American League Baseball in the 1950s
American League baseball in the 1950s was exciting to watch and follow. Growing up in southeastern Wisconsin, I was able to follow the Chicago White Sox on radio and TV, thus getting a glimpse at many talented White Sox and American League players. Based on my recollections and analysis of stats, I have selected my American League All-Stars of the 50s in this article.
The Go-Go White Sox of the 50s
Except for the New York Yankees, the go-go Chicago White Sox had one of the most exciting teams in the American League during the 1950s. If it weren't for the dominance of the Yankees, the White Sox would have won more than their single pennant of 1959.
I started following the Sox in 1954 or 1955 after my folks moved on to a farm in southeastern Wisconsin. We were about 70 miles north of Chicago, and with the aid of a big tall, outside antenna, we were able to get good reception of White Sox games on WGN, Channel 9, out of Chicago. It seemed like all home games were televised. This was certainly a welcome distraction from farm chores during the summer. When I couldn't watch the games on the tube, I was tuned into Bob Elson on the Chicago radio station WCFL. I vividly remember listening to a spring training game in the mid-1950s and hearing the starting line-up of players like Orestes "Minnie" Minoso, Chico Carrasquel, Nellie Fox, Sherman Lollar, and "Jungle Jim" Rivera. It was much better seeing the White Sox players on TV. How I recall the excitement of seeing Carrasquel and Fox turning a double play, Minnie Minoso stealing a base, and Sherm Lollar reaching into the stands behind the plate to snag a pop foul ball.
By following the White Sox during the mid and late 1950s, I was introduced to some great ballplayers, many of whom are now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. My American League All-Star team of the 50s includes the following players.
American League All-Stars of the 1950s
Here are the players on my All-Star team.
Catcher - Yogi Berra
My nod here for the catcher would go to Yogi Berra who played with the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1965. Lawrence Peter "Yogi the Boogie Man" Berra was an American League MVP three times and an 18-time All-Star. More importantly, he was a 13-time World Series champion who played an instrumental role in handling the pitching staff of so many excellent Yankee teams. "Yogi" had a .285 lifetime batting average with 358 home runs and 1,430 RBIs. Rightfully so, he entered the Hall of Fame in 1972.
Sherm Lollar of the White Sox and Gus Triandos of the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles were other very good catchers in the 50s. Lollar was especially good, being a nine-time all-star and a three-time Gold Glove recipient. Sherm played a big part in the success of the White Sox teams by being an excellent defensive player and handler of pitchers. Triandos wasn't as good as Lollar; however, he was a 4-time All-Star during the late 1950s.
Third Baseman - George Kell
George Kell played with five different American League teams during a career spanning 1943 to 1957. I best remember Kell playing for the Tigers and Red Sox. George Kell was a 10-time All-Star with a lifetime batting average of .306. George batted over .300 nine times in his career, and he was also an outstanding defensive third baseman. In 1983, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians was also an excellent third baseman. Although Rosen only played from 1947 to 1956, he was a four-time all-star and led the league in homers and RBIs twice. In 1953 Al Rosen was the MVP of the American League.
Shortstop - Luis Aparicio
"Little Louie" Aparicio, who played with the White Sox during the mid and late 1950s, is my choice for the best shortstop. Aparicio won the award of Rookie of the Year in 1956 and then became a 13-time All-Star in a career spanning 1956 to 1973. He was an excellent defensive player as evidenced by the nine Gold Gloves that he won in his career. Although his career batting average was only .262, Aparicio stole 506 bases and appeared in two World Series, one of which was with the White Sox in 1959. He was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Harvey Kuenn was another great shortstop who played in the 1950s with the Detroit Tigers from 1952 to 1959. Kuenn won Rookie of the Year in 1953 and he also won a batting title in 1959. He was a 10-time All-Star with a .303 lifetime batting average.
Second Baseman - Nelson Fox
Nellie Fox, who played with the White Sox from 1947 to 1965, was one of my favorite players of the 50s. I remember Fox as the spark plug leader of the Sox. He seemed to always have a big wad of chewing tobacco protruding from his cheek. Fox was a 12-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner. Nellie was MVP in 1959 when the White Sox went to the World Series. He had a .288 lifetime batting average and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.
Bobby Avila, who played with the Cleveland Indians from 1949 to 1958, was another very good second baseman. Avila was a three-time All-Star who won the batting title in 1954. He finished his career with a .288 batting average.
First Baseman - Mickey Vernon
Mickey Vernon, who played with the Washington Senators during the 50s, is my choice for the top first baseman. Vernon was a seven-time All-Star who appeared in the 1960 World Series. Mickey amassed 2,495 hits in his career, finishing with a .286 batting average. He was very good defensively and holds the record of participating in 2,044 double plays in his career. To do this, a first baseman has to be very good at stretching for the throw from other infielders. Vernon was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Vic Wertz, who played with the Indians from 1947 to 1963, was another very good first baseman. I will always remember him hitting the 450-foot drive in the Polo Grounds which Willie Mays chased down and caught in the 1954 World Series. Wertz was a four-time all-star who had a .277 lifetime batting average. He had 266 homers and 1,178 RBIs in his career.
Right Fielder - Al Kaline
Al Kaline who played with the Detroit Tigers from 1953 to 1974 is my selection for the best right fielder. Kaline was an 18-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner. Al who was known for his strong right arm won a batting title in 1955 and had a .297 lifetime batting average. He led the Tigers to the World Series in 1968 and finished his career with 399 homers and 1,583 RBIs. Kaline is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Center Fielder - Mickey Mantle
Known as one of the best switch hitters of all time, Mickey Mantle played with the New York Yankees from 1951 to 1968. During his career, Mantle appeared in 12 World Series, and 20 All-Star games, and was MVP three times. Mick finished his career with a .298 batting average, 536 homers, and 2,415 hits. Mantle was a powerful offensive player, but also was a good defensive player and Gold Glove winner. Mickey Mantle was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Left Fielder - Ted Williams
Ted Williams played with the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1942. After World War II, he played for the team from 1946-1960. The "Splendid Splinter" was known as the best pure hitter of his day. Williams finished his career with a .344 batting average and led the league in batting six times. He was a two-time MVP and appeared in 19 All-Star games. Ted Williams is also the last player to hit .400 in a season. Williams was known for being very critical of Boston fans and media. I still remember seeing a photo of him spitting at the Boston fans while standing in the outfield. Ted Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.
Honorable Mention Outfielders
Minnie Minoso, Roy Sievers, and Larry Doby were some of the other very good outfielders during the 1950s. Minoso of the White Sox finished his career with a .298 average and 205 stolen bases. He was a nine-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner. Roy Sievers who played with the Senators was a five-time All-Star power hitter and 1949 Rookie of the Year. In 1957, Sievers led the American League in homers and RBIs.
Here are the pitchers on my All-Star team.
1. Whitey Ford
Whitey Ford was a left-hander with the New York Yankees who had a career record of 236-106 and an ERA of 2.75. Ford appeared in six World Series and was a ten-time All-Star. In 1961 Whitey won the Cy Young Award and also was World Series MVP. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.
2. Bob Lemon
Bob Lemon pitched with the Cleveland Indians from 1941 to 1958. Lemon finished his career with an excellent 207-128 and an ERA of 3.23. He was a seven-time All-Star and appeared in two World Series. Three times Lemon was American League pitcher of the year. Bob Lemon who is in the Hall of Fame led the Indians to the World Series in 1954.
3. Bob Feller
Bob Feller pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1956. Feller was known for his bullet fastball which regularly hit 100 mph. He had a lifetime 266-162 record with a 3.25 ERA. During his career, Feller was an eight-time All-Star and 1951 American League pitcher of the year. In 1954 Feller was part of a Cleveland staff of Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Early Wynn, and Herb Score which won more than 100 games. Bob Feller finished with 2,581 career strikeouts and is now in the Hall of Fame.
4. Jim Bunning
Jim Bunning pitched with the Detroit Tigers from 1955 to 1971. Bunning was a hard-throwing right-hander who finished with 2,855 career strikeouts. Jim Bunning's final record was 224-184 with a fine of 3.27 ERA. He was a nine-time All-Star and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
5. Early Wynn
Early Wynn had a long career with the Indians and White Sox spanning from 1939 to 1963. Early was an eight-time All-Star and 1959 Cy Young, winner. He appeared in World Series with the Indians and White Sox and had a 300-244 career record. Wynn finished with 2,855 strikeouts and is in the Hall of Fame.
6. Billy Pierce
Billy Pierce was a star southpaw with the Chicago White Sox from 1952 to 1961. Pierce appeared in seven All-Star games and finished his career with a very good 211-169 record and a respectable 3.27 ERA. In 1956 and 1957, Pierce was the American League pitcher of the year.
There were other great pitchers in the 1950s such as Virgil Trucks of the White Sox and Bob Grim and Vic Raschi of the Yankees. All of the statistics in this article are taken from Wikipedia.
Baseball will never have the excitement for me that it did during the 50s. Players today are not as personable as they were back then, and it's now more about playing for the money rather than fun and loyalty to one team. I hope I have listed the most deserving of my All-Star team. Excuse my negligence for leaving off other more deserving players.
Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew Homerun Derby
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 15, 2016:
Thank you very much for your thoughts on the fifty's players, James. I followed baseball very closely up until high school.. Although I got removed from it in the 60s ands 70s, I followed it again very closely in the 80s when the Brewers were good up until 1984. I agree that players get paid too much money today and certainly have no loyalty to their first team with the advent of free agency.
James Trentadue from Madison, WI. on April 14, 2016:
Nice hub Paul,
The fifty's was a great time for baseball. The great black players were in the early stages of integration, the Yankees were still the dominant team in baseball, and Ted Williams was still the best hitter. You could count on things being the same as you followed a team (players didn't move around much) and pitchers were part of the game as hitters in both leagues, (thereby giving an athletic pitcher an advantage because he could hit also). Ah the game was different, not spoiled by money and played by guys who loved the sport and the people around him for the most part. You could walk to the park through all of the neighborhoods. People were pleasant (for the most part).
I quit watching baseball in 1994 (players strike year). Even though I used to sleep with my Little League hat on at night and dream about taking Louie Apiricio's spot when I grew up, baseball glove sometimes still in my hand as I went to sleep. I played the game until I was 38(semi pro, coached until 55 (legion).
My do I miss those days.
I sure do miss those days!
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 10, 2012:
Bill, thanks for reading and the great comments. My dad took me to my first Braves game in the summer of 1953 when I was 9. It was a doubleheader against the Pirates and I remember the O'Brien twins were playing for the Pirates. I think Joe Garagiola was the catcher. My dad could only take me to one other game and I remember it being against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. My uncle took me to other games against the Reds and Giants. I hated the Braves after they moved and still do.
Bill Russo from Cape Cod on September 09, 2012:
Great hub Paul. I love most of your choices. Perhaps the three best hitters are indeed Kaline, Williams, and Mantle. They were exciting.
Did you ever get to a Milwaukee Braves game? I loved the Braves when they were in Boston and I stilled loved them in Wisconsin....but I was not happy when they left for Atlanta. I don't follow them anymore. You made great picks for the AL pitchers. For the NL, was there anyone better than Warren Spahn? In my mind he might be the best pitcher ever. I also think Roger Clemens is in the all time top five. Another hurler that I consider in the top five, is Walter Johnson. His record while toiling for a bad Washington ballclub, is amazing.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 25, 2012:
Thanks for the comments, Jason. When I was a kid I could easily listen to Braves, Cubs, White Sox, and occasionally pull in Harry Carey on KMOX in St. Louis. On rare occasions I did get the Tigers station. It was exciting listening to the games.
Jason F Marovich from Detroit on February 25, 2012:
Great to see three Tigers listed on your 1950s American League All-Stars. Kaline, especially, showed baseball what a 'tools' player was. Many players were one dimensional in those days, Kaline could do it all and do it well.
Enjoyable article. Voted up.