After starting six different players in right field during the first two months of the 1959 season, the White Sox recalled Jim McAnany, who was batting .315 at Indianapolis, in hope of providing an offensive spark. To make room for McAnany, 19-year-old outfielder Johnny Callison, hitting .163, was sent down to Indianapolis.
“Mac” did an outstanding job – within three weeks, he was batting .382, with 14 RBIs in 15 games. Jim was a complete player: in addition to his timely hitting, he ran well, and racked up six outfield assists. In his book, '59 Summer of the Sox, author Bob Vanderberg quotes New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel addressing the White Sox beat reporters about McAnany after a game: “They've been a real ballclub since that McSweeney come up. First time I see him, he throws one of my men out at the plate in Chicago. He makes catches, he runs, he hits good. You ain't had a bit of trouble in right field since he got there. Before that, you had nothing else but trouble."
Five years later, Callison redeemed himself with the Phillies and became an All-Star. Jim McAnany’s fate was less kind: his baseball career ended prematurely because of nagging injuries. Jim has few regrets, however; he considers himself fortunate to do what he loved best: play Major League Baseball, and to have earned a World Series ring in the process. “Mac” has enjoyed a “good life” after baseball.
James McAnany was born September 4 1936, in Los Angeles and grew up in the city’s Westside district. His father, Clifford, was a sales manager for Picksweet/ Swanson Frozen Foods and his mother, Stella, nee Pociask, a housewife. There were four children – two boys and two girls. He and his brother first played baseball in nearby Rancho Park. At Loyola High School, Jim played the outfield for the school’s baseball team, which became the California Interscholastic Federation champion, and graduated in 1954. He was also a halfback on the football team. As he grew up, Jim followed the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League on the radio. The first professional baseball game he saw was between the Angels and the Hollywood Stars.
Jim attended USC for two years, playing the outfield on the school’s baseball team before leaving during his sophomore year. He was signed by White Sox scouts Hollis Thurston and Doc Bennett, the same pair who signed John Callison a year later.
McAnany was assigned to Waterloo, Iowa, in the Class B Three-I League for 1955 and batted .260 in 55 games in his professional debut. Back at Waterloo at the start of the 1956 season he experienced his first serious baseball injury – getting hit in the head. “I almost quit playing baseball then because of vision problems,” he said.
McAnany’s next stop was Colorado Springs in the Class A Western League, where he finished the 1956 season. In 1957, he returned to the Three-I League, this time with Davenport (Waterloo was no longer in the league and the White Sox had transferred their affiliation). He batted over .300 for the first time in his professional career, and returned to Colorado Springs for the 1958 season. “I enjoyed it there because we had super people on that team,” says McAnany. “We received strong support from the community and won the pennant in 1958. Personally, I had a terrific season. My manager, Frank Scalzi, was very helpful. Everything went my way. What more could I say? I achieved the highest batting average, .400, in organized baseball that year.”
McAnany received the Hillerich & Bradsby Co.’s Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award for the highest batting average in the minor leagues in 1958. The Sporting News wrote that he had a good chance to make the White Sox because “he also throws and runs well and is a capable outfielder.”
Jim recalled, “I was a line-drive type hitter. I changed my batting stance, opening it up, to adjust to faster and better pitching as I moved up in class. When I hit, I just tried to drive the ball. I really enjoyed hitting. I considered myself a student of the game – very intent to learn. I think I hit left-handed and right-handed pitchers equally well.”
McAnany was called up to Chicago at the end of the 1958 season and made his major-league debut in Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium on September 19, appearing as a pinch hitter for Early Wynn. He struck out swinging against Ralph Terry. He started three games in right field in 1958. He finished the year with a batting average of .000, having made outs in each of his 13 at-bats. Five of the outs were strikeouts. It was a disappointing finish to the year.
McAnany began 1959 in Indianapolis and found a lot more success when the White Sox called him up late in June. He recalled, “I was on a plane to Denver. They notified me to say I was going to Chicago. I got to Chicago and took a cab to Comiskey Park. I got there in the third inning of a Yankee game. The next day, I was in the starting lineup!”
That day, Sunday, June 28, Lopez sat left-handed batter Harry Simpson, who had gotten two hits off right-hander Bob Turley the day before, and started McAnany in right field against lefty Whitey Ford. McAnany responded with the first Sox hit of the game, a single. He hit safely in his first four starts, all of them games in which the opposing team started left-handers.
McAnany’s hot streak continued well into July. One example: he had only three triples in his career, but two of them came on the same day, July 12, 1959, one in each game of a doubleheader against Kansas City. Both triples came with the bases loaded. Six of his 27 career RBIs came on that one day.
On July 17, McAnany “returned the favor” to Ralph Terry, who had struck him out in his first major-league at-bat in ’58, by breaking up Terry’s no-hit bid in the ninth inning with a line single into center field. The White Sox went on to defeat the Yankees, 2-0, before their largest road crowd of the season, 42,168. It was an important win, putting Chicago ahead of Cleveland by a game and 6½ up on the Yankees.
McAnany wound up starting a team-high 58 games in right field for the White Sox in 1959. He also started two games in left field, and played three innings in center field. He accumulated 210 at-bats with a .276 batting average, driving in 27 runs and doing his part to help Chicago reach the World Series.
After the 1959 fall classic, in which McAnany walked once and made five outs in six plate appearances for another .000 batting average, he entered the Army Reserve and completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In February, while stationed there, he was able to get leave long enough to come home for a weekend and marry his sweetheart, Rosemary. Back at Fort Leonard Wood, working in the snow and 10-degree temperatures, he injured his shoulder. As spring approached, Jim tried to work out to prepare for spring training. The shoulder problem recurred and began to nag him. It eventually led to his retirement from baseball.
McAnany recalled: “I was released from duty late and was late getting to spring training in 1960. It was a big disappointment coming off a World Series ‘high.’ Then, in 1961, I was recalled to active duty because of the Berlin Crisis and spent most of the year at Fort Lewis, Washington. It was a big disruption to my baseball career. But I have no regrets; I felt that it was my duty to serve my country. I just wish that it had not played such a large part in ending my baseball career prematurely.”
McAnany spent most of the 1960 season with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League. In the December 1960 expansion draft, he was selected by the Los Angeles Angels, but never played a game for the Angels: on April 1, 1961, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Lou Johnson. McAnany missed most of the 1961 season while in the Army, but returned to the Cubs late in the season as a pinch-hitter. The Cubs had a poor record in 1961 (64-90 and a seventh-place finish), but four of their players became Hall of Famers: Richie Ashburn, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock and Billy Williams. McAnany’s nagging injuries limited his time in right field to exactly one inning. A .300 batting average (3-for-10) kept his hopes alive for continuing on the next season … if only he could triumph over his injuries. He could not. In 1962, McAnany had only six fruitless at-bats and one walk as a pinch-hitter for the Cubs and retired from baseball.
McAnany recalls: “I have great memories. I was on the field when we clinched the pennant in Cleveland, and when the fan spilled beer on Al Smith. I really liked all of my teammates. I still keep in touch with Jim Landis, Barry Latman, and Ken McBride. Playing against the Yankees was like a dream come true. My locker was between Nellie Fox and Sherm Lollar. How cool was that! I learned the most from Jim Rivera. The love of the game I saw in the players – especially the 1959 White Sox team – impressed me the most. After leaving pro baseball, I became an insurance agent. I still own and operate my own business.”
On his hitting: “I had difficulty hitting fastballs and curves, especially those thrown by Sandy Koufax. Fortunately, no pitcher seemed to have had my number; I didn't strike out that much (38 whiffs in 241 big-league at-bats). I’m glad Early Wynn was on our side; I'd have hated to hit against him in a game. Ryne Duren was a tough pitcher – we thought that he was mean-spirited. In retrospect, he was probably using his control problems – lack of it – to intimidate us.
“I have always watched sports on television. My favorite hobby now is golf. I have a group of friends, mostly ex-FBI agents that I play with every Saturday. We go to Hilton Head and other venues. I enjoy the friendship as much as the golf.”
Jim and Rosemary live in the Los Angeles area. Their son, Jim (James Emmot), played in the College World Series for Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles and was drafted by the Angels. He played 271 minor-league games before joining his father full time in the insurance business. Daughter Michele, a teacher, played baseball for Phil Niekro's Colorado Silver Bullets. Jim and Rosemary live near their children and five grandchildren. In addition to golf, McAnany exercises and he and his wife enjoy attending all of their grandchildren’s activities, especially the sports. “Fortunately, all three grandsons are athletic,” McAnany says. “And life is pretty good. One of my few regrets is that my father never got to see me play Major League Baseball. He died in 1957.”
This article originally appeared in the book Go-Go To Glory--The 1959 Chicago White Sox (ACTA, 2009), edited by Don Zminda.
Personal interview via telephone and fax with Jim McAnany, May 1, 2008.
Baseball and genealogical research assistance from Bill “Tax Man” Mortell.
The Sporting News, various dates, 1959
Vanderberg, Bob. '59 Summer of the Sox (Champaign: Sports Publishing Inc., 1999)