White Sox might try shadow ball routine again

Infield pretended to catch grounders, fly balls

The Chicago White Sox had a real ball — without one.

In a throwback to comic routines from the game’s distant past, the White Sox played “shadow ball” before opening a four-game series at Yankee Stadium, pantomiming catches and throws during a mock infield drill.

“I’d never seen it or done it,” first baseman Paul Konerko said.

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis and the rest of the White Sox took part, with coach Joe McEwing pretending to hit grounders. Chicago players acted out tough grabs, tosses and scoops, and backup catcher Tyler Flowers even chased a fake foul pop during the 10-minute session Thursday night.

All the motions, minus a ball.

“I liked it,” Konerko said Friday. “As a first baseman, you normally make a million throws during infield. I didn’t have to make any. And I didn’t throw away any, either.”

Few teams in the big leagues take real infield practice anymore. The White Sox do it after batting practice before the first game of every series under first-year manager Robin Ventura.

McEwing said the idea of shadow ball came up during spring training. Then on Thursday night, with the White Sox running out of time for a full drill, it was time to try.

“We’d talked about phantom ball,” Ventura said. “Guys didn’t believe it.”

Ventura recalled doing it once under coach Cookie Rojas with the New York Mets a dozen years ago.

Shadow ball was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang did it in St. Louis, as did other major league teams. Negro Leagues clubs such as the Indianapolis Clowns were famed for their high-speed warmups, and so were barnstormers, such as the outfit featured in the film “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.”

But nowadays? In the big leagues?

“Why not?” McEwing said. “It’s a long season. Why not try something different once in a while?”

The White Sox played around while the crowd was filtering into Yankee Stadium. Lots of fans didn’t seem to notice there was something a bit different about this drill.

TV commentator and longtime Yankees season ticket-holder Keith Olbermann was among those who saw it. He posted a video of Chicago’s antics on his website.

The White Sox wound up winning 4-3 Thursday night, rallying on a three-run homer in the ninth inning. Konerko predicted the team would dip into the shadows again someday, perhaps as a good-luck charm.

Fine by McEwing.

“Guys had fun. Maybe in July or August, when it gets hot, we’ll break out the ball — or not break it out,” McEwing said.