June 8, 1957: Billy Pierce’s gem extends White Sox lead

This article was written by Tom Pardo

Billy PierceMention the name of Billy Pierce and smiles cross the faces of older Chicago White Sox fans. The affable southpaw, whose No. 19 is retired and whose statue resides in the left-field bleachers at Guaranteed Rate Field, was the darling of the Sox starting corps in the 1950s. Whenever Billy took the mound, White Sox rooters knew their beloved team had a great chance to win. Such was the case on a warm Saturday afternoon in early June 1957 when Pierce threw an outstanding three-hit shutout of the Baltimore Orioles, 2-0, before only 5,642 of the White Sox faithful.

The ’57 edition of the “Go-Go” Sox blazed a path to the top of the American League early in the campaign. Heading into this game, the team commanded a five-game lead over the New York Yankees. Such good fortune was not surprising given the abundance of talent on the White Sox roster. Under the tutelage of skipper Al Lopez, the leading sluggers on the South Side included future Hall of Famers Nellie Fox, Larry Doby, and Luis Aparicio, catcher Sherman Lollar and outfielders Minnie Minoso and Jim Rivera. In addition to Pierce, the veteran starting rotation of Jack Harshman, Dick Donovan, and Jim Wilson had already accounted for 23 of the team’s 31 victories. Their 21 complete games led the major leagues.

Without question the one who catapulted the White Sox to such lofty heights was Pierce. “Sweet Billy” did not pick up the game until he was 15, but right away he could throw hard in spite of his slight build.1 Now in the prime of his career, Pierce was well on his way to achieving back-to-back 20-win seasons with a 9-2 record coming into this game. He had won six straight starts dating back to May 10, including five complete games and a scoreless streak of 16 innings.

The left-hander’s success was attributed to three factors: durability, control, and pitch selection. Pierce was the workhorse of the White Sox starters, logging the most innings pitched since 1951. He had become a master of the strike zone, reducing his walks per nine innings steadily since breaking into the big leagues. But it was Pierce’s pitch selection that made him special. He had a blazing fastball and an effective curve, but his mentor and first White Sox skipper, Paul Richards, transformed him into a truly great pitcher by teaching him to throw a wicked slider.2 Richards summed up the source of his pupil’s success: “Driving ambition and desire plus tremendous ability.”3

Opposing the White Sox on this afternoon was a Baltimore Orioles team that had not yet escaped from the shadows of its previous incarnation as the St. Louis Browns. Since leaving the Gateway City for the Chesapeake Bay for the 1954 season, the Orioles had managed only one sixth- and two seventh-place finishes in the American League. The 1957 version was not faring any better given their seventh-place residency at game time.

Yet in spite of their record, the O’s were victors in six of their last eight games and claimed some impressive early-season statistics under the direction of Paul Richards. Offensively, the team was second in batting (.263) and first in hits (443).  Defensively, Baltimore was first in fielding average (.987), tied for first with the Yankees in double plays (56), and made the fewest errors of any major-league team (25).4

The Orioles starting corps was aging; four of its five pitchers were well into their 30s. Left-hander Bill Wight, who was 35 and already playing for his sixth team, was given the ball for this contest. At best it could be said that Wight was a mediocre thrower who possessed an above-average pickoff move. In his latest outing, though, on June 2, Wight finally picked up his first win of the season, 3-2 over the surging Yankees.5

In contemplating this matinee duel, Al Lopez faced two significant challenges: weak run production supporting Pierce and Pierce’s sustainability. In the southpaw’s previous four outings, White Sox hitters scored only seven runs. Furthermore, Lopez was starting Pierce on three days’ rest in order to have him fully rested for a coming series against the Yankees.6

In contrast to Richards, who advocated the then standard four days’ rest between starts, Lopez stressed flexibility based on scheduling circumstances. He conceded that Pierce’s velocity might diminish in this game, “but control is the most important thing in pitching.”7 And Billy was the “king” of control.

Concern regarding Pierce’s effectiveness seemed justified as he appeared a bit wobbly at the outset. With two out in the first inning, Orioles first baseman Dick Williams laid down a perfect bunt along the third-base line for an infield hit. Cleanup slugger Bob Nieman drew a pass; Pierce was unwilling to give the Orioles left fielder anything good to hit. The rally was snuffed out when catcher Gus Triandos hit a soft liner to White Sox shortstop Sammy Esposito for the final out.

The White Sox opened the scoring without generating a hit in their half of the second, a sure sign of continuing offensive woes. After Wight walked catcher Sherman Lollar and Dropo, right fielder Dave Philley sacrificed the runners up. Third baseman Bubba Phillips proceeded to hit a towering drive to center field; Jim Pyburn caught it for the second out, but threw offline to the plate, allowing Lollar to give the Sox a one-run lead.

Following their early-inning shakiness, both Pierce and Wight settled into a good rhythm during the middle frames. Wight had a no-hitter for 5⅓ innings, including retiring 11 White Sox in a row. Pierce set down eight Orioles before the sixth inning.

Baltimore had an excellent opportunity to equalize the contest in the sixth. Second baseman Billy Gardner, who had extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the third, bounced a roller to shortstop Sammy Esposito, who fumbled the ball and threw wide to Dropo.8 Gardner slid safely into first just under Dropo’s tag, a call unsuccessfully disputed by Al Lopez. Gardner advanced to second on third baseman George Kell’s sacrifice. After Williams flied out to Philley in right, Nieman hit the longest drive of the day, to the 415-foot sign in center. Rookie Jim Landis broke quickly and hauled it in to retire the side.

Pierce received some needed breathing room in the White Sox sixth. With one out, All-Star second baseman Nellie Fox extended his hitting streak to 13 games by smashing a double to right that Tito Francona misjudged. Fox moved to third on left fielder Minnie Minoso’s groundout to Gardner and trotted home with the White Sox’ second tally on Lollar’s hot single up the middle.

The Orioles’ last chance for redemption came in the eighth inning. Bob Boyd, pinch-hitting for Wight, opened the frame by being called out after running into the ball he topped in front of the plate. Pierce walked Gardner and then yielded a single to Kell. Williams killed the rally by hitting into a double play.

After the White Sox went quietly in the eighth, Pierce completed his 2-0 masterpiece by setting the Orioles down in order in the ninth, and in record time.9 With this victory and a Yankees loss to Detroit, the White Sox stretched their AL lead to six games, their biggest margin since clinching the pennant in 1919.

Although totally exhausted and again the victim of a weak offense, Pierce managed to put the team on his back in gaining his 10th win of the season, becoming the first major leaguer to hit that mark in 1957.10 Continuing his dominance over the Orioles, he allowed only four runners as far as second base. Now his career record against the Orioles was an eye-popping 14-2.

Pierce attributed his success on this day to the slider Paul Richards taught him to throw.11 That pitch worked to perfection. It was the southpaw’s second straight shutout and third of the campaign. The win boosted Pierce’s complete-game streak to six (eight overall for the season). His six strikeouts increased his season total to a league-leading 70. His consecutive scoreless streak now extended to 23 innings. Pierce had now allowed only one run in 47 innings, lowering his ERA to 1.79 As if these feats were not amazing enough, opponent hits against Pierce in his last five outings looked “like Ben Hogan’s golf card as the string read 4-4-3-2-3.”12

Despite Bill Wight’s superb two-hit performance for the Orioles, Billy Pierce was the story of this game. His batterymate, Sherm Lollar, reflected on Pierce’s mastery: “Billy has never been sharper. … He now has poise and confidence and the ability to fool the best hitters in the league.”13 Just ask the Orioles!



 In addition to the references cited in the Notes, the author consulted the following:



Brown, Warren. “Bill Outduels Wight, 2-0; Tops Yankees by 6,” Chicago American, June 9, 1957: Final Edition, 15-16.

Brown, Warren. “Pierce Wins 10th, Sox Get Two Hits,” Chicago American, June 9, 1957: Home Edition, 21.

Fox, Nellie. “Nellie Fox Reports: Sox Score on 2 of Only 3 Chances,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 9, 1957: 84.

Maisel, Bob. “White Sox Blank Orioles, 2-0, on Pierce’s 3-Hitter,” Baltimore Sun, June 9, 1957: 1D-2D.

Munzel, Edgar. “Pierce Eyes Triple Crown of Hill —Wins, ERA, Whiffs,” The Sporting News, June 5, 1957: 11.

Munzel, Edgar. “Sox Lead by 6, Jolt Orioles 2-0; Pierce Wins 10th on Mates’ 2 Hits,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 9, 1957: 84.

Vaughan, Irving. “Sox Win 2-0, on 2 Hits; Lead by 6 Games,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, June 9, 1957: 2, 1-2.

 “Hose ‘Big Four’ Could Win 95!” Chicago American, June 8, 1957: 10.

“White Sox Blank Baltimore 2 to 0,” Chicago Daily News, June 8, 1957: 26.



1 Rob Neyer, “Billy Pierce,” SABR Baseball Biography Project (sabr.org/bioproj/person/9e29afb8), accessed January 26, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Lou Hatter, “Oriole Pilot Hails Pierce,” Baltimore Sun, June 9, 1957: 1D.

4 Jesse A. Linthicum, “Sunlight on Sports,” Baltimore Sun, June 9, 1957: 2D.

5 Bill Nowlin, “Bill Wight,” SABR Baseball Biography Project (sabr.org/bioproj.person/fc9fd79a), accessed January 31, 2018.

6 Edgar Munzel, “Pierce to Hurl With 3 Days’ Rest,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 8,  1957: 48.

7 David Condon, “Less Rest Helps Pierce’s Control,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, June 9, 1957: 2, 1.

8 Esposito was playing in place of All-Star Luis Aparicio, who had pulled a leg muscle in the last game of the previous series, against the Boston Red Sox. Warren Brown, “That Old Bad Habit Catches Up With Sox,” Chicago American, June 8, 1957: 8.

9 The game was the shortest of the 1957 White Sox season, 1 hour and 49 minutes. As one Baltimore scribe noted, the game was so brief that a fan “hardly had time for two beers and a hot dog.” Hugh Trader, “Red-Hot White Sox Nip Birds, 2-0,” Baltimore News American, June 9, 1957: C-1.

10 “I Was Lucky This Time, Says Billy,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 9, 1957: 84.

11 Ibid.

12 Edgar Munzel, “Hats Off … Billy Pierce,” The Sporting News, June 19, 1957: 21.

13 Gene Kessler, “Lollar on Pitching,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 9, 1957: 78.


Additional Stats

Chicago White Sox 2
Baltimore Orioles 0 

Comiskey Park
Chicago, IL 


Box Score + PBP:

Corrections? Additions?

If you can help us improve this game story, contact us.