September 22, 1959
The 1959 'Go-Go' White Sox and the air-raid sirens
The team's pennant win results in a celebration that scares thousands.
Fire commissioner Robert Quinn ordered a celebratory five-minute sounding of Chicago's air-raid sirens after the White Sox won the pennant in 1959. The sirens may have scared many Chicagoans, but they did not dampen the enthusiasm of this Loop restaurant owner for his favorite team. (Tribune photo by Luigi Mendicino)
The biggest bopper was first baseman Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski, and the surest arm a 39-year-old workhorse with a name that sounded like a boast-- Early Wynn. New owner Bill Veeck, baseball's clown prince, spiced the Comiskey Park atmosphere with snake charmers, clowns and other eccentricities.The American League pennant chase had been nip-and-tuck between the White Sox and Cleveland Indians since Opening Day. The South Siders took over for good in late July, but the Indians stayed in the hunt until a dramatic showdown on Sept. 22 at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Sox nursing a 4-2 lead, the Indians loaded the bases with one out. In came relief ace Gerry Staley, who threw one pitch--a low, outside sinker--to Cleveland's Vic Power. He slammed it to Aparicio's left. The shortstop speared the ball, raced to second and then rifled it to Big Klu for a double play. The Sox owned the pennant.
Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn ordered a celebratory five-minute sounding of the city's air-raid sirens. The late-night wail, at a time when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's threat to bury America was still fresh, frightened tens of thousands of area residents. Many rushed to the streets. Others herded hysterical children to shelter. "We had seven children under 9 and woke them all up when the sirens screamed," said Mrs. Earl Gough of the South Side. "We said Hail Marys together in the basement."
Quinn apologized but also argued that the incident provided "a very good test" of the area's readiness, which he found wanting. Mayor Richard J. Daley claimed Quinn acted in accordance with a City Council proclamation that "there shall be whistles and sirens blowing and there shall be great happiness when the White Sox win the pennant."
In the World Series, the Sox fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to two. Since then, Chicago baseball teams have given the city little reason to set off any sirens. The Sox made it to the American League Championship Series in 1983 but lost to Baltimore, and in 1993 but fell to Toronto. The Cubs glimpsed a National League pennant twice, only to falter in the championship series, falling to San Diego in 1984 and to San Francisco in 1989.