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WHITESOXINTERACTIVE.COM. Totally Biased Coverage of the Chicago White Sox!

'59 Sox: Thanks for the Memories!

By Mark Liptak

It was one of those rare occurrences when the stars were in synch, the moon was in the 7th house, Jupiter aligned with Mars and all was right in the White Sox universe.

The weekend of June 17-19, 2005 marked the first time since October 1959, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the White Sox in a meaningful baseball game. To mark the occasion, Brooks Boyer and the White Sox marketing staff pulled out all the stops and turned back the clock to 1959. WGN-TV co-operated by televising the Saturday night game and included video from that season along with player memories and even a few words from Hall Of Fame Dodger broadcaster, the great Vin Scully.

One of the highlights of the weekend, off the field, was the Sox honoring as many members of that 1959 team as possible with a luncheon at the Palmer House and the throwing out of the first ball before the Saturday game.

To say things went well would be an understatement. Not only did the Sox sweep the Dodgers, including a pair of late, come from behind wins, before big crowds, but the players and their wives enjoyed the time spent at Comiskey Park immensely.

“Oh my....we were treated royally,” said former Sox catcher J.C. Martin who was a September call up that season marking the start of a nine year association with the big club. “I definitely enjoyed getting together, it was quite a thrill,” echoed Billy Pierce, one of the best left handed pitchers in team history, who pitched for the Sox from 1949 - 1961 and who won 14 games that season.

Bob Shaw, who won 18 games in 1959, started two games in the World Series, and played on the South Side from 1958 - 1961 followed suit. “Everyone went out of their way taking care of us, from Jerry Reinsdorf to Roland know I had never ridden in a limousine before!”

In addition to those three men, former Sox stars and reserves off that club who made the reunion included Jim Landis, ‘Jungle’ Jim Rivera, Rudy Aries, Joe Hicks, Ron Jackson, Barry Latman, Jim McAnany and Claude Raymond.

The group first got together for the Friday night game watching Mark Buehrle shut out the Dodgers 6-0. It was the start of some good times. “We all got together and ate in the stadium club in right field while watching the game,” said Shaw. For some it was a very long time since some of the guys had hooked up. “Honestly, Mark, I hadn’t seen some of those guys in 46 years,” said Martin. Pierce, who regularly keeps in touch with friends like Landis and Rivera, through his charity work, still was delighted to see some of the other old familiar faces. “It was great seeing the fellows again, just a lot of fun.”

Saturday’s events began with a special luncheon at the Palmer House attended by the players and their wives, along with Reinsdorf, Hemond, ‘Minnie’ Minoso and Boyer. During the luncheon the players were asked to say a few words about this occasion and those days from long ago. The responses were as varied as the players themselves.

J.C. Martin recalled his first days with the team. “I knew these guys from spring training, but what came to my mind was when I showed up in Washington to join the club on an Eastern road trip. From Washington we went to Baltimore. When I saw how these guys played, under pressure down the stretch, my first thought was ‘I’m in over my head here!’ It was so much fun to be with them. Then that night in Cleveland where we clinched the pennant was something I’ll never forget.”

Hey Sox Fans: Here's an EXCLUSIVE WSI interview with J.C. MARTIN!

Shaw used his time to recall those great players who were no longer with the living. “I choked up a little when I talked,”he said. “I just said that we should remember guys like Nellie Fox, Sherm Lollar, Ted Kluszewski, Earl Torgeson, Norm Cash and so many others who couldn’t be with us.”

From there the party went back to Comiskey Park to watch the Saturday night game from a sky-box. The group saw the Sox, wearing replica 1959 uniforms, complete with stirrups, rally with four runs in the 9th to win 5-3. A.J. Pierzynski’s two run home run with two out, was the game winner...a fact not lost on Shaw. “I said in the sky-box that if the guys lost this game they were going to take those uniforms off, throw them on the ground and never look at them again!” as he started laughing.

Shaw and his teammates were on the field before the game, chatting with the media and fans. And for Pierce it included an invitation from close friend, Ozzie Guillen. “Ozzie came up to me and said ‘can you give me one inning!’ I looked at him and said ‘you can’t be that desperate can you?” Pierce also spent some time with Buehrle, whom he’s known for the past few seasons. “Mark is a very nice fellow and he’s quite a pitcher.” When asked if he compared to Pierce, Billy thought for a second then answered. “I think I threw harder then he did but Mark changes speeds a lot more then me, he uses the entire plate.” Martin was asked that same question and had a different answer. “To me, he reminds me more of Gary Peters. Gary had two or three different pitches, he’d use both sides of the plate and would out think hitters. That’s a lot like what I saw from Buehrle Friday night.”

Pierce was also asked if the 59 uniform jersey he was wearing was the authentic one he wore that season. “No... that was the replica jersey the Sox made for us. The real jersey is still at my home. It’s been used two or three times since then when my children or grand children decided they wanted to go Trick-Or-Treating dressed as a baseball player.”

Hey Sox Fans: Here's an EXCLUSIVE WSI interview with BILLY PIERCE!

With the 2005 version of the White Sox playing ‘smart-ball,’ running wild and winning close games the comparisons to the 1959 club came naturally. The 1959 team won 35 one run games on their way towards copping the pennant by five games over the Cleveland Indians. “They are a good team,” said Shaw. “There are a lot of similarities between us,” added Pierce. “You look at the pitching on both teams, the speed, I see some of the same things in the lead - off hitters on both clubs. (Tadahito) Iguchi reminds me a little of Nellie because of the way he can handle the bat.”

“They had more power then us,” chipped in J.C. “But both teams have a lot of ‘no-names..’guys that a lot of fans just didn’t know about. But they are executing when they have to, like we did, to win games. I watch the Sox when I can and believe me I like the way they play the game.”

When all was said and done, the players who took part in the weekend festivities had nothing but good things to say all around. “I had a chance to go eat with Roland Hemond and he is an extremely nice man. I could tell he was very honest.” said Shaw. “Jerry Reinsdorf was tremendous the weekend” added Billy Pierce. “Remember he grew up a Dodger fan so I know everything that went on, had to be a big thrill for him. I know he enjoyed it.” Martin went out of his way to personally speak with Reinsdorf. “I told him, ‘Thanks. I hope they win this year for you’ and his eyes lit up and he said ‘can you imagine how wonderful that would be?”

Finally a closing note. Some fans were under the mistaken impression that all the surviving members of the 1959 team showed up in Chicago. That’s not the case. Here’s a little report on those players still alive, who didn’t make it and why:

Luis Aparicio - The Hall Of Fame shortstop hit .257 with a league leading 56 steals and scored 98 runs. He created chaos on the base paths. Aparicio was going to be in Chicago the weekend of June 24th according to Pierce. Perhaps he simply couldn’t get the time needed to make back to back trips from his home in Venezuela. Also perhaps factoring in, is the fact that according to Sports Illustrated, he is now managing in the Venezuelan League. If his team is playing right now he may not have been able to miss that much time.

Gary Peters - The future rookie of the year (1963), twenty game winner (1964) and All Star (1964 and 1967) was in two games in 1959 pitching one inning. He was under the impression that only the ‘regulars’ were invited to attend the weekend festivities and made other plans. When informed that everyone was welcome he unfortunately, was not able to change his plans.

John ‘Honey’ Romano - The future All Star catcher (1961 and 1962) had five home runs and 25 RBI’s in 126 at bats, many of them of the pinch hit variety. He won many games with his timely hits in 1959. According to Shaw, he was told the Sox tried contacting John at his Florida home two or three times to invite him but were never able to make a connection.

Gerry Staley - The future All Star (1960) was the top relief man in the league in 1959 appearing in a league best 67 games with 14 saves, eight wins and a 2.24 ERA. Staley lives in Washington state and despite being 85 years young is still extremely sharp. He recently did an interview about his major league career with an area newspaper and corrected the reporter on his facts several times. The reported noted that when he checked on Staley’s statements he was absolutely correct. Staley was planning on attending but some minor health issues prohibited him from coming to Chicago.

Other members of the coaching staff contacted included Hall Of Fame manager Al Lopez, top pitching coach Ray Berres and base coach Don Gutteridge but all weren’t able to make the reunion according to their families.

Hey Sox Fans! Hear the 1959 White Sox clinch the pennant!

September 22, 1959 - It’s been forty years but the White Sox are on the verge of clinching the pennant in Cleveland. Leading 4-2 in the 9th inning with one out and the bases loaded, Al Lopez brings in Gerry Staley to face the dangerous Vic Power. Jack Brickhouse called what happened next to the anxious listeners throughout Chicago on WGN-TV.

Hey Sox Fans! Hear the crazy aftermath of the 1959 pennant clincher -- and dream the dream again!

Editor's Note: Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.

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