#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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#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 →

#52 – Ken Williams

Name: Ken Williams

Rank: 52

Position: CF/3B

Years With White Sox: 1986-1988

Ken Williams was selected by the White Sox in the 3rd round of the 1982 draft.  He made his major league debut on September 2, 1986, going 1-4 in the White Sox 3-0 victory over the Royals in Kansas City.  He appeared in 15 games down the stretch, hitting an anemic .129.

Williams got extended playing time in 1987 and turned in his best season as a major leaguer.  He hit .281 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs, playing primarily in center field.

Looking to keep his promising bat in the lineup, the White Sox tried to move Williams to third base for the 1988 season.  To say it did not go well would be an understatement.  Williams struggled both at the plate and in the field, hitting .159 in 220 at bats and posting a .860 fielding percentage.

The following spring, Williams was traded to the Tigers for pitcher Eric King.  Following his retirement, he rejoined the White Sox organization as a scout in November of 1992.  He served as a special assistant to Jerry Reinsdorf in 1994, director of minor league operations from 1995-1996, and vice president of player development from 1997-2000.  Following the promotion of Ron Schueler following the 2000 season, Williams was named general manager, just the third African American in baseball history to hold the position.

From 2001 through 2003, Williams and manager Jerry Manuel formed the first African American tandem to hold those positions in baseball history.  In 2005, Williams helped lead the White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years.  Following the 2012 season, he was promoted to Executive Vice President of baseball operations, the role he still holds today.

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

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#54 – Keith Foulke

Name: Keith Foulke

Rank: 54

Position: P

Years With White Sox: 1997-2002

Keith Foulke was acquired by the White Sox, along with Brian Manning, Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Bob Howry, and Ken Vining, on July 31, 1997 as part of the White Flag trade that sent Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez to the Giants.  He appeared in one game for Triple A Nashville before joining the White Sox bullpen for the remainder of the season, putting up a 3.45 ERA in 16 games and earning his first 3 career saves.

1998 saw Foulke serve as the set-up man for closers Matt Karchner and Bill Simas.  He appeared in 54 games, putting up a 3-2 record and a 4.13 ERA.

Foulke returned to the set-up role in 1999 and had an excellent season.  Working over 105 innings spread across 67 games, Foulke was 3-3 with 9 saves, a 2.22 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.883.  His work earned him a tie for 10th place in the Cy Young Award voting.

With Bob Howry struggling as closer in 2000, Foulke stepped in and, saving 34 games, helped the young White Sox win their first division title since 1993.  Appearing in 72 games, he went 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA during the regular season.  Unfortunately, the ALDS did not go as well.  Foulke pitched in 2 of the 3 games against the Mariners, giving up 3 earned runs in 2 and 1/3 innings pitched.

Foulke remained as closer in 2001 and continued to excel.  He lead the AL by finishing 67 games and set a career high with 42 saves while lowering his ERA to 2.33.  Manager Jerry Manuel lost faith in Foulke during 2002 and he finished the year with only 11 saves, one of 3 White Sox pitchers in double digits.  He went 2-4 with an outlandish 2.90 ERA.

On December 3, Foulke, along with Mark Johnson, Joe Valentine, and cash, was traded to the A’s for Billy Koch, Neal Cotts, and Daylan Holt.

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

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#169 – Mike Caruso

mcarusoName: Mike Caruso

Rank: 169

Position: SS

Years With White Sox: 1998-1999

Mike Caruso was the centerpiece coming back to the White Sox, along with Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Brian Manning, and Ken Vining, in the so-called White Flag trade on July 31, 1997 that sent Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez to the Giants.  Caruso was a 20 year old in Class A who was expected to be the heir apparent to Ozzie Guillen on the left side of the White Sox infield.  He fought his way on to the opening day roster in 1998, beating out Benji Gil, and became an instant success story.

He made his major league debut on Opening Day 1998, going 1 for 5 in a White Sox victory against the Rangers.  By the time the year was over, he had compiled a .306 average, the highest rookie total by a Sox player since Minnie Minoso in 1951 and the best for a shortstop since Luis Aparicio in 1970.  He finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting, behind winner Ben Grieve and two spots ahead of teammate Magglio Ordonez.

Things started to go south in 1999.  Without veteran third baseman Robin Ventura to cover him, Caruso’s defense, already thought to be suspect, was exposed thanks to a strong arm and shrinking range.  Offensively, his average dropped to .250 and he managed only 17 extra base hits in 529 at bats, for a slugging percentage below .300.  Manager Jerry Manuel called out his young shortstop, for his poor production, lack of preparation, and a general lack of baseball smarts.

The 2000 season saw Caruso back in the minor leagues, thanks to the arrival of Jose Valentin.  While his former teammates went on to win the AL Central, Caruso struggled against minor league pitching before an injury ended his season prematurely.  Following the season, he was designated for assignment and was selected off of waivers by the Mariners.

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

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O Captain! My Captain!

PaulKonerkoAfter an 18 seasons, including the past 16 with the White Sox, Paul Konerko’s major league career came to an end last week as the 2014 campaign wrapped up against the Royals.  Konerko, the last remaining White Sox player from their 2005 championship team, 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.

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.

PaulKonerkoRed

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 last fall.  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.

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

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#227 – Royce Clayton

royceclayton

Name: Royce Clayton

Rank: 227

Position: SS

Years With White Sox: 2001-2002

Following their division title in 2000, the White Sox looked to improve their defense by moving Jose Valentin to center field and acquiring Royce Clayton from the Rangers in exchange for Aaron Myette and Brian Schmack.  Unfortunately, things went south for both the White Sox and Clayton.  On June 25, when the White Sox reached .500 for the first time since early April, Clayton went 2-4 and managed to raise his average to a season-high .180.  He also decided that was the perfect time to criticize manager Jerry Manuel for not playing him every day.

“If I don’t [hit] I’m on the bench,” Clayton said.  “I know what I’m dealing with now.  Early in the season I really wasn’t aware of it.  Now I am aware of what I have to do in order to play, and I have a problem with it.”  Did I mention he was hitting .180 at the end of June?  Somehow, Clayton managed to raise his average to .263 by the end of the year, but his relationship with Sox fans and management seemed irreparable.

Clayton was back at shortstop in 2002, with Jose Valentin shifted now to third base.  Despite a good spring, Clayton again struggled as the season began, with his average at .198 at the end of May, leading to another benching from Manual.  Again, he did eventually manage to raise his average to .251, but the damage had been done and, with 3 weeks left in the season, he was released.  “It’s for the best,” Clayton said.  “I wasn’t playing here.  A couple weeks left, maybe I’ll go play somewhere else for the remainder of the season and help somebody else.  It’s best to put the situation behind me as soon as possible and go on.”

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

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#274 – Gary Glover

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Name: Gary Glover

Rank: 274

Position: P

Years With White Sox: 2001-2003

Gary Glover joined the White Sox on November 7, 2000 after being acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for Scott Eyre.  Glover split the year between Chicago and Charlotte, and between the bullpen and the rotation.  He finished the year with a 5–5 record and a 4.93 ERA in 46 appearances, including 11 starts.

Glover spent the entire 2002 season with the White Sox, but again split his time between the rotation, where he was not very successful, and the bullpen, where he was.  In mid-September, manager Jerry Manuel announced that Glover would stay in the bullpen for the rest of 2002 and in 2003.

In 2003, Glover became the forgotten man in the White Sox bullpen.  Going as many as 19 days between appearances, Glover made his way in to only 24 games by the end of July, when he was moved along with two minor leaguers to the Angels for for veteran pitcher Scott Schoeneweis.

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

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#357 – Mario Valdez

Name: Mario Valdez

Rank: 357

Position: 1B

Year With White Sox: 1997

Mario Valdez was selected in the 48th round of the 1993 draft and got his chance to move to the big leagues in 1997 when Frank Thomas went down with an injury.  Once Thomas returned, Valdez stuck with club, becoming a late inning defensive replacement and manning first base when Thomas would DH.

The following spring, Valdez was sent back to the minor leagues after new manager Jerry Manuel felt he had been rushed up by the prior administration.  Unfortunately, he never returned to the major leagues with the White Sox, and at the end of September in 1999, he was selected off waivers by the Twins.

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

#363 – Rick White

Name: Rick White

Rank: 363

Position: P

Year With White Sox: 2003

Rick White spent parts of 12 seasons in the major leagues employed by 11 different organizations.  That, my friends, is the mark of someone who does not pitch well enough to keep a job but has good enough stuff to keep getting chances.  His chance with the White Sox came in 2003.

White was granted free agency after spending the last month and a half of the 2002 season with the Cardinals, and he signed with the White Sox in late January of 2003.  Things do not go well for White on the south side, as he finished his tenure with a 6.61 ERA.

White was released in August following statements he made that were critical of Jerry Manuel’s handling of the pitching staff.

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

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