Al Lopez, the most relaxed manager in baseball, will try once again to prove that incomparable speed, a tight defense and strong pitching can win a pennant. Here is the fastest team in baseball, with just about every regular guaranteed to take the extra base on a hit or steal on a careless pitcher (last season the White Sox stole 101 bases and were caught only 33 times). Sherm Lollar, always a fine handler of pitchers and now the power man of the team, has finally moved ahead of Yogi Berra as the top catcher in the league. Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox perform magic around second base, and the only thing Fox can't do with his bat is hit home runs. Ranging all over center field is Jim Landis, a fine young man who can run and throw and in his first full season showed he can hit too. Bubba Phillips at third gives the White Sox another good fielder who can run and hit. Backing up everyone in the infield is Billy Goodman, who fields inadequately but always bats .300. A healthy Al Smith in right field could very easily become the valuable player he was just a few years ago when he hit .300 with Cleveland. When it comes to pitching, the White Sox are willing to match their big three of Pierce, Donovan and Wynn against any in the league. And they might be right. For even though Billy Pierce didn't win the 20 games expected of him, his 2.68 ERA was second-best in the league. Dick Donovan, after a horrible start last year (3-10, 4.29 ERA), breezed through the second half at a 12-4, 2.01 ERA pace. Early Wynn, at 39 the American League strikeout king, seems likely to roll on forever.
All the speed, defense and pitching in the world won't help if your team hasn't the power to score runs. And the White Sox just didn't have it last year (they ranked dead last in homers and sixth in runs scored and total bases). Chicago base runners may be able to take all the liberties they want between first and third, but it's awfully tough to steal home. And that's the only way the team will score more runs this season unless more power is found in the lineup. At first base Ray Boone and Earl Torgeson have both seen better days, and Lopez is still waiting for big (6 feet 7 inches, 230 pounds) Ron Jackson to hit the way some people feel he should. Although the first-line pitching is strong enough, the relief work leaves a lot to be desired.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Disdaining trades this past winter, the White Sox are going all the way with some classy youngsters from the farm system. One of the best anywhere could be 20-year-old John Callison, an extremely talented outfielder who can fly around the bases and, best of all, hits with real power. Jumping from a half season in Class-C ball to Triple-A, he hit .283, knocked in 93 runs and led the league with 29 home runs. Two years ago he was still in high school—today he is the White Sox starting left fielder. Moving ahead of Ray Moore and Bob Shaw into the No. 4 spot on the pitching staff is 22-year-old Barry Latman, a big, strong right-hander with an eye-popping fast ball. During a trial with the White Sox late last season he won three and lost none, including a three-hit shutout. Husky home-run hitter John Romano enjoys batting more than catching but, nonetheless, will give Lopez significant depth behind Lollar and Earl Battey. Two lefties, Rodolfo Arias and Don Rudolph, along with right-hander Claude Raymond, a draftee from the Braves' farm system, may be just what's needed to help take the strain off Turk Lown's overworked right arm in the bullpen. Another draftee, Outfielder-Third Baseman Lou Skizas, has never lived up to his hitting potential but this may be the year.
THE BIG IFS
Some extra power has to be found someplace in the lineup if the White Sox are going to challenge the Yankees seriously. If any one of the big first basemen can supply it and Callison comes through in a big way, there'll be runs in Comiskey Park—not a deluge perhaps, but enough to win some of the close ones. If the first basemen fail, and either Romano or Battey hits up to expectations, Lollar may be moved from behind the plate to fill the gap at first. Although Early Wynn doesn't show his age often he is, nonetheless, in his 40th year. Jim Rivera, who used to be one of the most exciting players in baseball, would give the team a big lift if he would get on first base more often. An awful lot is expected of the rookies, and if they don't come through in a big way, Chicago might just as well settle for second again. If they do come through, though, there's no telling what might happen.
The White Sox, after a dreadful start, outplayed the Yankees over the last few months of last season and hopes are high in Chicago that they can play just as well over the full course, for a change. Their speed, defense and pitching are superior. But without punch, it won't mean a thing against the awesome power of the Yankees. Acrimony and confusion in the Sox front office will not help the situation.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]