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White Sox in the Series brings back memories

Bill Milligan
October 19, 2005 - Anyone growing up a Cincinnati Redlegs fan in the 1950s idolized our big first baseman Ted Kluszewski, or "Big Klu,'' as we called him.

He was a member of the 1959 Chi-cago White Sox and I remember thinking that manager Al Lopez's decision not to play Klu at first was the reason they were embarrassed by the Dodgers. Where I grew up, we didn't understand why Lopez didn't give Klu his jersey number (18) any better than we we understood why Klu only got 31 starts after a midseason trade sent him to the American League from the Pirates.

But Klu was a power hitter who had hit 40 or more home runs every year of my life up to that point. He compared hitting to walking through a darkened room full of furniture without bumping into anything.

"How hard is hitting?'' Klu said. "It's harder than that.''

But Lopez's '59 White Sox were what we would call a small ball team today, rather like how the sportscasters refer to the 2005 White Sox.

Instead of casting the 6-foot, 225-pound Kluszewski in a starring role, that job fell to the 150-pound Nelly Fox and shortstop Luis Aparicio, who stole 56 bases that year.

Fox was the league MVP that season with 191 hits in 624 at bats, in-cluding six triples, 34 doubles and 84 runs scored. He walked 71 times and batted .389 with men in scoring position.

Aparicio scored 98 times in 1959.

At 6 feet, 1 inch, White Sox catcher Sherm Lollar was small by today's standards. He had a career-high 22 home runs that season, but was largely ineffective in the Series.

As great as those players were, the only White Sox player other than Kluszewski we had heard of in Ohio was pitcher Early Wynn. He was 22-10 that year with a 3.17 ERA.

We knew him because he would throw at hitters who tried to bunt against him. He allowed more than 300 home runs during a 23-year career, but that never upset him as much as anyone who wanted to bunt their way on base.

Former St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck took over the White Sox in 1959 and instantly dubbed them the "Go-Go'' Sox, but it was Kirk-wood native Al Smith who will forever symbolize the team.

The image of him standing against the left field wall watching a home run overhead and being doused with beer from a Chicago fan will be the image of White Sox baseball until they win a World Series.

The '59 team won 94 games; it was one of the few times that decade the Yankees didn't appear in the World Series.

After losing so quickly to the Dodgers, the baseball world decided to forgo "small-ball'' in favor of the three-run home run. St. Louis' Whitey Herzog reintroduced small ball in the 1980s. Like the Red Sox last year, maybe we'll live to see the White Sox end their championship drought.

  • Pitch It & Forget It
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