There were some who went away disappointed. No starting pitcher was able to go all the way; the fielding, on occasion, was shoddy; the home run, at times, appeared to have become obsolete. It was a World Series without a Babe Ruth or a Pepper Martin or a Lew Burdette.
In Chicago, some people felt that the White Sox had been intimidated by architecture, not beaten at baseball. The Los Angeles Coliseum was a travesty and a farce, a fine place to run 90 yards for a touchdown or a quarter mile for a gold medal but a totally inadequate setting in which to run 30 feet to catch a fly ball.
In Los Angeles there was only contempt for the American League. The National League, they said, had at least four ball clubs which could have won the Series. The White Sox, touted for their speed and defensive magic and tight pitching, proved to be inferior in all three; the famed middle turned out to be a muddle. The one hitter on the ball club capable of moving the outfielders back was a National League castoff who had spent most of the season occupying an outsized section of the Pittsburgh Pirate bench. As for the Coliseum, why all the excitement now? It has been a well-publicized house of horrors to the Dodgers for two years.
Actually, especially for those who were there, it was a good Series, an exciting one, full of new sights and sounds and names and faces. The four middle games were close, decided by a total margin of five runs. And the first and last, lopsided as they were, had something different: in one, the light-hitting Sox bashed the ball all over the park; in the other, the Dodgers, a threat to explode at the plate for five days, finally did.
October 18, 1959
Neither team was supposed to be great. The White Sox finished first in a weakened league, winning a pennant that in a Yankee off year went to the perennial runner-up almost by default. The Dodgers, inferior in muscle and over-all talent to both the Braves and Giants, survived because of amazing confidence and determination and a spirit that refused to accept defeat. The White Sox formula for success, applying constant pressure on the other team until it cracked, didn't work against the Dodgers because the Dodgers had been living with pressure all year. In the end, it was the White Sox who opened up and began to leak at the seams.
There were a few surprises. Luis Aparicio failed to come up with a couple of ground balls no one expected him to miss. Jim Landis failed to run down several long drives. But the Coliseum infield was bumpy and the White Sox outfielders weren't used to the glare of the sun bouncing off so many platinum-blonde heads.
As for John Roseboro and the way he stopped White Sox base runners dead, Roseboro has been throwing out National League base runners with great regularity all year. His arm is quick and very strong and sometimes it is extremely accurate, too. And the Los Angeles pitchers, when it comes to holding runners on base, are among the best.
Otherwise, the Series ran according to form. The White Sox like to run, but only Landis and Aparicio have exceptional speed; it was not so surprising then that the Dodgers were better on the bases, man for man. Neal, Gilliam, Moon, Wills, Demeter, Hodges and Roseboro can all run, and run they did, stealing, taking the extra base, advancing on foul pops and short flies, forcing the White Sox into hurried throws and errors afield. Neither fate nor accident decreed that Dodger pinch hitters would produce while White Sox pinch hitters failed; Walter Alston made better moves than Al Lopez because he had a far better bench. On the one hand there were Carl Furillo, Duke Snider, Chuck Essegian, Rip Repulski and Ron Fairly, on the other only Earl Torgeson and Billy Goodman, Jim McAnany and Norm Cash.
Larry Sherry and Maury Wills were not born the day the World Series began. Long before the season ended, Alston was describing the brash, confident rookie reliever as the best pitcher on his staff. And Wills, with his quickness and that exceptional arm, turned the Dodger infield into a thing of beauty the day he joined it. He does not deserve to be called better than Aparicio after only two months, but Wills is from the same mold, and for the six days that counted he looked like the best.
Nellie Fox means a lot to the White Sox and he played well. But when compared with Charlie Neal, Fox has to come out second best. Neal has more speed, more range and vastly more power; he hit 41 home runs in two seasons and he hit a couple of big ones in the Series itself.
Drysdale, Craig and Podres were not as impressive as the White Sox pitchers, but Wynn and Shaw and Donovan didn't have Sherry to bail them out. The role of the relief pitcher in baseball becomes more important every year; with a good one you can win a pennant; with a great one, as Sherry seems destined to be, you can go even further than that.
It was a Series that left some indelible impressions. The magnificent catch by Landis on Gilliam's line drive into right center in the third game. The perfect play by the Dodgers in the eighth inning of the second game, a play which went with the quickness of sound from Al Smith's bat to Comiskey Park's left-field wall to Wally Moon's glove to Maury Wills to John Roseboro, who waited patiently at home plate for Sherm Lollar to arrive so that he might be tagged out.
There was Aparicio, thrown out stealing, and Aparicio, thrown out trying to stretch his single into two bases. And, of course, there was Aparicio reaching frantically for the ball hit by Furillo which hopped over his glove.
There was Ted Kluszewski, standing motionless at home plate in the first game, watching his high fly ball drift toward the right-field stands, waiting until it dropped in for a home run before he even bothered to run. Klu making a diving, backhand stab of a line drive just outside first base, falling and rolling and coming up with the ball. Klu and the great depression he left in the earth when he had to slide into second base.
There was the uncanny way in which Norm Larker handled balls off the Coliseum screen. There was Chuck Essegian with his two pinch home runs, and the time, in the seventh inning of the last game, when Lollar finally threw a Dodger base runner out.
There was the brilliant color and almost unbelievable noise from the vast crowds which packed the Coliseum three straight days; there was the incongruous yet wonderful sound of the old University of Southern California football yell, a trumpet peal punctuated by a small city of people roaring "Charge!" There was the dark, gloomy look to Comiskey Park when the rain clouds gathered, and the discordant overlapping of a handful of bands which prowled the stands playing into the customers' ears and the time that one of them stopped to serenade Casey Stengel with The Sidewalks of New York.
But most of all, there was Larry Sherry, a minor leaguer at the start of this year, a hero at its end. There was Sherry, bouncing happily from the bullpen into the toughest of situations; Sherry, grabbing the ball from Alston as if it belonged to him; Sherry, throwing his slider and fast ball and curve with remarkable precision past the White Sox hitters time and time again.
It was a good World Series. But the World Series always is.