May 1, 1951 dawned bright and sunny on the south side of Chicago. It promised to be a warm day, too: as the sun peeked above the horizon the temperature was already near 70 and steadily rising. By game time, the crowd of 14, 776 must have thought they’d been transported south as the mercury hit a record-high 90 degrees, a good 35 degrees above the average for that time of year.
On the diamond, the record for the home team wasn’t exactly hot –a respectable 6-4– but then again, their opponent from New York came in only two games better at 8-4, though they had just completed a sweep of the Senators in the Bronx. Would the Yankees keep their win streak alive, or would the upstart White Sox, led by the young outfielder (and sometimes third baseman) from Cuba, prove up to the challenge?
Cultural and baseball miscellany
On this unseasonably warm day, the radio was playing the current hot hit: How High the Moon, performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford. This song occupied the number one spot on the billboard, and was in the midst of a nine week run atop the charts.
If one wished to cool off at the cinema rather than attend the ballgame, just $0.46 was required to gain admission to the top box office hit: At War with the Army, a comedy starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Interestingly, the copyright wasn’t renewed on this film and has since entered public domain. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, if interested.
In baseball, the season had just started a couple of weeks prior, so there wasn’t much in the way of news or events. Notable for the White Sox, the game highlighted today marks the first time the White Sox fielded a black player on the diamond with the inclusion of Minnie Minoso to the lineup.
Lastly, in a couple of months the Hall of Fame would induct two new players to its ranks, Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx, this coming after the BBWAA whiffed and elected nobody during the 1950 season (Ott came closest, with 68.5% of the vote that year).
Umpires for today’s game
- HP: Charlie Berry
Charlie Berry appeared just a couple of months ago in a different Random Box Score: as you might recall, he holds the distinction of being one of a few to both umpire in the World Series and the NFL Championship. Berry umpired from 1942-1962. A few months from now would see him work the plate for Bob Feller’s third no-hitter on July 1.
- 1B: Eddie Hurley
Hurley was an umpire from 1947-1965, and worked four World Series including the 1959 tilt between the White Sox and the Dodgers (of which game four holds the distinction as the largest attendance in World Series history.)
- 2B: Larry Napp
Another veteran of Random Box Score, Napp worked as an umpire from 1951-1974 seeing action in four World Series and four All-Star games.
- 3B: Art Passarella
With the shortest of careers from today’s umpire quartet, Passarella worked a couple of stints: first from 1941-42, and then again after World War II concluded: another nine years from 1945-1953. He worked in three World Series and two All-Star games, but what I find most interesting is that he also had a career as an actor: IMDB credits his most famous role as Officer Sekulavich from The Streets of San Francisco, but I noticed that he also appeared (uncredited) in the 1962 Cary Grant/Doris Day romcom, That Touch of Mink.
|New York Yankees||Chicago White Sox|
|Mickey Mantle, RF||Chico Carrasquel, SS|
|Jerry Coleman, 2B||Paul Lehner, LF|
|Gil McDougald, 3B||Minnie Minoso, 3B|
|Gene Woodling, LF||Eddie Robinson, 1B|
|Yogi Berra, C||Al Zarilla, RF|
|Jackie Jensen, CF||Jim Busby, CF|
|Joe Collins, 1B||Nellie Fox, 2B|
|Phil Rizzuto, SS||Gus Niarhos, C|
|Vic Raschi, SP||Bob Cain, SP|
Play by Play
Starting the game for the White Sox this day was lefty Bob Cain. This was Cain’s second game of the season, and he entered 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA, that loss coming in a 5-2 complete game effort against Cleveland the week prior. Sugar (yes, that was his nickname according to Baseball Reference, some good Dad Joke material, there) got the first two outs easily –a popup off the bat of rookie Mickey Mantle, and a 5-3 Jerry Coleman groundout– then gave up a ringing double to soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Gil McDougald for the Yankees’ first hit. Things would stay quiet, though, as Gene Woodling would ground back to first for the final out of the inning.
Opposite Cain was Vic Raschi, the Springfield Rifle (so named for his fastball and where he grew up, near a gun armory). Raschi was in the midst of three straight 20-win seasons, and was 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA. Things started out rocky, though, for Raschi. After getting the first out on a flyball from Chico Carrasquel, two very recent acquisitions made their presence known. Paul Lehner and Minnie Minoso were next up, each having come over to the team as part of a massive three-way trade between the White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Indians the day before.
(By the way, the trade worked out for all involved that season: Philadelphia sent Lehner in exchange for Gus Zernial and Dave Philley, while Cleveland sent Minoso to the Sox and Ray Murray and Sam Zoldak to the Athletics to get Lou Brissie.)
Lehner singled to right for his first hit as a White Sox, while Minoso made his debut memorable, crushing a home run to the centerfield bullpen to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. While Raschi would walk Al Zarilla, that came after the second out of the inning (Eddie Robinson popped up to second), and wouldn’t matter as he retired Jim Busby on a 5-3 groundout.
The second inning was more productive for the Yankees, and would get them on the board.Yogi Berra led the inning off with a hit by pitch, taking one to the elbow. Cain then got back-to-back flyouts before the trouble began: a single to Phil Rizzuto and a walk to his counterpart in Vic Raschi made the bases loaded. Mickey Mantle was up next and one rookie saved another: a grounder to third went through Minoso’s legs scoring two to tie things up. A 6-3 groundout from Jerry Coleman finished the second and it was a whole new ballgame.
While the third was quiet for both teams (Cain worked around another HBP and a wild pitch), the Yankees garnered two more in the fourth by way of small ball. Joe Collins reached on a bunt single and Phil Rizzuto came through with his second single of the game. Raschi was up next in the pitcher’s spot, and advanced both runners with a sac bunt. Mickey Mantle then continued the theme of productive outs, scoring Collins on a sac fly, and Jerry Coleman doubled the lead by scoring Rizzuto off a single to left. 4-2 Yankees, though that would be all they got, as Gil McDougald tapped back to the mound for the third out.
The Sox went quietly once again in the fourth, but Yogi Berra prevented Cain from a clean fifth inning, hitting his first home run of the season, a shot to right which barely cleared the wall and ultimately bounced back onto the field. 5-2 Yankees.
The Sox’ half of the frame saw them attempt to close the gap, also via small ball. Gus Niarhos singled to lead things off and Bud Stewart (pinch hitting for Cain, whose day was finished) came through with a single of his own to men on first and second with nobody out. Chico Carrasquel was up next, and he made it three singles in a row on a smack to center which scored Niarhos to put the Sox down two, 5-3. Paul Lehner continued to put the pressure on, as he bunted over Carrasquel and Stewart to second and third, respectively, but it wasn’t to be: Minoso hit back to Raschi who threw home for the second out, then Eddie Robinson recorded the third out with a flyball out to center.
In the sixth, the Yankees got back the run and more. Vic Raschi helped his own cause, *ahem* rifling a double to left with one out. Mickey Mantle was up next, and he started down the path to Cooperstown: home run number 1 of an eventual 536 off reliever Randy Gumpert; as the New York Times describes it: “a majestic 440-footer into the center-field corner of the lower grandstand”. Back-to-back flyouts ended the inning, but the damage was done and it was 7-3 Yankees.
The Yankees would get one more in the eighth, again by small ball. Collins walked, and after Rizutto bunted him over, Johnny Mize, pinch-hitting for Raschi, singled to center to score Collins: 8-3 Yankees. While the Yankees wouldn’t get another run, they wouldn’t need to: Sox’ bats were quiet in the eighth and the ninth outside of a few singles. At 6-5, the White Sox would try and go get ‘em the next day.
In a summation of the two teams, both were positioned well for the future. For the Yankees, they would go on to win the World Series: this was part of their unprecedented streak of five consecutive World Series’ titles (and six of seven). Mantle, of course, would help to lead the way. While his 1951 season wasn’t exactly Ruthian, it was respectable for a 19-year-old rookie (.267/.349/.443, 13 HRs, 1.5. bWAR/117 OPS+). Mick would figure the league out quickly, though, leading the Yankees in WAR for 10 of the next 11 seasons and back-to-back MVP campaigns in 1956 and 1957.
The White Sox, meanwhile, finished the 1951 season at 81-73, good for fourth place in the American League. Again, not exactly juggernaut numbers, but considering this was the first above-.500 team the Sox had constructed since the war-torn 1943 season, it was a breath of fresh air. Happily for fans of the Pale Hose, it was a sign of things to come: they wouldn’t finish below .500 again until 1968, led by the likes of Minnie Minoso, Billy Pierce, and Nellie Fox. If not for those Damn Yankees, there might just be several more pennants flying aloft in the outfield.
Random Box Score White Sox record: 9-5
National Weather Service
New York Times
I remember watching part of this game on TV after coming home from school. It was memorable because it was Minnie’s first game. One of my school mates expected a sellout but 14,000 was a good crowd for an afternoon game at the time. It didn’t take the Sox long to conclude that Minnie wasn’t a third baseman.
Wow! I wouldn’t start school to the next year. I don’t believe we even had a tv yet. Time flies!
I don’t really remember the specifics of the game. I just remember how important the game was and that I wanted to see it. I only lived 1 1/2 blocks from my high school.