For four days Donald Duck did not quack. Normally Donald will take a whack at a quack every chance he gets, but from Monday through early Friday evening of last week he merely sat and worried. Donald is Eddie Fisher, the 28-year-old relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, and ever since he was in junior high school back in Altus, Okla. 16 years ago he has been entertaining people with his imitation of Walt Disney's movie cartoon character. But not last week. "This is no time for Donald," he said Friday at 5 p.m. after the White Sox, who were facing a three-game series with the Yankees, had lost six of seven games to fall out of the American League lead.
But by Saturday, Eddie Fisher was Donald Duck again, quacking happily away in the White Sox clubhouse in Comiskey Park. The White Sox had won two straight games from the Yankees and regained first place. From the very beginning of the season Fisher has quacked a magic number at his teammates after each of their victories. "I decided at the start that it would take 100 games to win the pennant," he says. "Now we only need 74 more."
Last year no one really believed in the Chicago White Sox, even though they lost the pennant by only one game. Joe Horlen, the tough-luck pitcher last year, said, "I thought the whole 1964 season over during the winter. I tried to figure out how it might have been won for us. I played games over and over in my mind." The Sox were long on pitching but woefully short of hitting. This season they are once again long on pitching and long on spirit and long on managing, but now they are also long on good, solid hitting, which has almost never been a White Sox characteristic. "Last season," says Manager Al Lopez, "we had to scrounge around for runs, and too often we didn't get the one run we needed to win. Now we have power and we can play for a big inning."
"I remember when we went into Los Angeles for a series last year," says Pete Ward, the Chicago third baseman, "a columnist wrote that the White Sox were in town and that no one knew we were there but that by the time we left we would have won three games. Well, that's the type of club we were. But now we have some guys who can make some noise with the bat and get us some runs, and we have excellent pitching. That's two big pluses."
Last year it seemed that almost all Chicago's games were close and the White Sox had to scratch to win but, even so, the 1964 team was not an exciting one. This year, however, there seems to be an entirely different attitude about the White Sox in Chicago. Right now the city feels that the White Sox are the logical, odds-on favorites to win in the American League. It is a sound feeling.
Frustrated by their offensive shortcomings in 1964, the White Sox went out and traded for the hitters they needed for 1965. They got Bill Skowron in July last year and in the off season obtained John Romano from Cleveland and Danny Cater from Philadelphia. Too, the younger White Sox players—like Don Buford, Tom McCraw, Ken Berry—seem ready now. Shortstop Ron Hansen has always been a valuable man in the clutch, and Ward and Robinson are among the most respected hitters in the league.
The series with the Yankees last weekend was a major one for the White Sox, because, like every other team in the league, Chicago could not quite believe that the slumping New Yorkers were truly an eighth-place team. They are right, of course. The Yankees are not an eighth-place team, but neither are they a first-place team.
When the Yankees came into Chicago last week a clipping was hung on the White Sox bulletin board. It said, "Mantle says Yankees will win by 10 games." The word "win" was scratched out and the word "lose" put in its place. The White Sox would not admit that the series with the Yankees was of particular significance, but their actions said it for them. Donald Duck had requests from friends and relations for 40 tickets. "They beat us the first 10 last year," Joe Horlen said. "That won't happen again." Lopez said, "Those were all good ball games we played the Yanks, but we lost 10 in a row to them. This team knows who it is playing."
Romano the hero
So, the White Sox beat the Yankees 2-0 last Friday in the first game between the clubs this year. Horlen pitched well, and John Romano broke an 0-0 tie when he scored from second base on an infield hit. Romano banged past Yankee Catcher Doc Edwards, knocking the ball away, injuring his own foot and missing the plate. Although in great pain, he strained back full length to touch home with his hand for what proved to be the winning run. The White Sox won again Saturday 6-3 on a succession of Yankee mistakes, and though New York came back on Sunday to win the final game of the series 3-2 in 12 innings, the New Yorkers were still seven games below .500 and nine full games behind the White Sox. Obviously, it was a different year.