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Hickok SportsThoughts

Sports historian and author Ralph Hickok of www.hickoksports.com sometimes meanders on about current happenings in sports and sometimes looks back in languor.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Root, Root, Root for . . . Which Team?

I have a mild rooting interest in the World Series. So mild that I will probably have little or no effect on the outcome.
Once upon a time, I was a White Sox fan.
Blame it on my youth. And my circumstances. When I was growing up in Green Bay, the nearest major league teams were in Chicago. Most people I knew were Cub fans, but there were a few strays who rooted for the White Sox, including my mother, who was a major baseball fan.
The first major league game I ever saw was at Comiskey Park, White Sox vs. Red Sox, in 1947. I was eight years old and much more interested in football than baseball. I don't remember how the game came out. All I do remember is that Ted Williams hit the ball very, very hard several times.
I wasn't really a White Sox fan yet. That happened in 1950, when Chico Carrasquel took over at shortstop. I was playing shortstop for park teams in both baseball and softball, and Carrasquel quickly became my idol.
In 1951, Paul Richards became the White Sox manager. That was the first of 17 straight winning seasons for the team, the second longest streak in history.
Under Richards, the White Sox became much the kind of team they are today, built on pitching and speed. I'm not sure if I liked the White Sox because of that style of play or if I liked that style of play because of the White Sox. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that I was a singles hitter and base stealer.
The Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953 and became my new favorite team. I still rooted for the White Sox in the American League, but the Braves definitely came to the forefront. They finished second three times in their first four years in Milwaukee and then went two straight pennants, in 1957 and 1958.
The White Sox finished second both of those years. But, in 1959, while the Braves slipped to second place in the National League, the White Sox finally won the American League pennant, their first since 1919.
Like the 1951 edition, the "Go-Go" White Sox of 1959 were built on pitching and speed. Luis Aparacio, who had replaced Chico Carrasquel at shortstop, led the league with 56 stolen bases, far ahead of Mickey Mantle, who finished second with 21. As a team, the Sox had 113 steals and only 97 home runs. Second baseman Nellie Fox was the league's MVP and Early Wynn won the Cy Young Award. Wynn and Fox each hit two home runs that season. Wynn did it in only 90 at-bats, while Fox had 624.
The manager was Al Lopez. During the 1950s, Casey Stengel's Yankees won eight of ten pennants. Lopez was the only manager besides Stengel to win a pennant during that decade, with the Indians in 1954 and the White Sox in 1959. Lopez finished second to Stengel seven times, five times with Cleveland and twice with Chicago.
Anyway, for the third year in a row, I had a team to root for in the World Series. The Braves had beat the Yankees in 1957, thanks to Lew Burdette's three wins, but they lost to them in 1958. Facing the Dodgers in 1959, the White Sox rolled to an 11-0 victory behind Wynn in the first game, but they ended up losing in six.
Now, 46 years later, I find myself rooting for the White Sox once again. But very quietly. I'm not sure the baseball gods will even notice.