If it weren’t for longtime White Sox pitching coach Ray Berres NOT minding his own business, the White Sox “Go Go Era” may have been “gone gone” before it ever got out of the batter’s box.
Berres served as White Sox pitching coach from 1949 to 1966 and in 1968 and 1969.
During that time, the “Go Go” White Sox reeled off 17 consecutive winning seasons relying on Berres’ effective pitching staffs, speed and defense.
One of the key figures in the White Sox first “Go Go” wave was Nellie Fox, who was finally voted into Cooperstown by the Veterans Committee on this date in 1997.
The diminutive second baseman eventually became a star and then a legend and then a Hall of Famer because of his time with the White Sox.
Success, though, didn’t come quickly for Fox.
The White Sox acquired the 5-foot-10,160-pound Fox from Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s for backup catcher Joe Tipton on Oct. 19,1949.
Fox had shown some promise with the A’s in 1949 but struggled in his first season in Chicago. The struggles became so acute that the White Sox were thinking of demoting him to the minors.
This is where Berres stepped in, according to Fox’s widow, Joanne.
“In 1950, that would have been our first year with the White Sox, they were going to send Nellie down,” Joanne Fox told me some years ago. “Ray spoke up and said, ‘Give this little guy a chance! You haven’t even looked at him.’
“He was talking to the coaches and the manager and he said, ‘ I think he has what it takes.’
“And, my gosh, they did (stick with him). They did not send Nellie down and, of course, the rest is history. That’s what Ray had said. ‘ I know he’s small but I like his hustle.’ ”
Fox used that hustle to become one of the American League’s best players in the 1950s. He led the circuit in hits four times, won two Gold Gloves, played in 13 All-Star Games and won the MVP Award after helping the Sox win the ’ 59 pennant.
After being snubbed by the writers for 15 years, Nellie was finally elected to the Hall of Fame more than 22 years after his death.
“I spoke of Ray in my (Hall of Fame induction speech for Nellie),” Joanne said. “He was one of the people that I thanked.”
That isn’t the only fond memory Joanne Fox has of Ray, who died in 2007.
Once a season, Ray and his wife Irma would host a picnic for the White Sox players, coaches and their families in their home in Silver Lake, Wis.
“We had a wonderful day out there,” Joanne said. “It got the children outdoors. They were always so hospitable. Irma always made this hot German potato salad. It was great. She had a lot of bacon in it. It was a little different. We were not used to that. We were more used to the cold potato salad.
“They just were very warm people.”