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Minnie Minoso Yankee Stadium 1952
Minnie and Mele: White Sox teammates Minnie Miñoso and Sam Mele, 1952.

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Today in White Sox History: February 5

A classic double-Johnnys deal

Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

1903

The Crosstown rivalry began, as the White Sox and Cubs announced plans to play their first games ever against one another.

The series blossomed into the postseason City Series, which thrived almost yearly for four decades. However, as reported on this day, the City Series was intended to include preseason as well as postseason games.

However, that aspect of the plan never seemed too well thought-out, given that the the-Orphans left for spring training in Los Angeles on March 7 and the White Sox headed south to Alabama on March 17. Plus, with the major leagues (the AL had been recognized as the NL’s equal for two seasons at this point) still evolving together, the regular seasons started almost a week apart: the National League on April 16, the American League April 22.

Thus, there was a tight window in which to play any games before the season, essentially just April 12-15. By March, Cubs honcho James Hart would express confidence that his White Sox counterpart, Charles Comiskey, would scuttle some pre-arranged exhibitions in St. Joseph, Mo. in order to play a presumed home-and-home pair during that time.

However, it doesn’t look as if any crosstown games ended up being played before the regular season. The White Sox, intent on spending just a couple of weeks south for Spring Training before winding their way up north to Chicago by barnstorming some contests in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa, ended up plagued by rain in Alabama and forced indoors for training; apparently, the club was able to play only two Spring Training exhibitions.

Some game results from Spring Training 1903:

  • March 31 10-7 White Sox win over a team of steelworkers in Birmingham
  • April 4 rainout in Peoria
  • April 11 a 3-2 loss to Minneapolis in Leavenworth, Kan., with the White Sox so listless there were cries from the crowd that the game was being thrown
  • April 12 an early “split-squad” pair of games, with the White Sox winning at Davenport, 12-0, and at the Kansas City Blues, 16-4.
  • April 19 With the regular season starting on April 22 in St. Louis, the White Sox held a final intrasquad game at South Side Grounds, pitting the Regulars vs. the Leftovers

Clearly, the White Sox never intended to see any of the City Series games played in April, and Hart’s claim otherwise could well have been some early gamesmanship.

However, the City Series agreement — formalized with a contract made public on March 7 — is one of several events to occur in 1903 that indicated a cooling of the war between the American and National Leagues — a cooling that in fact will result in the first World Series being played that October.

Come fall, the first to eight wins would be declared the “champions of Chicago.” It ended up WAY more complicated than that.

To be continued ...


1954

In a classic, double-Johnnys deal, the White Sox sent second baseman Neil Berry and right fielder Sam Mele to the Baltimore Orioles for center fielder Johnny Groth and shortstop Johnny Lipon.

Mele, the headliner of the deal at age 32, was a passable starter in right for the burgeoning Go-Go White Sox, offering a tick better than average offense and defense that lacked but didn’t hurt the club. He would end up managing the Twins for seven seasons in the 1960s. Berry played in just five games for the White Sox in his only South Side season, 1953, and would play just five for the O’s before getting traded to the Yankees and never seeing the majors again.

Native Chicagoan Groth had a short and undistinguished stay back on the South Side, playing the 1954 season and getting flipped to the Senators in June 1955. Lipon didn’t even last that long, never playing for the White Sox and getting traded to the Reds on April 18.


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