By The Numbers – 23

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #23, one of the most famous and successful numbers in city history across all sports.  67 different players have donned #23 while playing in Chicago, 35 for the White Sox and 31 for the Cubs, including a familiar face for both sides of town.

Robin Ventura made his major league debut donning #23 in September of 1989, appearing 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, but 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.  He finished the year with a .249 average, 5 home runs, and 54 RBIs and 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, 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, collecting his 500th hit in May and, on August 4, entering 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 SportsCenter.  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, setting 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 both Ventura and the White Sox.  During a spring training game, 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 3 pitchers 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.  Entering the last year of his contract in 1998, the White Sox made little attempt to sign Ventura 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.

Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 24

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #24.  104 different players have donned #24 while playing in Chicago, 49 for the White Sox and 55 for the Cubs.

Joe Crede earned a September call-up from Double A in 2000, and, wearing #24, made his major league debut on September 12, replacing Herbert Perry and going 0-1 in the Tigers 10-3 victory at Comiskey Park.  Crede appeared in 7 games, making the most of his 14 at bats, and finished with a .357 average.  Crede got another cup of coffee with the big league club in September of 2001, earning a little more playing time, but he was less successful, finishing with a .220 average in 50 at bats over 17 games.  Crede returned to the White Sox for good in July of 2002.  On August 12, he hit his first major league home run off of former teammate James Baldwin and he finished with 12 home runs, 35 RBIs, and a .285 average.  Crede established himself as the starting third baseman in 2003.  He appeared in a career high 151 games and launched 19 home runs with 75 RBIs while posting a .261 average.  He struggled in 2004, seeing his average drop to .239 while hitting 21 home runs with 69 RBIs.

In 2005, Crede started to come in to his own.  While he improved his average to .252 and hit 22 home runs with 62 RBIs, he came alive in the second half, culminating with a game winning, and possible season saving, home run in the 10th inning against the Indians on September 20, which pushed the White Sox to a 3.5 game lead and propelled them into the playoffs.  Crede had a rough series in the ALDS against the Red Sox, getting only 1 hit in 9 at bats, but rebounded in the ALCS and World Series, hitting .368 and .294 respectively, with 2 home runs in each series.  2006 was Joe Crede’s breakout season.  He hit .283 with career highs in home runs, with 30, and RBIs, with 94, winning his first, and only, Silver Slugger award.  A back injury in 2007 limited him to 47 games and only 4 home runs.  He returned with a bang in 2008, hitting a grand slam on opening day against the Twins and parlayed a good first half into his first All Star selection, but the back injury recurred and kept him out for most of the second half of the season, including the playoffs, thus ending his White Sox career.

On the north side of town, Dexter Fowler joined Cubs via trade prior to the 2015 season.  Donning #24, he ended the year with a .250 average, 102 runs scored, 46 RBIs, 17 home runs, and 20 stolen bases as the Cubs made a surprise run for the NL Wild Card.  Fowler helped propel the Cubs to the NLDS, putting up three hits, three runs scored, a home run, and a stolen base in defeating the Pirates.  In nine postseason games, Fowler batted .396 with two home runs and three RBIs, as the Cubs made it to the NLCS against the Mets.

Fowler became a free agent after the season and was unsigned into the start of spring training.  Despite reportedly agreeing to a three-year contract with the Orioles, Fowler arrived in Cubs camp and signed a one year deal.  And what a year it was.  Fowler finished the year with a .276 average, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs, and 84 runs scored as the Cubs won the NL Central.  Fowler’s .333 average with 4 RBI helped the Cubs win the NLCS against the Dodgers, advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945.  On October 25, 2016, Dexter Fowler became the first African-American to appear and to bat for the Cubs in a World Series game.  Fowler led off Game 7 of the World Series with a home run, becoming the first player in history to do so, and helping the Cubs win 8–7 in 10 innings, giving the team their first championship in 108 years.

By The Numbers – 25

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #25.  87 different players have donned #25 while playing in Chicago, 51 for the White Sox and 36 for the Cubs.

Acquired by the Cubs following the 2003 season for Hee Seop Choi, Derrek Lee, wearing #25, quickly became a mainstay of the Cubs lineup.  He hit .278 with 32 home runs and 98 RBIs in his first year on the north side.  2005 was a career year for Lee, and that was just in the first half.  He led the majors with a .376 average and 72 RBIs while tying for the lead with 27 home runs.  For the full season, he hit 46 home runs and a .335 average, the highest for a Cub since Bill Madlock in 1976 and he notched the first batting title for a Cub since Bill Buckner in 1980.  When it was all said and done, he had won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and finished third in MVP voting.

A broken wrist limited Lee to 50 games in 2006, but he rebounded in 2007 to hit .317 with 22 home runs as the Cubs won their first NL Central title since 2003.  Lee went 4 for 12 as the Cubs were swept in 3 games by the Diamondbacks.  Another strong season in 2008, with a .291 average, 20 home runs, and 90 RBIs helped push the Cubs back to the post-season.  Lee did all he could, hitting .545 in the NLDS against the Dodgers, but the Cubs were once again swept.  Lee overcame a slow start in 2009 thanks to a 21 game hitting streak and finished with a .306 batting average, 35 home runs and 111 RBIs, which earned him enough votes to finish ninth in MVP voting.

2010 was a strange year for Lee and the Cubs.  On June 9th, he hit his 300th career home run.  Later that month, however, he would get in to a fight in the dugout with Carlos Zambrano, which led to a suspension for Zambrano.  In the last year of his contract and with the team going nowhere fast, Lee was traded to the Braves on August 18th, ending his Cub tenure.

Looking to reload after winning their first World Series championship in 88 years, the White Sox acquired Jim Thome from the Phillies for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez, and Daniel Haigwood.  Thome, wearing his familiar #25, made an immediate impact, setting a major league record by scoring in each of Chicago’s first 17 games and setting the team record with 10 home runs in April.  By season’s end, Thome had put up a .288 average with 42 home runs, 102 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.014.  One of the few bright spots for the 2007 White Sox came in mid-September, when Thome, on his bobblehead day, launched his 500th career home run, the first player to do so on a walk-off.  For the year, Thome hit .275, with 35 home runs and 96 RBIs.  2008 was a bit of a down year for Thome, as his average and OPS both fell, but he still managed 34 home runs and 90 RBIs.  The most important of each came in the 163rd game of the year, as he hit a solo home run to give the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Twins and the Central Division title.  With the White Sox going nowhere in 2009, Thome was traded to the Dodgers on August 31 for a warm body.

 

By The Numbers – 30

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #30.  76 different players have donned #30 while playing in Chicago, 32 for the White Sox and 44 for the Cubs, who have retired it for two different players.

Signed by the White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1991, Magglio Ordonez made his major league debut wearing #30 on August 29, 1997, going 2-3 in the interleague victory against the Astros at Comiskey Park.  He became the regular right fielder for the White Sox in 1998, appearing in 145 games and finishing the year with a .282 average, 14 home runs, and 65 RBIs, good enough to finish in 5th place in AL Rookie of the Year voting.  1999 was a breakout year for Ordonez, earning his first All Star selection and finishing the year hitting .301 with 30 home runs, 117 RBIs, and an OPS of .858.

Ordonez’s hot streak continued in to 2000, putting up a .315 average with 32 home runs and 126 RBIs as the White Sox won their first division title since 1993.  While the White Sox failed to replicate their success in 2001, Ordonez kept up his end of the bargain, earning his third straight All Star nod and hitting .305 with 31 home runs, 113 RBIs, and a .914 OPS.  2002 was the his best season to date, setting career highs with a .320 average, 47 doubles, 38 home runs, 135 RBIs, and a .978 OPS while finishing in 8th place for MVP voting and earning his second Silver Slugger award.

2003 was another excellent year for Ordonez.  He was named to his fourth All Star team, going 0-1 in his home stadium of US Cellular Field, and finished the year hitting .317 with 29 home runs and 99 RBIs.  His 2004 season was on track to match his career norms when, during the May 19 game against the Indians, he collided with second baseman Willie Harris on Omar Vizquel’s popup to right field.  Two trips to the disabled list and two surgeries on his left knee later, his season was over after only 52 games.  Following the season, he became a free agent and his White Sox career came to an end.

On the north side, Steve Stone was assigned #30 after being acquired from the White Sox in December of 1973.  Over three seasons with the Cubs, Stone went a combined 23-20 with a 4.04 ERA.  His 1976 season was cut short due to a torn rotator cuff, which he decided to treat with cryotherapy rather than surgery.

By The Numbers – 44

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #44.  57 different players have donned #44 while playing in Chicago, 39 for the White Sox and a mere 18 for the Cubs.

Anthony Rizzo was acquired by the Cubs on January 6, 2012, the first piece of the rebuilding puzzle that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer brought to Chicago after their hiring.  He started the 2012 season in Triple A, but eventually earned the promotion and took over first base,  In 2014, he earned his first All Star nod and his first MVP votes.  In 2015, as the Cubs made a surprising run to the NLCS, Rizzo led the league in games and plate appearances and placed fourth in MVP voting.

In 2016, Rizzo replicated his fourth place MVP finish while also picking up a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award as he helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years.  On Opening Night in 2017, he walked the Commissioner’s Trophy on to the field (following a long rain delay).  He finished that year with more MVP attention as the Cubs made their third straight NLCS, losing to the Dodgers.  Rizzo added 3 additional Gold Gloves to his collection from 2018 – 2020.  The shine rubbed off of Rizzo a little in June of 2021, as he announced, on the day Chicago opened back up from COVID restrictions, that he had decided not to get vaccinated, leaving the Cubs as one of 8 teams still under restrictions for failing to reach the 85% plateau.  He was then, of course, traded to the Yankees and, just this morning, was placed on the IL with COVID.

On the other side of town, Dan Pasqua donned #44 after being acquired from the Yankees for Richard Dotson following the 1997 season.  His first season with the White Sox ended with a career high 20 home runs despite a disappointing .227 average, but a broken wrist suffered during the first week of the 1989 season limited him to just 73 games and 11 home runs.  Pasqua lost his regular slot in the lineup in 1990, as manager Jeff Torborg decided to start Sammy Sosa every day.  He appeared in 112 games, but had only 325 at bats despite a .274 average.

1991 saw Pasqua appear in a career high 134 games, with a .259 average and 18 home runs, his highest total since 1988.  A hamstring injury reduced Pasqua’s playing time again in 1992 and, with George Bell and Bo Jackson splitting time at DH in 1993, Pasqua again was the odd man out.  Pasqua’s 1994 season was cut short by arthroscopic knee surgery in May, which limited him to just 11 appearances and only 23 at bats, and he decided to retire after the season.

It’s Eloy Time

Eloy Jimenez, who tore his pectoral muscle during the last week of spring training and was feared to be lost for the entire season, has been activated prior to tonight’s game against the Royals and is expected to be in the starting lineup.  To make room on the active roster, Jake Burger has been optioned back to Charlotte.

Jimenez, who won a Silver Slugger award for 2020, should bring some much needed pop for an offense that has run hot and cold over the past month, with cold being the current temperature following this weekend’s series in Milwaukee.  He’s likely to spend the majority of his time at DH, with Andrew Vaughn continuing in left field.

By The Numbers – 74

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #74.  Once again, a single player has donned #74 while playing in Chicago, debuting in 2019 for the White Sox.

Acquired from the Cubs, along with Dylan Cease, in the 2017 Jose Quintana trade, Eloy Jimenez made his major league debut for the White Sox on Opening Day 2019.  In just 2 short years, he has made a name for himself, finishing 4th in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019 and earning the Silver Slugger award for the corona virus shortened 2020 season.

#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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#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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