Ballpark Tour: White Sox

Opening day was supposed to be less than a week away, so it is time to wrap up our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years with the one I’ve been to the most: the homes of the Chicago White Sox.  Between the two stadiums that have been located at the corners of 35th and Shields, I’ve seen at least 542 games, all but one of which have involved the White Sox.  So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Comiskey Park and Guaranteed Rate Field.

Stadium Name: Comiskey Park

Years in Service: 1910 – 1990

Visits: 12 (that I’m aware of)

Comiskey Park, the so-called Baseball Palace of the World, was the home of the White Sox from 1910 through the 1990 season.  Built on a former city dump at the corner of 35th Street and Shields Avenue, the stadium opened on July 1, 1910, as the White Sox lost to the St. Louis Browns 2-0.  The final game for the old ballyard occurred on September 30, 1990, a 2-1 victory over the Mariners.

Comiskey Park was the host for 4 World Series, including 3 in a row from 1917-1919.  The White Sox won the World Series in 1917 against the New York Giants.  The Cubs, looking for a larger seating capacity, moved their home games in the 1918 series against the Red Sox to Comiskey Park.  The 1919 World Series, of course, was the Black Sox scandal, where the White Sox threw the series against the Reds.  The White Sox returned to the World Series 40 years later in 1959, but fell to the Dodgers.  The final post-season games to be played in Comiskey Park were games 3 and 4 of the 1983 ALCS, which the White Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles.

Comiskey Park was also the host to 3 All-Star games.  The first All-Star game, in 1933, was held in conjunction with Century of Progress Exposition being held on Chicago’s lakefront.  The event returned to Chicago’s south side in 1950 and the final All-Star game at Comiskey Park was in 1983, the 50th anniversary of the first game.  Comiskey Park was also the frequent home of the Negro League East-West All-Star Game from 1933 to 1960.

Looking back, I’ve been able to piece together evidence of 12 games that I attended at Comiskey Park, either from pictures, stadium giveaways, or specific memories.  I know there are more, but I have not been able to pinpoint exact games as of yet.  The most memorable game I can remember would be the final night game, on September 29, 1990, where, after the game, the lights were symbolically turned off for the final time.

Stadium Name: Comiskey Park II/US Cellular Field/Guaranteed Rate Field

Years in Service: 1991 – Present

Visits: 530

On the evening of June 30, 1988, with the clock literally stopped, the Illinois legislature passed a bill that provided the financing for a new stadium for the White Sox, stopping them from moving to St. Petersburg, Florida.  2 and a half years later, on April 18, 1991, Comiskey Park II opened, the first new major facility built in Chicago since the erection of the Chicago Stadium in 1929.  Sadly, the White Sox were embarrassed by the Tigers, losing 16-0 in the opening of their new park.

Unfortunately for the White Sox, the new Comiskey Park was the last stadium to be built prior to the wave of retro ballparks that started with the opening of Camden Yards the following year.  Because of this, there have been numerous renovations to the park, starting in 2001 with the addition of nearly 2000 seats and the relocation of the bullpens.  More extensive renovations began in 2003 in preparation for that season’s All Star Game and using the money generated from selling the naming rights to US Cellular, and continued through 2007, when the replacement of the blue seats with green seats was completed.  Less extensive renovations have occurred since, replacing the different video boards and creating premium seating areas.

The post-season came to the new Comiskey Park for the first time in 1993, as the White Sox battled the Blue Jays in the ALCS.  The stadium hosted its first World Series games in 2005, the first to be played in the city of Chicago since 1959, as the White Sox went on to sweep the Houston Astros and win their first World Series since 1917.

I attended my first game at the new Comiskey Park on April 20, 1991, the second game in the stadium’s history.  Since then, I’ve been to 529 other games at the stadium, the majority coming from 2005 on, when I became a season ticket holder.  I went to both games of the 2000 ALDS, which the White Sox lost to the Mariners, both games of the 2005 ALDS, which the White Sox won against the Red Sox, both games of the 2005 ALCS, which the White Sox split against the Angels, and game 2 of the 2005 World Series.  I attended game 163 of the 2008 season to break the tie between the White Sox and the Twins. and then the two ALDS games against the Rays, the first time I saw the White Sox actually end a post-season series, either in victory or defeat.

Notable regular season games I’ve seen at what is now known as Guaranteed Rate Field include the September 18, 2001 game against the Yankees as baseball returned following the attacks of 9/11, the April 16, 2005 game where Mark Buehrle defeated the Mariners in 1 hour and 39 minutes, the April 2, 2006 season opener against the Indians when the World Series championship banner was raised, the April 4, 2006 game where the players received their World Series rings, and the September 16, 2007 game where Jim Thome hit his 500th career home run against the Angels.  Not to mention a streak of 19 consecutive home openers.

#1 – Harold Baines

Name: Harold Baines

Rank: 1

Position: RF/DH

Years With White Sox: 1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001

Harold Baines was the first overall selection in the 1977 draft after White Sox owner Bill Veeck had seen him play little league years before.  He made his major league debut less than 3 years later, on Opening Day 1980, going 0-4 against the Orioles at old Comiskey Park.  He appeared in 141 games and finished the year hitting .255 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Baines started to break out in 1981, where the long player’s strike led him to only appearing in 82 games.  He boosted his average to .286 and hit 10 home runs with 41 RBIs in only 280 at bats.

With labor problems behind them, a full slate of games was played in 1982, with Baines appearing in all but one of them.  Hitting .271, Baines smacked 25 home runs with 105 RBIs, while setting a career high with 10 stolen bases.  His numbers were good enough to garner 9 votes for AL MVP.

1983 was a banner year on the south side, as the White Sox captured their first ever division title.  Baines was a key contributor, hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 99 RBIs.  During the ALCS against the Orioles, Baines struggled, like most of his teammates, getting only 2 hits in the 4 game series.  At season’s end, he picked up 49 votes to finish 10th in MVP voting.

Baines continued to excel in 1984, though the rest of the team did not.  On May 8, he ended the longest game in major league history (8 hours and 6 minutes over 25 innings on successive evenings) with a walk-off home run against Chuck Porter of the Brewers.  He finished the year with a .304 average, a career high 29 home runs, and 94 RBIs, while leading the league in slugging at .541.  He once again garnered MVP consideration, finishing the vote tied for 13th place.

1985 was another strong season for Baines.  He earned his first All Star selection, singling off former teammate LaMarr Hoyt in his only at bat at the Metrodome.  He finished the year hitting .309 with 22 home runs and a career high 113 RBIs.  He earned 49 votes in placing 9th in MVP voting.

Baines saw his body start to betray him for the first time in 1986.  He appeared in his second straight All Star game, going hitless in his one at bat.  A late August knee injury caused him to miss time, and a late September collision with Neal Heaton in a loss to the Twins reinjured the knee, leading to arthroscopic surgery following the season.  He finished the season hitting .296, just missing his 3rd consecutive .300 season, with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs.

Baines returned for opening day in 1987, getting two hits and knocking in the winning runs on the hard artificial turf of Royals Stadium, but was unable to walk the following day.  A second arthroscopic surgery caused him to miss 23 games before he returned, moving from right field to designated hitter.  He still was named to his 3rd straight All Star team, going hitless in the 2-0 loss by the AL.  Come year end, he had hit .293 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs.

1988 was a down year for Baines, though he managed to appear in 158 games.  His average dropped to .277, his lowest total since 1982, while hitting only 13 home runs, his lowest total since 1981.  He made only 9 appearances in the outfield while becoming accustomed to being a full time designated hitter.

Baines bounced back in 1989.  He was named the starting DH in the All Star game, going 1-3 with an RBI in the AL’s victory at Angel Stadium.  On July 29, he was traded to the Rangers, along with Fred Manrique, for Wilson Alvarez, Scott Fletcher, and Sammy Sosa.  “It’s an unpopular decision as far as the fans are concerned, but sometimes unpopular means exactly that-unpopular,” GM Larry Himes said at the time.  “It doesn`t mean that it isn`t a good decision.  This is a decision we made as far as direction of the Chicago White Sox for today and for our future.”  Baines was hitting .321 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs at the time of the trade.  Less than a month later, as the Rangers visited Chicago for the first time on August 20, the White Sox retired Baines’ #3, a somewhat awkward attempt to placate the enraged fanbase.

Baines returned to the White Sox as a free agent in 1996.  Appearing in 143 games, Baines hit .311 with 22 home runs and 95 RBIs.  He returned in 1997 and was putting together another fine season, putting up a .305 average with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs in 93 games when, on July 29 again, he was traded to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Three years later, once again on July 29, the White Sox re-acquired Baines, along with Charles Johnson, from the Orioles for Miguel Felix, Juan Figueroa, Jason Lakman, and Brook Fordyce.  Appearing in 24 games down the stretch, Baines hit .213 with a single home run and 9 RBIs as the White Sox took the Central Division crown.  Baines went 1-4 in the ALDS as the White Sox were swept by the Mariners.

Baines returned to the White Sox in 2001 at the age of 42, getting extra playing time once Frank Thomas went down with an injury.  In 32 games, he hit .131, failing to homer and driving in only 6.

Baines returned to the White Sox dugout in 2004, when new manager Ozzie Guillen named him bench coach.  He would remain on staff until 2015, when he became an ambassador for the team.  On July 20, 2008, the White Sox unveiled a bronze statue of Baines at U.S. Cellular Field prior to their game against the Royals.  On December 9, 2018, Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 via the Today’s Game Era ballot.

Baines’ numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#2 – Mark Buehrle

Name: Mark Buehrle

Rank: 2

Position: P

Years With White Sox: 2000-2011

Mark Buehrle joined the White Sox organization in 1998, drafted in the 38th round.  Despite his lowly draft status, he rose quickly through the system, first coming up during the 2000 season, working out of the bullpen for the eventual division champions.  He moved into the rotation the following season, and stayed there for the next 11 seasons.  During that time, there were numerous memorable appearances, many of which I was privileged to see in person.

The 2007 no-hitter against the Rangers.

The 2009 perfect game against the Rays.

Winning Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS against the Angels, thanks to AJ’s heads-up baserunning, and starting the streak of 4 straight complete games.

The 1 hour 36 minute game against the Mariners in 2005.

The no look, through his legs flip to Paul Konerko on Opening Day 2010 against the Indians.

And, of course, his performance in the 2005 World Series, starting Game 2, getting a no decision, and coming in to pitch the 14th inning and earning the save in Game 3.

In White Sox annals, Buehrle is currently fifth all-time in strikeouts, sixth in games started, and eighth in wins and innings pitched.

Buehrle’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#3 – Paul Konerko

PaulKonerkoRedName: Paul Konerko

Rank: 3

Position: 1B

Years With White Sox: 1999-2014

After brief appearances with the Dodgers and the Reds in 1997 and 1998, Paul Konerko was traded to the White Sox on November 11, 1998 for center fielder Mike Cameron.  He started at DH on opening day in 1999, an 8-2 victory over the Mariners, going 1-4 with a home run and 2 RBI.

2000 saw Konerko get off to a quick start with an inside the park home run on April 11 against the Devil Rays, the first by a White Sox player since 1990.  In his second full season, he helped lead the surprising White Sox to their first Central Division title.  He, along with the rest of the White Sox offense, struggled during the Division Series against the Mariners, going 0-9 in the three game sweep.

After steadily improving in 2001 and 2002, Konerko ran into trouble in 2003, with his average under .200 for the first half of the season.  He found himself coming off the bench as manager Jerry Manuel seemingly lost confidence in him.  He bounced back in the second half and re-established himself as the starting first baseman.

Konerko bounced back in a big way in 2004, hitting 41 home runs and knocking in over 100 RBIs en route to the Comeback Player of the Year award.  2005 saw him put up a second consecutive 40 HR, 100 RBI season as the White Sox found themselves back in the playoffs for the second time in his career.  This time, things would go much differently for both Konerko and the White Sox.

Konerko homered twice and drove in 4 runs during the three game sweep against the Red Sox, catching the final out that sent the White Sox to the ALCS for the first time since 1993.  Konerko hit another 2 home runs and drove in 7 against the Angels during the 5 game series.  Once again, Konerko caught the final putout that sent the White Sox to their first World Series since 1959.  Following the victory in game 5, Konerko was named ALCS MVP.

Konerko cooled down during the World Series, hitting only one home run against the Astros, but what a home run it was.  With the White Sox trailing in the 7th inning, Konerko came up to face new pitcher Chad Qualls with the bases loaded.  Konerko made contact on the first pitch, sending it into the left field seats for a grand slam and the lead.  Like the previous 2 series, Konerko caught the final putout at first base in Game 4, giving the White Sox their first World Series title since 1917.

With the afterglow of winning the World Series starting to subside, Konerko became a free agent.  Despite rumors of him getting more lucrative offers from both the Dodgers and the Orioles, Konerko finally resigned with the White Sox, inking a 5-year, $60 million contract that would keep him on the south side through 2010.

Konerko battled through injuries in 2008, leading to his worst season since 2003, but he did manage to help the White Sox reach the post-season for the third time during his career.  He hit 2 solo home runs in the 4 game series against the Rays, in what would be his final playoff appearance.

Konerko had two more chances at free agency, signing a 3 year deal with the White Sox prior to 2011 and, finally, re-upping for one last season in 2014.  He finishes his career as the White Sox all time leader in total bases and second all time in home runs, RBIs, and games played.  In addition, he was a 6-time All Star and had served as team captain since 2006.  He also is the only White Sox player to appear in the post season 3 different times.

Konerko’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#4 – Robin Ventura

Name: Robin Ventura

Rank: 4

Position: 3B

Years With White Sox: 1989-1998

Robin Ventura joined the White Sox organization as the 10th overall pick in the 1988 draft.  He made his major league debut the following September, going 1-4 with an RBI in a 11-1 victory over the Orioles at Memorial Stadium.  He appeared in 16 games down the stretch, hitting only .178 while driving in 7 runs in 45 at bats.

A good spring in 1990 led to Ventura breaking camp with the White Sox.  He struggled, both on the field and at the plate, suffering through a horrendous 0-for-41 slump while committing 25 errors over the course of the season.  However, he did lead AL rookies with 150 games played and his 123 hits were the most by a White Sox rookie since Ozzie Guillen in 1985.  He finished the year with a .249 average, 5 home runs, and 54 RBIs.  He placed 7th in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the Topps All Star Rookie team.

Ventura and the White Sox moved in to the new Comiskey Park in 1991, hoping to improve on the previous year’s growth.  He improved his fielding enough to earn his first Gold Glove award and led the league in putouts.  At the plate, he set a White Sox team record for RBIs by a third baseman, finishing with an even 100.  He upped his average to .284 and hit 23 home runs.  His work was enough to garner enough MVP votes to finish in 20th place.

1992 was another good year for Ventura.  He earned his first All Star nod, going 2-2 in the AL’s victory at Jack Murphy Stadium.  He finished the year with a .282 average, 16 home runs, and 93 RBIs.  He also snagged his second consecutive Gold Glove award.

Ventura continued his successful ways in 1993.  He collected his 500th hit in May and, on August 4, he entered the public consciousness with an event that would come to define his entire career.  While batting against the Rangers, Ventura was hit by a pitch thrown by Nolan Ryan and charged the mound.  Ryan, 20 years Ventura’s senior, placed him in a headlock and punched him several times, starting a bench-clearing brawl that was voted the best baseball brawl of all time by SportCenter.  Ventura saw his average drop to .262, but his OPS set a new career high.  His 94 RBIs made him the first AL third baseman with three consecutive 90-RBI seasons since Graig Nettles in the mid 70s.  During the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura hit .200, with just 1 home run and 5 RBIs across the six game series.  After the season, he was awarded his third consecutive Gold Glove award.

The strike in 1994 saw Ventura’s streak of 90 RBI seasons and Gold Gloves come to an end.  When baseball stopped in August, Ventura was hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs, while posting a new career high with an .832 OPS.

When play resumed in late April 1995, Ventura struggled out of the gate, committing ten errors in the first ten games.  As the White Sox started to tear down the team that had finished the previous two seasons on top of their division, trade rumors started to follow Ventura, though nothing came to fruition.  On September 4, he became the eighth player in history to hit two grand slams in one game, and the first since Frank Robinson in 1970.  He finished the year setting career highs with a .295 average, an .882 OPS, and 26 home runs while driving in 93 runs.

Ventura had the best year of his career to date in 1996.  He set White Sox team records in career home runs by a third baseman, with 142, and grand slams, with 9.  He set new career highs with 34 home runs, 105 RBIs, 2 triples, an OPS of .888, and a .974 fielding percentage at the hot corner.  He hit .287, while earning his fourth Gold Glove award.

1997 turned into a dismal year for Ventura and the White Sox.  During a spring training game at Ed Smith Stadium, Ventura caught his foot in the mud while sliding into home plate and suffered a broken and dislocated right ankle.  Expected to miss the entire season, he returned on July 24, collecting the game-winning hit that night, and homered in his first at-bat the next night.  With the White Sox only 3.5 games behind the Indians in the standings, a healthy Ventura might have put them over the top.  A week later, the team threw in the towel in what eventually became to be known as the White Flag Trade, sending Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, and Danny Darwin to the Giants for prospects.  “We didn’t realize Aug. 1 was the end of the season,” said an upset Ventura.  He finished the year appearing in 54 games, hitting .262 with 6 home runs and 26 RBIs.

As Ventura entered the last year of his contract in 1998, the White Sox made little attempt to sign him to an extension, with owner Jerry Reinsdorf claiming his skills were “deteriorating” after his injury the year before.  With more trade rumors following him throughout the season, he finished the year with a .263 average, 21 home runs, and 91 RBIs while earning his fifth Gold Glove award.  Following the season, he became a free agent, ending his White Sox playing career.

On October 6, 2011, Ventura returned to the White Sox as their 39th manager.  He resigned following the 2016 season, finishing with a career record of 375-435 for a winning percentage of .463.

For his career, Ventura ranks 6th in White Sox history with 39.4 WAR, 8th with 28.8 OWAR, 8th with 12.9 DWAR, 6th with 171 home runs, 8th with 741 RBIs, and 5th with 668 walks.

Ventura’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#5 – Frank Thomas

Name: Frank Thomas

Rank: 5

Position: 1B/DH

Years With White Sox: 1990-2005

Frank Thomas was selected by the White Sox with the seventh pick in the first round of the 1989 draft.  A little more than 1 year later, he made his major league debut on August 2, 1990 against the Brewers at County Stadium, going hitless in 4 at bats with an RBI as the White Sox won 4-3.  The next night, he tripled off of Mark Knudson for his first major league hit.  On August 28, he hit the first home run of his career, off Gary Wayne, in a 12-6 loss against the Twins at the Metrodome.  He finished the year with a .330 average, with 7 home runs and 31 RBIs.

In 1991, as the White Sox moved into the new Comiskey Park, Thomas became one of the most feared hitters in the American League.  On April 22, he hit the first White Sox home run in the new stadium, in an 8-7 victory over the Orioles.  When the season ended, Thomas finished with a .318 average, 32 home runs, and 109 RBIs.  He lead the league in walks, OBP, OPS, and OPS+.  He won his first Silver Slugger award and finished 3rd in MVP voting.

Thomas continued his mastery in 1992.  He ended the year hitting .323, with 24 home runs and 115 RBIs. He led the league in doubles, walks, OBP, and OPS.  Those numbers were good enough for him to place 8th in MVP voting.

In 1993, Thomas helped the White Sox win their first division title since 1983.  He made his first All Star game appearance, getting a hit in his only at bat.  On August 31, he clubbed his 100th career home run against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.  He finished the year batting .317 and set a club-record with 41 homers.  He added 128 RBI, 106 runs scored, and 112 walks, to join Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams as the only players in baseball history to eclipse .300 with more than 20 homers and more than 100 RBI, runs, and walks in three straight seasons.  In the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Thomas hit .353 in the 6 game series.  Thanks to his historic season, Thomas collected his second Silver Slugger award and all 28 first place votes for a unanimous AL MVP award, the first by a White Sox player since Dick Allen in 1972.

1994 was on track to be even better, before the strike ended the season in August.  Thomas was elected to start the All Star game and got 2 hits in his 2 at bats.  In only 113 games, Thomas had 38 home runs, 101 RBIs, 106 runs scored, and 109 walks.  He led the league in runs scored, walks, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+.  For the second year in a row, he took home the Silver Slugger and MVP awards, becoming just the second first baseman to earn consecutive MVP awards.

When baseball returned in 1995, Thomas picked up where he had left off.  He started his second straight All Star Game for the American League, hitting a home run off John Smiley.  At the end of the season, Thomas had hit .308 with 40 home runs and 111 RBIs while leading the league in games played, walks, sacrifice flies, and intentional walks.  He dropped to 8th place in MVP voting as the White Sox found themselves out of contention for the first time in his career.

The White Sox bounced back in 1996 and Thomas continued to be an offensive force.  He mashed his 200th career home run on June 9, going deep at Camden Yards against the Orioles.  He was named to his fourth straight All Star team, though he didn’t make it into the game.  He set a career high with a .349 average, while again hitting 40 home runs with 134 RBIs.  For the second straight year, he led the league in intentional walks and finished 8th in MVP voting.

1997 was another strong year for Thomas.  He was named to his fifth, and final, All Star team.  He led the league with a .347 average, a .456 OBP, a 1.067 OPS, and an OPS+ of 181, while hitting 35 home runs and knocking in 125.  He finished 3rd in MVP voting, his 7th top 10 finish in his 7 full seasons.

Off the field issues started to show an effect on Thomas’ production in 1998, his first as a full time designated hitter.  Marital problems messed with his head, leading him to think the umpires were screwing him, opposing pitchers were taking advantage of him, and the media were ganging up on him. “I was miserable, and I made everyone around me miserable,” Thomas said early in the 1999 season. “It was an extremely humbling season.”  He hit .265, 65 points lower than his career average entering the season, and finished with only 29 home runs, his lowest total in six years.  He started referring to himself as Five O’clock Frank, a batting-practice terror who at game time sank under the weight of self-pity and tired excuses.

Thomas, and the White Sox, hoped that he would bounce back in 1999.  “I think he had a lot on his mind, personal things that were weighing on him,” hitting coach Von Joshua said early in the season. “He didn’t talk about it, but you could just see it in his eyes. He’s a lot more settled this year.”  Unfortunately, things didn’t go well, though he did hit his 300th career home run on August 7 against the A’s.  While his average did rebound, back up to .305, he hit only 15 home runs and drove in just 77 while setting a career low with a .471 slugging percentage.  Bone spurs on his ankle limited him to just 135 games.

2000 got off to an explosive start, and not the good kind.  Thomas and manager Jerry Manuel went toe to toe in spring training over Thomas’ ability to participate in drills, following his surgery the previous September.  Once the regular season began, though, it looked like the old Thomas was back.  As the surprising White Sox ran off and won their first division title since 1993, Thomas, missing only 3 games all year, hit .328 and set career highs with 43 home runs and 143 RBIs.  Unfortunately, Thomas, like the rest of his teammates, struggled in the post-season, going hitless in the ALDS as the Mariners completed a 3 game sweep.  He won his fourth, and final, Silver Slugger award and finished 2nd in MVP voting, behind a juiced Jason Giambi.

2001 was a tough year for Thomas, both personally and professionally.  On April 27, he hurt his triceps diving for a ball while playing first base.  After spending 5 days back in Georgia due to the death of his father, Thomas returned to Chicago for tests, which revealed a muscle tear that would require surgery and end his season.  “This is the worst week of my life”, he said during a press conference. “First I lose my father, then come back and find out I’m lost for the season.”  In only 20 games, Thomas hit .221 with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs.

Thomas returned in 2002, but was obviously no longer the same player he was before the injury.  He struggled in the first half, before picking things up in the final month of the season, hitting .359 with 6 home runs in September.  He finished the season with a .252 average, 25 home runs and 92 RBIs.

2003 was a better year for Thomas, though still below his career norms.  On June 26th, he became the 36th player in history to reach the 400 career home run mark with a 5th inning shot against the Devil Rays at US Cellular Field.  At the end of the year, he had posted a .267 average with 42 home runs and 105 RBIs.

Injuries robbed Thomas of most of 2004.  He was placed on the disabled list on July 7th, with a .271 average, 18 home runs and 49 RBIs.  He underwent surgery in early October to remove debris from the ankle, perform a bone graft, and insert two screws.

Thomas began the 2005 season on the disabled list as he recovered from his ankle surgery.  He was activated on May 30, with the White Sox in first place in the AL Central.  On July 18, he clubbed his 448th and final home run with the White Sox against the Tigers at US Cellular Field.  He hit .219 with 12 home runs and 26 RBIs in 34 games before breaking his foot on July 21, causing him to miss the rest of the season and the post-season.  Thomas threw out the first pitch prior to game one of the ALDS against the Red Sox.

Thomas is the White Sox all time leader in home runs, runs scored, doubles, RBIs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.  He is the only player in major league history to have seven consecutive seasons (1991-1997) with a .300 average and at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, and 20 home runs.  His number 35 was retired by the White Sox on August 29, 2010 and he was part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class, elected on the first ballot with 83.7% of the vote.

Thomas’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were: Continue reading →

#6 – Carlton Fisk

Name: Carlton Fisk

Rank: 6

Position: C

Years With White Sox: 1981-1993

Carlton Fisk became a free agent after the Red Sox failed to tender him a contract for the 1981 season in the proper time frame, and thus he signed with the White Sox on March 18, 1981.  He paid immediate dividends for his new team, hitting a 3-run home run in the 8th inning against his former team at Fenway Park on Opening Day, leading the White Sox to a 5-3 victory.  Following the strike, he started the All Star game for the AL, going 1-3 with a run scored.  He finished the year with a .263 average and only 7 home runs in 96 games.  His efforts earned him his first Silver Slugger award.

Fisk enjoyed another successful year in 1982.  For the third straight year, he started behind the plate for the AL in the All Star game.  In 135 games, he hit .267 with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs.

1983 was a magical season on the South Side, as the White Sox won their first division title.  Fisk played a big role in the team’s success, both in managing a pitching staff that featured 2 of the top 4 finishers in Cy Young Award voting and at the plate, where he hit .289 with 26 home runs and 86 RBIs.  In the ALCS against the Orioles, Fisk struggled, just like the rest of his teammates, though he did launch 2 home runs in the 4 game series.  His season was good enough to earn 3rd place in the MVP vote, coming in behind Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray.

With expectations high, 1984 turned out to be a tough year, for both Fisk and the White Sox, though there were a few high points.  On May 9, he caught all 25 innings of a 7-6 win over the Brewers, breaking the major league record of 24 innings shared by 5 players.  A little over a week later, on May 16 against the Royals, Fisk became just the third player in White Sox history to hit for the cycle.  Unfortunately, injuries befell Fisk, limiting him to just 102 games, finishing with a .231 average and only 43 RBIs.  The bright side, though, is that it led him to begin a new training regimen, which he used for the rest of his long career.

The regimen paid immediate dividends, as Fisk put up the best numbers of his career in 1985.  At the age of 37, Fisk set career highs with 37 home runs, tying Dick Allen for the White Sox single-season record, and 107 RBIs, while tying his career high with 17 stolen bases.  He was voted to his 10th All-Star team, won his second Silver Slugger award and finished 13th in the AL MVP voting.

1986 was a strange year for Fisk and the White Sox.  New General Manager Ken Harrelson thought Joel Skinner was ready to take over behind the plate and, with Fisk about to enter his age 38 season, he convinced manager Tony LaRussa to move Fisk to left field.  On May 9, with Skinner hitting in the .150s and LaRussa’s job on the line, Fisk was moved back behind the plate and the White Sox proceeded to win 10 of their next 13 games.  By the end of the year, Skinner, Harrelson, and LaRussa were all gone, and Fisk remained, putting up a .221 average with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs.

In 1987, with a new management regime in place, Fisk was back behind the plate full time.  He appeared in 135 games at age 39, hitting .256 with 23 home runs and 71 RBIs.

1988 looked to be a good year for Fisk, until a broken hand limited him to just 76 games.  Despite that, his .277 average, 19 home runs, and 50 RBIs earned him his 3rd Silver Slugger award.

At age 41, Fisk, along with pitcher Jerry Reuss, who was 39, set a record starting the 1989 season, becoming the oldest battery ever to start on opening day, surpassing pitcher Johnny Niggeling and catcher Rick Ferrell of the 1944 Washington Senators, as the White Sox beat the Angels 9-2.  Splitting time behind the plate with Ron Karkovice, Fisk appeared in 103 games, hitting .293 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs.

In 1990, Fisk was the elder statesman on a young White Sox team that unexpectedly challenged the A’s for the division title.  On May 22, at Yankee Stadium, Fisk had a run in with two-sport star Deion Sanders.  When Sanders drew a dollar sign in the dirt before a pitch, then didn’t run out an easy out, Fisk and Sanders went back and forth, sharing expletives.  Later in the game, Sanders told Fisk that “the days of slavery are over,” infuriating Fisk.  “He comes up and wants to make it a racial issue — there’s no racial issue involved.”  During Sanders’ next at-bat, Fisk told him, “There is a right way and a wrong way to play this game. You’re playing it the wrong way. And the rest of us don’t like it. Someday, you’re going to get this game shoved right down your throat.”  Later that year, on August 17, Fisk hit his 328th home run as a catcher, breaking Johnny Bench’s career record.  As the team closed out Comiskey Park, Fisk finished the year with a .285 average, 18 home runs, and 65 RBIs, which earned him 15th place in MVP voting.

As the White Sox moved across the street to the new Comiskey Park in 1991, Fisk, at age 43, put together his last season as an everyday catcher.  He was named to his 11th, and final, All Star team, becoming the oldest player in MLB history to collect a hit in the mid-summer classic.  He finished the year having appeared in 134 games, hitting .241 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs.

With Ron Karkovice taking over the majority of the work behind the plate, Fisk moved into a backup role in 1992.  He appeared in just 62 games, his lowest total since 1974, and hit only .229 with 3 home runs.

1993 looked to be the end of the road for Fisk, though not by his choice.  On June 22, at Comiskey Park, Fisk broke Bob Boone’s record for career games caught with his 2,226th game behind the plate.  Six days later, Fisk was abruptly released by the White Sox.  Fisk was notified of his dismissal in his hotel room in Cleveland, and was ordered to turn in his equipment and fly back to Chicago immediately and alone.  To add insult to injury, Fisk, along with former teammate Donn Pall, came to Comiskey Park before game 1 of the ALCS to wish their former teammates well.  Sadly, they were both turned away, souring Fisk’s relationship with the organization for years.  His career ended with a .189 average in only 25 games, getting a mere 53 at bats.

At the conclusion of this career, he was the all time leader in games caught and home runs for catchers, the all time leader in home runs for the White Sox, the leader in home runs hit after age 40, and the most seasons played as a catcher.  His number 72 was retired by the White Sox on September 14, 1997, and he was part of the 2000 Hall of Fame class.

Fisk’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#7 – A.J. Pierzynski

Name: A.J. Pierzynski

Rank: 7

Position: C

Years With White Sox: 2005-2012

A.J. Pierzynski signed with the White Sox on January 6, 2005 following a year with the Giants that called his professionalism into question.  He rewarded the White Sox organization with 8 seasons of stability behind the plate the included 1 All-Star selection, 2 playoff appearances, and, of course, the 2005 World Series championship.  Over those 8 seasons, Pierzynski was involved in many key moments that endeared him to the White Sox faithful, including:

The walk-off home run, and resulting bat flip pictured to the left, against the Dodgers in 2005.

The two home runs in a thrashing of the Red Sox in game one of the 2005 ALDS, the first White Sox home postseason victory since 1959.

The controversial dropped third strike that led to a White Sox victory in game two of the 2005 ALCS against the Angels.

The 2006 brawl against the Cubs where Michael Barrett sucker-punched him after Pierzynski enthusiastically scored a run against the crosstown rivals.

Hanging on to the throw from Ken Griffey Jr. to preserve the shutout in the 2008 tie-breaker game that pushed the White Sox into the playoffs over the Twins.

Being behind the plate for Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter in 2007 and Philip Humber’s perfect game in 2012.

A.J. Pierzynski’s White Sox career officially came to an following the 2012 season, when the free agent catcher signed a contract with the Texas Rangers, leaving Paul Konerko as the last remaining member of the 2005 World Series champions to play for the South Siders.

Pierzynski’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#8 – Jermaine Dye

Name: Jermaine Dye

Rank: 8

Position: RF

Years With White Sox: 2005-2009

Jermaine Dye signed with the White Sox as a free agent on December 9, 2004, as a replacement for the departing Magglio Ordonez.  He appeared in 145 games, his highest total since breaking his leg in the 2001 ALDS as a member of the A’s.  He ended the regular season hitting .274 with 31 home runs, 86 RBIs, and an .846 OPS as the White Sox won their first Central Division title since 2000.  In the ALDS, Dye scored 2 hits in the 3 game sweep of the Red Sox.  He picked things up in the ALCS, hitting .263 against the Angels as the White Sox won their first AL pennant since 1959.

Dye ratcheted things up again in the World Series against the Astros.  He hit a home run in game 1, had a phantom hit-by-pitch in game 2 setting up Paul Konerko’s grand slam, and drove in the only run in the clinching game 4, hitting .438 for the series and earning World Series MVP honors as the White Sox took home their first world championship in 88 years.

2006 proved to be Dye’s best offensive season.  He was named to his second All Star game, going hitless in his only at bat.  He finished the year second in the league with 44 home runs, third in slugging at .622, fifth in RBIs with 120, while hitting .315.  Those numbers were good enough for fifth place in AL Most Valuable Player voting and earned him his first, and only, Silver Slugger award.

2007 turned out to be more of a down year, for both Dye and the White Sox.  He struggled in the first half, including a cold June in which he batted just .203 with one home run.  He was able to turn things around in the second half, batting .298 and knocking out 20 doubles and 16 home runs.  He finished the year with a .254 average, 28 home runs, and 78 RBIs.  To reward his turnaround, he was given a two-year contract extension in August.

Dye continued his bounce back in 2008, and helped the White Sox rebound as well.  He finished the year with a .292 average, 34 home runs, and 96 RBIs, while finishing second in the American League with 77 extra-base hits, as the White Sox won the division title for the second time in his tenure.  Dye hit .375 with a home run in the ALDS, a four game loss against the Rays.  He earned 15th place in MVP voting.

Dye looked to slow down again in 2009, as his OPS fell to its lowest total since 2004.  He did, along with teammate Paul Konerko, make history on April 13, as they went back-to-back against the Tigers to each notch their 300th career home run.  According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time teammates hit century milestone home runs of at least 300 in the same game, let alone back-to-back.  He ended the year hitting .250, with 27 home runs and 81 RBIs.  He became a free agent after the season when his option for 2010 was bought out.

Dye’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#10 – Ozzie Guillen

Name: Ozzie Guillen

Rank: 10

Position: SS

Years With White Sox: 1985-1997

Acquired by the White Sox, along with Tim Lollar, Bill Long, and Luis Salazar, on December 6, 1984 from the Padres for Kevin Kristan, Todd Simmons, and LaMarr Hoyt, Ozzie Guillen made his major league debut on Opening Day 1985, leading off against the Brewers and going 1-5 in the 4-2 victory at County Stadium.  Settling in as the everyday shortstop, Guillen finished the year with a .273 average, 21 doubles, and 9 triples.  Those totals were good enough to score Guillen the 1985 AL Rookie of the Year trophy.

Guillen saw a slight drop off in his sophomore season.  His average dropped to .250 and he managed 19 doubles and 4 triples.  Defensively, he led the American League in Defensive WAR.

1987 was a nice bounce back for Guillen.  He raised his average back up to .279 with a .656 OPS.  For the second straight year, he led the AL, and all of baseball, in Defensive WAR.

Guillen earned his first All Star nod in 1988, though he didn’t get in to the game.  By the end of the season, he once again led all of baseball in Defensive WAR, while seeing his average drop to .261 with 7 triples, the fifth highest total in the AL.

1989 was a tough year for Guillen.  He posted his worst offensive numbers since 1986 and, on the base paths, he fell victim to the hidden ball trick.  Twice. On June 23, against the Brewers, first baseman Greg Brock held the ball after a pickoff attempt and when Guillen took his hand off the base to stand up, Brock tagged him out.  Less than 2 months later, on August 5 against the Tigers, Dave Bergman made the same play.  He finished the year with .253 average and, despite his adventures on pick off attempts, a career high 36 stolen bases.

As the surprising White Sox challenged for the AL West title while saying goodbye to Comiskey Park, Guillen put in one of the finest seasons of his career.  He was named to his second All Star team, going 0-2, finished in 17th place in MVP voting, and earned his first, and only, Gold Glove.  He raised his average back up to .279 and knocked in a career high 58 RBIs.

Expectations were high for the White Sox as they moved across the street to the new Comiskey Park in 1991.  Guillen earned his third, and final, All Star nod, getting a sacrifice in his only plate appearance.  He ended the year with a .273 average and set a career high with 3 home runs.

Guillen’s 1992 season came to an early end when, on April 21 during a loss against the Yankees, a collision with outfielder Tim Raines ended in a severe knee injury.  Appearing in only 20 games, he hit a career low .200 in only 40 at bats.

Guillen recovered in 1993, though he appeared in only 134 games, his lowest total to date.  However, it was his most productive season offensively, posting a .280 batting average, and career highs with 4 home runs and a .666 OPS, as the White Sox won their first division title in a decade.  He hit .273 and scored 4 runs in a losing effort, as the White Sox were defeated in 6 games by the Blue Jays in the ALCS.

1994 looked to be the year that the White Sox finally broke through.  Guillen was up to the challenge, hitting a career high .288 with a .659 OPS.  Unfortunately, the year ended early when players went on strike on August 12 with the White Sox in first place in the newly created AL Central.

The 1995 season got off to a late start and had an abbreviated schedule due to the long work stoppage.  The success of the White Sox, and for Guillen himself, didn’t survive the long layoff.  Guillen saw his average drop to .248, his lowest over a “full” season in his career to this point.  His OPS dropped to its lowest total, excepting 1992, since 1989.

1996 saw a slight improvement for Guillen.  He appeared in 150 games, his highest total since his knee injury in 1992.  He raised his average back to .263 and tied his career high with 4 home runs.

1997 was easily the worst season of Guillen’s White Sox career.  He had the lowest average of his career, coming in at .245, though he did once again tie his career high with 4 home runs.  Following the season, Guillen became a free agent and his playing career with the White Sox came to an end.

Guillen returned to the White Sox organization for the 2004 season as manager.  In 2005, he led the team to their first American League pennant since 1959 and their first World Series title in 88 years.  Ongoing personal difficulties with General Manager Kenny Williams led to his leaving with 2 games left in the 2011 season as the third winningest manager in franchise history.

Guillen’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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