Back to speed, defense and, maybe, pitching
Strong points: The White Sox have defense, hitting (singles-type) and speed—a return to the formula that won them a pennant in 1959. It is still Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox at shortstop and second base, baseball's senior double-play partnership. Aparicio, 27, is as remarkable as ever, but Fox, 34, must rely on memory, hustle and luck. Two new men, Charlie Smith and Joe Cunningham, will play third and first. Smith is skilled, Cunningham passable. Camilo Carreon will do most of the catching, supported by 37-year-old Sherm Lollar. Jim Landis (.283), Floyd Robinson (.310), rookie Mike Hershberger and Al Smith (.278) give the Sox maximum security in the outfield, although Smith is several strides slower than the other three. And the White Sox will make life miserable for catchers. Hershberger, Robinson and Charlie Smith, along with Aparicio and Landis, make the Sox the best base-stealing team in the league.
Weak spots: An important element in that 1959 pennant-winning formula—pitching—is missing. Juan Pizarro was the team's top winner last year with only 14. He has the arm (his left) to win 20. Ray Herbert (12 wins), a right-hander, is a reliable starter. After those two comes a long line of people, some old, others young, some great yesterday, others promising, but all as undependable as the weather. Early Wynn is 42 and started only 16 games last year. Left-hander Frank Baumann, a winner in 1960, slipped to a hideous 5.60 ERA in 1961. John Buzhardt (25) and rookie Joe Horlen (24) are young and this spring they looked sharp, but summer may be something else again. Herb Score is still with the Sox, but the time for hoping is about over. In the bullpen are Turk Lown (37) and Russ Kemmerer (30). They worked hard last year (106 games between them) and had better be prepared for more of the same this year.
The big ifs: The pitching staff can make this a surprisingly good team if men like Horlen, Buzhardt and Baumann help Herbert and Pizarro. If they don't, and if Pizarro proves a one-year flash, the Sox will need a long ladder.
Rookies and new faces: General Manager Ed Short has shown considerable courage trading off a pack of high-priced, big-name stars—Roy Sievers, Minnie Minoso, Billy Pierce were the biggest—for younger men like Cunningham (from the Cardinals), Charlie Smith and Buzhardt (from the Phillies). The team won't set off the exploding Comiskey Park scoreboard as much but it will be more exciting to watch.
OUTLOOK: This is a better team than most people think. If the pitching shapes up, the White Sox may well challenge the Tigers for second place.
The long wait for Herb Score to say yes
"I hate to say it," said Manager Al Lopez, "because I've said it so often, but I still think Herb Score can pitch." Lopez produced a series of pictures taken of Score pitching in 1955, before the eye injury that smothered his career. "You see," said Lopez, "he wasn't turning his right knee so far around then. It was almost pointing at the plate. Now he swings it around toward first and his arm comes too far back. He just slings the ball. We're working on it with him."
Perhaps Score's trouble is his knee, but perhaps not. Shortly before a spring-training game Score was asked if he was going to pitch that day. "I guess so," Score replied. The day Herb Score says "Yes" he may be ready to win.
There is a quaint occupation in baseball called the third-string catcher. He warms up pitchers before games, sits anxiously in the bullpen, sometimes pinch-hits in a 12-8 scramble, often gives the manager advice on who is ready and who isn't for a tough spot. Like all rinky-dinks, the third-string catcher takes his swings when he can.
Bob Roselli is Chicago's third-string catcher. He was catching batting practice while the White Sox hitters swung in game rotation before an exhibition game in Florida. Luis Aparicio took his five cuts. Nelson Fox followed. The third hitter was absent.
Roselli ripped off his mask, picked up a bat and stepped in. "Throw it," he shouted quickly. The pitcher threw, and Roselli cracked a line drive over third. "That's a hit," laughed Aparicio. "Maybe you should always hit with your gear on."
Third-string Catcher Roselli didn't have time to laugh. He was too busy taking those rare cuts.
Four impressive victories in the first month of the 1961 season put Early Wynn within a dozen wins of becoming a 300-game winner. But in a game against the Yankees in late May his right arm began aching. There were visits to doctors, long periods without pitching—and just four more wins before Wynn was sent home for good in early September.
"I've had gout for around eight, nine years," Wynn said as he sat in front of his locker. He wore an olive sweat jacket, and rivulets of water trickled down his forehead and converged at the bridge of his nose. "I get it in the arm, right around the elbow. My elbow becomes aggravated and swollen. In the spring, when I do a lot of running, I get it around the heels because the shoes rub there so much.
"I have to watch what I eat. Even some vegetables, like peas and beans, are out. Pork is definitely out and so is beef. Pizza, spaghetti, ketchup, highly seasoned foods, they're no good for me.
"Gout's been called a rich man's disease, but I always say that I have a lot of rich friends. I've eaten most of my meals out in the past 26 years since I got into baseball and that makes it hard to watch your diet. I'm not supposed to cat spareribs or anchovies, but I had both of them last night." He rubbed his stomach and smiled.