Today’s Postseason Series From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is the 1959 World Series. The Chicago White Sox had not won a pennant since the infamous “Black Sox” of 1919. Comiskey Park was not a hitters park by any stretch, and power hitters especially struggled. When Al Lopez left Cleveland for the South Side of Chicago in 1957 he decided to make his team run. In 1959 the “Go-Go Sox” stole 113 bases, leading the league by 45 (the league average for the other seven teams was 43 steals). Leading the way was future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio who paced the league with 56 swipes, out-distancing second place Mickey Mantle by 35. Also guiding the offense was MVP Nellie Fox, who hit .306/.380/.389. In an attempt to add some power to the team they made a late season trade for Ted Kluszewski. On the mound the Sox were led by 39-year old Early Wynn, who was 22-10 with a 3.17 ERA (3.66 FIP, 120 ERA+) and 26-year old Bob Shaw (2.69 ERA, 141 ERA+, 3.40 FIP) as the staff led the AL with a 3.29 ERA. Chicago was in a tight race with the Indians for much of the year, but took over first place on July 28 and never relinquished it, eventually clinching in the last week of the season in what was a down year throughout the AL – only the Sox won 90 games and the usually reliable Yankees were only 79-75.
The Dodgers were in their second season in Los Angeles and after a rocky first year had rebounded to once again be one of the best teams in the Senior Circuit. While many of the names that made the team great in Brooklyn were gone (Robinson retired after 1957 and never moved with the team, Campanella’s accident occurred in January of 1958, and Pee Wee Reese had retired after just one season in LA), Duke Snider (.308/.400/.535, 140 OPS+) and Gil Hodges (.276/.367/.513, 125) anchored the lineup along with Wally Moon (.302/.94/.495, 129). The starting rotation featured five guys all under 30, led by 22-year old Don Drysdale (3.46 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 18 hit batsmen). Also included was a 23-year old lefty who hadn’t quite hit his stride (nor the top of Mount McKinley, I mean the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium) named Sandy Koufax and a guy who would make a bigger impact later on as a pitching coach, Roger Craig. But mostly, it was Drysdale as he was the only starter to log 200 innings (270.2). The National League race featured three teams: The Dodgers, Giants, and Braves. Going into the final weekend of the season the Dodgers and Braves were tied atop the standings at 84-67 and the Giants were two back with three left to play. Both Milwaukee and Los Angeles took two of their final three games to set up best-of-three playoff for the pennant.* The Dodgers won the first game when John Roseboro’s homerun to lead off the top of the sixth snapped a 2-2 tie and the Dodgers held on for a 3-2 win. The second game the Dodgers entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-2, but rallied to tie it and then won in the 12th to take the flag.
*-Fun fact: The Dodgers were involved in the first FIVE National League tie-breaker playoffs.
Game 1 was at Comiskey Park and it wasn’t a contest. Big Klu hit two homers and the Sox put up a seven run third and took the opener 11-0.
In Game 2 it was Johnny Podres and Bob Shaw taking the hill. The White Sox took a first inning lead when Aparicio doubled and later scored on a Kluszewski ground out, then Sherman Lollar added an RBI single for a 2-0 start. The Dodgers finally got on the board in the fifth when Charlie Neal homered to left, in the process giving left fielder Al Smith an inadvertent bath as a fan’s beverage doused him as the ball was chased for. The game remained 2-1 into the seventh when with two outs pinch hitter Chuck Essegian tied the game with an upper deck shot into left field. Then super utility man Jim Gilliam drew a walk and Neal blasted one into the White Sox bullpen for a 4-2 Dodgers lead. In the bottom of the eighth Kluszewski and Sherm Lollar led off with back-to-back singles off of Dodgers relief ace Larry Sherry and Earl Torgeson pinch ran for Big Klu. Then the recently baptized Al Smith lined one into the left-center field alley. Left fielder Wally Moon (great baseball name) threw in to Maury Wills whose relay throw nailed Sox catcher Lollar by about 20 feet. What third base coach Tony Cuccinello was thinking, who knows. Lollar never was a speed threat (lifetime 20 stolen bases, caught 10 times, 13 career triples in 1,752 games), you now have the go-ahead run in scoring position and the tying run on third with nobody out. The only thing more frustrating than watching a team bunt their way out of an inning is watching a team run their way out of one. Sherry then got a strikeout and a foul out to avoid any further damage. Sherry got three straight ground outs in the ninth and the series was even as it made its first ever trip to the West Coast.
Game 3 featured Dick Donovan and Don Drysdale in the most alliterative pitching matchup in World Series history. The White Sox figured they were going to try and use their speed like they did all season long. Luis Aparicio struck out to start the game, then Nellie Fox drew a walk and Jim Landis singled to put men on the corners with one out. Landis then stole second to put two men in scoring position. Drysdale intentionally walked Kluszewski then got a foul out and , Drysdale issued a one out walk to Jim Rivera. Rivera attempted to take second, but Johnny Roseboro was up to the task, nailing him for the second out of the inning. Two more White Sox reached before the third out, but again no runs. They put two more runners on with two outs in the third, but a Drysdale strikeout of Al Smith kept the game scoreless. In the fourth Luis Aparicio had a two out single, but was promptly erased as Roseboro threw out the shortstop to end the inning. Nellie Fox led off the fifth with a single, but was erased on a strikeout-throw out double play. In the sixth the Sox got a one out single, only to have it erased on a double play. In the seventh they got two more two out singles, but then a strikeout ended the threat. In the first seven innings the White Sox had 13 base runners and couldn’t get any of them to touch home plate.
Dick Donovan on the other hand was cruising just fine. A one out single by Gil Hodges in the second was all the Dodgers could muster through the first six innings, but finally got something going in the seventh. Charlie Neal singled with one out and after a fielder’s choice moved him to second, Donovan suddenly lost the strike zone and walked the next two to load the bases with two out, though Donovan’s day was through. Gerry Staley was called upon to get pinch hitter Carl Furillo. Furillo hit a grounder up the middle that took a bad hop on Aparicio and it snuck into center field for a two-run single. Staley escaped further damage but the Sox were now trailing and needed to finally break through.
In the eighth Kluszewski singled to lead off then Lollar hit a fly ball to right that Moon apparently lost in the sun and there were runners on first and second with nobody out. Walter Alston decided that Drysdale’s day was through and went to Sherry to get the Dodgers out of a jam. Sherry didn’t make matters much better as he mistook Billy Goodman’s kneecap for the inside corner and the bases were loaded with nobody out. Sammy Esposito was brought in to run for Goodman as he needed to be helped off the field. Sherry then got the pitcher’s best friend – a 6-4-3 double play – and though Big Klu scored the bases were empty with two out and after a Jim Rivera pop out the Dodgers still clung to a 2-1 lead. They would add an insurance run in the eighth and would take the game with a 3-1 final.
Game 4 brought Early Wynn to the hill to oppose Roger Craig for the second time. The Sox again would load the bases in the first, only to come out empty after a double play ball ended the rally. The Dodgers would threaten in the bottom of the second, but to no avail. After snuffing out another White Sox threat, The Dodgers broke the scoreless tie in the third, and all with two out. Wally Moon singled, followed by a Norm Larker single, and as Moon went for third Jim Landis’ throw to the bag hit Moon’s leg. Though Wynn backed the play up, his throw to the plate was late and the Dodgers took the early lead. Hodges then dropped a single into left and it was 2-0. After another single to put men on the corners, a Lollar passed ball scored Hodges. Roseboro then singled home another run and it was 4-0 Dodgers after three and the soon-to-be Cy Young Winner’s day was over.
It stayed that way until the seventh. After a groundout Landis singled. Then after Aparicio stupidly sacrificed Landis to second (really? Down four runs in the seventh you’re going to count on a two-out rally? Ugh!), Nellie Fox shot a ball back up the box that Craig deflected to keep it in the infield, but Fox reached for a single, putting men on the corners. Kluszewski singled to get their first run across. Sherm Lollar then ripped an 0-1 pitch over the left field fence for a three-run homer and a tie game (this must have been what Lopez and Aparicio were thinking). After Gerry Staley cruised through the seventh he faced Gil Hodges to lead off the eighth. Hodges crushed an 0-1 pitch of his own into the left-center field seats for a 5-4 Dodgers lead. Sherry would pitch a spotless ninth and the Dodgers were one win away from their second World Series championship in franchise history.
Game 5 Bob Shaw came to the hill to face Sandy Koufax. The game stayed scoreless until the top of the fourth when after a couple of singles put runners on the corners with nobody out, bringing up Sherm Lollar. Lollar hit into a double play, scoring what turned out to be the lone run of the game*. The Dodgers did load the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but a pop out and fly out killed the rally. The White Sox won 1-0 to bring the series back to Chicago for at least one more game.
*-To put into perspective how low scoring the 1960’s were – to go along with how low scoring the Dodgers were – Sandy Koufax famously had a career World Series ERA of 0.95 in 57.0 innings (and even if you take out his lone relief appearance it remains below 1.00), but because four of the 10 runs he allowed were unearned and the fact that his team scored a total of 17 runs in his seven starts (seven of them in one game), his World Series record is just 4-3. And in his eighth game that wasn’t a start he pitched two innings of mop up duty in Game 1 of this series, meaning that despite his brilliance the Dodgers were just 4-4 in World Series games he pitched in.
Game 6 was Johnny Podres against Early Wynn. The game was scoreless until two outs in the third. After Wally Moon walked (you’ve got to love that phrase) Duke Snider crushed a two-run homer into the left-center field seats for the lead.
Then in the fourth Norm Larker led off with a single and was pinch ran for with Don Demeter. Roseboro then bunted him to second because of course he did (35 points). Maury Wills then singled up the box to score Demeter and extend the lead. Johnny Podres then doubled over Landers’ head to score Wills, and Wynn’s day was through. Desperate to keep the game close, Lopez brought in Dick Donovan who promptly walked Jim Gilliam, then Charlie Neal lined a double into left-center, scoring both Podres and Gilliam. Wally Moon then crushed one into right-center for a two-run homer and the rout was on. Turk Lown replaced Donovan, but the damage was done.
Now with the score 8-0, one would think that Podres could simply cruise to victory, but that wouldn’t be the case. After getting Nellie Fox to pop out Podres hit Jim Landis in the head (luckily he was wearing a helmet), then walked Lollar, bringing up Big Ted Kluszewski. Big Klu crushed a pitch into the upper deck for a three-run homer and giving him a tie for most RBI in a World Series with 10. Podres then walked Al Smith and Podres’ day was done. In came Sherry and after a single he struck Billy Goodman and after a walk loaded the bases a pop out ended the threat.
It remained uneventful until the top of the ninth when Chuck Essegian pinch hit for Duke Snider and crushed a homerun into the left field seats. He became the first player ever to hit two pinch hit homeruns in a World Series. Sherry retired the side in order to finish the game and give the Dodgers their second title and first in just their second season in the City of Angels. Larry Sherry was named MVP, going 12.2 innings, getting two wins and two saves while allowing just one earned run and 10 baserunners.
For the White Sox, it would be 24 years until they saw the postseason again, and 46 year until reaching another World Series.
As for the Dodgers, this would be just the beginning for them. Since moving to Los Angeles the Dodgers have won over 5,000 games, made 21 playoff appearances, won nine pennants, and five World Series.