Next week, somewhere in this great land of ours, a husband will return home from work and his wife will say to him: "I think Luis Aparicio is cute." The World Series, you see, reaches everyone. While it is being played, America puts aside stock transactions, algebra lessons and vacuum cleaners. All that can wait. The Series comes first.
It would begin in Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox. That much was certain. But nothing else was. The National League could not possibly produce a winner before the last weekend of the season. The race could even go down to the last day or might require a playoff—which would mean that the Series, scheduled to start next Wednesday, would be delayed.
Ah, confusion! What would the Series show? Would it be the flash of a Willie Mays stolen base, the whip of Henry Aaron's bat or the grace of Gil Hodges at first base? All three are familiar to October television screens. Sam Jones has a lean and hungry look. Would he be in Chicago? Or would it be Burdette, Lew Burdette, Milwaukee's mean man? Or young Donald Drysdale, that nice-looking kid?
Chicago, its pennant secure, awaits an opponent. If you watch baseball only at World Series time, then you have never seen the White Sox, for they have not won a pennant in 40 years. They have an interesting team, different from most, and you should get to know them. It will make the Series more fun.
September 27, 1959
There is Nellie Fox, short and aggressive, the senior man on the team. If you are a betting man and your favorite cousin is watching a game with you, bet him that Fox hits the ball every time he swings at it. Fox bats left-handed, crouches over the plate and chokes up at least an inch on his very thick bat. His swing is short, more of a chopping motion, so most of his hits are singles. Outside pitches are blocked into left field. Pitches down the middle are stroked through the pitcher's mound. Inside pitches are pulled to right. Fox is also a very good bunter, and it is certain he will try to lay one down at least once during the Series. When Fox is standing out at second base and there is a lull between pitches you may get a chance to see him reach into his hip pocket and mop his brow with the brightest red handkerchief in the major leagues.
At some point during the Series, Aaron, Mays or Wally Moon is going to hit the ball just wide of the third baseman. Hit, you will think. Then, to your amazement, Luis Aparicio will be there, backhanding the ball and getting it over to first base three steps ahead of the runner. Old baseball men, the ones who are always insisting The Game isn't what it used to be, are willing to admit they have never seen a better shortstop than the lithe 25-year-old Venezuelan. And neither have you.
You have seen better hitters than Aparicio, and worse ones too. His strongest offensive weapon is his speed, which helps him reach base on bunts, topped rollers and even slow ground balls. When he does reach first, he will try to steal second, if not one time then the next, for he did it successfully more than 50 times this season. Incidentally, if the Braves win and Warren Spahn happens to be pitching when Aparicio is on first, the duel should be an exciting one, for Spahn has the smoothest pickoff motion in the National League.
When Aparicio was 5 years old, Early Wynn delivered his first major league pitch. Now, 20 years later, the same Early Wynn (well, not quite the same) prepares to throw the first pitch of the 1959 World Series, Al Lopez willing.
Wynn's career began with Washington, where in nine years he won almost as many games as he lost, good show for any stouthearted Senator pitcher. He was traded to Cleveland in 1948, and it was there he became a big winner. In 1954, when the Indians won a record 111 games, Wynn was responsible for 23 of them. He pitched the second game of the World Series that year and lost, the victim of The Miracle of Dusty Rhodes.
The White Sox gambled on Wynn in his 38th year and, after a so-so season in 1958, the barrel-chested Alabaman became a 20-game winner for the fifth time. In doing so he raised his total victories to 270, highest among active pitchers.
If you can, watch Wynn closely when there is a runner on first against him. Watch him as he watches that runner, his chin raised, his expression haughty. That alone is enough to freeze the opposition.
Wynn throws all the pitches—knucklers, sliders, curves and fast balls—and he keeps the ball high. This is exactly what young pitchers are told not to do. Wynn defies the low-pitch school and gets away with it. His chief asset, however, is his attitude. He never gives in to the batter. Even when he is behind on the count, he throws the pitch he wants to throw, not the one the batter wants to see. It's that attitude which has kept him around so long.
The White Sox will field the biggest man in baseball, 235 pounds of Ted Kluszewski. Baseball's winding trail led massive Klu to the American League and a winner last month after a dozen National League seasons with losers. No longer is he the man who hit 136 home runs in three seasons. He hits mostly singles now, but they helped Chicago in the stretch. Look how close to the plate Klu stands. His right toe almost touches it.
Jim Landis circling the bases in full flight is a beautiful sight. The young Sox centerfielder can move, and assuming his leg has recovered he should cause some excitement, either on a trip from first to third (and on to home if the outfielder bobbles the ball even slightly) or pulling down a long drive in center.
These men—Fox, Aparicio, Wynn, Kluszewski and Landis—plus the rest of the White Sox team are waiting at Comiskey Park. And while they wait, the rest of the nation can engage in a bit of fantasy. Until one team—Giants, Dodgers or Braves—emerges as the National League winner there would be three World Series. Al Lopez hands his lineup to the umpires and receives three in return, one from Bill Rigney, one from Walt Alston and one from Fred Haney. On the mound, Early Wynn must face Mays, Aaron and Hodges, all at once. Nellie Fox guards the plate as Drysdale, Burdette and Jones simultaneously fire a sidearm fast ball, a sinker and a curve. He hits a ball, and three shortstops converge on it. The fans, 120,000 of them, go wild.
And then it's over. Only one team can come to Comiskey Park, and whichever one it is, the White Sox will be ready.