within days of his arrival in Minnesota, Faber entered a distance-throwing contest and injured his pitching arm. During his short stay in Minneapolis, Faber had a career-changing experience: Teammate Harry Peaster taught him the finer points of the spitball, which at the time was a legal pitch.

Within weeks the sore-armed Faber was shipped to Pueblo of the Western League. The young player worked on his spitter over the next 2½ seasons, first in Pueblo and then for two years with Des Moines of the Western League. In the closing weeks of the 1913 season, White Sox owner Comiskey bought Faber’s contract for 1914.

Faber’s offseason was abbreviated. In October 1913, at the urging of Rowland, Comiskey belatedly added Faber to the White Sox roster for the around-the-world exhibition tour with the New York Giants. The rookie-to-be performed adequately on the domestic leg of the tour, but Comiskey planned to drop Faber from the squad before departure for Japan, Australia, the Mideast and Europe. However, just hours before the teams embarked on their Pacific crossing, Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson, the most popular American athlete of the day, quit the tour because he feared becoming seasick on the journey. Comiskey and Giants manager John McGraw made an agreement: Faber was loaned to the Giants to take Mathewson’s place.

Faber took regular turns pitching against his future team. In the finale, in London, with King George V in attendance, Faber pitched tenaciously for 11 innings but took the loss. On the voyage back to the United States, McGraw tried to buy Faber’s contract. Comiskey refused.

Red Faber spent 20 seasons pitching for the Chicago White Sox, utilizing a strong fastball and impressive spitball. Wetting the tips of the first two fingers on his right hand, Faber threw the spitter from a variety of arm angles, befuddling batters with the pitch’s late-breaking downward movement.

Faber won 254 games during his career with 273 complete games. His career 3.15 ERA and 4,086 innings pitched were products of his low pitch counts. He won three out of the four decisions to help the White Sox win the 1917 World Series against the Giants, and he won 20-or-more games in a season four times.

Faber led the American League in earned-run average in both 1921 (2.48) and 1922 (2.81) – pitching more than 330 innings in both seasons. In 1920, he was one of four White Sox hurlers who posted 20-win seasons – the first team to ever sport four 20-game winners.

Faber retired in 1933 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

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