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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

The Law of Sox Fandom
by Hal Vickery

For years I’ve been noting that the success of the Sox has been governed by something called H. Vickery’s law which says, “If something good happens to the White Sox, it is a certainty that disaster will surely follow.”

If you’re not sure that you believe this, please note the following examples:

• 1906: The Sox win the World Series over the Cubs.

1907: After giving his players a bonus for this, Sox owner Charles Comiskey decides that the “bonus” was actually an advance on their 1907 salary. The players are enraged, and the Sox fail to win another pennant for eleven years.

• 1917: The Sox finally win the World Series again.

1918: World War I breaks out. Most of the Sox roster ends up in the military or playing for shipyard teams. The Sox finish in sixth place.

•1919: The team is back together again after the end of the war, handily win the American League pennant, and are odds-on favorites to win the World Series.

1919: Up to eight Sox players, disgruntled with Comiskey and looking for a big payday, throw World Series.

•1920: Undetected as yet, the Sox are in a rousing battle for the pennant with their four starting pitchers (Ed Cicotte, Lefty Williams, Red Faber, and Dickie Kerr) all winning at least twenty games.

1920: With one week left in the season, the Black Sox scandal breaks, and eight players are immediately suspended, costing the Sox any chance of winning the pennant. The eight players are eventually permanently banned from playing, and the Sox go into a forty-year swoon.

•1959: The Sox finally win another pennant.

1960: Bill Veeck decides that the Go-Go Sox as constituted cannot beat the Yankees. He loads up on power hitters by trading away the cream of the Sox farm system to beat the Yankees at their own game. The Sox finish third and wait another forty-seven years before winning again.

And those are just the examples involving pennant winners. I could have mentioned how J. Louis Comiskey built a potential winner in the late 1930s only to see Jackie Hayes go blind and Monty Stratton blow off a leg in a hunting accident.

I could have mentioned how Louis Comiskey’s widow, Grace, rather than following her late husband’s wishes and willing the majority of the team’s stock to their son Chuck (who actually put together the ’59 pennant winners), instead willed it to their daughter Dorothy (who couldn’t have cared less about owning a ball club). The result was the Comiskey’s selling the club to Veeck.

There is a lot more that I could mention, but the point is that the Sox never seem to have any kind of run of good luck. Yes, they did finish over .500 for seventeen consecutive seasons in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but for all of that they only managed that one pennant in ’59.

Now the Sox have won the World Series. Will H. Vickery’s law rear it’s ugly head again, or it be proved a fallacy? Personally I’m hoping for the latter, but the way the Sox have started the 2006 season, there could be a disaster in the making.

So far there are ominous portents of things that might be. For example, there is the terrible start that lead-off man Scott Podsednik has had. It took him five games to get his first hit. He is coming off surgery for a “sports hernia,” and managed only twenty-two at bats in spring training. Right now, he is essentially having his spring training during the regular season.

Then there is Jermaine Dye’s strained calf that has kept him out of the lineup since game two. Between this injury and Podsednik’s slow start, the Sox have had to use Alex Cintron and Rob Mackowiak in the outfield. This of course leads one to question the decision of the Sox to carry nine infielders and three outfielders, a fact noted by Ken Harrelson during Saturday’s telecast of the Sox game at Kansas City. That could be a recipe for disaster.

The pitching staff has its share of potential for disaster, too, starting with Freddy Garcia. Garcia’s fastball has yet to reach ninety miles per hour. He claims not to be injured. So where did his velocity go? The shelling Jon Garland took Friday night in Kansas City also makes one wonder. The bullpen hasn’t exactly been stellar so far either.

Harrelson brought up another interesting fact. All of the hullabaloo at the beginning of the season has kept the Sox players from getting into their normal pre-game routines. As Harrelson noted, “Instead of looking at the clubhouse bulletin board and seeing the same old thing, they’re looking at it to see what’s new.”

That’s part of what happens when you win it all. In addition, the Sox now have the disadvantage of everybody gunning for them. They’re like the guy in the old westerns who kills the gunslinger with the biggest reputation. Everyone trying to make a name for himself ends up going after him. He ends up not having a moment of rest.

We’ve seen just that in the first five games of the 2006 season. Cleveland came to town with a chip on their collective shoulder. They resent the fact that the Sox kept them out of the playoffs last year. They had their rear ends handed to them opening night. They’d had enough and took the series, not helped by Garcia’s lack of velocity or the use of Boone Logan in the bullpen.

When the Sox came to Kansas City, they were gunning for the Sox, too. They shelled Garland and got lucky against Cliff Politte. But when you’re going against the top gun, you don’t necessarily have to have skill. Sometimes you just get a lucky shot.

If H. Vickery’s law is to be proved false, the Sox have to be just like that gunfighter in the old westerns. There is no time to rest on your laurels. They always have to be alert for somebody trying to make a reputation.

Will disaster strike in 2006? I don’t think so, but I’ve been around the Sox enough to know that it could happen. It has in the past.


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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