One aspect I admire about baseball is its rich history. Our White Sox have been a major league team for 110 seasons now, and were in the minors (as Sioux City) back in the Victorian age. For me, an especially poignant link to the past is photographs of past players: images of the men who strode major league fields decades ago, a human element to compliment the stat lines that still reverberate decades later. Yet, for many of these ballplayers, the images are invariably black and white.
So I set out to find pictures of past legends in bright, living colors. I also focused on one special team: the 1959 Chicago White Sox, who finally broke past Stengel's Yankees to give the city an AL pennant at long last.
Welcome to the ballpark:
Nellie Fox: The AL MVP in 1959 was extremely difficult to strike out, only once every 42 ABs. He would hold down second base for fourteen years, racking up the second highest hit total in franchise history.
The other half of the Sox's double play combo was little Luis Aparicio, the second Venezuelan shortstop for the Pale Hose. A base stealing wonder, he snagged 56 in '59 and was second in the MVP voting that year. He would go to the Orioles after the 1962 season, but would return to end his career on the sad Sox teams of the late 1960s.
Nellie and Louie, waiting for the next great play
Big Ted Kluszewski looks out of the dugout. Big Klu was picked up from the Reds halfway through the 1959 season, and provided pop in the Series, hitting three homers and knocking in 10 RBIs, equaling a Series record. Alas, the expansion Angels would snab him after the '60 campaign.
Sherm Lollar, the man behind the plate, and the power behind a late 1958 surge that was a glimpse of the year to come. He holds the Sox record for opening day starts behind the plate, at 10.
Al Smith patrolled the outfield corners for the Go Go Sox, but his iconic image is of a cup of beer raining down on him after a home run by the Dodgers' Charlie Neal in Game 2 of the Series. As a high school football star, he once scored ten touchdowns in one game.
Early Wynn was an aging warhorse who the Sox acquired from the Indians in 1958, and who recorded more strikeouts than anyone else in the 1950s. Behind a strong Sox offense, he won Game 1 on the South Side. After the Sox, he would struggle to get his 300th win -- but he would achieve it.
Billy Pierce was the pitching backbone for the Sox during a decade long stretch in the late 50s and early 60s. Alas, despite having a better record against the Yankees in the regular season than their totaled NL World Series opponents, his call to Cooperstown still waits.
The first Sox player on the cover of SI
Bob Shaw, the team leader in ERA in 1959, would bounce around seven teams during his career.
Skipper Al Lopez, who was the only manager to beat out the Yankees for an AL pennant from 1949 to 1964. He would live just long enough to see the White Sox win it all 46 years after his Go Go Sox team...
One great player is missing from this lineup, having been traded to Cleveland after 1958: Minnie Minoso. But such was his standing with the team that he was given an honorary share of the pennant earnings by the team.
There you have it: for a brief moment when Eisenhower was president, Westerns ruled TV, and Elvis was in the military, the White Sox were AL champions.