White Sox's dreadful start bringing back painful memories of 75 years ago

Manager Ted Lyons' 1948 White Sox won just seven of their first 30 games.
Manager Ted Lyons' 1948 White Sox won just seven of their first 30 games. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

The Chicago White Sox's 8-21 beginning to the 2023 season has been equally frustrating, discouraging, and demoralizing for the team's emotionally fragile fan base.

But White Sox fans can take some comfort in one thing this year. Hey, Sox fans, at least it's not 1948.

The White Sox of 75 years ago set the franchise record for the fewest victories after the first 30 games of the season at seven.

This year's team, which is scheduled to play its 30th game Tuesday night at home against the Minnesota Twins, won its eighth game on Sunday 12-9 over the Tampa Bay Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The Chicago White Sox's bad start brings back some ugly memories.

There was no Guaranteed Rate Field, no Minnesota Twins or Tampa Bay Rays in 1948. But, judging by the White Sox performance this year, that might be the only real difference between this year's team and the one that called the original Comiskey Park home 75 years ago.

The difference, if there is one, might be as slim as the difference between a tie and a loss. The 1948 White Sox, because of a 3-3 tie against the Washington Senators in its 10th game, actually lost just 22 of its first 30 games.

The tie game, which was halted after five full innings in Washington because of rain, counted in the official standings and statistics, giving the 1948 Sox a 7-22-1 record after 30 games.

Those 22 losses are also a White Sox franchise record after 30 games, an unfortunate distinction the 2023 Sox can share with the 1948 and 1950 (8-22) Sox teams with yet another loss on Tuesday. Just two other Sox teams (1932 and 2018) lost as many as 21 of their first 30 games (both started 9-21).

Unlike this year, though, the expectations for the 1948 White Sox were low. The 1947 White Sox, in manager Ted Lyon's second season (he took over for Jimmy Dykes just 31 games into 1946), finished just 70-84-1.

"Chicago is expected to be jockeying for position in the second division (fifth or lower in the eight-team American League) come the season's final month," Arch Ward of the Chicago Tribune wrote the day before the 1948 season started on April 20.

Ward, who created the major league All-Star game (the first one was played at Comiskey Park in 1933), might have been giving the 1948 White Sox too much credit. The White Sox proceeded to lose their first four games and six of their first seven.

The sixth loss was a true heartbreaker, something this year's team knows all too well. The 1948 Sox, opening a three-game home stand against the Cleveland Indians on April 26, lost 12-11 in 14 excruciating innings.

The White Sox led 11-9 going into the ninth inning but the Indians scored twice as three Sox relievers (Glen Moulder, Jim Goodwin, Earl Caldwell) failed to preserve the victory.

Lyons sent Caldwell to the plate in the bottom of the 12th to hit for himself with runners on first and second and two outs. He struck out.

Caldwell was still pitching in the top of the 14th when future White Sox first baseman Eddie Robinson hit his second home run of the game to drop the Sox to 1-6 on the year.

Cleveland, which used seven pitchers, even summoned future Hall of Fame starter Bob Feller for the save in the bottom of the 14th.

The final two games of the series were rained out, likely saving the White Sox from two more losses to the eventual 1948 World Series champion Indians.

The Sox then went to Detroit for two games on April 29 and 30. The 1948 Sox went from their most devastating loss (12-11 to Cleveland) to beating Detroit 5-4 on back-to-back days to improve to 3-6 on the year.

Sound familiar, Sox fans? This year's team after all, just went from their worst gut punch of the year (a 12-3 loss on Saturday after no-hitting the Tampa Bay Rays for six innings) to a 12-9 thrilling win on Sunday.

Catcher Aaron Robinson went 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBI to lead the way in the 1948 White Sox's first 5-4 victory over Detroit. Future Sox pitcher Billy Pierce pitched the final two innings for the Tigers (and didn't allow a run or hit).

Dave Philley drove in two runs and the Sox scored four in the eighth for the second consecutive 5-4 victory the next day, leaving the Sox at a disappointing but not disastrous 3-6 on the year.

The two victories, though, did nothing to change the true momentum of the season. The Sox, after sweeping the Tigers and winning the brief series (something this year's team has yet to do), then went 0-9-1 over their next 10 games to drop to 3-15-1 on May 15.

The Sox, at one point, scored just one run over four straight games in that 10-game stretch. One of the losses was 16-1 at the hands of Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.

Another loss, 6-5 in 10 innings at Boston's Fenway Park on May 12, was another low point. The Sox scored two runs in the top of the 10th to take a 5-3 lead and then were devastated by a three-run homer by Bobby Doerr in the bottom of the 10th. Ted Williams walked and scored on Doerr's blast.

The Sox beat Cleveland 6-4 on a two-run single by Bob Kenney to improve to 4-15-1 on May 8 but five losses in six games quickly followed.

The White Sox got some revenge on the Red Sox by sweeping a doubleheader (4-3 in both games) on May 23 but two losses to the Athletics left the 1948 Sox at 7-22-1 after their first 30 games on May 26.

The 1948 White Sox never truly righted the ship, finishing 51-101-2 on the year, 44 games behind the pennant-winning Indians and in last place. The Sox were only out of last place for five days all season (all in the first week of the year).

The Sox of 75 years ago had a losing record against each of the seven other teams in the league. They went 6-16 against the Indians, Yankees, and Athletics. The Indians outscored the Sox 125-59 while the Yankees pounded the Sox, 141-72.

A word of warning to present-day White Sox fans. Winning just seven, eight, or nine games out of the first 30 has not led to great success down through White Sox history.

The 2018 Sox (9-21 start) finished 62-100. The 1950 Sox (8-22) ended up 60-94 while the 1948 Sox (7-22-1) came in at 51-101-2. The 1932 Sox (9-21) finished at 49-102-1. It doesn't bode well for a fantastic finish to this Sox season.

The 1948 White Sox, though, had a silver lining and do offer a ray of hope for this team. That disastrous 1948 Sox season did bring about a number of meaningful changes in the next few years that helped turn the franchise around, producing 17 consecutive winning seasons from 1951-67.

Lyons and general manager Leslie O'Connor were both fired after the 1948 season. Jack Onslow, unfortunately for Sox fans, was hired to replace Lyons by team president Charley Comiskey Jr. before a new general manager was hired.

Current Sox fans know all too well how well an owner or team president picking a manager works (see owner Jerry Reinsdorf forcing Tony La Russa on the Sox after the 2020 season). But at least La Russa won a division title in 2021.

Onslow wouldn't last two full seasons and be eventually replaced by Paul Richards by general manager Frank Lane, who was hired to replace O'Connor shortly after Onslow was hired. Richards and Lane helped create the memorable "Go Go" Sox era starting in 1951.

Lane quickly transformed the awful 1948 roster into an eventual winner. His first huge trade was sending 1948 catcher Aaron Robinson to Detroit for pitcher Billy Pierce on Nov. 10, 1948. Pierce would win 186 games in 13 seasons for Chicago.

Lane dealt 1948 Sox shortstop Cass Michaels and two others to Washington for first baseman Eddie Robinson and two others on May 31, 1950. Robinson would hit 71 homers and drive in 294 from 1951-53 with the Sox.

Lane acquired catcher Joe Tipton from the Cleveland Indians in November 1948 for pitcher Joe Haynes, who was 9-10 for the 1948 White Sox and an All-Star.

Lane then flipped Tipton to the Philadelphia A's in October 1949 for future Hall of Fame second baseman and 1959 American League Most Valuable Player Nellie Fox.

Lane then traded for outfielder Minnie Minoso in late April 1951 in a three-team deal that involved the Sox trading 1948 center fielder Dave Philley to the Athletics. Minoso was a Sox All-Star from 1951-54 and 1957.

Lane purchased outfielder Jim Rivera from Seattle of the Pacific Coast League in July 1951. He then flipped Rivera to the St. Louis Browns in late November 1951 with four other players for three players, including catcher Sherman Lollar.

Lane then got Rivera back in a trade with the Browns in July 1952. Rivera and Lollar would go on to help the Sox win the 1959 American League pennant.

Lane also purchased shortstop Chico Carrasquel from the Brooklyn Dodgers in October 1949 and added shortstop Luis Aparicio as a free agent before the 1954 season.

So, yes, good news. There is a silver lining to a horrible start to the season. But you have to fire the manager and general manager and let that new general manager change the roster.

Next. The 15 worst contracts in Chicago White Sox history. dark