Handsome young Charles A. (Chuck) Comiskey II, who shares executive office of vice-president with brother-in-law John Rigney, was quick to name Al Lopez as manager to succeed Marty Marion last fall. Lopez, never below second in nine seasons at Indianapolis and Cleveland, is quiet, easygoing, frankly expects to miss that Cleveland pitching but still likes White Sox speed. His coaches are Ray Berres and Don Gutteridge, holdovers from '56 White Sox staff, John Cooney and Tony Cuccinello.
ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S WHITE SOX
This is a team built around theory that a good defense is best offense; it is superbly equipped to make a few runs go a long way. Pitching is good, with left-hander Billy Pierce (20-9) certainly one of the best in the business. Jack Harshman (15-11) is not far behind. Dick Donovan is better than last year's 12-10 record shows and Jim Wilson can probably be counted on for another 15. Adequate relievers are ancient Ellis Kinder, Paul LaPalme and Dixie Howell. Outfield is surpassed by none: Minnie Minoso hit .316 in left, Larry Doby, despite injuries and a miserable start, drove in 102 runs, and Jim Rivera can beat you half a dozen ways with his speed and great arm and determination at the plate. If they need any help, it could be present in person of one of this year's most sensational spring training discoveries, a rookie named Jim Landis who has good power, speed and a major league arm. Presence of Landis also enables Lopez to experiment with Minoso at third base if this becomes necessary. Catching rests in steady hands of Sherman Lollar, long a master receiver and last year a better hitter (.293) than ever before. There aren't many fancier second base combinations than little Nellie Fox (who can also point to a .294 lifetime average) at second and the 1956 Rookie of the Year, swift Luis Aparicio, at short. Defensively the ball club is very tight and, on the bases, they still like to run.
Most serious need of White Sox exists at corners of infield. Big Walt Dropo hit only .266 and eight home runs last year, yet still manages to hold on to first base against competition of towering Ron Jackson, who spent part of '56 in minors, and two others who spent entire year down there—Norm Larker and Jim Marshall. Larker's spring play has probably earned him No. 2 spot. At third, Sox have about given up on weak-hitting Sammy Esposito, except in emergencies, hope to move solid Bubba Phillips, an outfielder, to the position along with his .273 batting average. So far, the tests have looked pretty good. But with starting lineup more or less set, there just aren't any reserves except Pinch-hitters Ron Northey and Dave Philley, and Les Moss to help Lollar with catching. Club also badly in need of power, since only outfield can hit the long ball. Experienced pitching, behind first four, includes only Bob Keegan, who Sox are still hoping will make that big comeback, and 36-year-old Gerry Staley.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Sox made no trades, so only new faces belong to rookies. Although there aren't many of these, fortunately four may turn out to furnish considerable help. Landis, of course, is one. Another is Earl Battey, a husky catcher who has been a pleasant surprise with his hitting this spring. Jim Derrington is a 17-year-old whiz of a bonus pitcher that team has to keep on its roster anyway but might be tempted to retain even without the rule. Roger Howard, just out of service, is an ex-Michigan State bonus boy who has major league pitcher written all over him.
THE BIG IFS
Main question concerns health; if White Sox regulars stay sound and can keep from tiring under rigors of full season's play, club will be all right. Much depends upon Doby having another of his really big years. Then, if Donovan (15-9 in '55) and Keegan (16-9 in '54) can match or even exceed their previous best seasons, and Dropo just for once hits up to his potential, all would be very well indeed. But it is well to remember that over-all age of White Sox regulars is greatest in American League and most can be expected to become worse rather than better.
Ever since Paul Richards brought the White Sox into contention back in 1952, they have been hoping to catch the Yankees. But while New York forges on ahead, getting better year by year, Chicago only stands still and its players grow old. Now it is almost certainly too late and team must turn instead to a battle with pitcher-rich Cleveland, manpower-deep Boston and the growling young Tigers even to remain in the first division. With little power and inadequate reserves, even this could turn out to be too much of a job.
This perfectly symmetrical playing field is surrounded, except in dead center, by double-tiered stands. Many feel that best place to sit is upper deck, anywhere between first and third. Bleachers and right field stands are for sun lovers.
Driving to park can be a real challenge. Streets jam up badly and parking lots are inadequate, can handle only about 3,500 cars. Season-ticket holders, however, are allowed to pay $50 annually for special reserved place in Comiskey's own adjoining parking lot. From the Loop it's best to take a cab (15 minutes, about $2), or Clark St. car (20¢) direct to park, or southbound El (from State St., 20¢) which leaves you four blocks east of home plate.
Andy Frain ushers are, as always, efficient and officious; there is no tipping. Plenty of accessible refreshment stands. Spécialité de la maison: tasty kosher red hots. There are only about a dozen rest rooms, not, sad to say, in the best possible shape. There are also other discomforts: aisles and ramps are narrow, impeding egress. Kindled by an abundance of beer, hot tempers often erupt, so brawls are frequent. Caution: check tickets for location before buying. There are "box seats" in the outfield and in the deep recesses of upper deck. Another warning: park is only 15 blocks from stockyards, which seem much closer when wind is from west.
Ticket Information: WAgner 4-1000
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
runs batted in