By Rich Klein
I’ve been a life-long Yankees fan, but despite what I like to write, am not enough to actually remember the real glory days of the post -war Yankees dynasty. Between 1947 and 1964 the Yankees won 16 pennants in 18 seasons, which is just astounding. Heck, the only player from the 1947 team who was still active in 1964 was Yogi Berra. Yogi actually missed the 1964 season as he managed the Yankees, but did return for a cameo with the cross-town Mets in 1965. That cameo was for all of nine at-bats before Yogi finally retired.
But just think about that, only three teams won pennants between 1947 and 1966, which is a number that would be surpassed in the 1965-68 time frame. To me, One of those two teams is a perfect case of one team coming, one team going and one team remaining. That team was the 1959 Chicago White Sox, who were known at the time as the “Go Go Sox” because they had the best base stealer in Luis Aparicio, and a bunch of other fast guys playing for them.
Topps got a photo right from the 1959 World Series of Luis Aparicio doing what he did best in those days on his way to a Hall of Fame career. If you look carefully at the photo you will see Maury Wills awaiting the ball so he can place a tag on Aparicio. That is important because Wills was actually in a long-running feud with Topps, and would not have an official Topps card until the last series in 1967:
The other Hall of Famer on the team was his double play partner Nellie Fox, who would win the 1959 MVP award. Fox was a consistently great player and also deserved his enshrinement into Cooperstown.
There were, of course, other good players on the team, but the real interesting part was that the team was a mix of yesterday’s legends, today’s stars and tomorrow’s heroes
There were ten players on the team who were age 34 or older. While some of them were very important to the team, others were just role players for a cameo appearance. Many of the older pitchers were important to the team, which was led by Early Wynn, who won the 1959 Cy Young award. In those days the Cy Young was only given to one pitcher for the majors and not one per league as has been done since 1967. Other good players for that team in the older brigade included Turk Lown and Gerry Staley, who were a dominant bullpen pair.
But here were some of the players who made cameo appearances for the 1959 White Sox:
Ray Boone, Del Ennis, Don Mueller (he was only 32, but nearing the end of his career) and Hall of Famer Larry Doby. Yes, they were the best players that the White Sox tried and failed to get one last memorable season from.
But the real fun for this team and the players who created the “what might have been” sequence (if Bill Veeck had not realized he needed to win now because his ownership time would be limited) included several players with interesting future stories.
Before the 1960 season even began, Norm Cash would be traded twice, and his 1960 Topps card would depict the Detroit Tigers Cap on the side photo, but a Cleveland Indians cap as the main photo. Cash would win the 1961 Batting title, hitting .361 and stayed in the majors long enough to play in the 1972 post-season. He is one of only three players who participated in post-season play in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. (The other two were Don McMahon and Willie Mays).
As the White Sox were going for a repeat and loading up on veteran players such as Minnie Minoso and Roy Sievers, the young prospects were being sent away. Among the prospects leaving included Claude Raymond. Not that Raymond was one of the better players who left the White Sox, but he has one of the best card stories as his zipper is undone on both his 1966 and 1967 Topps cards. Thankfully nothing was showing, but how did Topps miss that two straight years?
Other players who left included Joe Stanka, who went to Japan and became a legend there. Our local SABR chapter had breakfast with him about 13 years ago and the stories he told were quite fascinating. He never had a Topps card and all his cards on COMC are currently sold out but I wanted to mention him.
And some of the other future players the White Sox disposed of after 1960 included Earl Battey and Johnny Callison. There were others as wel,l but if all the players the White Sox traded away were allowed to develop, they might have been the backbone of another pennant winner around 1963 or so.
Now I suppose you could say this is true of any team, but if you happened to get all their players to have their best season at the same time you would usually win a pennant. But if you had gotten the 1959 White Sox players to all have their career best seasons that year they might have been a team which won 100 or more games.
After this brief interlude, the Yankees would win their next five pennants and they were smart enough to keep their younger players during that period. I’m showing Jim Bouton as an example because I’ll be talking about him and his famous Ball Four tome in a future article
If Bill Veeck did not feel the need to panic, and let his young players develop, would the White Sox have won more than just that one pennant between 1919 and 2005?
Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com