Today in White Sox History: April 7

Great White North: Jack Brohamer of the White Sox turns shin guards into snow shoes before Toronto’s MLB debut in 1977.


1970
The worst White Sox team in history began their forgettable season by getting pounded 12-0 at home by the Twins. Sox starting pitcher Tommy John only lasted into the fifth inning. The Sox would go on to lose a franchise-record 106 games.


1971
Charlie Finley, the A’s owner, got the first regularly scheduled Opening Day doubleheader in history but was stunned when the White Sox beat them twice, 6-5 and 12-4. Tommy John and Bart Johnson were the winning pitchers. The Sox clubbed five home runs on the day, including a grand slam by Bill Melton. It should have been six homers, except that Carlos May somehow missed touching home plate on his blast. The A’s picked up on it and tagged him out when he was sitting in the dugout.

This was also Harry Caray’s first regular season game as a White Sox announcer, although at the time not a whole lot of folks could hear him. Three straight awful years caused the Sox to lose their radio contract with any mainstream Chicago station. For the next two years Sox games were broadcast on WTAQ (LaGrange) and WEAW (Evanston), two low-powered stations.


1973
On Opening Day in Texas, Mike Andrews became the first White Sox DH. He hit sixth in the lineup for manager Chuck Tanner. He went 1-for-3 in the 3-1 win behind Wilbur Wood.


1977
The White Sox introduced American League baseball to Canada, as they played the first ever game in Toronto Blue Jays history. The Jays outslugged the Sox in a driving snowstorm to win, 9-5. But it was the start of something much bigger; the “South Side Hit Men” were born.


1984
Detroit’s Jack Morris threw what turned out to be the last no-hitter at Comiskey Park, shutting down the White Sox 4-0 on the NBC Saturday “Game of the Week.” The Sox had their chances, including loading the bases on walks in the fourth inning with nobody out.


1993
On his first swing of the season, future Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk would blast his final major league home run. It would come off of Minnesota’s Jim Deshaies in the third inning, and was the only run scored by the Sox in a 6-1 loss. Fisk would be released by the Sox in June.


1994
In the annual “Crosstown Classic” charity game between the White Sox and Cubs, Michael Jordan wrote his name into Sox lore. His double in the late innings tied the game and prevented the Sox from losing for the first time in this series. The game would end in a tie. The Sox would go 10-0-2 in the Crosstown Classic series (1985-95, with two games played in 1995).

 

 

 

Today in White Sox History: April 4

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1982
One of the most highly-anticipated Opening Days in franchise history got snowed out. The White Sox were set to host Boston and the organization was expecting a crowd of around 50,000. That got torpedoed when a blizzard hammered the entire Midwest, cancelling games for days. In fact, the season didn’t open until April 11 in New York, with a doubleheader win over the Yankees.


1983
The same night North Carolina State upset Houston for the NCAA basketball title, the White Sox opened their division championship season dropping a 5-3 game at Texas. The Sox scored three times in the top of the first but were handcuffed after that. Errors by rookies Scott Fletcher and Greg Walker were costly to pitcher LaMarr Hoyt. The Sox would drop all three games to the Rangers, but rebounded to win 99 of the final 159 to take the division by a record 20 games.


1988
It was Ken Williams’ one moment in the sun as a player. On Opening Day, Williams belted a two-run homer in the fifth inning off of California’s Mike Witt to help the Sox to an 8-5 win. Williams would drive in three runs on the afternoon.


1994
The bittersweet shortened season started in Canada with a rematch of the 1993 ALCS. Toronto won this Opening Day 7-3 by blasting Jack McDowell (the reigning Cy Young Award winner) just as they did twice in the postseason the year before.


2005
The World Series season got off to a great start, as a packed house saw Mark Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu shut out Cleveland 1-0 in a game that took less than two hours! That season the White Sox would roar out of the gate at 26-9, the best 35-game start in franchise history.


 

This Week in White Sox History: March 8-14

The Most: Johnny Mostil (left), one of the best outfielders in White Sox history saw things take a very bad turn 93 years ago.


March 8, 1948
WGN, channel 9 in Chicago, announced that it would televise White Sox games for the first time. Veteran radio sports broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Harry Creighton would become the first White Sox TV announcers in history.


March 9, 1927
Popular Sox outfielder Johnny Mostil attempted suicide in a hotel room in Shreveport, La. Despite razor cuts to his wrist, neck and chest, Mostil survived and returned to the team in April although he’d only play in 13 games that season. In 10 years with the White Sox, Mostil would hit better than .300 four times. After his career he’d become a longtime White Sox scout/coach and help develop future players like All-Star outfielder Jim Landis.


March 10, 1995
After two stints at White Sox spring training and a full season in Birmingham, Michael Jordan announced he was giving up baseball. Part of the reason was because of his struggles with the game, but the other, larger part (as he explained to author Bob Greene, in the book, “Rebound, The Odyssey of Michael Jordan”) was because he was being pressured by Sox G.M. Ron Schueler to cross the MLBPA picket line.

With “replacement” games set to start, Jordan stated that he was told if he didn’t cross the line, he’d be banished from the main clubhouse. Jordan was furious, saying that he was promised by owner Jerry Reinsdorf he wouldn’t have to take that step. Jordan explained that under no circumstances would he ever cross a labor picket line regardless of sport: “I told them from the beginning that I didn’t want them to use me to make money in the spring training games. We had an understanding. It was never supposed to even come up. I was disgusted that the promise wasn’t going to be honored,” he told Greene. Jordan would return to the Bulls and win three more championships.


March 11, 1968
White Sox rookie pitcher Cisco Carlos was part of the cover shot for Sports Illustrated. The headline read, “The Best Rookies Of 1968.” Unfortunately, Carlos didn’t turn out to be one of them, either in the short term or the long one. In fact, of the five players on the cover only Johnny Bench and Mike Torrez made a name for themselves in the sport. In two-and-a-half seasons with the White Sox, Carlos went 10-17.


March 12, 1973
White Sox third baseman and former AL home run champ Bill Melton appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The headline read, “Chicago Comes Out Swinging. Slugger Bill Melton.” Melton would have a nice comeback season after missing most of 1972 with a herniated disc, hitting .277 with 20 home runs and 87 RBIs.


March 13, 2000
White Sox slugger Frank Thomas is again featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A lengthy story covered his career, controversies and his desire to return to the top of the game. The headline stated, “Don’t Question My Desire. Frank Thomas Comes Out Swinging.” Thomas would have a spectacular season in 2000, losing out on his third AL MVP to Jason Giambi, who’d later admit to using steroids in grand jury testimony. Frank’s numbers in 2000 included a .328 batting average, 43 home runs, 143 RBIs, 112 walks and a slugging percentage of .625.


March 14, 1994
Sports Illustrated took issue with former NBA superstar Michael Jordan and his attempt to play baseball. Jordan was on the cover of SI again, but in a negative light. The headline read, “Bag It Michael! Jordan and the White Sox Are Embarrassing Baseball.” From that day on, Jordan (who was always very cooperative with that magazine) would never speak to Sports Illustrated again.

Today in White Sox History: March 4

Haters hate: Media coverage of MJ’s baseball career was almost universally unfavorable. In related developments, some sportswriters like to kick puppies and double-dip their chips. (Baseball America)


1921
In the wake of the Black Sox scandal, owner Charles Comiskey attempted to rebuild his team. One of the first moves he made was to acquire future Hall-of-Famer Harry Hooper from the Red Sox for two players. Hooper would play five years on the South Side and hit better than .300 in three of them.

1969
Sportswriter Brett Ballantini was born in the tiny hamlet of Highwood, Ill. Ballantini would write on baseball for decades, returning a sense of sartorial splendor, articulate absurdity and flash mob enthusiasm to White Sox coverage.

1994
NBA superstar Michael Jordan, who retired from the Chicago Bulls in October 1993, made his White Sox spring training debut.

 

Today in White Sox History: December 14

Brat attack: Stanky was a winning manager for the White Sox, but wore out his welcome quickly. (Topps)


1965
In an unexpected move the Sox named “The Brat,” Eddie Stanky, as the team’s new manager replacing the retired Al Lopez. Stanky was an intense, obsessed man, the 1960s version of Billy Martin or Earl Weaver.

Stanky knew baseball and was a genius at tactical decisions but he was also extremely unpopular with many of his players. He imposed a curfew, dress code and a rigorous calisthenics program on the team. He would fine players (or bench them) every time they weren’t able to lay down a bunt, hit a sacrifice fly or advance runners into scoring position. He offered a new suit of clothes for any pitcher who threw a complete game with at least a certain number of ground ball outs. For stolen bases or advancing into scoring position the player would get a new pair of dress shoes. He’d have winning seasons in 1966 and 1967, nearly taking the pennant, but by early 1968 his act had grown old and he was fired… and replaced with …Lopez!


1994
The White Sox traded former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell to the Yankees for two minor league players. McDowell was the winningest pitcher in the American League between 1990 and 1994. The move, which left the Sox pitching staff without its leader, proved very costly during the 1996 wild card collapse. The trade was made purely for financial reasons related to the labor situation that cost the team the last two months of the 1994 season.

 

 

Today in White Sox History: October 26

(Chicago Tribune)


1931 — Sox founder and owner Charles Comiskey died in his home in Eagle River, Wis. He left his entire estate to his son J. Louis Comiskey, including the White Sox. His estate was valued at more than $1.5 million dollars at the time., the equivalent of $17 million today.


1993 — White Sox manager Gene Lamont, who guided the team to its first postseason appearance in 10 years, was named American League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Lamont would beat out Buck Showalter of the Yankees for the honor. Lamont got 72 total points to Showalter’s 63. Lamont picked up eight first place votes to seven for Showalter.


1994 — Even though his quest for the Triple Crown was cut short by the labor impasse shutting down baseball six weeks early, Frank Thomas still did enough to garner his second straight MVP award from the BBWAA. Thomas outdistanced future Sox outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and future teammate Albert Belle, finishing with 24 first place votes out of a possible 28. He ended up with 372 points to Griffey’s 233 and Belle’s 225.

In 113 games, Thomas hit .353 with 38 home runs, 101 RBIs, 106 runs and 109 walks. With the award, Thomas became the first back-to-back AL winner since Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961.


2005 — On this night in Houston, the Sox became World Series champions for the first time since 1917. Freddy Garcia and three relief pitchers shut out the Astros on five hits, 1-0, sweeping the best-of-seven series in four games. The Sox shut out Houston for the final 15 innings of Series play.

Outfielder Jermaine Dye drove in the game’s only run and was named the World Series MVP. The South Side exploded in an orgy of delight, as fans celebrated all over the area.

“stockyard workers … “

Everything you wanted to know about the 1994 strike and its aftermath (but were afraid to ask)

Lose-lose: Commissioner Bud Selig, along with the owners, had a difficult history with the MLBPA culminating in the season-ending 1994 strike. The losers in the end? Fans.


Why there was a strike? I thought labor relations in baseball are pretty good.

They are now, relatively speaking that is. They weren’t then. The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) was formed in 1953, but it was pretty toothless until Marvin Miller became its executive director in 1966, leading to the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 1968. There was a short strike in April 1972. There was a much longer strike from June to August 1981, forcing a split season. There was a two-day strike in August 1985, but nobody remembers that one of because the missed games were rescheduled. There was a preseason lockout in 1990 that lasted 32 days and delayed the regular season by a week, but all games were played. So the 1994 strike was the fifth work stoppage in 22 years that affected the regular season schedule.

What was the bone of contention between the sides?

Money, of course. The 1972 strike was before free agency and it was settled when the owners agreed to salary arbitration and a $500,000 increase in pension fund contributions. The subsequent stoppages all occurred after the 1975 arbitration ruling eliminating baseball’s Reserve Clause, which bound players to the same team in perpetuity. In its aftermath, players became free agents after six seasons, and salaries rose rapidly.

The 1981 strike was over the owners’ demands for compensation for losing a free agent. They got compensation, but nowhere near as much as they wanted. The 1985 strike resulted in a $33 million increase in pension fund contributions and an increase in the minimum salary to $60,000.

The 1990 lockout occurred after the Basic Agreement between owners and players expired at the end of 1989 and the owners wanted to replace it with a revenue-sharing model that would pay players 48% of gate receipts and broadcast revenues. It ended when owners raised their pension fund contribution by $55 million, expanded arbitration eligibility, and raised the minimum salary to $100,000.

It sounds like the owners didn’t do well.

Well, they got some of the things they wanted, like limits on arbitration and free agent compensation, but in general, if you were to declare winners and losers, the players were on a winning streak. Then-commissioner Fay Vincent’s efforts to end the 1990 lockout were a reason the owners booted him in 1992 (OK, he lost a no-confidence vote). In addition, the players filed grievances against the owners, alleging that ownership colluded to avoid signing free agents from 1985-87, and an arbitrator ruled in the players’ favor, awarding them a total of $280 million. (There was a much smaller award, $12 million, in 2006, to settle allegations of collusion after ’02 and ’03 as well.) So the owners were looking to end their slump.

What were the issues in 1994?

After effectively losing four work stoppages and the collusion arbitration, the owners went for the equivalent of a six-run homer. They proposed:

  1. Revenue sharing tied to a salary cap, which would result in more even compensation across the clubs (the welfare of small-market clubs was a stated ownership concern)
  2. Elimination of salary arbitration
  3. Free agency after four years instead of six, with clubs holding a right of first of first refusal (ability to retain the player by meeting the best offer) for years five and six

The owners claimed their proposal would raise total compensation (salary and benefits) to $1 billion and raise average salaries from $1.2 million in 1994 to $2.6 million in 2001.

Why didn’t the players go along?

The MLBPA has always been adamantly opposed to a salary cap, feeling that it would ultimately limit player compensation. MLB is currently the only North American sports league without some sort of salary cap.

Why was there a strike in the middle of the season? Had the CBA expired?

No, the CBA was good through the end of the year. But in June, the owners withheld a $7.8 million payment owed to the players’ pension plan. That provoked a vote in July by the MLBPA executive board in authorize a strike starting August 12. The last games of the year were played on August 11.

Did anyone try to end the strike?

Sure. The sides negotiated through August, but at the end of the month, federal mediators assigned to the negotiations said there was no progress, and talks broke off. On September 8, the players made a counterproposal, calling for teams sharing 25% of gate receipts among all teams, and a 2% luxury tax on the payrolls of the 16 highest-payroll clubs, with the proceeds divided among the other 12 clubs, both aimed at helping smaller-market teams. The owners rejected it.

When was it apparent the season was in jeopardy?

At the end of August, acting commissioner Bud Selig said that September 9 was the deadline for canceling the rest of the season. He pulled the plug on September 14.

When was it settled?

It took a while. On December 23, with the CBA about to expire, the owners implemented a salary cap. In January, President Clinton ordered the two sides to the bargaining table. In early February, the owners withdrew the salary cap, following a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that it had been imposed illegally, but the two sides failed to meet Clinton’s February 6 deadline to resolve the strike. On that date, the owners’ Player Relations Committee notified all 28 clubs that they could not sign free agents nor enter into salary arbitration. The owners began hiring replacement players for spring training and, if necessary, the regular season.

Wait, there were replacement players? How did that work out?

Oh, it was a crapshow. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, partly because he didn’t want a season with replacement players imperiling Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive-games streak and partly because he was a union attorney, refused to field replacement players and canceled spring training. Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to manage replacement players and was put on an involuntary leave of absence. The Toronto Blue Jays assigned manager Cito Gaston and his coaches to the team’s minor league complex so they wouldn’t have to manage replacement players. Under Ontario law, replacement workers were not permitted to be used during a work stoppage, so the Jays made plans to play their regular season home games at their Dunedin, Fla. spring training facility.

So how did the strike end?

On March 27, the National Labor Relations Board filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the owners, alleging that the owners had illegally eliminated both free agency and salary arbitration while negotiations were ongoing. The following day, the players voted to return to work if a judge upheld the NLRB ruling. The owners responded by voting 26-2 in favor of using replacement players. On March 31, district judge Sonia Sotomayor — yes, the same Sonia Sotomayor who’s now on the Supreme Court — issued a preliminary injunction against the owners, and her judgment was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals. With free agency and arbitration in place, the players voted to return to work. The strike ended on April 2, the day before the season was going to start with replacement players. The regular season started three weeks late, limiting the schedule to just 144 games.

Was a new CBA part of the settlement?

Nope. Sotomayor’s injunction bound both sides to the terms of the expired CBA. Nothing changed until the two sides agreed on a new CBA in December 1996.

How did things work out financially?

Estimates are that the 1994 strike cost the owners $580 million and the players $230 million, but those should be taken with a shaker of salt, since it’s impossible to put a precise estimate on foregone revenues and rosters.

In 1994, ABC, NBC, and MLB formed a joint venture called The Baseball Network to air nationally televised games. The strike cost The Baseball Network an estimated $595 million in ad revenues. The joint venture, which was supposed to have run through 1999, ended after the 1995 season when both networks, stung by their losses, opted out. NBC vowed never to do business with MLB again, a vow which stuck for, well, several days — it struck a deal to split All-Star Game and postseason coverage with Fox and ESPN starting in 1996.

The strike was a public relations horror show. Early 1995 game accounts were full of stories of fans booing players, throwing objects onto the field (including a hubcap in Detroit — “Hey, guys, I got an idea, let’s bring a hubcap to the game”), and wearing shirts and holding up signs with various permutations on dollar signs and the word greed. Per-game attendance fell 20%, from 31,256 in 1994 to 25,021 to 1995. Attendance at major league games has exceeded 1994’s record per-game total only thrice since, in 2006 (31,306,) 2007 (32,696) and 2008 (32,382), though that was in large part due to new ballparks being built with less seating capacity. If one follows the trajectory of television contracts and MLB Advanced Media, it’s pretty hard to make a case that the game’s struggles in the immediate aftermath of the strike have persisted.

Oh, and the owners’ claim that under their salary cap proposal, average player compensation would rise to $2.6 million in 2001? Whether one believes that or not, the average opening day salary in 2001 was $2.26 million, according to the Associated Press.

Any less-known impacts of the strike?

A darker impact of the strike is performance-enhancing drugs. Nobody can ever prove this, of course, but there’s a school of thought that the owners, desperate to win back the fans lost in the strike, turned a blind eye to the growing use of PEDs in the majors, enticed by the draw of more homers and scoring. Prior to 1994, the last players to hit 50 homers in a season were George Foster with 52 in 1977, and Cecil Fielder, with 51 in 1990. In the eight years after the strike, there were 18 player-seasons of 50 or more homers.

Who were the big losers?

Actually, everybody lost. As mentioned above, this was a nightmare financially for everyone — the media, the owners, and the players. This was especially a PR nightmare for the ownership, and caused economic hardship for many players who hadn’t established themselves financially. Of course, people dependent upon baseball also were hurt, such as umpires and concession workers, and a variety of other baseball-related jobs were lost.

Going back to players, how about Tony Gwynn, who would’ve had a chance to hit .400 (he was hitting .394 at the time of the strike). How about players like Frank Thomas, who were having monster seasons?

As much as the players, owners and media enterprises were damaged with the strike, the fans were the big losers. Fans were actually attending games in Montreal, and the team actually would’ve come close to 2 million in attendance in 1994 — the first time that had happened since 1983. The Expos finished 46-18 in its final 64 games and enjoyed the best record in baseball at 74-40 — they featured Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill and a dominant bullpen led by John Wetteland and Mel Rojas. Many players left via free agency or trades in subsequent years, and thanks in part due to diminished attendance the next few years, the Expos later became the Washington Nationals. Aside from Montreal, fans all over missed great pennant races in both leagues, including the heated AL Central race involving the White Sox. It took a long time for baseball to earn the fans’ trust, and in some cases, it still hasn’t.

Hey, how about we not end this on such a downer?

OK, how about some trivia?

Who are the four MLB players with 16 straight seasons playing 140 or more games? The two players everyone gets wrong are Lou Gehrig (not really close; ALS forced him out of the game at age 36 after 13 straight 140-game seasons) and Cal Ripken, Jr. (the Orioles played only 112 games in 1994 due to the strike). The answer: Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Pete Rose and Johnny Damon.

How about the only two players in baseball history who endured all eight work stoppages? (Clue: both pitched for the White Sox.)

Answer: Rich Gossage and Charlie Hough.

The 1994 White Sox, and a season ended too soon

Tragic end: Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas’ best career season was wiped out by the 1994 MLB strike. We can only guess how the 1994 season would have ended for him and the White Sox. (@TheBigHurt_35)

The 1994 season was expected to be the season.

With most of the team intact from the 1993 Chicago White Sox squad that made it to the ALCS, great expectations were placed for this team to make it to the World Series — perhaps even win it for the first time in 77 years.

The White Sox certainly didn’t disappoint — they led the division for much of the season. And on August 11, the last date the team actually played, the White Sox owned a 67-46 record — good enough for first place atop the American League Central and the second-best record in the American League.

But as good as this team was, the Sox weren’t a sure-fire lock for the playoffs however per the below standings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Yankees70-43White Sox67-46Rangers52-62
Orioles63-496.5Cleveland66-471Athletics51-631
Blue Jays55-6016Royals64-514Mariners49-632
Red Sox54-6117Twins53-6014Angels47-685.5
Tigers53-6218Brewers53-6215

The 1994 season was the first year of the wild card, and at this time, only one wild card would enter the playoffs. Thus, when looking at the playoff picture, six teams were in the picture for four AL playoff spots (Yankees, White Sox, whoever won the sordid AL West, Cleveland, Orioles and Royals). With the Sox’s tenuous lead on Cleveland, and with the White Sox going 10-10 over its last 20 games while Cleveland was beginning to hit its stride, a wild card was beginning to look like a distinct possibility for the South Siders. And if Cleveland were to eventually surpass them, the White Sox would be only 3 12 to 4 games ahead of their nearest wild card competition (Orioles and Royals).


The 1994 White Sox

The White Sox’s 67-46 record put them on a pace for a 96-66 season, which would have topped the previous season’s mark of 96-64.

The offense

The White Sox offense was anchored by eventual league MVP Frank Thomas, who up to that moment had been batting a ludicrous .353/38 HR/101 RBI. Supporting Thomas was Julio Franco (.319/20/98), Robin Ventura (.282/18/78), Darrin Jackson (.312/10/51), Ozzie Guillén (.288/1/39) and Tim Raines (.266/10/52). The White Sox’s .287 team batting average ranked third among all MLB teams while their 5.60 runs per game ranked fourth.

Here’s the position-by-position list of the Sox regulars in 1994:

C Ron Karkovice .213/.325/.425, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 32 BB, 68 K
1B Frank Thomas .353/.487/.729, 34 2B, 1 3B, 38 HR, 101 RBI, 109 BB, 61 K
2B Joey Cora .276/.353/.362, 13 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB, 38 BB, 32 K
SS Ozzie Guillén .288/.311/.348, 9 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 39 RBI, 5 SB, 14 BB, 35 K
3B Robin Ventura .282/.373/.459, 15 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 78 RBI, 61 BB, 69 K
LF Tim Raines .266/.365/.409, 15 2B, 5 3B, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 13 SB, 61 BB, 43 K
CF Lance Johnson .277/.321/.393, 11 2B, 14 3B, 3 HR, 54 RBI, 26 SB, 26 BB, 23K
RF Darrin Jackson .312/.362/.455, 17 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 27 BB, 56 K
DH Julio Franco .319/.406/.510, 19 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 98 RBI, 8 SB, 62 BB, 75 K

Franco was the only player on a pace for 100 strikeouts, although Karkovice and Ventura were nearly at that pace. Also, of the regulars, four players walked more than they fanned. Aside from Karkovice, everyone hit for respectable batting averages. Three hitters were on pace for well more than 100 RBIs (prorated for a 162-game season: Thomas 145, Franco 141, Ventura 112) while only Thomas was on pace for 30-plus homers (Franco was on pace for 29 over a full season).

Thomas was an offensive monster, at or near the top in most offensive categories in the AL: BA (third), OBP (first), SP (first), OPS (first), offensive bWAR (first), total bWAR (fourth), HR (second), RBI (tied for third), hits (fourth), walks (first), doubles (tied for thired), XBH (tied for first).

Here’s what his stats would’ve been over a full season, which is totally amazing since this is before the Steroid Era came into play:

572 AB, 152 R, .353/.487/.729, 49 2B, 1 3B, 54 HR, 145 RBI, 156 BB, 87 BB, 10.2 offensive bWAR

The bench was void of superstars, but were valuable contributors nonetheless — especially as pinch-hitters. The most notable of these included Mike “Spanky” LaValliere (.281/.368/.331), Norberto Martin (.275/.317/.366), Warren Newson (.255/.345/.363) and Craig Grebeck (.309/.391/.361).


The pitching

While no single starting pitcher particularly stole the spotlight during the 1994 season, the White Sox’s all-around solid rotation that featured Black Jack McDowell, Jason Bere, Wilson Alvarez, Alex Fernandez and Scott Sanderson posted a combined 3.96 ERA, a WHIP of 1.326 and a win-loss percentage of .593, finishing in the top five in the majors in each category. Sanderson was the only White Sox starter to finish the season with an ERA of more than 4.00. Setup man José DeLeon and closer Roberto Hernandez were cornerstones in the bullpen.

Jack McDowell 10-9, 3.73 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 181 IP, 127 K
Alex Fernandez 11-7, 3.86 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 170.1 IP, 163 IP, 122 K
Wilson Alvarez 12-8, 3.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 161.2 IP, 108 K
Jason Bere 12-2, 3.81 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 141.2 IP, 127 K
Scott Sanderson 8-4, 5.09 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 92 IP, 36 K
Roberto Hernandez 4-4, 14 SV, 4.91 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 50 K
Jose DeLeon 3-2, 2 SV, 3.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 67 IP 67 K
Kirk McCaskill 1-4, 3 SV, 3.42 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 52.2 IP, 37 K
Dennis Cook 3-1, 0 SV, 3.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 33 IP, 26 K
Paul Assenmacher 1-2, 1 SV, 3.55 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 33 IP, 29 K

The White Sox really didn’t receive many contributions from anyone else. What little help they had came from the likes of Dane Johnson (6.57 ERA, 2.19 WHIP in 15 games) and Jeff Schwarz (6.35 ERA, 2.21 WHIP in nine games) out of the bullpen.


Cleveland

Not to discount the 1994 Royals, whose pitching staff (consisting of David Cone, Mark Gubicza, and Tom Gordon) far exceeded its limited firepower, Cleveland was the most significant threat to the White Sox in 1994. The team’s lineup included a wealth of offensive talent:

C Sandy Alomar .288/.347/.490, 15 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 43 RBI
1B Paul Sorrento .280/.345/.453, 14 2B, 14 HR, 62 RBI
2B Carlos Baerga .314/.333/.525, 32 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 80 RBI, 8 SB
SS Omar Vizquel .273/.325/.325, 1 HR, 33 RBI, 13 SB
3B Jim Thome .268/.359/.523, 20 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 52 RBI
LF Albert Belle .357/.438/.714, 35 2B, 2 3B, 36 HR, 101 RBI
CF Kenny Lofton .349/.412/.536, 32 2B, 9 3B, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 60 SB
RF Manny Ramirez .269/.357/.521, 22 2B, 0 3B, 17 HR, 60 RBI
DH Eddie Murray .254/.302/.425, 21 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 76 RBI

While Cleveland’s pitching staff was the weak link on this team, all they had to do was just keep them in games, given all the offensive firepower. For the most part, they did just that:

SP Dennis Martinez 11-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 176.2 IP, 92 K
SP Charles Nagy 10-8, 3.45 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 169.1 IP, 108 K
SP Mark Clark 11-3, 3.82 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 127.1 IP, 60 K
SP Jack Morris 10-6, 5.60 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 141.1 IP, 100 K
SP Jason Grimsley 5-2, 4.57 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 82.2 IP, 59 K
RP Jeff Russell 1-1, 5 SV, 4.97 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 10 K
RP Jose Mesa 7-5, 2 SV, 3.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 73 IP, 63 K
RP Eric Plunk 7-2, 3 SV, 2.54 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 71 IP, 73 K
RP Derek Lilliquist 1-3, 1 SV, 4.91 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 29.1 IP, 15 K
RP Steve Farr 1-1, 4 SV, 5.28 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, 15.1 IP, 12 K

While the White Sox were scuffling, Cleveland was on a roll. After starting the season 14-17, the team had gone 52-36 leading up to the strike, which was the best in the American League during that time. Also, Cleveland had outscored their opponents by 136 runs over that stretch, also the best in the league.

During this period, the rivalry between the White Sox and Cleveland teams only escalated. This was never more evident than on July 15, when Albert Belle’s corked bat was confiscated, but ingeniously replaced by Belle’s teammate Jason Grimsley. The incident led to a pivotal, seven-game suspension of Belle. Here’s a fascinating video (nearly eight minutes in duration) of the entire episode, courtesy of Fox Sports:

Ultimately, all the games and associated hijinx were all for naught. After the last games were played on August 11, the stadiums were silent. No cheering of the fans. No beer vendors yelling, “Ice-cold beer here!” No celebrating game-winning heroics or screaming at the television for blown leads or plays botched. The only sounds were the yelling and disagreements between MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr and MLB ownership, led by commissioner Bud Selig and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.


What if?

Now I have never been one to play the “what if?” game. It is a lazy, speculative, and downright silly ploy. And most the time, people like myself are simply wrong. But in the case of the 1994 strike potentially depriving the White Sox from a World Series title opportunity, it really is hard to ignore the facts above regarding the Sox hitting and pitching numbers. The White Sox truly did rank among the baseball elite. The Yankees were really the only team in the AL that year that stood pace with the South Siders for the entire season.

To say the White Sox were not legitimate contenders in 1994 would simply be illogical. One may cite the fact that the White Sox finished the season with an underwhelming 10-10 record in their last 20 games, or that Cleveland had climbed to within one game of the White Sox by the time the strike had hit and a leapfrog in the standings was inevitable. Others may even argue that their favorite team was bound for World Series glory, not the White Sox.

The truth is no one will ever know what would, or could, have happened in the last 49 games of the 1994 regular season. For all we know, the injury bug could have nipped and the White Sox could have experienced total collapse. Or maybe they could have caught fire and ran away with the division, then went on to roll through the playoffs and into the World Series like they did in 2005. No one knows.

Did you notice all the “could’s”? That there is speculation. You don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll never know. Only one thing is for certain, not experiencing a World Series title in my lifetime sure did make the taste of victory in 2005 a whole hell of a lot sweeter.

For many players, this would’ve been the last, best chance to participate in postseason play. The 1995 squad fell to 68-76, and aside from an 85-77 campaign in 1996, the team wouldn’t finish .500 again until the playoff year in 2000.

So ultimately, there will be never be a 1994 pennant flying above the stadium. No parades celebrating a division championship, ALCS or World Series title for that year. No special 25th-year reunions celebrating what could’ve been.

Simply put, that’s tragic.