67WMAQ’s recent post on 1993 reminded me of my favorite Sox year - 1959. Since I moved away from Chicago in 1969, I was not able to experience first-hand some of the other exciting years. In 1959, I had just returned from serving in the Army and Bill Veeck assumed majority ownership of the White Sox. The ensuing season was one of the most exciting for Sox fans in the team’s history. (Unfortunately, what Veeck did later had serious repercussions for years to come but that’s the subject of another post). With Veeck came promotions such as giving every woman who attended the Mother’s Day doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians an orchid. (It must have been good luck because the Sox won both games). In the previous two seasons, the White Sox had finished in 2nd place behind the New York Yankees but in 1959 the White Sox finally broke through and won the American League pennant. Along the way, Nellie Fox was voted the league’s most valuable player, Early Wynn was voted the Cy Young winner (at that time only one award was given for both leagues), and Fox, Luis Aparicio and Sherman Lollar were awarded gold gloves.
However, I witnessed two plays in the 1959 season that could have changed the White Sox season outcome. Lollar was the protagonist in both and Bob Shaw the pitcher of record for both games. The White Sox had been in first place for most of the season but on August 28th the Cleveland Indians were1 ½ games behind the Sox and had just won eight in a row. The last weekend in August was to be crucial as the White Sox met the Indians in Cleveland for a four game series. The first game was played on Friday night before a crowd of over 70,000. The game was tied at 3 in the 7th inning and the Sox got the first two men on. Then Lollar hit a long but routine fly ball to left field that Minnie Minoso got under at the fence but as he reached up the ball bounced off his glove and over the fence for a homerun. Cleveland Municipal Stadium was not really a baseball stadium and so a canvas fence had been constructed in the outfield to make the playing field smaller (The Sox did the same thing at one time but that’s also a story for another day). The fence was about 5 or 6 feet high and, after the ball went over it, Minnie climbed on the fence and began shaking it so hard it seemed that he might tear it down but he didn’t. The Sox went on to sweep the series and establish the 5 ½ game lead they maintained for the rest of the season. However, if Minnie had caught the ball the series outcome might have been different.As a side note, and as I commented earlier, Jack Harshman, who was the subject of three recent posts, was the Indians’ starting pitcher in this game but he only pitched four innings. He also pitched the final two innings of the pennant clinching game in Cleveland on September 22nd.
Later in the second game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, after winning the first game, the Sox were down 4 – 2 in the eighth inning. (This is the game where as I noted in an earlier comment, Nat King Cole forgot the words to the Star-Spangled Banner and Al Smith famously got a beer shower on Charlie Neal’s go-ahead two run homerun.) The Sox got the first two men on (Earl Torgeson running for Ted Kluszewski and Sherman Lollar). Al Lopez called for a hit and run which in retrospect seems odd given how slow the two runners were but it partially worked as Al Smith lined a double to left field. Torgeson scored but Lollar was easily thrown out at home plate. When asked later about the play and why Lollar was sent home with no-one out, Tony Cuccinello, the third base coach, said something to the effect of "It was a hit and run so I thought he could score." Of course the next obvious question should have been didn’t you know who was running (I doubt Lollar could beat Paul Konerko in a footrace) and where was the ball when you waved him around? However, the inning was not over as Smith had advanced to third on the throw and Billy Goodman came in to bat for Bubba Phillips (The Sox had started a predominately right handed lineup against Johnny Podres but Larry Sherry was now pitching). Unfortunately, Goodman swung at a pitch over his head for strike three and Jim Rivera made the last out to end the inning. One can only wonder what might have happened if Lollar had been held at third. It is likely the Dodgers would have walked Goodman to try and set up a double-play so the Sox would have been one run behind with the bases loaded and no outs. The outcome of the World Series might have changed. Larry Sherry went on to pitch in three more games and was voted the World Series MVP. This was a disappointing outcome but after so many years of trailing the Yankees, it was, all-in-all, a wonderful season.
(Note by Jim: That out at the plate is on YouTube, and you can be the judge. Start at the 33-second mark.)