However he did it, it worked. The White Sox surprised every last clich� out of baseball observers during the spring by taking an aggressive hold on first place. Moreover, they became purveyors of a continuing daily drama that fascinated onlookers: the White Sox pitcher, alone on stage, his fate in his own hands rather than in the bull-pen's; the base runner, broadening the arena of action with his constant threat to race wildly for the next base; the fielder, repeatedly working things of desperate beauty on grounders and fly balls and throws to home. After a while, people began to realize that these White Sox were just about as daring and exciting a baseball team to watch as the Indians had been a dull and dreary one, and Lopez finally began to receive proper recognition as a shrewd and resourceful manager.
But despite all, it was, and is, no fun for Al Lopez. The good days help but the bad days hurt, and so does the anticipation of the bad days and the enduring of them.
Back to the hotel dining room. The day was a Friday. A game was scheduled for that night with the. second-division Baltimore Orioles. It was raining. The Orioles should not have been a worry, but Lopez knows that in major league baseball the difference between the best team and the worst team is really very slight and shows up only over the length of a season. No law says the worst team cannot beat the best team any given time they play. The odds did favor the White Sox, however, and the rain therefore worried Lopez, too. A hot team hates to be rained out, and at that time the White Sox were hot. Perhaps, also, as he looked at the cold Chicago drizzle, he was thinking of Tampa and home.
Lopez lives alone in Chicago during the baseball season. He's married to a New York girl named Evelyn Kearney, and they have one child, a 15-year-old son. From early spring until school is out, Lopez is separated from his wife and son and his mother, who lives with them in Tampa (his father died in 1925, the first year Lopez played professional baseball). This year, because his son is going to Mexico in July on a special six-week school trip to study Spanish, the separation will last even longer. Lopez, who is a homey sort of man—he has lived all his life in Tampa, and his old friends are still his closest friends—feels the absence of his family keenly.
"But I'm glad the boy is going to Mexico," he said. "I want him to learn to speak Spanish. I can speak it and my mother can, and I'd like for him to be able to. This will give him the chance. He probably won't come up here at all this summer, though, because when he gets home he'll be playing ball in Tampa. He's pretty serious about baseball."
Lopez' face was pensive.
"They grow up so fast," he said, in the age-old protest of the parent. "When he was little we used to go to the movies together. I like movies. They're relaxing. I'd come in the house and I'd say, 'Did you finish your homework?' And he'd say, 'Yes.' I'd say, 'Want to go see a movie?' He'd say, 'Sure.' He'd go ask his mother, and then he and I would go down and see a cowboy movie. We'd do that during the winter sometimes three or four times a week. When he was littler. We don't go to the movies together any more."
After lunch Lopez went up to his room and lay on the bed reading until 4 o'clock, when he and Coach Johnny Cooney drove out to Comiskey Park. It had stopped raining, but the sky was still heavy with clouds. Inside, in the small room that is his office, Lopez undressed, put on his uniform shirt and his cotton and wool uniform stockings. Charles Comiskey, vice-president of the White Sox, walked in.
"You want to hit?" he asked Lopez.