Name: Harold Baines
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: