Saturday, June 26, 2004

Remembrance of 1959

I encouraged members of the White Sox Mailing List to read my post on the 1959 White Sox and to share their thoughts. One list member, Marian, had the following reminiscence on the 1959 Sox (a couple of comments inserted):
The anticipation when manager Al Lopez came over from Cleveland [ed - for the 1957 season] was huge. He's gotten a bad name since because of Nellie Fox and the HOF [ed: rumor was that Lopez kept Fox out of the Hall of Fame] but at the time, he was considered a 'real' manager- a serious manager.

The Sox were really true to their name, "The Go-Go Sox" which meant that they were an alert team. -Kind of a version of the 'Winning Ugly' team of a later time. Defense was extraordinary. -Reminds me of the old Chicago Bear reputation. Stengel said that the infield robbed opposing teams of 5 base hits in every game..or something like that. We were proud in that fringe way that Sox fans are usually proud if they can be proud at all.

The offense was alert if not particularly brilliant and that's saying a lot. I appreciate that quality in any team- the Angels come to mind right now, for example. Pitching was labor- thankless labor, frequently. The staff really worked and rarely had a big lead to work with. (Do stats back this up?) Wynn was a workhorse- a square man who could endure. But Billy Pierce was the darling of the staff. He didn't have his best year in '59 but he got us there. (How many 1-0 decisions did he win or lose in the preceding couple of years?) [ed: none in 1959, but he won two 1-0 games in 1957 and won one 1-0 game in 1958, while losing no 1-0 games in that period]

Ted Kluszewski was a monster- a visiting Hessian.

Chicago was like a Chagall painting when the Sox won the pennant. -Everyone was dancing and sort of upside down. Everyone talked to everyone else and as I remember, we shouted our good news to each other. It was a Sox town, no doubt about it. Joy rained down from the El tracks. I remember buying a newspaper from a stand downtown and people gathering around trying to express the joy.

The ghosts of 1919 were there too, to be vindicated I think. Maybe they would have been if it weren't for the Dodgers. But then I realize that I believe that we'll never be free of the shadow of the Black Sox. It goes with the territory- like wedding vows. Like many of us, I was promised to this team long before the age of consent by virtue of being born into a Sox family.

Wow, good stuff Marian. I, too, was "promised to this team long before the age of consent," and despite the many frustrations that betrothal has caused, it's the community of Sox fans that keeps me faithful.

Mike Ward, the ListFather, wrote:
[Y]ou seem to have captured the essence of the 59 Sox rather well with the exception of the Series. (I gotta be kissing up to you since I can't remember anything so take the compliment for what it is worth) I remember 2 things about it. The first game and joy and then Larry Sherry. You missed Sherry, man.. he was the
Series... he put me into my lifelong baseball depression. I believe he was Series MVP and started this pops and taps thing that the Sox still suffer with to this day in any playoff series.

As far as the regular season goes, sounds about right. As I recall it, the Yankees were simply down that year more than the Sox were all that much better than they usually were and I was going to say it was mainly because Mantle was hurt a lot but facts don't back up that thesis as he only missed 10 games and other than being down
rbi wise, had a reasonable year for him. But somehow the Sox managed to sneak in and finally get one.

Ward is right, of course, Sherry was the Series MVP. Why did the Yankees struggle? Who knows. They went from #1 in Runs Scored and Runs Allowed in 1958 to #4 and #3 in 1959...then went back to #1 and #3 in 1960 [newsflash - the Sox were tied for #1 in runs scored in 1960 and actually allowed fewer runs than the Yankees by a smidge. It's probably fair to say that the 1960 team may have been better than the 1959 team - the Yankees won 8 more games than their Pythagorean projection, and the Sox won 3 fewer games - hence the 10 game difference]. Roger Maris may have been a key difference - he wasn't on the 1959 Yankees. He came to the Yankees in 1960, stroked 39 homers and took the AL MVP award. He had been good, but not great with the KC A's and the Indians, but was 25 and hitting his prime in 1960. He replaced Hank Bauer, who really stunk up the field in 1959. Mickey Mantle wasn't the difference - he slugged a little better in 1960, but his stats were pretty similar otherwise. The Yankee pitching was eerily similar in 1959 and 1960 - posting a 3.60 and 3.52 ERA in those years.

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