October 1, 1959: White Sox clobber Dodgers in World Series opener
After a 40-year drought, the Chicago White Sox clinched the American League pennant on September 22, 1959, with a 4-2 victory in Cleveland. Sirens were activated in Chicago to announce the significant baseball happening. The long-wailing scream pierced the night and frightened many sleepy residents who thought the city was under nuclear attack. Mayor Richard Daley dismissed questions of a federal probe for the unintended commotion by explaining that the city council had authorized the sirens. Daly added joyfully, “This is a great night in the history of Chicago.”1 An energetic fandom topping 25,000 apparently agreed with the mayor as they assembled at Midway Airport for the 2:05 A.M. arrival of the team plane. One homemade sign proclaimed that White Sox manager Al Lopez should be considered for president of the USA.2
The traditional midweek start of the World Series would have to wait an extra day because the Milwaukee Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers were engaged in a best-of-three playoff to determine the winner of the National League pennant. The Dodgers swept the series, two games to none. They used eight pitchers during the pair of one-run triumphs, so manager Walter Alston had to sort out his staff before naming a Game One starter.
With a complement of rested hurlers, Lopez enjoyed some luxury as he chose veteran right-hander Early Wynn, who at 39 had led the AL with 22 victories, to start for the White Sox. Alston selected righty Roger Craig, who sported a 5-0 record during the dramatic pennant drive beginning on August 30. The 29-year-old Craig had a World Series record of 1-1 from Dodgers postseasons in 1955 and 1956 when the team represented Brooklyn. Pitching for the Cleveland Indians, Wynn started and lost the second game of the 1954 World Series.
On Thursday, October 1, some White Sox ushers found that their morning coffee routine might bar them from getting to their assigned gates since the entry access was locked to control crowds.3 Ticket scalpers were plentiful, and one man carrying equipment and dressed in work clothes was turned away as a “gate-crasher” with a phony story that he needed to get to the office of team President Bill Veeck to repair an electrical circuit.4 Four Chicago policewomen were on duty to watch for female pickpockets in the ballpark.5
Outside the ballpark, restaurants and cart suppliers “made a killing” by raising their prices for food and beverages. However, all merchandise costs inside the ballpark remained the same except for the game program which sold for a half-dollar instead of 15 cents.6 Ever the showman, Veeck had 20,000 red roses handed out to the women in the crowd. The White Sox explained the absence of traditional postseason bunting in the ballpark by saying they wanted the fans to see the interior just as it was during the season. Veeck also decided to have his players wear white stockings with black stripes for the first time in years and added that this had been suggested “by at least 500 letter writers this season.”7 A crowd of 48,013 moved toward their seats to get settled for baseball on a crisp and cool day. Vendors were ordered to peddle their wares without blocking the patrons’ view of the game.8 Singer-actor Tony Martin sang the National Anthem while the crowd gazed upon an American Flag that had stuck at half-staff because of a pulley problem on the hoist.9
The White Sox took the field as the fans roared to encourage their team. The starting battery of Wynn and Sherm Lollar waited while an honorary first pitch was delivered by 1917 White Sox world champion heroes Urban “Red” Faber and Ray Schalk. Dodgers switch-hitter Junior Gilliam stepped into the left-hand batter’s box for the symbolic delivery.10 Faber’s “spitter” to Schalk was clearly outside, but plate umpire Bill Summers emphatically signaled a strike.11 The game begun, Gilliam grounded a 1-and-2 pitch to shortstop Luis Aparicio who fielded the sphere cleanly and fired to first baseman Ted Kluszewski for the out. Charlie Neal knocked a one-out single off the glove of third baseman Billy Goodman. Neal stole second and Duke Snider walked. Wynn escaped the jam when Norm Larker lined out to right fielder Jim Rivera.12
Craig started out with a curve for a called strike before Aparicio popped up to shortstop Maury Wills. Nellie Fox walked and took a large lead from first base. During the regular season, the “Go-Go Sox” were tops in the American League in stolen bases. Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro called for a pitchout and Fox dived safely back to the bag.13 Fox raced to third on a single to right-center by Jim Landis. No stranger to the National League and having had great past success versus Craig, the left-handed-batting Kluszewski drilled a groundball single past the lunge of first baseman Gil Hodges. Second baseman Neal dived for the ball, but came up empty; Fox came home and Landis scampered to third. The White Sox tally was the first postseason run recorded by the franchise since October 9, 1919. Landis came across to make it 2-0 after Lollar swatted a long drive to right-center that Larker gloved on the run.14 (The opening excitement was too much for 62-year-old George Thielmann of Cary, Illinois, who collapsed in his box seat of a heart attack and died.15)
Both hurlers retired the side in order in the second. Wynn completed another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third after Neal’s long two-out blast to left field barely hooked foul. In the bottom half, Craig retired his fifth consecutive batter before Fox lined a double into the right-field corner. Landis followed with another safety and plated Fox for the White Sox’ third run. Kluszewski kept the Chicago fans on their feet by lofting a slider to deep right. The ball, aided by a crosswind, had just enough air under it to drop into the first row of the stands for a two-run homer and increase the White Sox lead to 5-0.16 Alston pulled Craig and brought in right-hander Chuck Churn.
Lollar followed with a routine fly ball to left-center. The din of the crowd kept left fielder Wally Moon and Snider from hearing each other,17 and the outfielders collided. The ball was jarred from Snider’s grasp and Lollar slid safely into second.18 Goodman singled Lollar home, and Al Smith doubled to left-center over Moon’s outstretched glove. As Snider chased down the ball. Goodman held up at third, but then he raced home and Smith dashed to third on Snider’s errant throw to second. Rivera hit a grounder to second baseman Neal, whose throw home glanced off Rivera’s bat in front of the plate and past Roseboro for the Dodgers’ third error of the inning.19 Smith scored and Rivera moved to second. Pitcher Wynn doubled to left-center to drive in Rivera with the seventh run of the inning. The White Sox sent 11 hitters to the plate and turned the opener into a 9-0 laugher.
In the bottom of the fourth, Kluszewski boomed his second home run of the afternoon with Landis on first after his third single for an 11-0 advantage. “Big Klu” sent a hanging curve from Churn down the right-field line, where it hit the façade of the upper deck and dropped to the field.20 Alston removed Churn for right-hander Clem Labine, and later employed southpaw Sandy Koufax and righty Johnny Klippstein, who all quieted the South Siders’ bats and kept the large Chesterfield scoreboard from displaying additional Chicago tallies.
Lopez stayed with Wynn until Gilliam’s eighth-inning single. Wynn said his right elbow was stiffening,21 so right-hander Gerry Staley relieved him and induced Neal to ground into a twin killing. Staley allowed two hits in the ninth, but Kluszewski saved the shutout with a nifty stab of Roseboro’s smash and throw to Aparicio for a force play and the second out.22 Pinch-hitter Carl Furillo then flied out to left to end the game in 2:35. The White Sox had 11 runs, 11 hits, and no errors; for the Dodgers it was no runs, eight hits, and three errors.
The “Main Man” in the victorious clubhouse was Ted Kluszewski, who had three hits, five RBIs, and nine total bases. A sportswriter asked the native of nearby Argo, Illinois, “What’s Argo?” Kluszewski laughed and said, “Throw that guy out of here!”23 Dodgers manager Alston moaned, “We had the Chicago speed figured out, but nobody told us about all this power.”24
Later in the evening, Broadway odds-makers made the White Sox 9-to-5 favorites to win the World Series.25
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, SABR BioProject, and The Sporting News archive via Paper of Record.
1 Edward Prell, “White Sox Win Pennant, Riotous Welcome; Sirens Scare City,” Chicago Tribune, September 23, 1959: 1.
3 “A Tough Cop Guards Gate at Sox Park,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 3.
4 George Bliss, “World Series Usher in 1938 Hits Top in ’59,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 2.
5 “A Tough Cop.”
7 “Veeck Gets Even With Perini,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 55-56.
8 “A Tough Cop.”
9 Dave Condon, The Go Go Chicago White Sox (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1960), 185.
10 Condon, 182 (photo caption).
11 “Veeck Gets Even.”
12 Condon, 185.
13 Video Production, Baseball Classics, 1959 World Series (Rare Sportsfilms, Inc., 2000).
15 “Executive, 62, Dies at Game as Sox Take Early Lead,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 2.
16 Condon, 187.
17 Richard Dozer, “Losers Await New Day; Winners Too,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 55.
18 Video, Baseball Classics, 1959 World Series.
20 “Sox Crush Dodgers in Opener, 11-0,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 55.
21 Robert Cromie, “Losers Await New Day; Winners Too,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 55.
22 Video, Baseball Classics, 1959 World Series.
23 “Two Homers Klu’s Greatest Thrill,” Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1959: 75.
24 “Losers Await”: 57.
25 “Revised Odds Say Sox 9-5 Series Favorites,” Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1959: 55.
Chicago White Sox 11
Los Angeles Dodgers 0
Game 1, WS
Box Score + PBP:
If you can help us improve this game story, contact us.