The Sirens of September (9-22-1959)

After forty years of frustration, the White Sox clinched the American League pennant.  What followed became almost as big a story.

The Sox had won their last league championship in 1919–and then eight of their players had dumped the World Series.  Now it was 1959.  Bill Veeck had bought the team.  The Yankees were slumping.  This might be the year the Sox finally did it.

1959 Chicago White Sox

1959 Chicago White Sox

All season long, the Sox had been battling the Cleveland Indians for the league lead.  On September 22 the two teams were scheduled to play a night game in Cleveland.  Win this one, and the Sox had the pennant locked up.

WGN telecast both Cubs and Sox games in 1959.  TV was still relatively new.  Road games were not carried.  For that matter, neither were night games.

But this was a special occasion.  So WGN sent announcer Jack Brickhouse and his crew to Cleveland to beam the game back to Chicago.  All over the city–but particularly south of Madison Street–baseball fans tuned in.

It was an exciting game.  The Sox took a 4-2 lead.  Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Cleveland filled the bases with one out.  Dangerous Vic Power came to bat.  He banged the first pitch toward second.

Fire Commissioner Quinn

Fire Commissioner Quinn

Shortstop Luis Aparicio raced in and grabbed the grounder.  He kicked second base for the force, then fired to first to get Power.  9:41 p.m. CDT–Sox win!

Within moments, air raid sirens were sounding all over the city.

I was in 7th grade.  I’d been watching the game with my buddies.  The moment Power was thrown out, we raced outside to yell and cheer and generally celebrate.  When the sirens went off, we never doubted that they were for the Sox.

But there were people who hadn’t been watching WGN.  Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was in the U.S. at the time.  The Cold War was at its coldest.  Maybe somebody had shot Khrushchev, and World War III was under way!  Where are those fall-out shelters, anyway?

The next day, Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn took responsibility for sounding the sirens.  Mayor Richard J. Daley was a major Sox fan, and there was talk that the order had come from him.  A few stuffed shirts demanded an investigation.  In the end, the matter was dropped.

What happened after that, in the World Series?  Let’s talk about the 2005 Sox instead . . .



2 Responses to “The Sirens of September (9-22-1959)”

  1. 1 benson September 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I was only 18 months old, but my mother told me the sirens scared the heck out of her. My dad wasn’t home, and both of them came over after the war from eastern Europe and dealing with the Nazis. None the less, as Andy the Clown would yell, Let’s go you White Sox!

  2. 2 Ralph September 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    The White Soxs still frustrate me today!

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