SI Vault
 
THE WHITE SOX HEX THAT FAILED
William Leggett
June 29, 1964
With a voodoo doll for luck and a hot lineup of nonentities who were leading the American League, Chicago took off for 14 consecutive games against the top contenders. Here is a day-to-day account of what happened to the White Sox when the Yankees and Orioles caught up with them
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 29, 1964

The White Sox Hex That Failed

With a voodoo doll for luck and a hot lineup of nonentities who were leading the American League, Chicago took off for 14 consecutive games against the top contenders. Here is a day-to-day account of what happened to the White Sox when the Yankees and Orioles caught up with them

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

"You bunch of chokes. You're worse than the Mets. You're scared of a Yankee uniform. I'm glad you guys don't have to fight a war. You cowards."

MONDAY, JUNE 15. Throughout the day the White Sox players avoided the lobby of the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Just before 5:30 p.m. they came down in the elevators and shuffled toward the bus taking them to Memorial Stadium. Since May 8 the Orioles had won 24 of 37 games; not since 1960 had an Oriole team been in first place this late in the season. Tonight's game was to be televised back to Chicago, and the way the Sox had been going lately it did not seem like a particularly good idea. In the first inning, however, they bounced back with three singles, three doubles and two walks to score seven runs. Al Weis, the fast young second baseman who looks like a rock-'n'-roll singer, jumped up and down in the dugout, and the Sox applauded one another all night. They won 9-1 and regained first place. It was the sixth time this year the White Sox had taken the league lead.

TUESDAY, JUNE 16. Donald Duck got up around 11 a.m. today and went for a walk. Donald Duck is Eddie Fisher, the 27-year-old right-hander who was given credit for last night's victory; the starting pitcher, Fred Talbot, left after three innings when a line drive hit him on the ankle. "I could imitate Donald Duck for almost as long as I can remember," said Fisher. "Sometimes I will be talking to somebody, and then all of a sudden I'll talk like Donald just to see the expression on the guy's face. When I go to banquets during the off season I talk a little and then go right into Donald. Shakes people up a little.

"Last night really picked us up. We know we weren't as bad as we played in New York. If you ask any player about playing in Yankee Stadium he will tell you that it is no different than playing anyplace else, but it is. You know the records through the years when you go in there. You know their team is usually excellent and you live with that in the back of your mind before a game starts. But we aren't as bad as we looked in there this time." Two young boys walked past, and Fisher went into the Donald Duck routine. The boys stopped, looked all around and walked away bewildered. Fisher laughed. Tonight the Sox split with Baltimore, and the Yankees had to scramble to split with the Red Sox in New York.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17. Today the poison-pen letter from the South Side of Chicago arrived for Ron Hansen. He opened it and threw it onto the clubhouse floor in disgust, but First Baseman Joe Cunningham picked it up and taped it to the door near the trainer's room. As each player walked past he read it. But Cunningham's psychology failed. The Sox lost to Baltimore's fine rookie right-hander, Wally Bunker, 6-1. Before the game the Sox had heard that the Yankees had lost in 12 innings to Boston—their seventh loss in 11 extra-inning games this year. The Sox had blown a good chance to gain ground.

THURSDAY, JUNE 18. The gray suitcases were lined up in the hotel lobby tonight at 5 p.m. Outfielder Mike Hershberger was standing alongside, chatting with Starting Pitcher Frank Kreutzer. This was a big game for 24-year-old Kreutzer and a big game for the White Sox. "They want to save the big guys for the Yankee series," said Kreutzer. "My job is to go as far as I can go as hard as I can go." Hershberger carried a box under his arm that held a new pair of baseball shoes with plastic soles. "We need this one tonight," he said. "You hate to lose the last game of any series, because the flight back is brutal. The way we've been going, it would be even worse. We're two and seven on this trip, but we still have a chance to return to Chicago in first place if we win tonight." At the ball park Hershberger put on his new shoes for batting practice, and as he stepped into the batting cage Dave Nicholson, the muscular Chicago home run hitter and American League strikeout king, kidded him. "Hey, Hersey," he said. "Why don't you get a pair with white laces and a buckle in the back?" Hershberger said nothing but hit the ball hard in batting practice.

Kreutzer started superbly, and in the fourth inning Hershberger hit a Dave McNally pitch 370 feet for a home run. It was Hershberger's first of the year, in 197 at bats, and as he trotted back to the dugout some of the players leaned their heads back and closed their eyes as if they had fainted. In the bottom of the fourth inning Al Weis made a brilliant play at second base to stop a Baltimore rally. With Sam Bowens on first for the Orioles, Jerry Adair lashed a ball to Weis's right. As Weis got to the ball he saw that Adair's great speed had carried him almost to first and that Bowens was slowing down in the middle of the baseline to spook Weis out of the double play. Instead of flipping the ball to second for the forceout, thus losing Adair, Weis threw hard to first to nip Adair, and Joe Cunningham's throw back to second got a sliding Bowens. In the sixth inning Weis slammed a ball 380 feet to left center for a home run. ("I just can't hit a ball that hard," he said later.) Kreutzer went six good innings, but Lopez felt he was beginning to tire and took him out. Hoyt Wilhelm faced only 10 hitters to finish up, and the White Sox won 2-0, pushing themselves back into first place for the seventh time. On the bus to the chartered plane taking them back to Chicago, Donald Duck quacked up a storm, and Gary Peters, next day's pitcher against the Yankees, did a fine imitation of Crazy Guggenheim. Minnie Minoso, who left the Sox two years ago at age 41 and came back to them this year at age 39, was the first player up the stairs and into the plane. The stewardess gave Minnie a beer, and he smiled his great big smile. The plane took off late, and when it finally got to Chicago at 2:25 a.m. C.D.T., it landed badly. The DC-6 bounced, rolled and then bounced some more. The players held onto the arms of their seats and looked at each other with frozen stares. When the plane finally stopped they scampered down the steps and into the darkness.

The Yankees beat Boston today 6-3

FRIDAY, JUNE 19. Wherever the White Sox went today the question was the same: What happened on the road? But home, of course, is where the Sox play best, and no team in either major league, has been able to build a home night-game record this year comparable to Chicago's 10-1. Tonight the Sox again appeared to have a decided edge over the Yankees. Gary Peters, the only Sox pitcher who had been able to beat New York in the last 14 games between the two teams, was the starter. Berra chose Steve Hamilton to pitch for the Yankees. A sellout crowd was in White Sox Park when a tremendous electrical storm struck. After an hour and a half the game was called. It had cost the White Sox management $12,000 to open the gates.

Nothing was going right for Chicago. After the postponement Al Lopez was told that Berra was going to start Whitey Ford the next day. The Sox had not scored a run off Ford in 32 consecutive innings. Baltimore won a doubleheader from Boston 2-1 and 6-5. The Orioles had now won 18 of 20 one-run games.

Continue Story
1 2 3