On Aug. 6, 1959, the White Sox played a 1-1, 18-inning tie against the Orioles in a game ended by Baltimore’s curfew on night games.
The ‘‘Go-Go’’ Sox’ American League lead over the Indians stood at 1 1/2 games, and the race would get no closer. The South Siders finished 94-60, five games better than the Indians, before losing the World Series to the Dodgers.
It’s the 60th anniversary of a remarkable season in which second baseman Nellie Fox, shortstop Luis Aparicio and pitcher Early Wynn finished 1-2-3 in the AL MVP voting and Wynn won the Cy Young Award.
The Sox did it despite being the only major-league team to hit fewer than 100 home runs. Here’s a breakdown, by the numbers:
• Comiskey Park was an extreme pitchers’ park. The Sox scored 313 runs at home and 356 on the road; opponents scored 272 at Comiskey and 316 in Sox road games. Only 87 percent as many runs were scored at Comiskey as in Sox road games.
• Led by Wynn (22-10, 3.17 ERA) and Bob Shaw (18-6, 2.69 ERA), the Sox led the majors with a 3.29 ERA. Averages were 3.86 in the AL and 3.90 in the majors.
• Advanced pitching metrics don’t love the 1959 Sox’ staff quite as much as traditional stats. Their 3.82 FIP — focusing on walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed — was fourth in the AL. Fangraphs.com’s WAR, with FIP as a base and adjusting for park effects, ranks the Sox fourth in the AL and eighth in the majors at 13.9.
• However, that pitching was supported by spectacular defense. By Fangraphs’ DEF measure, Fox, center fielder Jim Landis and Aparicio ranked first, second and third in the AL, with catcher Sherm Lollar sixth and left fielder Al Smith ninth.
The only thing that kept Fox, with 25.8 defensive runs, from being the No. 1 defender in baseball was National League MVP Ernie Banks turning in his best season with 32.4 defensive runs at shortstop for the Cubs.
• Fox slashed .306/.380/.389 for a .770 OPS. That on-base percentage was fourth in the AL. With park effects and defense considered, Fox’s 6.0 Fangraphs WAR ranked behind only the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle (6.6) and the Tigers’ Al Kaline and Eddie Yost (6.2 each). There was no WAR in 1959, but a modern analyst would see Fox as an MVP candidate, just as voters of the time did.
Aparicio slashed .257/.316/.332 and had a 2.8 fWAR to rank further down the list. But he did put the ‘‘go’’ in the ‘‘Go-Go’’ Sox with 56 steals, more than double the 27 by major-league runner-up Willie Mays.
• By Bill James’ Pythagorean formula, the Sox’ 669 runs scored and 588 runs allowed normally would support about an 86-68 record. The Sox outperformed that by eight games by going 12-3 in extra innings and 35-15 in one-run games.
More often than not, there’s regression after a season like that. In 1960, the Sox’ 87-67 record featured a 22-23 mark in one-run games.
The 1959 success in close games was an outlier, but it was glorious for Sox fans.