TRIVIA QUESTION: How many times did Minnie Minoso finish in the top FOUR in MVP Voting over his career?
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: While Phil and Joe Niekro were the winningest brothers to ever take the mound in the major leagues with 539, the Niekro family banged 25 big league homers. However, 17 of those were by Joe's son Lance, who spent four seasons with the Giants. Daddy Joe hit one in 22 years, while Uncle Phil hit seven in 24 seasons.
Every once in a while a championship team gets better and finishes worse. This might be said of the 1960 Chicago White Sox. Statistically, the 1960 White Sox were better hitters, stole more bases and were as good on the mound than their 1959 pennant winners. But, instead of first, the club finished third, 10 games back of the Yankees and two back of Baltimore.
It can be argued, the Sox, who spent 31 days in first place in 1960 and were in it until the closing weeks of the season, were still pretty good. Maybe it was the Yankees who just got that much better.
You might think the "Go-Go White Sox" who ran their way into the 1959 World Series, may not have lost that speed in 1960. When you look at the numbers however, the 1960 club stole more bases 122-113, and scored more runs 741-669 than the previous year. The 1960 club had a better team batting average, .270 to .250, and hit more home runs 112-97.
Other key figures show the following. In 1959 the Sox had an on-base percentage of .327. A year later it was .345. Walks were about the same although the 1959 team had 13 more bases on balls during the season - pretty much a wash.
Key players in 1960 were Roy Sievers with 28 homers, 93 RBI and .295, and 34 year old Minnie Minoso with 20 dingers, 105 RBI while batting .311. In all five players in 1960 banged at least 10 homers and no one else had more than seven. The previous "Go-Go" season only Sherm Lollar with 22 and Al Smith with 17 had more than nine HR and no one approached 100 RBI. Lollar led the team with 84.
Pitching? There are some differences, but were they enough to make the Sox lose seven more games in 1960 than the previous year? The team ERA went from 3.29 to 3.60 which did not help. The home runs allowed were a difference of 2, the walks a difference of 8, but the key indicator, the WHiP went from 1.278 in 1959 to 1.355 in 1960.
So where did the 1960 club go wrong? A losing streak in June didn't help. They lost 10 of 14 but even then they still managed to regain first place later in the season.
Maybe the answer lies in the front office. The Sox were an aging team with five of the eight 1959 players in the starting line-up over 30 years old. The team, for whatever reason, chose to trade off several young future stars before the start of the 1960 season.
At the end of the 1959 season they picked up Minoso in a deal with the Indieans: with Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese and Jake Striker with the Chicago White Sox giving up future sluggers Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano.
Then they sent a young Johnny Callison to the Phillies for Gene Freese. Days before the season began they opted to send future star catcher Earl Battey to the senators with future slugger Don Mincher and $150,000 for Roy Sievers. The other bungled trade was sending key reliever Barry Latman to the Indians for aging Herb Score. Score would go 5-10 in 1960 for Chicago.
It left Sox fans wondering for years what a line up which inlcuded Callison, Mincher, Cash, Minoso and Battey would have looked like? A year later add Pete Ward and they still had steady Nellie Fox with Tom McCraw coming on.
And on top of all that; The Yankees got better. New York went from 79 wins to 97 before losing to Pittsburgh in the World Series.
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