Posts Tagged ‘World Series’

Deep in the Diamond Mine

November 10, 2009

November 9 – Now, then Then . . . .

The obvious headline of the November Classic is rightly, “Yanks Beat Phils, Capture 27th Title,” but the more interesting, hidden headline from future Arcane Archives is written, “Phils Beat Yanks, Giving Sox Distinction,” for with Philadelphia’s opening game victory over New York, those 2005 Sox arose once more as the Chicago gift that keeps giving! And I’m not referring to ex-Sox not-so-great Damaso Marte’s 0.00 post-season ERA, following his 9.45
regular season–an unprecedented difference.

For when at last Cliff Lee’s masterpiece was fully spun, the White Sox prevailed as the only 21st century, first decade team to have won a true traditional pennant (more victories than any team in its league) preceding a World Series sweep, a nearly invisible yet not small accomplishment.

But with the glorious opening day of the off-season giving baseball reflection the hardwon edge over baseball action, at last stilling those moveable numbers for six months, we seize the opportunity to more fully cement the past with a breaking story from the “It’s never too late to celebrate too early a diamond golden anniversary newsroom!”

Sticking with the Sox, that baseball bromide urging to wait a few years before judging a trade grants me a chance to finally analyze (a mere nearly 50 years later!) a transaction that supposedly ruined the budding dynasty the ’59 White Sox had begun. The December 1, 1959 deal that lives in franchise front office infamy featured Sox owner Bill Veeck’s sending young outfielder Johnny Callison to the Philadelphia Phillies for journeyman third baseman Gene Freese.

Callison’s play the next two years is both forgettable and forgotten. Freese’s better-than-Callison ’60 season for the third place Sox, and the abundant ’60-’61 production of outfield stars Minnie Minoso, Al Smith, Jim Landis and Floyd Robinson, made Callison’s possible impact at that time a moot (or, as a nameless Sox announcer would say, “mute”) point. Then Johnny truly blossomed: four excellent years followed, including three All Star selections, propelling the fine all-around right fielder to an outstanding 226-homer, .264 BA career that ended with the Yankees in 1973.

Gene Freese’s trade to the Redlegs before the ’61 season (where he starred for the N.L. champs) brought 10-13 veteran Cal McLish to Chicago, along with, without fanfare, the first two-headed lefthanded pitcher in baseball history, the great Wilbur Pizarro!

Somehow not even listed in the Baseball Encyclopedia, this fast-baller-turnedknuckleballer brought 238 wins and 64 saves to the Sox over a span of 18 years, with 5 All Star appearances and 4 20-game seasons from 1961 through 1978.

Of course, we could divide this hurling hydra into the more familiar names of Juan Pizarro, history’s top Puerto Rican pitching conquistador, and Wilbur Wood, that tireless, wondrous workhorse–the former obtained in the Sox-Reds Freese swap, the latter going to Chicago from Pittsburgh for Pizarro in 1966.

What winning pitching for winning (if not championship*) White Sox teams in the ‘60s and ’70s! Now looking back, it makes the Callison trade for Freese, with Gene bringing Juan who brought Wilbur, not only not one-sided but arguably beneficial for the Sox (if not quite crediting foresight over hindsight). Moral (as the Sox have just traded Chris Getz and Josh Fields for Mark Teahen): give a trade time, before you give it some more!

Barry Codell

*The most unique of these is the 1964 White Sox who won the highest percentage of games played that year of any major league team, yet missed the post-season, strongly competing now for our attention with those aforementioned, irrepressible 2005 Pale Hose and perhaps the 2009 World Champs, your (and Hideki Matsui’s) New York Yankees!

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Whirled Series

October 27, 2009

October 27, 2009 . . . .

 That perfect Yankee-Phillie World Series matchup is the final chapter of the 60 storied seasons that began the year those same two teams first played each other for keeps in the 1950 World Series, swept by the New Yorkers.  Yet astoundingly, these six amazingly full decades have not in the least altered two facts astonishingly frozen in baseball history, whether written adverbially in 1950 or 2009:  The Bronx Bombers continue to have won the most undisputed (league’s best regular season record, i.e., true pennant, and majors’ best post-season record, i.e., World Champs) major league championships, and the “Fightin’ Phils” still have never won a one!  (See “Futility Streaks,” Art of the Article link.)  Even an inspired Philadelphia victory over the New Yorkers would not give them and their fans, at long last, their first ever, clear-cut, unchallengeable triumph.

 Let’s use and peruse that ’50 series, the “closest sweep” in fall classic annals (until the White Sox whitewash of the Astros in 2005) to return to Chicago for a worthwhile reminiscence:  the, if not infamous, famously unknown “Meeting of the Casimirs.”  The N.L. MVP in 1950 was none other than Phillie reliever supreme, major league save leader Casimir James “Jim” Konstanty (whom his future team Yankees edged 1-0 in his surprise Series opening start).  On July 11 in Comiskey Park that same season, former White Sox All Star Casimir Eugene “Cass” Michaels, now a Senator, doubled and scored for the A.L. as a pinch hitter, while Konstanty hurled a hitless, two-strikeout inning for the N.L. stars, marking the only time the only Casimirs in baseball history played (flawlessly, to boot) in the same All Star Game!

 Digressing again from that fortuitous digression just brought to us by MLB, we must return to New York City and the matter at hand.  The Phillies, coming full circle to avenge their 1950 “Whiz Kids” defeat, would bring home a second significant, if smaller success:  they can become the first team since the Yankees of the ’90s to repeat in the three-tier playoff era (and the first in the 21st century) and, in beating the posh Pinstripers head-to-head in 2009, would definitely deserve justifiable kudos, proper props and heavy hat-tipping for turning it all around, as well as continued encouragement for their now nearly Sisyphean task to really (and finally) “win it all”–next year!

Part II – New York Rites to Free Mason from Oblivion–
and A Fond Grim Reminder . . . .

 The Brian Doyles and Buddy Biancalanas of the world (I wouldn’t even mention Dusty Rhodes and Chuck Essegian but for the fact I just did), despite their unfathomable World Series numbers, have to stand (or lie) statistically with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson et al. when it comes to unfailing success in October.

 That 1.000 BA, 5.000 OPS that stares back at us from the Classic’s ledger was first achieved by a defensive replacement who homered in his only career World Series at bat.  Jim Mason’s third-game 1976 Yankee Stadium home run against Cincinnati was a rare bright spot for the Yanks, who were summarily swept by the Big Red Machine.

 This perhaps doubtable achievement became Halloweenly redoubtable when it was eerily matched 29 years later by another defensive replacement in game 3 of a World Series sweep, when Geoff Blum shockingly homered in his one at-bat for the altogether shocking White Sox champs (see Ghosts of Octobers Past)!

 Jim (“Don’t Call Him James”) Mason, however, remains as the only man in baseball mystery to have homered in a World Series in his only post-season plate appearance, at once a perfect autumn opening and closing act . . . .

*          *          *          *          *

 Remembering another Yankee this October who in not making a World Series mark made his mark.  For can you imagine a Yankee All Star in the ’50s playing in five seasons for the Bombers but never in a winning World Series?  Highly mathematically improbable, to say the most!  But Bob Grim, after winning 20 games for the winningest Casey Stengel team of all (which, equally improbably, despite winning 103 games, missed the Series entirely, finishing in second place to the ready-to-be-swept 1954 Indians), pitched in the losing New York series of ’55 and ’57 and did not appear in the ’56 and ’58 victory runs.  So how should we remember fondly Grim?  Only as the only pitcher ever to both win 20 games his first season (1954) and be a major league save leader (1957) over the course of his career.  Who could ask for a more select company than our long-forgotten October star-crossed star, Robert Anton Grim.

 Speaking of missing World Series, I suddenly am thinking of a great player (and guy) who, while never playing in one, literally made Series history!  Do you know this bit of baseball essentia?  By dint of hint:  in 1929, seven of the top eight A.L. batting leaders were future Hall of Famers, but the man who led them all was not!  Who was he?  He co-starred with Joe E. Brown in the baseball film, “Slide, Kelly, Slide” (he was a classically trained singer), learning all the angles of the camera and eventually creating the official World Series film anthology we still so treasure today.  Of course, the answer is the great batting coach (and a champion at .369, alas, without playing in a championship game) Lew Fonseca.  A unique individual on and off the field, there can be none in lieu of Lew.

 Thanks for the World Series memories . . . .