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WSI News - Season Features

 2000 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
June, 2000.  Dreams of another championship season leads WSI to provide Sox Fans this special look back at 1959 from the author of "Strength Down the Middle"!

Exclusive to White Sox Interactive, by Larry Kalas

Author of Strength Down the Middle, the story of the '59 champion White Sox

1959 - Chicago Baseball Remembered

Forty years had elapsed since Chicago last won the American League crown in 1919. That team became known as the 1919 “Black Sox” and would live in infamy as eight of its players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were banned from baseball for life for allegedly throwing the World Series to the Cincinnati Redlegs. After forty years of wandering in a pennant-less desert, the 1959 version of the Chicago White Sox finally provided their faithful followers with an American League pennant and a World Series appearance. As all White Sox fans painfully know, the Pale Hose have not won another American League flag since that marvelous season of 1959.

In 1959 the Chicago White Sox organization saw the majority interest in the club change hands from the Comiskey family to a group led by Bill Veeck. Veeck’s group purchased their interest in the club from Dorothy Comiskey Rigney. Chuck Comiskey, Dorothy’s brother, maintained his minority interest in the team and remained involved in team affairs during the season despite protracted legal wrangling with his sister and the Veeck group. Veeck, the master showman and solid baseball man, made it fun once again to come to Comiskey Park. The baseball played on the field in 1959 took center stage.

The Chicago club in 1959 faced the daunting task of overcoming the dreaded and powerful New York Yankees. The Sox, under the leadership of veteran field boss, Al Lopez, had finished second to the Yankees in both 1957 and 1958. Lopez would become the only individual to beat the Yankees during New York’s fabulous string of pennants from 1949 through 1964. He accomplished that feat in 1954 with the Cleveland Indians and again in 1959 with Chicago’s White Sox.

Chicago had assembled a veteran ball club sprinkled with just the right mixture of youth. The potency of that team was strength down the middle. Catching, middle infield, center field and pitching would provide the spark for Chicago’s “Go-Go” engine in 1959. Veteran backstop Sherman Lollar led the club in home runs, RBI and game-winning hits. Nelson Fox, the eventual 1959 American League MVP, in tandem with 1956 Rookie of the year, Luis Aparicio, gave Chicago the best second base - shortstop combination in either league. Jim Landis made spectacular plays look easy with a fabulous array of game-altering catches and throws as he relentlessly roamed the cavernous expanse of Comiskey Park’s center field. Aparicio led the league in stolen bases once again as he, Landis, Rivera and Phillips constantly put pressure on opposing clubs with their speed and daring on the base path.

The mound staff in 1959 was anchored by the Cy Young winning performance of veteran Early Wynn (22W, 10L, 256 innings pitched, 3.16 ERA). Young Bob Shaw (18W, 6L, 231 innings pitched, 2.69 ERA) was almost as spectacular as he came out of no where to solidify the starting rotation. Bill Pierce, Dick Donovan, and Barry Latman each pitched well in crucial games. The bullpen tandem of Gerry Staley and Turk Lown was outstanding in relief. In 127 appearances the duo combined for 17 wins, 7 losses, and 29 saves with a sub 2.50 ERA.

In addition to its strength down the middle, Chicago received solid performances from outfielders Al Smith (17HR, 11 game-winning hits) Jim Rivera and Jim McAnany. In the infield veterans Billy Goodman, Bubba Phillips, Earl Torgeson and Sam Esposito played meaningful roles. Youngsters' Norm Cash, John Callison, John Romano and Earl Battey would contribute and use the 1959 season as a springboard for successful major league careers (unfortunately with other organizations). At different points during the season Veeck and Lopez brought in Del Ennis, Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, Larry Doby and eventual World Series hero Ted Kluszewski in an attempt to find that final piece of the pennant winning puzzle.

The White Sox won an incredible 35 out of 50 one-run ball games as they battled their way past the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees to finish the campaign with a record of 94W and 60L. The Pale Hose finished the season five games in front of second-place Cleveland and 15 games ahead of the third-place Yankees. Chicago dominated the Indians in 1959 winning 15 while losing only seven in head-to head competition. Chicago won nine of 11 from the Indians in Cleveland’s cavernous Municipal Stadium. The most important of those victories included a back-breaking four-game sweep of the Tribe August 28 through August 30 that pushed Chicago five and ½ games on top of the second-place Indians. Chicago would never relinquish that first-place position. The final stake was driven in the heart of Cleveland and their pennant hungry fans on September 22 before a Municipal Stadium crowd of 54,923. The White Sox stopped the Tribe once again in dramatic style as their 4-2 victory clinched their first American League pennant in forty years.

The City of Chicago responded with non-stop celebration as air raid sirens pierced the night air and thousands welcomed the club home at Midway Airport during the early morning hours of September 23. The deserving team and their adoring fans prepared for the first Chicago World Series that most would experience during their lifetime.

Chicago’s opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, had prevailed over the 1957 - 1958 National League Champion, Milwaukee Braves in a playoff for the 1959 National League crown. The World Series opened in Chicago on October 1, 1959. The White Sox dismantled the Dodgers 11-0 before a raucous Comiskey Park crowd to draw first blood. The next three games of the series, one in Chicago and two in the spacious Los Angeles Coliseum, were incredibly close as Los Angeles posted consecutive victories by margins of 4-3, 3-1, and 5-4. With their backs to the wall Chicago prevailed in a 1-0 thriller on October 6 in Los Angeles to bring the series back home to Chicago. As a crowd of 47,653 gathered in Comiskey Park on October 8, dark clouds and the threat of rain hung over the ball yard. The gloomy weather conditions were a precursor for the on field events. The drama ended quickly as the White Sox dream of a world title vanished as the Dodgers jumped out to an 8-0 advantage after four innings. The final score of the game was 9-3 as the Dodgers brought the first World Series title to the west coast. Statistically the series was very even but Chicago could not overcome the magnificent relief pitching of Larry Sherry (two wins and two saves) and the timely hitting of the Dodgers.

All Chicago White Sox faithful are still waiting for that next magic season when the American League flag will fly proudly over Comiskey Park and the October classic will unfold before their very eyes. The year 2000 just might be that year.

 

Back to 2000 Champions!

 



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