The Top 10 Chicago White Sox Games of the 1950s

By Stephen D. Boren

This article was published in the 2015 The National Pastime.

May 1, 1951
Minnie Minoso debuts for Sox and homers in first at-bat

 

On April 30, 1951, the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Athletics, and Chicago White Sox orchestrated a trade. Philadelphia sent Lou Brissie to Cleveland, which in turn shipped Sam Zoldak and Ray Murray to Philadelphia and Orestes “Minnie” Minoso to Chicago. The Athletics also sent Paul Lehner to Chicago in exchange for Gus Zernial and Dave Philley.1

This was a gutsy trade, as Zernial was the Sox’ top slugger, and Minoso a 25-year-old black rookie joining a Chicago team yet to be integrated. Minoso, who had previously played for Cleveland, debuted for the Sox on May 1, batting third and playing third base against the New York Yankees.

In the bottom of the first, he hit a two-run homer off Vic Raschi. After Raschi fired a strike to Minoso, the young outfielder picked on the next delivery and sent it “into the left center field corner of the bullpen, a tap of something like 420 feet.”2

The trade for Minoso paid off quickly. He immediately became a fan favorite and this love affair continues. He was the first to put the “Go” into the “Go-Go White Sox” and changed the team forever.

 

May 28, 1954
Phil Cavarretta debuts for Sox as player after long Cubs career

Near the end of spring training 1954, Cubs manager Phil Cavarretta, a longtime north side icon, told owner P.K. Wrigley that his team—5–15 at the time—was not very good. Wrigley was furious with this perceived poor attitude and fired him,3 replacing him with Stan Hack. Phil’s position was, “I thought it my duty to give Mr. Wrigley frank views on the ball club’s ability.”4

The South Siders signed Cavarretta as a player on May 24. This move was unusual; at the time, many believed that an unwritten agreement existed between the White Sox and Chicago Cubs to not conduct transactions with each other. Signing a famous Cub such as Cavarretta was major news.5

Ferris Fain started at first base for the Sox against the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a May 28 twin bill. But in the bottom of the sixth, Phil Cavarretta entered the game at first. He made three putouts and was called out on strikes in the eighth. The White Sox won 11–6.6

Cavarretta had not envisioned playing much, and Fain was ensconced as the regular first baseman. Due to a knee injury, however, Fain did not play after June 27 and got into only 65 games. Cavarretta ended up in 71 games. He hit .316, scoring 21 runs and hitting six doubles and three homers and driving in 24 runs.7 Not only did Cavarretta play well for the Sox, he also got a share of playoff money for their third-place finish—and the Sox got to thumb their noses at the Cubs.

 

April 23, 1955
A record-tying 29–6 victory

The White Sox of the 1950s were not known for heavy hitting. Sure, they had Minnie Minoso, George Kell, Gus Zernial, Eddie Robinson, Sherman Lollar, and Nellie Fox, but pitching and fielding were really their forte. On April 23, 1955, however, they did score an amazing 29 runs in one game, tying a mark set by the Boston Red Sox on June 8, 1950. Chicago collected 29 hits, just one less than the American league mark, and clubbed seven home runs, which at the time was only one less than the major-league record.8 The line score:

                   
CHI A 473
206

340
29 29 1
KC A 302
010

000
6 6 3

 

The Sox began the top of the first with Chico Carrasquel singling and reaching third on an error.9 Fox flied out and Minoso reached on another error, scoring Carrasquel. Kell’s single and Bob Nieman’s home run gave the Sox a quick four-run lead. Unfortunately, in the bottom of the first, a Spook Jacobs walk, Jim Finigan’s double, and Bill Renna’s home run cut the advantage to 4–3.

Lollar led off the second with a home run, and Jack Harshman and Carrasquel singled. A ground out, an intentional walk, a force out, Nieman’s single, Walt Dropo’s single, Jim Rivera’s double, and Lollar’s single brought in seven more runs for an 11–3 edge.

In the sixth, up 16–6, the Sox scored six more times.

Minoso’s three-run homer in the seventh and Harshman’s two-run shot in the eighth increased the lead to 27–6. Later in the eighth, Minoso singled in another run and Stan Jok’s sac fly finished the scoring.

Nieman and Lollar each hit a pair of home runs, and Dropo, Minoso, and pitcher Harshman clubbed one each. Lollar twice had two hits in an inning, which itself tied a major league record.

 

June 22, 1956
Sam Esposito leads Sox to four-game sweep of Yankees

On Friday, June 22, 1956, the first-place Yankees (40–20) came to town to face Chicago (32–22). The Yankees featured eventual Triple Crown winner Mickey Mantle (52 HR, 130 RBI, and .353 BA), and Yogi Berra, Bill Skowron, Gil McDougald, Elston Howard, and Hank Bauer as well as pitchers Whitey Ford, Johnny Kucks, Don Larsen, and Tom Sturdivant.

In the first game of the four-game set, Casey Stengel started Sturdivant against Dick Donovan.10 The Sox scored in the third and fifth, but the Yankees tied it with runs in the eighth and ninth. After a scoreless tenth, the Yankees scored two in the eleventh as reserve first baseman Joe Collins singled to chase home Gil McDougald and Norm Siebern.

Sherm Lollar flied out to open the bottom of the eleventh. Walt Dropo singled, but pinch-hitter Bubba Phillips was called out on strikes. Minnie Minoso hit for Luis Aparicio, putting men on second and third. Light-hitting Sammy Esposito batted for Donovan and he too doubled, scoring pinch-runners Jim Delsing and Billy Pierce. Although Jim Rivera singled and Nellie Fox walked, they could not score the winning run.

The Yankees went out in the twelfth, and Dave Philley singled off Rip Coleman to open the home half and Lollar was hit by a pitch. Phillips struck out, but pinch-hitter Ron Northey walked. Esposito then singled home Lollar, and the Sox had stolen game one. Sandy Consuegra was the winning pitcher.

“Chuck Comiskey strode in amid the shrieking players, shook young Esposito’s hand and said with a wide grin, ‘You’re the new mayor of the city.’”11

On June 23 the Yankees started former 20-game winner Bob Grim while the Sox used Jim Wilson.12 Grim pitched a good game, but in the sixth, he hit Dave Philley with a pitch. After a bench-clearing fight, Philley was ejected.13 Lollar doubled to score pinch-runner Jim Delsing, and later, Aparicio singled to drive in Walt Dropo. Wilson only gave up four hits and the Sox won 2–0.

Although the Yankees had played six more games, the two teams were now tied in the loss column: NY 40–22 (.645) and Chicago 34–22 (.607).

Sunday June 24 featured a doubleheader. Game One matched aces Ford and Pierce. The game did not begin well for the Sox, as leadoff man Hank Bauer tripled and Mickey Mantle singled to score him.14 Fortunately, Pierce retired Yogi Berra and Bill Skowron. Esposito, leading off for the Sox, singled to start the first and went to third on a groundout and a wild pitch. Ford hit Minoso with a pitch and Philley singled to plate Esposito. Larry Doby followed with a home run, pushing the Sox ahead 4–1. The Sox continued to pour it on and won 14–2.

The Yankees started Mickey McDermott in Game Two while the Sox started Gerry Staley, who later became their star reliever.15 Again, Esposito played third and led off. The Yankees did not score in the first, and Esposito walked to start the Sox half. Fox singled and Minoso walked, stuffing the bases. Philley’s sacrifice fly scored Esposito and Doby crushed another three-run homer for a 4–0 Sox lead. After Lollar singled, Don Larsen relieved McDermott, but it was too late. Esposito doubled, walked, and scored a run in a 6–3 Sox win.

Falling in four straight to the Sox, the Yankees stood at 40–24.16 The Sox, at 36–22, had pulled within one game of the league leaders. Unfortunately, the Sox dropped from the heights, playing at .500 for two weeks before losing 11 in a row. The club eventually finished third.

 

Sept. 30, 1956
16-year-old Jim Derrington becomes the youngest 20th century pitcher to start a major-league game

Despite worlds of talent, he pitched only 21 big-league games and was finished due to injury by age 22.While the majors had seen some young pitchers, none had been quite as green as Jim Derrington, who took the hill against the last-place Athletics on September 30th, the season’s last day.17 The Sox had clinched third place, and the third-place post-season share, the day before.

Charles “Jim” Derrington, born November 29, 1939, signed with the White Sox as a “bonus baby” on September 12, 1956. He was only 16 years, 10 months, and 1 day old when he made his first start.18

Only 13,171 attended Derrington’s start at Kansas City. With one out in the home first, Hector Lopez and Lou Skizas singled. Hal Smith doubled to left, scoring Lopez, but Skizas was out at third trying to advance. Johnny Groth then reached on Esposito’s error as Smith scored. Rance Pless walked and Derrington balked. Jim Pisoni walked, but Joe DeMaestri lined out, ending the inning with the Athletics up 2–0.

The Sox filled the bases in the second. Aparicio and Fox walked to push two runs across, and a third scored on an errant pickoff throw, giving the Sox a 3–2 advantage.

Unfortunately, the A’s tied the score in the bottom half on another RBI double by Hal Smith. Kansas City did not score in the fourth, despite two Derrington walks. In the fifth, he gave up only a single to Johnny Groth. The bottom of the sixth, however, proved to be Derrington’s demise. After Joe DeMaestri walked and Bill Harrington whiffed, Vic Power homered. Skizas also laced a home run later in the inning, and the Sox trailed 6–3.

In the seventh, Doby batted for Derrington and grounded out. The Sox rallied late, but fell 7–6, Derrington taking the loss. He gave up nine hits and six walks, five of which came on 3–2 pitches.19

The following season Derrington pitched 20 games, starting five of them. While he went on to work in the minors from 1958–61, Derrington never returned to the majors.20 He remains, however, the second youngest man to start a major league game.

 

June 13, 1957
Ditmar, Doby, Slaughter fight

The first-place White Sox, six up in the loss column,21 were hosting the second-place Yankees, with Billy Pierce facing Art Ditmar. In the home first, Bubba Phillips struck out, Nellie Fox walked, and Minnie Minoso singled. After Sherm Lollar flied out, Ditmar threw a wild pitch, advancing both runners.

Ditmar then unleashed a pitch toward Larry Doby's head, which resulted in a 28-minute bench-clearing fight after which Doby, Walt Dropo, Billy Martin, and Enos Slaughter—but not Ditmar—were ejected.22

Doby punched out Ditmar and both Bill Skowron and Martin attacked Doby. Dropo pulled Skowron off, and Slaughter then attacked Dropo. Slaughter’s uniform was nearly torn off him. Manager Al Lopez argued that Ditmar also should banished, but the umpires dismissed this by explaining Doby was the “aggressor.”23 After play was resumed, Jim Rivera’s two-run shot gave the Sox the lead in second, but the Yankees rallied, scoring three in the fifth to take a 4–2 lead and knock out Pierce.

Lollar laced a solo home run in the eighth, but the Sox drew no closer. The White Sox soon lost their huge lead over the Yankees and by June 30 were in second place.

An irate Chuck Comiskey arranged a post-game meeting involving AL president Will Harridge, the umpires, and managers of both clubs. He argued, “Why wasn’t Ditmar thrown out? All Doby said to him was: ‘Why don’t you watch where you’re throwing?’ Then Ditmar said, ‘Go (chase) yourself.’ Doby said: ‘I’ll chase you right now.’ Ditmar turned around and Doby hit him. This is a joke. Are there two sets of rules in the league? I’d like amenity.”24

Harridge, who had been at the game, levied no suspensions, but did fine Doby, Martin, and Slaughter $150 and Dropo and Ditmar $100.25

 

July 14, 1957
Game #2 of DH against the Yankees at Comiskey Park

He joined the White Sox at age 22 and led the AL in steals his first nine seasons.One month after the Ditmar/Doby game,26 the Sox were three games out of first. Chicago won the first game of the day’s doubleheader 3–1 as Billy Pierce tamed New York on five hits.27 Comiskey Park fit in 48,244 fans that day, some 1,500 more than official capacity.28 A win in the nightcap would pull the Sox within one.

Chicago’s Dick Donovan fashioned a gem, scattering five singles over eight innings. The Sox scored in the first on Luis Aparicio’s triple and Earl Torgeson’s fly and plated two more in the third. In the fifth, the Sox knocked out Ford and Yankees reliever Tommy Byrne walked in another run.

With a 4–0 lead in the ninth, everyone expected a sweep. But Mickey Mantle singled as did Yogi Berra. Harry Simpson singled in Mantle and Jim Wilson replaced Donovan with the score 4–1. Hank Bauer singled, but Wilson fanned Elston Howard. Bill Skowron then pinch-hit for Jerry Coleman and launched a grand slam home run for a 5–4 Yankees lead.

Pitcher Byrne followed with another home run and the score was 6–4. The Sox went scoreless in their half of the inning and the crowd filed silently out of Comiskey.29 The pennant race had ended that day.

 

June 27, 1958
Billy Pierce loses a perfect game on a pinch hit with two outs in the ninth

The Sox hosted the eighth-place Senators on June 27, 1958.30 Washington had some quality hitters in the lineup, including Roy Sievers, Jim Lemon, Albie Pearson (Rookie of the Year that season), Norm Zauchin, and Eddie Yost.

Billy Pierce faced Russ Kemmerer. While Kemmerer allowed three runs on eight hits, Pierce retired the side inning by inning. After eight innings, Pierce had whiffed seven batters and no one had reached base. Nobody in the majors had thrown a regular-season perfect game since Charlie Robertson of the White Sox in 1922.

With 11,300 fans cheering him on, Pierce got Ken Aspromonte to ground to Luis Aparicio at short. Catcher Steve Korcheck became Pierce’s eighth strikeout victim. Now down to his last out, Washington manager Cookie Lavagetto inserted Ed Fitz Gerald as a pinch-hitter for Kemmerer.31

“On the first pitch, a knee high curve ball, he swung late and sliced it fair by a foot just out of Ray Boone’s reach at first base. Fitz Gerald made it to second for a double.” A loud groan went through the stands. Pierce then fanned Pearson for the final out. When asked about breaking up the perfect game, Fitz Gerald said, “I was sent up to hit, wasn’t I?”32

 

April 22, 1959
Sox score 11 runs in one inning—on one hit

Scoring 11 runs in one inning is interesting enough, but even more so when you are behind 6–1 after just two innings.33

Reliever Bob Shaw came on for Chicago and tossed 71/3 scoreless innings, paving the way for the White Sox’ decisive 19-run comeback and a 20–6 final.

Chicago knocked out starter Ned Garver in the fourth inning and routed Bud Daley during the sixth, taking an 8–6 lead.34,35

Things got nutty in the top of the seventh. Tom Gorman relieved for the Athletics and Ray Boone reached on Joe DeMaestri’s throwing error. Al Smith reached when third baseman Hal Smith (usually a catcher) fumbled a sacrifice bunt. Johnny Callison singled—the only hit of the inning—to score Boone, and Smith scored as well when right fielder Roger Maris fumbled the ball. Callison advanced to third.

Luis Aparicio walked and quickly stole second. Gorman also walked Shaw to fill the bases. Earl Torgeson batted for Sammy Esposito and walked to force home Callison and give the Sox an 11–6 advantage. Mark Freeman replaced Gorman, who had faced six batters and retired none of them.

Nellie Fox walked to force in Aparicio with the fourth run. Jim Landis grounded to Freeman who forced Shaw at home. Freeman, however, walked Sherman Lollar, scoring Torgeson with the fifth run. George Brunet replaced Freeman and walked Boone; this scored Fox for the sixth run. Smith walked to push home the seventh run. Brunet hit Callison with a pitch, forcing in Lollar with the eighth run of the inning and a 16–6 lead.

Lou Skizas ran for Callison, and Brunet walked Aparicio to plate yet another run. Shaw struck out. Bubba Phillips batted for Torgeson and—you guess it—walked, scoring Smith with the tenth run. Fox then walked and Skizas tallied the eleventh run. Jim Landis grounded out, Brunet to first baseman Kent Hadley, to end the inning.

The White Sox had scored 11 runs (only two of them earned) on one hit, three errors, 10 walks, and one hit by pitch and now led 19–6.

 

September 22, 1959
White Sox clinch the AL pennant, Fire Chief Quinn turns on the sirens, and some people think the Russians have attacked

On September 22, the White Sox faced the second-place Indians in a night game at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. The Sox were 91–59 and within one victory of clinching the AL flag outright.36

Had the Sox lost, their lead would have fallen to just 2½ games with four contests left against the fourth-place Tigers, while Cleveland would finish with four games against the lowly Athletics.

The Sox scored twice in the third and twice more in the sixth when Jim Rivera and Al Smith clouted back-to-back homers. The Indians scored in the fifth and tacked on another in the sixth, when Bob Shaw relieved Wynn. Chicago seemed to be safe with a 4–2 lead, but in the bottom of the ninth with one out, Cleveland’s Jim Baxes singled and Ray Webster pinch ran for him.

Former Sox pitcher Jack Harshman singled to right, putting runners on first and second. Carroll Hardy ran for Harshman. Jim Piersall then singled to load the bases. The crowd of 54,293, sensing its moment, roared.

Sox skipper Al Lopez brought in ace reliever Gerry Staley. Vic Power offered at Staley’s first pitch and slapped a grounder toward Aparicio. The lithe shortstop sucked up the ball, stepped on second, and fired to first to complete the 6–3 double play, ending the game and clinching the Sox’ first pennant in 40 years.37

Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn set off the city’s air-raid sirens to celebrate the pennant.38 This odd nighttime action took many people by surprise, however, and even induced some to think that the Soviet Union had attacked. A Chicago detective tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain a warrant against Quinn for disorderly conduct for sounding the air raid.39

STEPHEN D. BOREN, MD, MBA, FACEP is an emergency medicine physician and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He has appeared on multiple occasions in the "Baseball Research Journal," "The National Pastime," and "Baseball Digest."