Subpar seasons by several key members of the team prevented the Yankees from winning their fifth straight American League pennant in 1959. New York finished the regular season in third place in the junior circuit, with a record of just 79-75. New York’s poor showing enabled the Chicago White Sox to claim their first league championship in 40 years. After placing second to the Yankees in each of the previous two seasons, the White Sox finished atop the A.L. standings with a record of 94-60, five games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox hardly overwhelmed their opposition on offense. They finished last in the American League with only 97 home runs, and they ranked sixth in the junior circuit in both runs scored (669) and team batting average (.250). The White Sox won the vast majority of their games due to their superior pitching, excellent defense, and outstanding base-running. Playing an aggressive style of baseball under manager Al Lopez that frequently caused them to be referred to as the “Go-Go White Sox,” Chicago depended heavily on their outstanding double play combination of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox. In addition to winning his second of five straight Gold Gloves at shortstop, Aparicio scored 98 runs and led the league with 56 stolen bases. Fox also won a Gold Glove at second, drove in 70 runs, batted .306, and placed among the league leaders with 191 hits. The members of the BBWAA acknowledged the contributions both men made to the success of the team over the course of the season by naming Fox A.L. MVP and awarding Aparicio a second-place finish in the balloting.
However, Chicago’s greatest strength clearly lay in their pitching staff, which compiled a league-leading 3.29 team ERA. Early Wynn earned Cy Young honors and a third-place finish in the MVP voting by leading all A.L. hurlers with 22 wins and 256 innings pitched. He also placed among the leaders with a 3.17 ERA, 179 strikeouts, 14 complete games, and five shutouts. Wynn received a significant amount of help from Bob Shaw, who finished third in the league with 18 victories and a 2.69 ERA.
Chicago stepped out of character in Game One of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers by scoring 11 times against Dodger pitching en route to posting an 11-0 victory. The White Sox reverted to form the remainder of the Series, though, scoring only 12 times over the course of the next five contests, in dropping the Fall Classic to Los Angeles in six games. Ted Kluszewski, who the White Sox acquired during the latter stages of the season, proved to be the hitting star of the Series, batting .391, with three homers and 10 runs batted in.
With the light-hitting White Sox representing the American League in the Fall Classic, it should come as no surprise that most of the junior circuit’s top offensive performers played for other teams. Vic Power batted .289 and scored 102 runs for the second-place Indians. Teammate Minnie Minoso hit 21 homers, drove in 92 runs, scored 92 others, and batted .302. Cleveland’s top offensive threat was Rocky Colavito, who earned a fourth-place finish in the league MVP voting by tying for the league lead with 42 home runs and driving in 111 runs.
Harvey Kuenn and Al Kaline both had outstanding seasons for the fourth-place Tigers, who finished 18 games off the pace. Kuenn scored 99 runs and led the league with a .353 batting average, 198 hits, and 42 doubles. Kaline hit 27 homers, knocked in 94 runs, finished second to Kuenn with a .327 average, and led the A.L. with a .530 slugging percentage.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• February 7 - Nap Lajoie died of pneumonia at the age of 84. Lajoie, who also managed the Cleveland Indians from 1905 to 1909, compiled a lifetime batting average of .338 over his 21-year Hall of Fame career.
• June 10 - Rocky Colavito became the eighth player in Major League history to hit four home runs in a game. He hit his homers in four consecutive at-bats during an 11-8 Cleveland victory over Baltimore.
• July 7 - In the season's first of two scheduled All-Star Games, the National League defeated the American League 5-4 at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field.
• August 3 – The American League beat the National League 5-3 in the second All-Star Game, played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
• December 11 - The New York Yankees traded Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern and Marv Throneberry to the Kansas City Athletics for Roger Maris, Joe DeMaestri and Kent Hadley.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Zack Wheat.
• Pumpsie Green became the first black player to join the Boston Red Sox, making the Red Sox the last major league team to break the color line.
• Washington's Bob Allison earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Boston's Jackie Jensen drove in a league-leading 112 runs, topping the circuit in that category for the second straight time.
• The 32-year-old Jensen elected to quit baseball at the end of the year due to a fear of flying.
• The American League named Joe Cronin its new president.
• Bill Veeck purchased the White Sox.
• Detroit's Eddie Yost led the American League with 115 runs scored, 135 walks, and a .437 on-base percentage.
• Yogi Berra's record streak of 148 consecutive errorless games at catcher ended.
• Washington's Harmon Killebrew tied Rocky Colavito for the league lead with 42 home runs.
• Ted Williams batted just .254 for Boston, posting a batting average below .300 for the only time in his career.
• Baltimore’s Hoyt Wilhelm led the league with a 2.19 ERA.
- 1959 World Series, Al Kaline, Al Lopez, American League, Bill Veeck, Bob Allison, Bob Shaw, Chicago White Sox, Don Larsen, Early Wynn, Eddie Yost, Hank Bauer, Harmon Killebrew, Harvey Kuenn, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jackie Jensen, Joe Cronin, Joe DeMaestri, Kent Hadley, Luis Aparicio, Marv Throneberry, Minnie Minoso, Nap Lajoie, Nellie Fox, Norm Siebern, Pumpsie Green, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Ted Kluszewski, Ted Williams, Vic Power, Yogi Berra, Zack Wheat