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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sox Natural Law, Not Curses
by Hal Vickery

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column describing and giving a few examples of H. Vickery’s law.  This is a natural law that states in simple form what we all instinctively know about the Chicago White Sox:  “When anything good happens to the White Sox, disaster will soon follow.” 

This is not the same as a curse.  A curse is a product of the imagination.  No one with more than a first grade education believes in curses (which probably explains the beliefs of Cubs and Red Sox fans).  A billy goat responsible for a curse that has lasted nearly 60 years?  Poppycock!  But the players who hear fans invoking such curses are liable to have that in the back of their minds when they begin their inevitable choke, and that just speeds the process. 

Sox fans know better.  However, you do have to admit that something is at work that allows disaster after disaster to befall the White Sox, just as they teeter on the precipice of greatness, something always happens to cause them to fall off the cliff. 

As I’ve already stated, these disasters are not the product of a curse but the result of natural forces that are as inevitable as gravity.  You jump up, you come back down.  The Sox look great, a disaster brings them down. 

Tribune writer Bob Vanderberg, who has written a couple of excellent books about the Sox, sees merit in this.  For natural laws to be accepted there has to be empirical evidence.  I presented some of this evidence in my column two weeks ago.  Bob emailed me some of his evidence that the H. Vickery’s law does, in fact, exist and has operated on the White Sox for decades.  We’d like to thank Bob for providing these additional examples. 

Here are some of Mr. Vanderberg’s citations of the law in action.  I’ll add appropriate commentary as necessary. 

1972:  Bill Melton injures his back falling off a ladder in the off-season.  As Mr. Vanderberg states, “Any other franchise, Melton stays healthy all of '73 and the Sox win the division and you never have an Oakland A's dynasty.”  

Comments:  You can’t get any more disastrous than that.  Melton led the American League in home runs.  The Sox acquired Dick Allen in the off-season which would have given the Sox one of the great one-two punches in the game.  Allen had an MVP year in 1972.   

But instead of Melton’s bat providing addition punch, his playing time was limited to just 57 games, and the Sox were forced to acquire the services of Ed Spiezio who hit a whopping .238 with 2 home runs.  Speizio was out of the game in 1973.  The A’s rather than the Sox ended up with the dynasty. 

1973:  Injuries to key players continue to seal the fate of the guys in red pinstripes.  Mr. Vanderberg notes:  “Any other franchise, Henderson doesn't tear up his knee and Allen doesn't break his leg and the Sox win the division (maybe more) in '73.” 

Comments:  Henderson was a pretty good centerfielder who was capable of hitting homers in double digits even at old Comiskey Park.  He only played in 73 games in 1973 because in late May he tore up the knee in a play at the plate. 

In June, it was Allen’s turn.  In a play at first base, he cracked a fibula and missed most of the remainder of the season, appearing in just 72 games.  At the time of these injuries, the Sox appeared to be ready to mount a challenge to the A’s for dominance of the AL West. 

1955:  Dick Donovan goes down with appendicitis.  Mr. Vanderberg reminds us, “Any other franchise, Dick Donovan doesn't get appendicitis when he's 13-4 on the last day of July, 1955, with the Sox in first place.” 

Comments:  On July 31, the Sox were in first place over both the Indians, who had was an AL record 111 games in 1954 and the Yankees, who had won five straight AL championships before the Indians displaced them in ’54 and who had still managed to win 103 that year.  Donaovan, who had come over during the off-season from the Tigers was the staff ace at that point, surpassing even the great Billy Pierce.   

That was the day that Donovan’s appendix sealed the fate of the Sox.  He underwent an emergency appendectomy and missed several starts.  When he finally came back, the magic was gone.  He went 2-5 and the Sox dropped to third place. 

1954:  Knee injuries knock out two key players.  Mr. Vanderberg:  “Any other franchise, and Ferris Fain doesn't tear up his knee and miss the rest of the season, and George Kell doesn't hurt HIS knee and miss 6 weeks in '54, and maybe the Sox, not Cleveland, win those 111 games.” 

Comments:  The Sox had one of the great pure hitters in the game in first baseman Ferris Fain, and one of the great glove men at third base in Hall-of-Famer George Kell.  Both went down with knee injuries in 1954.  As a result, Fain played in only 65 games and Kell in just 71. 

In addition to that, and to make the disaster complete, Billy Pierce, as he put it, “was a little sore that year.”  Manager Paul Richards was forced to give him extra rest, and he only pitched 188⅔ innings that year.  

We’ve already discussed what the Indians and Yankees did in 1954.  Now consider this.  The 1954 White Sox finished in third place with 92 wins – with Fain and Kell sitting out over half the season.  How would the Sox have performed with Fain, Kell, and Pierce all healthy, and what would that have done to the pennant race? 

Bad things don’t happen when things look the brightest for the Sox.  Disasters happen.  The loss of Magglio Ordoñez and Frank Thomas is just the latest in a series of disaster that further prove the validity of H. Vickery’s law.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

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