Chicago's World Series prohibition ends
After a 46-year absence, White Sox to host another Fall Classic
The last time a World Series game was played in the city of Chicago, there was a brand new airport called O'Hare, Americans were watching movies like "Gigi" and "Some Like It Hot," and series MVP Larry Sherry was coming out of the bullpen one more time for the Los Angeles Dodgers to shut down the "Go Go" White Sox bats as everyone watched at wonderful old Comiskey Park.
It was October 1959, and as the players walked off the field that day, no one could have known that the White Sox would have to wait until this week to play their next World Series. So much time has passed that many people fail to remember that the White Sox even played in that one. It was so overshadowed the following October by Bill Mazeroski's classic walk-off homer for Pittsburgh, and probably the biggest reason is that most people remember 1959 as the year you had to look way out West to find the happy people.
Those were the waning days in a decade that had seen postwar prosperity across a nation and a radical change in the landscape of Major League Baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had moved west, to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, following club moves into places like Kansas City (A's), Baltimore (Browns went there from St. Louis), and Milwaukee (Braves moved there from Boston). The Dodgers were now far away without their old Brooklyn fixtures like Jackie Robinson (retired), Pee Wee Reese (coaching) and Roy Campanella (in a wheelchair), starting a new era with the likes of Sandy Koufax and rookie Maury Wills.
It marked the first World Series appearance for the White Sox since 1919, the Black Sox scandal. There was a new feeling around Chicago in 1959. Bill Veeck had succeeded against legal hurdles by purchasing 54 percent controlling ownership in the club from Dorothy Comiskey Rigney, so it marked the first season in team history that the Comiskey family did not have complete control. On Opening Day, Veeck, the master showman, had thrown the ceremonial first pitch to now-minority owner Chuck Comiskey in hopes people would look past their rift. (Veeck wanted Fidel Castro to throw out that first pitch, at a time when Castro had not yet declared Communist loyalty, but Castro's schedule was too busy.)
Speaking of "busy," 1959 was the year that Chicago's Midway Airport touted itself as "the world's busiest airport." It also was the year that a fledgling airport called O'Hare was coming into existence. Mayor Richard Joseph Daley, an ardent White Sox supporter, had just been inaugurated for a second term a few weeks after the White Sox began that season, and Chicago was a city moving furiously forward in its own infrastructure expansion.
Those White Sox won 94 games that summer to take the American League pennant by five games over Cleveland, and it was the AL's turn for the home-field advantage. The Dodgers needed two extra playoff games to take the National League pennant from Milwaukee, and so they opened the World Series at Comiskey. It would be either the end of a long drought for the White Sox -- who had last won it all in 1917 -- or the first time a World Series championship went to the West Coast.
The White Sox, featuring a Luis Aparicio-led running attack, strong defense and top-line pitching, began auspiciously by breaking out the bats in Game 1. Ted Kluszewski, a late-August pickup from the NL, drove in five runs with a pair of two-run homers and an RBI single as Chicago rolled, 11-0. Early Wynn (seven-plus innings) and Gerry Staley combined to dominate L.A. hitters.
In Game 2, White Sox right-hander Bob Shaw was protecting a 2-1 lead with two out in the seventh when Dodgers manager Walter Alston sent up Chuck Essegian to pinch-hit for Johnny Podres, who had thrown the clinching game that finally had given the Dodgers their long-awaited title in '55. Long before anyone knew of Kirk Gibson, Essegian stepped up in that role to slug a game-tying homer to left. Jim Gilliam walked, and Charlie Neal, who had hit a solo homer in the fifth, followed with a two-run homer to center.
Sherry, a young righty who had been called up from St. Paul in early July, pitched the final three innings for the Dodgers, allowing one run and three hits. It would be a sign of things to come, as his relief work played a large role in this World Series. Sherry got of a jam in the eighth when Sherman Lollar was tagged out at the plate by John Roseboro while trying to score from first on Al Smith's double that had driven across one run. It was a 4-3 L.A. victory and so the World Series was going to the West Coast for the first time -- at a game apiece.
Here is probably the most remarkable thing about the 1959 World Series: There were 92,394 fans for Game 3. And Game 4. And Game 5. That was nearly three times as many fans as they used to squeeze into Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, because the Dodgers were then playing in Memorial Coliseum. Combine those crowds with the ones at Comiskey, and it is a virtual certainty that no World Series will ever draw as many fans.
And this one only went six games. No seven-game series will ever match that attendance unless baseball decides giant venues become the rage.
Carl Furillo, a key player on those Brooklyn clubs, was a reserve now but he had a big hit left in him in 1959. In the seventh inning of a scoreless Game 3, Furillo hit a two-run pinch-hit single and the Dodgers took a 3-1 victory and a 2-1 Series lead. Sherry got the final six outs in relief of another fellow who would become a big part of the Dodgers' new era: Don Drysdale.
Buoyed by their monster crowds, the Dodgers also took Game 4, 5-4. Los Angeles had jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, but the Sox responded with four of their own in the seventh, the big damage coming on Lollar's three-run homer. Gil Hodges, one of the carryovers in the Dodgers' transition West, decided this one with an eighth-inning solo shot. Once again it was Sherry who frustrated Chicago's hopes, coming in the eighth to keep Al Lopez's White Sox at bay. Sherry was becoming sort of the prototype of today's closer, except that he pitched a lot more than the ninth.
Seeking to end the Series at home, the Dodgers sent 23-year-old lefty Koufax to the hill against Shaw, who had been 18-6 that season. Koufax was trying to master his control in those days, not quite the master he would become. The White Sox ensured that Chicago would see at least one more game of World Series baseball when they manufactured the only run in the fourth on a double-play grounder by Lollar. Shaw got the win, and the highlight of the game was a brilliant running catch by Sox right fielder Jim Rivera on Charlie Neal's two-out smash toward the fence in right-center. That saved a couple of runs.
Game 6 was one more chance -- for a long time -- to see a Fall Classic in the Windy City. Early Wynn was back on the mound for Chicago, but he and reliever Dick Donovan were pounded for eight runs in the first four innings. Snider and Wally Moon each had two-run homers during the outburst. And it was one more time for Sherry to step up, pitching 5 2/3 innings of four-hit scoreless relief. His face was probably the lasting image of those White Sox batters long after this one was over, and the 9-3 Dodgers victory meant perhaps an appropriate exclamation mark for a decade of change and expansion in the game.
Kluszewski hit .391 and had 10 RBIs in the series for the White Sox, then a record for a six-game World Series. Nellie Fox, hitting behind Aparicio, batted .375 in the series. But Roseboro had allowed only two White Sox steals over the six games, helping to nullify their go-go style of play. The World Series had come to Chicago one more time -- not to return until this week at U.S. Cellular Field.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.