Here is the latest from Wednesday and Saturday contributor Joe Guzzardi.
You may not believe it (I know I didn’t) but on April 22, 1959, the Chicago White Sox on its way to a 20-6 triumph scored 11 runs on one hit against the Kansas City Athletics at the old Municipal Stadium. A sparse crowd of 7,446 witnessed history.
During its American League pennant year, the Go Go Sox needed all the offensive help it could get.
But the gift from the Athletics was more than manager Al Lopez could have hoped for in his wildest dreams.
For the season, the White Sox had a .250 over all team average, scored only 669 runs, had 620 RBIs and 1,325 base hits. Those totals ranked Chicago sixth in offensive output in an eight team league. The total base count of 1,928 was seventh; home runs, dead last with 97. The White Sox were the only team in the major leagues to hit fewer than 100 homers.
To make up for its weak hitting, the Go Go Sox counted on speed and plate discipline as it led the league in stolen bases with 113 (56 for leader Luis Aparicio), triples with 46, batters hit by a pitch, 49 and tied with Detroit for most times reaching base via a walk, 580. The White Sox were tough to strike out, too, whiffing a league low of 634 times.
The Sox, however, relied on the proverbial strength up the middle.
Anchored by the double play combination of the incomparable Nellie Fox, the American League’s Most Valuable Player and Aparicio, the Sox were also solid in center field where Jim Landis’ clutch hitting, glove and throwing arm contributed to many key wins.
Behind the plate, Sherm Lollar equaled his more famous New York Yankee rival and former teammate, Yogi Berra. Lollar appeared in seven All Star Games and won three Gold Glove Awards.
Solid pitching rounded out the White Sox. Starters Early Wynn (22-10), the 1959 Cy Young Award winner, Bob Shaw (18-6) and relief specialists Turk Lown and Gerry Staley were solid all year.
The White Sox were unlikely pennant winners.
From 1955 to 1958, the Yankees won 4 straight American League crowns and 9 of the last ten years including 7 World Series titles.
But the Yankees’ pitching faltered. Whitey Ford had an off year (for him), Bob Turley, the 1958 Cy Young Award winner, went 8-11 and Mickey Mantle, although he hit 31 home runs, drove in a mere 75. The Yankees finished in third place, 15 games behind the White Sox.
The Indians challenged but, losers of 15 of 22 head-to-head games against the Sox, came up in second place, five games shy.
When the White Sox sewed up its first pennant in forty years, fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn ordered a celebratory five-minute sounding of the city’s air-raid sirens that set many Chicago residents rushing out into the streets to look for a possible Soviet Union bomb attack. But Quinn’s alarm was just one delirious fan’s way to celebrate. Unfortunately for Quinn and other White Sox devotees, the magic wore off in the World Series when the South Siders lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2.
Now let’s go back to that incredible seventh inning when the White Sox tallied 11 times on only a single by Johnny Callison. Three Kansas City pitchers (Tom Gorman, Mark Freeman and George Brunet) issued ten walks, Brunet hit Callison, while Athletics’ defenders Joe DeMaestri, Hal Smith and Roger Maris committed three errors.
Over the course of 9 innings, the Go Go Sox amassed 16 hits including six for extra bases. Fox had three singles, a double, two walks and drove in five.
Unfortunately, White Sox starter Wynn could not stick around to enjoy the Athletics’ largess. In Wynn’s worst outing of the year, Kansas City knocked him out in the second after he gave up 6 earned runs. The victory went to Shaw who pitched 7.1 innings of scoreless relief. Bud Daley, ironically not part of the catastrophic seventh, absorbed Athletics’ loss.
Hank Bauer, who managed the Athletics from 1961-1962 and the Oakland A’s (1969), said that of the tens of thousands of baseball games he watched, no two were ever alike.
No game proves Bauer’s point more than the April White Sox-Kansas City game.
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org