Whoops: This is not Denny McLain. (Topps)
On this date, one of the biggest “what if’s” in franchise history took place. Per the rules at the time, the White Sox had to choose between two pitchers signed to “bonus baby” contracts; only one player signed to a deal for more than a certain amount of money could remain in the organization. The other would have to be waived.
With that in mind, rookies Bruce Howard and Denny McLain squared off in an intrasquad game to see who would be released and who got promoted to Double-A Lynchburg. Howard won, 2-1, so McLain got his walking papers and was claimed by Detroit the following week. He’d go on to win 131 big league games including 31 in 1968.
Baltimore was always a “house of horrors” for the White Sox, but on this day they got the last laugh. The South Siders spoiled the last home opener in old Memorial Stadium by ripping the Orioles, 9-1. Sammy Sosa clubbed two home runs off of Jeff Ballard to lead the rout. He’d knock in five runs on the afternoon. Jack McDowell went the distance, striking out 10.
Bo Knows: That in 1993 he’d be an unsung hero for the division-winning White Sox. (YouTube)
The Sox signed former two-sport All-Star Vincent “Bo” Jackson to a contract. Jackson would have hip replacement surgery and not make a real impact until 1993, when he hit 16 home runs, but the move was a masterful stroke from a public relations standpoint.
The unexpected division championship season didn’t start off promisingly, as the White Sox were buried in Texas, 10-4. They’d lose the next day as well, 12-8. But by the end of the month the Sox set the major league record for most runs scored in April and “The Kids Can Play” White Sox were on their way to a league-leading 95 wins and a postseason appearance.
Signing wounded: In a remarkable turnaround, Soderholm went from sitting out the 1976 season to a 4.2 bWAR comeback campaign for the ages.
1976 — In a move that would pay large returns the following season, injured third baseman Eric Soderholm signed a free agent deal with Bill Veeck and Roland Hemond. Soderholm would become Comeback Player of the Year for 1977 with 25 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .280 batting average, helping lead the South Side Hit Men to a remarkable, 90-win season.
1991 – The White Sox hired Gene Lamont as the new field manager, replacing Jeff Torborg. Lamont was hired after Pirates manager and former Sox coach Jim Leyland highly recommended him (Lamont was a coach on Leyland’s staff). The quiet, laid-back Lamont would win the American League’s Western Division title in 1993 and take home Manager of the Year honors. He’d also guide the Sox to the Central Division lead at the time of the labor impasse in 1994.
1899 — The new American League was formed in Chicago. The city didn’t have a team in the league at that point but soon got the St. Paul, Minn. team, led by player/manager Charles Comiskey. They set up shop on the South Side.
1991 — White Sox manager Jeff Torborg, who was named Manager of the Year for 1990, resigned to take a job as manager of the New York Mets. It was a strange move, and the real reason for it wasn’t made known until years later, as Torborg told individuals and provided examples of how then-White Sox GM Ron Schueler forced him out.