The 1959 World Series — a postcript

While I was fact-checking one of my posts about the 1959 World Series, I found this brief, contemporaneous appreciation of the event by Roy Terrell that appeared in Sports Illustrated, probably with lots of great photos. Terrell’s piece conveys a good sense of this Series and of the special place the Fall Classic held in the imagination of sports fans in the days before the Super Bowl, March Madness, etc.
Terrell also showed himself to be something of a “Bill James before Bill James” when he argued that White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox. “comes out second best” when compared to his Dodgers counterpart, Charlie Neal. Terrell pointed out that “Neal has more speed, more range, and vastly more power than Fox.
Terrell’s view must have seemed odd In 1959, when Fox was the American League’s MVP and the Sporting News’ player of the year. However, modern statistical analysis bears Terrell out. Neal had a higher on-base percentage plus slugging percentage than Fox. Neal also stole a dozen more bases than Fox and had a much higher success rate (Fox’s was under .500; Neal’s was almost .750)). Defensively, their fielding percentages and total chances per game were virtually identical, but Neal turned significantly more double plays.
JOHN adds: No one, however, has ever questioned the value of my favorite player on that team, and of that era, Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio.
PAUL adds: No, but the White Sox did trade him to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1963 season. The Orioles got Aparicio and Al Smith; Chicago got shortstop Ron Hansen, to fill Aparicio’s spot, plus Hoyt Wilhelm, Pete Ward, and Dave Nicholson. Wilhelm pitched brilliantly for the White Sox for the next six years.
However, the main purpose of the trade from Chicago’s perspective was to fill the power void in their lineup through Ward and Nicholson. That void existed mainly because of trades Chicago made after the 1959 season to obtain aging sluggers Minnie Minoso and Roy Sievers. To get Minoso, they traded catcher John Romano and first-baseman Norm Cash. For Sievers, they traded catcher Earl Battey and first-baseman Don Mincher.
By 1962, Sievers and Minoso were gone. Romano, Battey, and Mincher all became quality players, and Cash became a star.
The White Sox replenished their pitching staff in the early 1960s and remained a force in the American League. But they consistently came up in the hitting department.
In 1964 they finished one game out of first place; in 1967 they finished three back, scoring almost 200 fewer runs than the pennant winning Red Sox. It’s very likely that with Romano or Battey behind the plate (as opposed to J.C. Martin) and Mincher or Cash at first (instead of Tommy McCraw), the White Sox would have won the pennant in 1964. And with Cash and Mincher still going strong in 1967, they might have won that year, as well.


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