The last time the Chicago White Sox reached the World Series, the “Go-Go Sox” looked more like the No-Go Sox, four strong servings of Sherry left their batters woozy, and the only player doused with an adult beverage was left fielder Al Smith, who had a giant cup of beer fall on his head while pursuing a home run in Game 2.
It has been 46 years since the White Sox made it to the World Series, and several players from that 1959 team, including Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio, who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, will be honored at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday when Chicago opens the 2005 World Series at home against the Houston Astros.
“It’s kind of changed my life,” Bob Shaw, a pitcher who went 18-6 with a 2.69 earned-run average for the 1959 team and now lives in Jupiter, Fla., said of the White Sox returning to the World Series.
“I’ve had two local television crews come to my home. Here I am, 72 years old, and all of a sudden I’m getting all these calls from radio stations and newspapers, I’m going to Chicago.... Holy cow, all these years go by, you almost forget you did all that stuff. It’s ego-boosting. It really is quite pleasant.”
Even if all the memories from 1959 are not.
A feisty Chicago team that had more stolen bases than home runs -- hence, the “Go-Go Sox” label -- and had superb up-the-middle defense with Aparicio, second baseman Nellie Fox, who won the American League most-valuable-player award that year, and center fielder Jim Landis, ended a 40-year World Series drought in 1959.
When the White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians for their first American League pennant since 1919, the year of the infamous “Black Sox” scandal, air-raid sirens went off in the city, about 50,000 fans greeted the team at Midway Airport at 2 a.m., and parties broke out all over town.
The White Sox rode that momentum into the World Series, beating the Dodgers, 11-0, in Game 1 in Comiskey Park behind slugger Ted Kluszewski, who had two home runs and five runs batted in and left a lasting impression on an 11-year-old boy from Gardena who grew up to be a special assistant to current White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
“He rolled his sleeves up, and all you saw were those big arms of his -- he was intimidating as hell,” said Dennis Gilbert, the former agent who is now Reinsdorf’s right-hand man. “Kluszewski was huge.”
Kluszewski went on to hit .391 with three homers and 10 RBIs, a record for a six-game World Series, and Fox, whom Gilbert recalled as having “the biggest wad of tobacco in his cheek I’d ever seen,” hit .375.
But the Dodgers cut the rest of the White Sox down to size, winning Games 2, 3 and 4. Shaw outdueled Sandy Koufax in the White Sox’s 1-0 Game 5 victory, which was played in front of 92,706 in the Coliseum, the largest crowd to witness a World Series game.
But when the Series shifted back to Chicago, the Dodgers whipped the White Sox, 9-3, in Game 6 to win their first championship on the West Coast after moving from Brooklyn. Decades later, the White Sox are still looking for their first World Series title since 1917.
“There were some good things and some bad things that happened in that series, but I tell you what -- it was the unexpected things that beat us,” said Landis, who lives in Napa, Calif. “Chuck Essegian had two pinch-hit home runs, and Larry Sherry came out of nowhere and was a ball of fire as a reliever.”
On a Dodger pitching staff that featured Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Roger Craig and a 23-year-old Koufax, it was Sherry, the 24-year-old rookie right-hander who was called up from St. Paul that July, who was the Series MVP, going 2-0 with an ERA of 0.71 and two saves, giving up one run in 12 2/3 innings and closing out all four Dodger victories.
“I was starting, but in mid-September, [bench coach] Charlie Dressen talked [Manager] Walter Alston into putting me in the bullpen,” said Sherry, who is 70 and lives in Mission Viejo. “Clem Labine and Art Fowler weren’t doing the job, and they didn’t really have a short man. That was about the time they started making relievers out of younger pitchers.
“Starting pitchers were everything, and when you came in at the end of a game, you were a mop-up man. But all of a sudden, the short reliever became an entity.”
In Game 2, Sherry gave up one run in three innings in relief of Podres to earn the save. Trailing, 2-1, the Dodgers rallied for three runs in the seventh on Essegian’s two-out, pinch-hit solo homer and Charlie Neal’s two-run homer against Shaw.
Smith went to the wall at Comiskey on Neal’s shot, and a fan reaching for the ball knocked a beer from the top of the wall onto the White Sox left fielder, a clip that has already been replayed in Fox’s preview commercials for the World Series this week.
“He got a bath,” Shaw said. “It was not intentional. The beer was sitting on top of the fence, and the fan knocked it over. In the picture, it looks like a waterfall fell on Al’s head. Unfortunately, I’m the guy who threw the ball to Neal, who hit the home run.”
The White Sox had a chance to tie the score in the eighth, but Sherm Lollar, one of the few Chicago players who couldn’t run well, was tagged out at the plate by John Roseboro when the White Sox catcher tried to score from first on Smith’s RBI double.
The Series shifted to Los Angeles, where Drysdale threw seven scoreless innings, giving up 11 hits, in a 3-1 Game 3 victory, and the Dodgers won despite being out-hit, 12-5. Carl Furillo’s pinch-hit, two-run single in the seventh was the key blow, and Sherry threw the final two innings for the save.
Gil Hodges’ solo home run broke a tie in the eighth inning of Game 4, lifting the Dodgers to a 5-4 victory, and Shaw (7 1/3 innings) and Dick Donovan (1 2/3 innings) combined to shut out Koufax and the Dodgers, 1-0, in Game 5, the only run scoring on Lollar’s double-play grounder in the fourth.
“It was very exciting playing in front of 92,000 people, but the background for hitting was horrible in the Coliseum,” Landis said. “All you saw were white shirts. It was bad for both teams.”
Defense was tricky too.
“The noise was deafening, it bounced from one side of the Coliseum off the other,” Sherry recalled. “The infielders and outfielders had a tough time communicating. You couldn’t hear anyone yell ... it was awesome.”
Lucky for Sherry, there was a soothing presence over at first base: Hodges, the veteran Dodger.
“He’d come to the mound and say, ‘Hey, is this restaurant any good?’ ” Sherry said. “He’d calm you down.”
Back at Comiskey for Game 6, the Dodgers took an 8-0 lead in the fourth, but when Kluszewski hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth, Alston pulled Podres in favor of Sherry, who threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings to gain the Series-clinching victory.
“If you look at the games, they were tight, they could have gone either way,” Landis said. “There was good pitching on both sides, and Sherry closed the door on their wins; he was spectacular. ... In crunch time, our hitters didn’t deliver. And they cut our speed down.”
Indeed, a White Sox team that led the league with 113 stolen bases, 56 of them by Aparicio, stole only two bases in two attempts in six World Series games.
“Roseboro had a heck of an arm, and our pitching staff did a good job holding runners,” Sherry said. “They didn’t get a chance to run too much.”
Because of the three crowds of more than 92,000 in the Coliseum, the World Series share made a big leap to more than $11,000 a player.
“I was laughing all the way to the bank,” Sherry said.
Four and a half decades later, the pain on the losing side isn’t as acute.
“As a kid, the bottom line is you love baseball, and that was your dream, to be in the World Series,” said Landis, whose son, Craig, is an agent who represents three current White Sox players, Paul Konerko, Aaron Rowand and Jon Garland. “It happened, and win, lose or draw, it was great to be in the World Series.”
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Last Sox Series
Game by game in the 1959 World Series, the first in California and the last to include the Chicago White Sox:
*--* GAME 1 at Chicago WHITE SOX 11, DODGERS 0 Ted Kluszewski, muscular and sleeveless, hit two home runs, and 39-year-old Early Wynn pitched seven shutout innings for Chicago. GAME 2 at Chicago DODGERS 4, WHITE SOX 3 Lumbering Sherm Lollar was thrown out trying to score the tying run for Chicago from first on an eighth-inning double, as the Dodgers tied the Series. GAME 3 at the Coliseum DODGERS 3, WHITE SOX 1 Don Drysdale and Dick Donovan matched shutout innings until Carl Furillo’s two-run pinch single in the seventh lifted the Dodgers. GAME 4 at the Coliseum DODGERS 5, WHITE SOX 4 Chicago rallied for four runs in the seventh to tie the score; Gil Hodges untied it with an eighth-inning home run. GAME 5 at the Coliseum WHITE SOX 1, DODGERS 0 The lone run scored on a double play, as Bob Shaw outdueled Sandy Koufax; the three Los Angeles games drew a combined attendance of 277,750. GAME 6 at Chicago DODGERS 9, WHITE SOX 3 Larry Sherry wrapped up Series MVP honors with 5 2/3 innings of shutout relief, his second victory to go with two saves.