Travelling The 50 States – Florida

Over my 47 years, I’ve done my fair share of travelling across these United States.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment go look back at those trips to each of the 31 states I have visited (62% isn’t bad, is it?) and see if, and when, I may be returning.  Working in alphabetical order, we start today with the 27th state to be added to the Union: Florida.

State: Florida
Joined the Union: 1845
Visits: 10 (at least)

At some point in the mid-1980s, my grandparents bought a condo in Clearwater, Florida, which has helped make the Sunshine State one of my most visited states.  I’m fairly certain my first trip there would have been in the summer of 1988 and my most recent was last year, with a number of visits in-between.

From what I can recall, my first trip to Florida came the summer of 1988, following my eighth-grade graduation.  I’m pretty sure a collection of seven family members got in the car the day after Mike Tyson’s 91 second knockout of Michael Spinks for the two-day drive to Clearwater.  I’m not clear on exactly how long we were there, but I know there was a one-day excursion to Disney World.  Aside from that, we saw all of the tourist attractions that my grandparents thought were interesting.  Which means nothing that was really all that interesting.

We made another trip two summers later.  I don’t remember much of this trip, aside from the trip home where we came up through southern Illinois and listened to the White Sox somehow beating the Yankees 4-0 despite being no-hit by Andy Hawkins.

My sister and I made a return trip over Christmas break in 1991, our first time on an airplane.  Again, I don’t have many vivid memories of the events of this trip.

My fourth trip to Florida came during March of 1997.  I had an interview with GTE Data Services and turned it into a mini-vacation during spring break, staying with my grandparents.  The highlight of the trip, aside from nailing the interview and getting a solid job offer, was a trip to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota to watch a spring training tilt between the White Sox and the Twins. Continue reading →

Looking Ahead To 2023

With about six weeks remaining in the 2022 season, Major League Baseball released their tentative 2023 schedule on Wednesday.  For the first time in years, MLB is moving to a balanced schedule, playing 52 games against division opponents, 64 games against non-division opponents in the same league, and, for the first time, 46 interleague games, with series against every team in the opposite league.  With the White Sox looking to bounce back after what has been a disappointing 2022 campaign to date and the Cubs looking to take the next step forward in their rebuild, the 2023 season looks to be an exciting time in the city of Chicago.  So, for one day, at least, let’s turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

The White Sox open their season on the road in Houston on March 30 for a four-game series against the Astros before returning home to face the Giants in their home opener on April 3.

Aside from the Giants, the new interleague schedule sees the Phillies, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Padres travelling to Chicago, while the White Sox will go on the road to face the Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Mets, Rockies, and Nationals. The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field in late July followed by a mid-August tilt at Wrigley.

After facing AL Central foes only for the first half of September, the season ends with a six-game homestand against the Diamondbacks and the Padres.

On the north side, the Cubs also open their season on March 30, facing the Brewers at home.  After a 3-game series, they head out on the road.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the Rangers, Mariners, Orioles, Guardians, Red Sox, and Royals at Wrigley, while they go on the road to face the A’s, Twins, Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Tigers.

Of their 28 games in September/October, only nine are against their NL Central rivals, though, with the Cubs not likely to contend, that shouldn’t make much of a difference.  They end the year with a six-game road trip against the Braves and Brewers.

London Calling

One of the casualties of the lockdown following the corona virus pandemic in 2020 was the cancellation of the series in London between the Cubs and the Cardinals.  While MLB returned in full force in 2021 and this year, the series in London did not.  Well, MLB announced yesterday that the series would return in 2023 with the Cubs and the Cardinals finally getting their chance to battle overseas.

MLB played in Europe for the first time in 2019, when the Yankees swept a pair of games from the Red Sox, and looked to further expand the game’s popularity throughout Europe by making it an annual excursion.  I imagine if next year’s tilt goes off without a hitch, the annual rollout will continue as originally planned.

By The Numbers – 0

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 conclude our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #0.  Only three players have donned #0 while playing in Chicago, all for the White Sox.

Billy Hamilton signed with the White Sox during spring training of 2021 after being released by the Indians.  He quickly became valuable outfield depth following the injuries to Adam Engel and Eloy Jimenez.  He quickly became ingrained in the team’s culture and played his way into the fan’s hearts, thanks to, surprisingly, a pair of home runs over Memorial Day weekend and a tremendous catch in the rain and mud in Minnesota.

2022 All Star Break Standings

For the first time since 1980, the Midsummer Classic returns to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium.  As the stars of the baseball world gather in Tinsletown, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 21 games, featuring exactly half of the teams in the league, that I attended in the first half of the baseball season, a disappointing one, for different reasons, on both sides of town.

2022 Team Records

Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 0 1.000
New York Mets 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Guardians 1 0 1.000
Baltimore Orioles 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 10 8 0.556
Minnesota Twins 1 1 0.500
Chicago Cubs 2 5 0.286
Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 1

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 #1.  50 different players have donned #1 while playing in Chicago, 30 for the White Sox and 20 for the Cubs.

Lance Johnson, along with Ricky Horton, was acquired by the White Sox from the Cardinals for Jose DeLeon just before spring training in 1988.  Despite earning Most Valuable Player honors in the American Association the year before, Johnson struggled mightily after being given the starting center fielder job, hitting only .185 in 33 games before being sent back to the minor leagues.  Johnson started at Triple A in 1988, before finally returning to the White Sox, and the major leagues, for good.  In 1990, Johnson hit .285 and managed 36 stolen bases, despite leading the league with 22 caught stealings, and hit his first career home run all while patrolling centerfield for the final season at Comiskey Park.

As the team moved across the street in 1991, Johnson continued his steady presence in the lineup, hitting .274 while stealing 26 bases and hitting 13 triples, leading the American League.  Johnson hit .279 in 1992, with another 12 triples, leading the league again, and 41 stolen bases while setting a new career high with 3 home runs.  1993 saw Johnson and the White Sox finally put everything together.  Johnson raised his average to .311, hitting 14 triples and stealing 35 bases while the White Sox won their first divisional title in a decade.  Unfortunately, Johnson struggled in the ALCS against the Blue Jays, hitting only .217 in the 6 game series, though knocking in 6 runs and hitting his only home run of the season.

The strike-shortened 1994 season cut down what could have been a tremendous season for Johnson.  He again hit 14 triples, but in only 106 games, becoming the first player in Major League history to lead the league for four consecutive seasons.  When baseball resumed in 1995, Johnson turned in his finest season in a White Sox uniform.  He hit .306 and set a career high with a .766 OPS.  He led the league in at bats and hits, though he saw his streak of triples crowns end despite hitting a solid 12.  He set a career high with 10 home runs, 3 more than his previous career total.  On September 23, he became the first White Sox hitter to get 6 hits in a game since Floyd Robinson in 1962.  Following the season, he became a free agent and his White Sox career came to an end.

On the north side of town, Doug Glanville wore #1 when he made his major league debut for the Cubs in 1996, posting a .241 average over 49 games.  He became a full time presence for the Cubs in 1997, primarily in left field, hitting .300 and swiping 19 bases.  He switched from #1 to #8 at the end of August when, ironically, the Cubs acquired Lance Johnson from the Mets.

By The Numbers – 2

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 #2.  50 different players have donned #2 while playing in Chicago, 28 for the White Sox, who retired the number in 1976, and 22 for the Cubs.

Acquired from the A’s for Joe Tipton following the 1949 season, Nellie Fox switched to his familiar #2 starting with the 1953 season.  The White Sox finished in third place in each season between 1953 and 1956, followed by second-place finishes in 1957 and 1958 before finally breaking through in 1959, thanks in part to Fox’s best season.  He batted .306, leading the AL in singles en route to a .380 OBP.  He also started and had four hits in two All-Star games and won his second Gold Glove on his way to winning the MVP for AL champions.

In the World Series, which turned out to be his only postseason experience, Fox led the White Sox with a .375 average with three doubles.  In Game 5, Fox scored the only run when Sherm Lollar hit into a double play in the fourth inning, only the second time that a World Series game did not have an RBI. Unfortunately, the Sox dropped the next game, and the series, to the Dodgers.

All told, Fox spent 14 seasons with the White Sox, making 12 AL All-Star teams and 15 of 16 AL All-Star Game selections beginning in 1951, with two All-Star games played between 1959 and 1962.  Following the 1963 season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s.  He died on December 1. 1975, at the age of 47, following a bout with cancer.  His #2 was retired by the White Sox in 1976 and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.

On the north side of town, Ryan Theriot wore three different numbers after making his debut on September 13, 2005 before settling on #2 in 2007.  That year, he made the opening-day roster as a utility player, but the early-season struggles of César Izturis led to Theriot taking over as the starter.  Theriot was notably versatile throughout the 2007 season, playing multiple positions defensively and hitting all over the batting order. Despite impressive numbers from Theriot in the lead-off spot, albeit a small sample size, the return of Alfonso Soriano resulted in Theriot returning to second in the batting order.

In 2008, Theriot had the sixth-best batting average in the National League.  While not expected to hit for power, Theriot was asked to try to drive in more runs early in 2009 as the Cubs dealt with injuries and poor performance from their power hitters.  He quickly went on a tear and smacked seven home runs, including his first two ever outside Wrigley Field, as the other players regained their health.  On February 19, 2010, the Cubs went to salary arbitration with Theriot, the first time they had done so since 1993, as the two sides were separated by $800k.  He appeared in 96 games with the Cubs in 2010, hitting .284, before the July 31 trade that sent Theriot and Ted Lilly to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt.

By The Numbers – 3

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 #3.  52 different players have donned #3 while playing in Chicago, 33 for the White Sox and 19 for the Cubs, including one who had it retired for him while he was still an active player.

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 against the Orioles at old Comiskey Park.  Baines started to break out in 1981, but the long player’s strike limited him to only 82 games.  With a full slate of games played in 1982, Baines appeared in all but one of them, with numbers good enough to garner 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.  He 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.  He 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.  He 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.

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.

David Ross donned #3 when he joined the Cubs in 2015 on a two-year deal.  Ross announced his plans to retire following the 2016 season, after playing 15 seasons in the major leagues.  During Game 7 of the World Series, Ross hit a home run in his final at-bat, making him the oldest player to homer in World Series history.

By The Numbers – 5

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 #5.  75 different players have donned #5 while playing in Chicago, 42 for the White Sox and 33 for the Cubs.

Selected in the fifth round of the 1990 draft, Ray Durham broke camp with the White Sox in 1995 and, wearing #5, made his major league debut on Opening Day, leading off and going 1-4 in the 12-3 loss to the Brewers at County Stadium.  Durham stuck in the leadoff spot and finished the year with a .257 average, 7 home runs, and 51 RBI, good enough for a 6th place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.  He saw improvement in 1996, raising his average to .275 and his OBP to .350.  His home run and RBI totals also jumped, going to 10 and 65 respectively.  1997 was another good year for Durham, as he hit .271 with 11 home runs.

In 1998, Durham earned his first All Star nod and finished the year setting career highs with a .285 average, 19 home runs, 67 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases.  Durham improved his average again in 1999, raising it to .296, his career best.  It was also his second of seven straight years with an OPS over .800.  Durham nabbed his second All Star selection in 2000.  When the season came to an end, Durham had a .280 average with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs and the White Sox were atop the AL Central for the first time.  Like the rest of his teammates, Durham struggled during the ALDS, hitting .200 in the three game sweep against the Mariners.

2001 saw Durham’s average drop to .267, his lowest total since his rookie year.  He did manage to set a new career high with 20 home runs as the White Sox failed to repeat.  Durham was hitting .299 with 9 home runs at the trade deadline in 2002 when, facing free agency, he was shipped to the A’s for Jon Adkins.  At the time of the trade, Durham was the club’s all-time leader in leadoff home runs, while placing in the top 10 in franchise history in steals (5th), doubles (7th), extra base hits (7th), and runs (8th).

Michael Barrett wore #5 for the Cubs when he was acquired for the 2004 season.  Barrett gave up his cherished # 5 in early August, handing it over to the newly acquired shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, while switching to #8, in tribute to former Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

By The Numbers – 6

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 #6.  67 different players have donned #6 while playing in Chicago, 27 for the White Sox, who haven’t retired it but have not issued it since 1995, and 42 for the Cubs.

In his second go-around with the Cubs after being selected off waivers from the Mariners on July 6, 1998, Glenallen Hill, wearing #6. hit .351 with 8 homers and 23 RBIs in 48 games.  He appeared in one game during the NLDS against the Braves, where he was one for three with a run batted in and a stolen base.  Returning in 1999, Hill hit .300 with 20 home runs and 55 runs batted in.  On May 11, 2000, Hill became the first, and thus far only player to hit a home run on the three-story residential building across Waveland Ave. from Wrigley Field in the second inning of the Cubs’ 14–8 loss to the Brewers.  With the Cubs far out of contention, he was traded to the Yankees on July 23.

On the south side of town, Jorge Orta signed with the White Sox out of the Mexican Baseball League in 1972 and made the team out of spring training.  Playing shortstop, Orta batted just .211 through the middle of May before losing his job.  He returned to Chicago when rosters expanded that September.  Orta was shifted to second base for the 1973 season after batting over .500 in spring training.  Playing through injuries for much of the year, he batted .266 and tied for second in the league with eighteen errors among second basemen.

Orta began the 1974 season batting at the bottom of the White Sox line-up but was moved up to the two spot Chuck Tanner’s batting order, hitting .411 with 23 runs scored in the month of June.  For the season, his .316 batting average was second only to Rod Carew.  In 1975, Orta batted .296 with four home runs and 46 RBIs in the first half, good enough to be named to the All-Star team.  He topped that by hitting .314 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in the second half.

New manager Paul Richards opted to move Orta to third base for the 1976 season, which proved to be a poor decision.  Orta was eventually moved into the outfield and the Sox narrowly avoided a hundred losses while Orta hit .274 with hitting a career-high fourteen home runs and scoring a career high 74 runs.  Orta returned to second base when Bob Lemon took the reins as manager in 1977.  The surprising White Sox, dubbed the South Side Hitmen, won 90 games and Orta, now batting third, finished second on the team with a career high 84 RBIs.  He remained at second in 1978, but new player-manager Don Kessinger deployed Orta as the designated hitter in 1979, a role Orta struggled with, putting up a .212 batting average, three home runs and 21 RBIs through June 27.  Orta returned to second base in the middle of July, and batted .313 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs the rest of the way on his way to free agency.