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Stocking Feat

The White Sox had a great run in 1959 in their last trip to the World Series, but they were done in by a large case of Sherry against the Dodgers

October 21, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

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.

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