A Conversation With: Billy Pierce

Ascent to superstardom: Pierce pitched his way out of arm trouble here in 1954 and began his ascent to a Hall of Fame-caliber career. (Acme Wire Photo)

I first got to know Billy Pierce in the summer of 2002 when I contacted him to do an interview. He was warm and generous over the phone, and from there a friendship developed. We’d talk a few times a year, I’d call him on his birthday, and whenever I got back to Chicago I’d usually hook up with him and his wife Gloria, who opened their home in Lamont to me. When he passed away in July 2015 and I got the news, I was completely shocked. I never knew Bill was even sick. Doing his obituary was literally one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done; it’s hard to type when your eyes are filled with tears. Simply put, Billy was one of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure to meet, and his baseball accomplishments speak for themselves. Here is the interview that started the relationship. Rest in peace, my friend.

Billy Pierce … just saying the name evokes memories of another time in America.

It was a time when baseball was the national pastime, when the White Sox didn’t play second fiddle to anyone, especially in their own city. It was a time when the players actually cared (especially about winning), when owners actually tried to do their best to win instead of making excuses about profit margins, and when kids all over the country could recite the starting lineups of most teams in baseball just as easily as their math tables.

It was a time when even the worst teams like Washington and Kansas City had players of the caliber of Harmon Killebrew, Roy Sievers and Roger Maris.

Billy Pierce was right in the middle of it.

Despite being small in size, “Billy the Kid” proved he was among the best pitchers in baseball, and did it consistently for more than 10 years. The list of his accomplishments could go on forever but we’ll only highlight some of them, especially for fans who never saw him play:

  • Won 186 games with the White Sox from 1949-1961 (211 overall)
  • Had 11 years of double-digit wins (12 overall)
  • 20-game winner in 1956 and 1957
  • Threw 35 shutouts (38 overall)
  • Had 19 saves (38 overall)
  • Led the American League in complete games in 1956, 1957 and 1958 (193 in his career)
  • Led the American League in ERA in 1955 (1.97; career ERA of 3.27)
  • Led the American League in strikeouts in 1953 (186; had 1,999 in his career)
  • Threw four one-hitters, including losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning (1958)
  • Seven-time All-Star, and the only Sox pitcher to ever start an All-Star Game multiple times (1953, 1955, 1956)
  • Sports Illustrated cover boy in May 1957
  • Sport magazine cover boy for October 1957

Pierce was also respected as a genuine good guy who always had time for the fans. He treated everyone the same, whether it was then Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (who had front-row season tickets right next to the Sox dugout) or the local grocer.

Pierce never embarrassed himself, the White Sox organization or the city of Chicago. His No. 19 was retired by the club in 1987.

Nobody ever had an unkind word for him:

“Billy was the first guy we ever got in a trade. He was a winning pitcher, a mainstay as we were building a championship club. When he’d pitch against Whitey Ford, you could sell the seats 25 times over. That’s how many fans wanted to see him pitch.” – Former White Sox owner Chuck Comiskey.

“That little guy had more courage per ounce than any ballplayer I ever saw. You didn’t need a relief pitcher when he pitched. If he had a one-run lead going into the seventh or eighth inning, the ball game was over.”–former White Sox GM Frank “Trader” Lane.

Mark Liptak: Billy, you were born and raised in Detroit. How did your involvement with baseball begin?

Billy Pierce: Like with most kids in those days we played in the schoolyards, played in the alley, played all the time. Nothing was organized, we just played. The old clichés are true: When we broke a bat, we’d nail it back together. When the ball blew apart, we’d wrap tape around it and keep playing, even though the ball looked like a football. We’d play wherever we could. If we couldn’t play baseball, we’d play softball. We just had fun playing. It wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 that I finally played on an organized team.

When did you realize you were good and could perhaps play at the pro level?

Playing in the pros never entered my mind. I played a lot, and was pretty good. You know how when kids get together and play, they choose up sides? I was always one of the first kids picked. I was a first baseman when I was 14, and the kid who was a pitcher on our team left and went to another club because they had better-looking uniforms. We were only about a week from starting play in our league and I threw hard, so I became the pitcher.

I was wild in those days! When I was in high school the scouts came around to see me, but I wanted to be a doctor. My dad was a pharmacist and I took a lot of classes to get ready for medical school. I had a scholarship, but I thought I’d try to play for two or three years and if it didn’t work out I’d use the scholarship and go back to school.

You only spent a few years in the minors, and suddenly you were a hometown kid playing for the hometown team. How did it feel the first time you pitched in the big leagues?

It was very exciting. It was in Boston, I’ll never forget it. I was 18 years old. The bullpen in those days was a long way away from the mound, and as I walked in our right fielder, center fielder and second baseman were shouting encouragement to me as I passed them. In those days, the veterans weren’t that hard on us rookies. [Pierce made his debut on June 1, 1945. He threw 3 ⅓ innings, allowing only one hit with four strikeouts. His catcher was his future manager, Paul Richards.]

You spent two years with the Tigers, and then on Nov. 10, 1948 you were traded to the White Sox for catcher Aaron Robinson. How did you hear about it and how did you feel?

I was at my girlfriend’s house, she’s now my wife, and we heard it over the radio. A DJ came on with a sports bulletin that said I was traded to Chicago. I wasn’t very happy about it, because it was just in the paper about two weeks before that the Tigers were going to rebuild and give all of us kids a chance to play. I did not want to go to either Chicago or Philadelphia. It’s not that I didn’t like Chicago, but in those days the stockyards were going full force and when you played in Comiskey Park, especially at night, the smell was unbelievable! It turned out to be a great break for me … the Sox had lost like a hundred games the year before and they were going to give everybody a chance.

In 1951 Paul Richards took over as manager, you had your first winning season, and the Sox started to take off. What was it about Richards that helped you personally and the team?

Paul was the best teaching manager I ever had anywhere, without question. Frank Lane made all the trades and brought the players in, guys like myself, and Nellie Fox, but Richards was always working with us. Paul for example, changed the bat that Nellie was using to that bottle style and turned him into a great hitter. [Pierce and Fox were roommates for 11 seasons with the Sox.]

Richards left to take over the Baltimore franchise but your career continued to prosper under Marty Marion, an underrated manager. What was it like to play for him?

Very good. I was surprised when he was left out and the Sox replaced him, because we played well under him. He wasn’t as good a teacher as Paul was, but then nobody was, but he was still very, very good.

Your career continued to roll along, culminating with the pennant year of 1959. For the city and the team it was the pinnacle of success, but for you personally, it wasn’t your best season. You missed six weeks with a hip injury and when it came time for the World Series, manager Al Lopez passed you over for a starting assignment. Older Sox fans still insist, if you start Game 2 instead of Bob Shaw, and win, the Sox take the Series. How difficult was that for you being relegated to only four innings of relief work?

It was very tough. It was a real hard thing. I appeared in three games and pitched well, but it was a disappointment. I still wanted the Sox to win, after all they were my teammates, but I was very glad when it was over. Let’s put it this way, I left town pretty quickly to try to forget about it all.

Did that affect your relationship with Lopez, and what did you think of him as a manager?

Al was a real good manager. His record shows that. He was a solid percentage baseball guy. I honestly think the controversy affected Al more than me. I wasn’t the culprit; all I could do was what he told me. He had to listen to the fans who wanted me to pitch, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

Still, clinching the pennant had to be exciting.

It was tremendous, the crowd that we had at Midway Airport! The toughest part about the trip was getting back home because so many people were out. I remember Earl Torgeson and I were in a cab and we were going down Garfield Boulevard, it had to be one or two o’clock in the morning, and fans were everywhere. They had flares lit up on the front lawns, everyone was outside their homes talking and celebrating.

Billy Pierce’s 1959 White Sox jersey. (Mark Liptak)

After the 1961 season you were traded to the Giants for pitchers Eddie Fisher, Dom Zanni and outfielder Bob Farley. As a Chicago baseball institution, were you shocked by what happened or did you look at it as a fresh start with a good San Francisco team?

Truthfully the way things were going the last few seasons, I expected it. All I did was ask [then-GM] Ed Short that if something happened that he please call me first before he told the media. Remember, the last time I was traded I heard about it over the radio. Short did call me one day and said he made a deal with San Francisco. I thanked him for letting me know, and that was it. I was really worried about how I was going to tell my son about it. He was nine or 10 at the time and grew up around Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox and the guys. So my wife and I told him, and he looked up and said ‘Great, now I get to meet Willie Mays!’ So that was it, we got his seal of approval and moved on.

You at least finally got a chance to start in the 1962 World Series against your old friends, the Yankees. Did you at least get a measure of personal satisfaction out of that?

Without question. That whole period coming so late in my career … the playoff games against the Dodgers and then the World Series with the Yankees was very special. It was an exciting 10-day period especially, like I said, because it came so late for me. [In the NL playoff series, Pierce shut out the Dodgers 8-0 in Game 1, beating Sandy Koufax, then saved the pennant-clinching Game 3. In the World Series he started two games, winning Game 6 over Whitey Ford, 5-2. In 15 postseason innings, Pierce allowed eight hits and four runs.]

The 1962 pitching rubber from Candlestick Park, given to Billy Pierce. (Mark Liptak)

After the 1964 season and with 18 years of service, you retired. Was that an easy decision for you?

After the 1963 season I decided with my wife that the 1964 season would be it. In the fall of 1963 we moved to Chicago, where we’ve been ever since. This is where we wanted to be. Once I had made up my mind to retire, it was easy to accept. I was very willing to leave. It was much easier because it was on my terms.

Looking back Billy, which year was your best season?

I’d have to say 1955. I led the league that year in ERA at 1.97. It had been like 20 years since anybody ended a season with an ERA under two. I only went 15-10 that season, but I lost four games by the score of 1-0. I think I pitched as well as I did in 1956 when I won 20 games, but I just didn’t get some breaks. I also think that was my best year because in 1954 I was a little sore, so in 1955 the Sox gave me a little most rest between starts.

Game balls collected during Billy Pierce’s 20-win season in 1957. (Mark Liptak)

What was your best pitch and how hard did you throw?

I wish I could tell you. I know I read where Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams both said I threw very hard, but we didn’t have radar guns in those days. At first my best pitch was my fastball, but then about 1953 to 1955, I developed a good slider. A real, hard slider that would break in on guys six or seven inches. It would dart in on fellows.

Today many scouts simply look at how fast kids throw, but pitching is more than just raw speed, isn’t it?

Without a doubt. Speed is important, certainly that would be the first thing I looked for, but you’ve got to have some movement on a pitch. A straight fastball doesn’t do you any good; you have to have some natural movement on it. You also have to stay ahead of hitters. If you keep falling behind 2-0 in a count, you’re going to get hurt.

What was the secret to your success, especially for a guy your size?

“At em’” balls! [laughing]. Seriously, I worked hard when I pitched. I never believed in that approach where you’ve got to pace yourself. The first inning was just as important as the others. I also felt I had to get the weak hitters out. You couldn’t afford to give up hits to the eighth- or ninth-place hitters … those three, four and five guys were just too good to come up with guys on base.

Billy I’d like to talk about some of your individual accomplishments. You were named to seven All-Star teams, started three, appeared in four and pitched 10 ⅔ innings giving up four runs. This was when playing in the All-Star game meant something, and you were facing the best hitters in the game.

It did. You basically pitched three innings. They’ve changed that philosophy over the years. It wasn’t considered an exhibition game back then, you played to win, and you took it seriously. Just being there was an honor. I remember the 1953 game, my wife was in the hospital, and my son had just been born. I was starting the All-Star game in Cincinnati thinking about both of them. What a gift. I also remember the 1955 game in Milwaukee. Mickey Mantle hit a ball into the trees outside of the stadium.

You also threw four one-hitters, the best remembered on the night of June 27, 1958. You took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Senators. You got the first two outs, then gave up a double just fair to a guy named Ed Fitzgerald. What goes through a pitcher’s mind when he gets that close to the ultimate game?

At the time, I didn’t think it was that important. I was a team guy, and we wound up winning the game. Sure, I wanted to get him out. He was a first-ball, fastball hitter. We threw him a low breaking ball that he hit off the end of the bat. I won the game [3-0], though, and that was more important to me at the time. Over the years however, I’ve had so many people tell me they were listening to the game on the radio or were at the park watching, that I’ve wanted that one pitch back more now than I ever did then.

You also threw one-hitters on June 15, 1950 (Yankees), April 16, 1953 (Browns) and June 11, 1959 (at Washington). Do you remember anything specific about those games, like who got the hit and in what inning?

The Yankees game, I remembered it rained a couple of times. Billy Johnson got a single to right field in the fifth inning. The St. Louis game, a guy named Bobby Young got a hit, a double I think, to right-center, in the seventh. I don’t remember anything at all about the game at Washington. Whoever got the hit must have done it very early in the game.[Senators hitter Ron Samford doubled to left in the third inning.]

How did you pitch to a friend of yours, Ted Williams

VERY carefully! He would absolutely kill a fastball. And if you should make him look bad on a swing he’d grab his cap and pull it down tighter — you better be careful on your next pitch. I faced a lot of great hitters, but I don’t know of anybody who was better. He’s the only guy I know, who, when he came up to bat, the other guys would be watching him from the dugout and not going inside or using the restroom. I know he didn’t get along with the media, but he was well-liked by the players. He was always helping guys, whether it was his teammates or guys on the other club.

Billy from talking with you and from everything that I’ve read or heard about you, you are a very modest man. What would it mean to you and your family for you to get a call from Cooperstown saying you are now in the Hall of Fame?

It would be a tremendous thrill, the culmination of my life, no question about it. My family and I would appreciate it very much. You have no way of knowing how the people vote; I’m sure all of them have their favorites, so we’ll just have to see.

Wrap up your career for me, will you?

I had a wonderful career. The fans in Chicago couldn’t have been nicer to me and my family. I am very thankful to them.



Five White Sox are elected to the South Side Hit Pen Hall of Fame!

Dynamic duo: Former teammates Harold Baines and Carlton Fisk led five players into our White Sox Hall of Fame. (Topps)

In a phenomenal show of support and cohesion, a record five players were elected to the South Side Hit Pen White Sox Hall of Fame for 2020.

With more than 1,000 votes cast Joe Jackson (81%), Paul Konerko (79%), Carlton Fisk (79%), Harold Baines (78%) and Ed Walsh (75%) all crossed the bar for induction. Walsh, almost unquestionably the greatest pitcher in White Sox history, gains entry thanks to a rounding up of his 74.528% earned in his third year on the ballot.

Player Position Percentage
Joe Jackson Left Fielder 81%
Carlton Fisk Catcher 79%
Paul Konerko First Baseman 79%
Harold Baines Right Fielder 78%
Ed Walsh Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 75%
Ted Lyons Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 62%
Wilbur Wood Right-Handed Pitcher 56%
Robin Ventura Third Baseman 51%
Red Faber Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 42%
Chris Sale Left-Handed Pitcher 39%
Eddie Cicotte Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 37%
Hoyt Wilhelm Right-Handed Relief Pitcher 34%
Ray Schalk Catcher 24%
Sherm Lollar Catcher 21%
Jack McDowell Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 21%
Magglio Ordoñez Right Fielder 20%
Gary Peters Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 18%
Fielder Jones Center Fielder 12%
Tommy John Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 12%
Chet Lemon Center Fielder 11%
Joe Horlen Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 9%
Doc White Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 7%
George Davis Shortstop 7%
Ray Durham Second Baseman 6%
Alexei Ramírez Shortstop 5%
Lance Johnson Center Fielder 4%
Johnny Mostil Center Fielder 3%
José Quintana Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 2%
Matt Thornton Left-Handed Relief Pitcher 1%
Terry Forster Left-Handed Pitcher 1%

By virtue of everyone on the ballot getting at least one vote, nobody drops off for that reason next season. In 2021, five new players will enter the ballot, including José Abreu.

Here are the results of the other elections within the third annual Hall of Fame vote:

Pat Seerey has done very poorly in his two stints in the “moment” vote — and is so disrespected that the amateur White Sox historian who compiles these Hall of Fame articles couldn’t even spell his name right on the ballot (OK, so it might have been like 4 a.m.) — so it might be time to remove him from future voting.

Next year, we’ll have another full slate of players eligible for enshrinement, plus these additional categories. Some of the above will sit a year out in an every-other frequency, and perhaps we’ll even invented a new category or two (suggestions are welcome in the comments, as always).

Thanks to all who participated — you’re the ones who make this all a lot of fun! And stay tuned, because at long last our first South Side Hit Pen White Sox Hall of Fame “plaque” will be published on these pages. We’ll continue to unveil our “plaques” to all winners, throughout the year.

2018 White Sox Hall of Fame winners
Frank Thomas (Hall of Fame Player)
Minnie Miñoso (Hall of Fame Player)
Luis Aparicio (Hall of Fame Player)
Nellie Fox (Hall of Fame Player)
Luke Appling (Hall of Fame Player)
2005 (Season)
Bill Veeck (Contributor)
Exploding Scoreboard (Gimmick)
Disco Demolition (Promotion)
1991 (Uniform)
Ozzie Guillén (Manager)
2005 World Series Sweep (Moment)

2019 White Sox Hall of Fame winners
Mark Buehrle (Hall of Fame Player)
Billy Pierce (Hall of Fame Player)
Eddie Collins (Hall of Fame Player)
1917 (Season)
Nancy Faust (Contributor)
Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) (Gimmick/Promotion)
Four Straight ALCS Complete Games (2005 Moment)
Mark Buehrle Between-the-Legs (Defensive Play)
Dick Allen (Meteoric Player)
Ozzie Guillén (Character)
Jim Margalus (South Side Sox Member)


A Conversation With: Ken Berry

Tension makes a tangle: Ken Berry was part of several first-division twists and turns during his White Sox years. (Sports Illustrated)

He showed himself to be a worthy successor to Jim Landis in the White Sox galaxy of center fielders. His nickname was “The Bandit” because of his ability to rob opponents of sure home runs by vaulting himself onto the center field fence in Comiskey Park, stretching higher still and taking away blasts that seemed destined for the back of the bullpens.

Later in life, Ken Berry would become a noted minor league manager, working with such promising youngsters as John Elway, Robin Ventura, Alex Fernandez and Frank Thomas. And if a major league career spanning 1962 through 1975 wasn’t enough, along with an All-Star appearance and two Gold Gloves, Berry then found himself working in the movies, as fate pointed his way towards a technical advisor position in the baseball film “Eight Men Out.”

Throw in two of the greatest pennant races in White Sox history, and you have quite a story to tell.

Ken told that story from his Kansas home on a Tuesday morning. I found him to be extremely insightful about baseball (possibly because he managed, he was strong in his opinions as to how to play the game) and sure of his White Sox memories, from managers like Al Lopez, Eddie Stanky and Chuck Tanner to a dreadful week in late September 1967.

Yes indeed, it’s quite a story!

Mark Liptak: Ken, how did this love affair begin between you and baseball? I imagine you played it a lot as a kid growing up in Kansas.

Ken Berry: I had played Little League baseball and then American Legion ball. It was only about 25 games a year, not like the 40 or 50 games traveling teams play today. We made it to the regional tournament in Oklahoma City one year, but we were beat by a team with former Yankee great Allie Reynolds’ son on it. Had we won that game, we would have gone to the World Series. I started out as a third baseman and had good speed. I was a wide receiver in football.

By the time you were in college (at what is now Wichita State University), the Sox apparently were very interested in you. Tell us about how you were scouted, and how you signed. And wasn’t Ted Lyons part of the Sox contingent that scouted you?

Ted had come up from Louisiana to watch me play. It was really the only time that I was aware that someone was interested in me for baseball. I had a scholarship to play football in college, like I said I was a wide receiver, and the San Diego Chargers of the old AFL knew about me. But this was the first time for baseball.

You signed with the Sox, worked your way up the minor league system, and made your major league debut on Sept. 9, 1962 in Chicago against the Washington Senators. The Sox won 3-2 in 11 innings, you went 1-for-3. What more do you remember from your first day on the field? (Berry’s first major league hit came in the fifth inning, when he singled to center off of Senators pitcher Bob Baird.)

I don’t remember much, except that the first time I came up to bat I remember shaking badly. I didn’t play much the first few years [Berry appeared in three games in 1962, going 2-for-6.] I was 20 years old at the time, and it just didn’t hit me that I was playing in the major leagues. I guess I just felt that it was my turn.

I do remember Comiskey Park, though. It was big, and it was very tough for hitters to see in those days. Back then you had this gigantic scoreboard. It had all the team names on it, numbers, lights and so on. Light would reflect off it, [making] it was hard to see at the plate. It wasn’t like the backdrops they have today. Also fans could sit in the bleachers then, it wasn’t empty or with a black background like today.

In 1963 and 1964 you were called up late, getting into a total of 16 games. You knocked out your first major league home run in Kansas City on Sept. 25, 1964 as the Sox routed the A’s, 11-3. Do you remember it? (Berry connected in the second inning for a three-run shot off K.C.’s John O’Donoghue.)

No I don’t. I thought I hit it off Catfish Hunter. I used to like to hit off him because he was always around the plate. His attitude was “here it is … try to hit it if you can.”

1964 was the year of the great chase, as the Sox desperately tried to catch the Yankees and clinch the pennant. They would fall short by a single game, and despite winning 98 games on the season would be shut out of the World Series. The Sox won their final nine straight games to close the season out. Talk us through say that final week, and what was the mood in the locker room like when New York finally clinched on the next-to-last day of the season.

I think I played every game down the stretch, which surprised me. Jim Landis had been there for years, and he had been through the pressure. I hit very well in that stretch. Les Moss, my manager in Indianapolis, changed the position of my hands a little bit and I had a good year. (Berry hit .375 in those 12 games, going 12-for-32 with a double, a home run, five walks and four RBIs.)

I remember the Yankees closed out the season with the Indians, who had talked about how they were ready to beat them. Instead, New York won the first two games and won the pennant. The furthest thing from my mind at that time was getting to play in a World Series. I just wanted to play well right then. (The Yankees beat Cleveland 5-2 and 8-3, clinching the title after Saturday’s win.)

1965 was your first full season with the Sox, as on Jan. 20, 1965 the Sox, Indians and A’s were part of a three-way deal sending Landis and Mike Hershberger to Kansas City and Cam Carreon to Cleveland. In return the Sox got back John Romano, Tommy Agee and Tommy John. That year you led the league in game appearances, games started, games finished, put outs and innings played but you only hit .217. Was it just that you were having a hard time adjusting to quality major league pitching?

No, I had hurt my neck playing football when I was 14 making a tackle. For some reason that injury flared up that spring. My neck muscles spasmed and I couldn’t turn my head. I had to turn my body when trying to catch a fly ball; I couldn’t turn my neck the first half of the season. I literally played those games and innings without being able to turn my head. I finally found a Japanese gentleman who lived in Oak Park, I think, and he used muscle interruption therapy to relax the muscles in my neck. The second half of the season I felt better, and hit around .240.

That was a tough year, because I’d always had success in athletics. Also hurting me was the fact that I got an ulcer from the pressure being put on me by [GM] Ed Short. Short kept threatening me, saying he was going to send me down to the minors if I didn’t start playing better. I was hurt. It’s not like I wanted to struggle.

You had known Sox manager Al Lopez  for a number of seasons when you were at spring training, but this was the first time you got to see him on an everyday basis. What kind of man was he, what kind of manager was he?

Al was extremely professional. He and his coaching staff were very close; they’d play golf all the time and knew each other well. He played the percentages, and with the type of pitching staffs that we had, he’d play for one run. We didn’t hit and run or use the delayed steal, for example. We weren’t very aggressive. We did a lot of taking when the count was 3-1. I’m not saying he was wrong, considering the quality of the guys we had on the pitching staff that was probably the right thing to do. But that’s not the way I liked to play, and that’s not what I did when I managed.

The Sox had another fabulous season, finishing second with 95 wins. But some considered the season disappointing given that you guys started off by winning 22 of your first 30 games. Injuries played a part, as both Gary Peters and Juan Pizarro went down, but Lopez also missed time with a stomach ailment in June that season, didn’t he? I imagine the uncertainty with Al didn’t help matters.

Actually, Lopez being sick really wasn’t that big of a distraction because his guys like Tony Cuccinello and Don Gutteridge knew exactly what Al wanted to do. The continuity was still there. The injuries to Peters and Pizarro are what hurt us. When you lose two pitchers who were that good, that really hurt us. We missed the quality starts they gave us.

The other big story that season involved so-called frozen baseballs, a charge made that August by Tigers pitcher Hank Aguirre. Any truth to those accusations?

I didn’t know anything about that aspect. What I did know is how they tailored Comiskey Park to our team, and that really hurt me and the other hitters.

I’ve heard for years from people about how I led the team in batting in 1967 at .241, along with Don Buford. What the fans don’t realize though is that with the pitching staff we had, the park was tailored towards them. The infield grass was kept high so that our infielders could get the balls, our pitchers were basically ground-ball type guys, and the area around home plate was always a swamp. When you stepped in, you could see the water seep up around your spikes. We weren’t that bad of hitters … it’s just that it was very difficult to get ground balls through our infield.

I remember one day, I hit three curve balls hard off Gary Bell and every single one of them hit that area around home plate and died. I don’t think I could hit a ball any harder, yet I had nothing to show for it. That was frustrating. Bell made all three plays and he was laughing as I ran down the line.

For a few reasons, including health, Lopez resigned as White Sox manager in November 1965. He was replaced by Eddie Stanky, which was akin (as Sox historian Rich Lindberg wrote) to letting Al Capone take over the town again. I guess the best place to start is by asking your take on the differences between Al and Eddie.

This is an easy question. The differences were like night and day. Eddie was extremely aggressive as a manager. He always wanted us to put the pressure on the other team. He used the bunt a lot, the hit and run, the delayed steal … we had four or five guys who could run, and we stole a lot of bases.

Eddie had a rule that you tag on every fly ball, at least make a bluff. He wanted to get the opposition to throw the ball around. He’d teach us things like how to try to knock the glove off the opponent when they were going to tag you. There’s a way to do it without being blatant about it and getting the umpire to call you out automatically.

He wanted to win, and he expected you to have the same attitude. I didn’t have a problem with him because I knew that’s the way he was. If you were hurt and couldn’t play, Eddie would take it personally. I was in the trainer’s room one time; I had a bad back. Charlie Saad, our trainer, was working on me trying to get it loose. Eddie came over to see how I was and I told him I didn’t know if I could play. Eddie looked at me and called me a dog. That’s the way he was.

I’d run through a wall for him though, he taught me a lot, and was very thorough about the game. He always said, “You only get 27 outs in a game, so don’t waste them.” When I became a manager myself and looked back at the type of manager Eddie was, I’d say I learned 80% of on-field, aggressive baseball stuff from him. I also learned another 20% of stuff on how not to treat people from him.

When Eddie would do things like his famous “strip tease” act in April 1966 or his comments about Carl Yastrzemski in June 1967, how much tougher did it make it for the Sox players to win games against guys who were upset by his actions? [In April 1966, Stanky launched a verbal tirade at Detroit News sportswriter Watson Spoelstra afterSpoelstra asked what kind of pitch Sox relief pitcher Bob Locker threw to Gates Brown in a key situation. In addition to the verbal rampage, Stanky ripped his uniform top to shreds and threw his spikes against the clubhouse wall. In June 1967, Stanky was quoted as saying about Yaz “he may be an All-Star from the neck down, but in my book he’s a moody ballplayer … and I don’t like moody ballplayers.”]

It didn’t make a difference to me. A lot of the guys would laugh about it. Eddie just didn’t like “Yaz” for some reason. Eddie could be that way. If he didn’t like you, he’d do anything he could to get into your head. I’m sure there were times when Eddie regretted something he said or done, but he wasn’t going to show any weaknesses by apologizing for it.

With all this as a backdrop, the 1967 season started with the Sox considered also-rans, yet somehow you guys won. A 10-game winning streak started on April 30 vaulted the team into first place, where you basically stayed through mid-August. Considering the talent on teams like the Red Sox, Tigers and Twins, the long ball potential they had, how did the White Sox keep winning games?

We won because of pitching, speed and defense. Every team that you mentioned hit about .260 or better that year and when you look at the guys they had, they had lineups than us. We hit about .230 as a team, but we made up for it by doing the little things to win games.

Personally you started to blossom that year: You had a 20-game hitting streak and started playing the kind of outfield defense that earned you the nickname of The Bandit for your ability to rob guys of home runs. Was it simply the fact that now you were comfortable in the major leagues?

During that 20-game hitting streak, everything I hit fell in. Didn’t matter if it was a line drive or a blooper, they all fell in. That happens sometimes. I never really understood hitting until after I retired and started playing slo-pitch softball. In that sport you have to wait for the pitch, keep your weight back, things like that. When I played in the majors I had a lot of bad habits. I had bad balance, I dove into balls and had poor recognition on pitches. I used to be an aggressive hitter, I was uncomfortable having two strikes on me so often I’d swing early in the count [and] sometimes they weren’t the best pitches.

That year you were named to the All-Star team for the game in Anaheim. What was that experience like for you?

It wasn’t a good one. I was hitting above .300 when the players voted for the team, but by the time the game came around I was down to around .255 or so. I finished fourth in the player voting for outfielders but Orioles manager Hank Bauer, who had the team that year, said he wasn’t going to pick me despite the player vote.

It turned out that right before the break we played the Orioles. Tom Phoebus threw me a pitch that I hit for a home run and as I was rounding the bases I yelled, “take that, Bauer!” In that same series Frank Robinson, who was going to be in the game, took out Al Weis trying to break up a double play. Weis suffered a torn ACL and was through for the season but Robinson got hit in the head when he made contact with Al and had double vision for a long time, so he was out of the [All-Star] game. Then that Sunday, Al Kaline popped up in a key situation and broke his hand when he punched the water cooler, so he was out of the [All-Star] game. When that happened, Bauer said he’d take me.

The game itself started in twilight, and nobody at the plate could see anything. I’m sitting there on the bench watching guys like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew just strike out. I don’t think the fans wanted to see an All-Star Game where the pitchers just struck everyone out. [That game went 15 innings, with the National League winning 2-1 on a home run by Tony Perez. Both pitching staffs combined for 30 strikeouts!] Finally in the last of the 15th, Bauer says to grab a bat. I go up there against Tom Seaver, and he strikes me out on three pitches to end the game.

Ken it was right there going into the final week of the season. The Sox trailed Minnesota by a game and closed the season with the A’s and the Senators. The World Series was so close Sox fans could taste it. Even opponents like Mike Andrews of the Red Sox told me that he and his teammates saw who the Sox were going to play and said it was all over. The trouble was, in reality it was all over for the Sox, who dropped all five games and saw their chances blown away in a 1-0 loss to Washington on the last Friday of the year. It’s been a long time, but I know you have to remember that week.

We went into that last week running out of gas. Stanky didn’t substitute, so we played every inning of every game. Maybe we were just worn out. The other thing was that, yes, Kansas City and Washington were the two worst teams, but they had some good young players who were coming up. They were impressive, and you have to give them credit. We also didn’t play well defensively, making three or four errors. [In the doubleheader loss to the A’s on Wednesday, September 27 the Sox made three errors, leading to three unearned runs.]

The other thing I remember was that when we came home to face the Senators, we still had a chance to win the pennant but in the stands there were only like 13,000 or 14,000 people. We should have had 40,000 or so to help cheer us on. It was just a downward spiral.” [The Sox came home for a weekend series with Washington. The Friday night game on September 29 drew 12,665. The Sox lost 1-0 and were eliminated.]

Some of your teammates on that club have told me they still haven’t gotten over the shock of seeing the pennant slip away like that. Over the years, did you ever wonder “what if?”

I don’t deal with that a whole lot. The only time I ever thought “what if” was when I think that maybe I should have done something like invite Al Kaline out for a cup of coffee and talk about hitting. Spend some time with some of the great hitters I played against. Maybe if I did that, I could have picked up some things and been a much better hitter. That wasn’t my nature, however. I just never did that.”

The collapse came the following year, and from 1968-70 despite having talented guys like you, Ed Herrmann, Luis Aparicio, Joe Horlen, Peters and John, the Sox were awful. Why couldn’t those teams win?

Look at the guys the Sox traded: Weis, Don Buford, Agee, Tommy McCraw, all the guys who could run. The trades completely changed the team around. The Sox completely lost their aggressiveness.

I remember one game I was sitting right next to the manager. We had a guy on first and the hitter was ahead in the count 2-1 or 3-1. I said, “Boy this would be a great spot for a hit-and-run.” The manager looked at me and said, “Oh noooo. The hitter might miss and the runner could get thrown out at second.” Right there was the problem. The Sox played boring, lackluster baseball, just waiting to get beat.

You had some personal success, though. In 1970, you hit .276 and won your first Gold Glove. Sox fans of that time remember you against the center field fence vaulting high to grab what should have been home runs. Was that something you actually practiced?

I worked on those leaping catches every single day. Every day I practiced stealing home runs. During batting practice, I’d clear out the other guys from center field and start working. I’d throw my hat down to give me an idea of where I started from and I’d just start going after fly balls. After I’d make the catch I could see how far I went to get them and that gave me an idea of what I could do in a game.”

Probably the greatest catch I ever made came when I was with the Angels. We were in Baltimore and Terry Crowley, a strong left-handed hitter, drove a ball in the gap. Andy Messersmith was pitching, it was late in the game and the Orioles had a couple guys on base. The fence in Baltimore was like the one in Comiskey Park, a chain link one with green slats covering it. I ran and leaped and got my spike in the fence and vaulted up about nine feet high. I made the catch with my arm, glove, head and upper body going over the fence then snapping back on to the field. Somehow I held on to the ball. I wish I had that video.

You know, I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for a long time. One time I was watching ESPN baseball with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Miller reminded Morgan that late in his career he played some outfield and asked what it was like. Morgan said, “It wasn’t like being at second base. You could relax out there.” I was sitting at home and started shaking my head. When I played center field, I was responsible for my other two outfielders as far as positioning them. I had to know who was hitting. I had to know what my pitchers were going to throw them. When I was in Comiskey Park, I’d have to keep checking the wind because it would often shift or swirl. I had to always be ready. Yet Morgan said you could “relax” when you played the outfield.

One of the most bizarre plays you’d ever want to see took place on Sept. 18, 1971, and you were involved in it as a member of the Angels. It took place in Comiskey Park, on a hit off the bat of Carlos May. I was sitting near Harry Caray in the center field bleachers when it happened. It took place in the first inning, with the bases loaded. Tom Murphy was the pitcher. Will you take it from there?

I was playing left field, and Mickey Rivers was in center that day. Carlos sliced a ball down the line and it was tailing away from me. I left my feet to try to make a diving catch but missed. I hit the turf really hard and got shook up a little. By the time Mickey got to the ball everyone scored. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments; in fact I’ve been trying to forget it! [laughing]. That’s one of those lessons: If you are going to dive for the ball, you sure better get a glove on it.” [Berry was replaced immediately after the play. His spot was taken by Tony Gonzales.]

You also had the chance to manage in the minor leagues for a number of years. You had John Elway when you were with the Yankees. You managed for the Padres, and also the White Sox, in Birmingham. Can you list some of the kids you had the chance to work with who later went on to the South Side?

That was the year our Birmingham team was like a runaway train. We just beat everyone in the league. We won 14 in a row at one point. I had guys like Robin Ventura, Matt Merullo, Rich Amaral, Frank Thomas and Craig Grebeck.

Our style was to be aggressive; that’s what I learned from Eddie Stanky. We did a lot of things like hit-and-run, steal bases, move guys along. I had a little problem, though, because I couldn’t figure out who should be my cleanup hitter. None of the guys I had really fit. Finally I came up with the idea of having Grebeck hit cleanup. (Yes, that’s 5´8´´, 160-pound Craig Grebeck!) It worked out perfectly because Craig could do so many things with the bat. He’d get the sacrifice fly, hit a ground ball to get the guy over, come up with the big two out hit. He had something like 87 RBIs that year and was the MVP. He had such a big heart, and when he played with the Sox I thought he was the best utility guy in the league because he could play three infield positions and play them very well.

ML: I’d like to zero in on Frank. Even from his first few days in the majors, he had an uncanny ability to be able to hit the ball hard and far, but also he had an incredible ability to draw walks, to work a pitcher and know the strike zone. You played against Hall-of-Famers like Al Kaline, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew and Yastrzemski. As a hitter how does Frank compare with those greats?

Don’t forget, he was such a big man that he had a big strike zone. He hit with a little bit of a crouch, and it was remarkable the knowledge he had of the strike zone. The last thing I told him when he was called up was “don’t stop hitting the ball to center field.” With him, he had such power, that he could do that and the ball would still go 450-500 feet. Also doing that let you see the ball just a little longer to tell the type of pitch it was.

You also got the opportunity to be the technical advisor on the baseball movie, “Eight Men Out,” directed by John Sayles. How did you get that chance?

I was managing in Appleton, Wis. for the Royals. The Twins farm club was being managed by a friend of mine, Don Leppert. We had a good season, but they had an outstanding June draft, and those guys were assigned to that team and they caught us for the league title at the end. They won something like 13 in a row.

Anyway Leppert calls me after it’s over and asks me what I’m doing in the offseason. I told him just going back home. He asked if I’d like to help on a movie. He was in charge of the Twins instructional league and couldn’t help on this picture. So he gave me the number of the person to call, I did, and got to be technical advisor on “Eight Men Out.” It took about two months, and I had a great time.

Some of the actors involved in that movie, especially Charlie Sheen, had been around the game all their life and had played it competitively. I’d imagine you could tell fairly quickly who could play and who couldn’t. Was their anybody else besides Sheen who impressed you that way? [Sheen, while attending Yale University, was the last cut from the baseball team his freshmen year. He was a pitcher, and later used that experience playing Ricky Vaughn in the movie “Major League.”]

D.B. Sweeney knew what he was doing. He had a good idea of how to play the game. John Cusack was pretty athletic, it’s just that era-wise he wasn’t quite right. He was trying to do a lot of things that just didn’t happen on a ball field in the 1920s. He did make some athletic stops at third base in the movie, he’d just dive fully extended and make the catch. I was hitting those balls to him off camera with a fungo bat, and I was hitting them good.

I enjoyed working with John Sayles. He was a good director. He’d give me the scenes that we needed to shoot, and we’d work on them. I remember one where Sheen had to make a catch, then hit the unpadded portion of the park we were shooting in. [The game scenes were filmed in Indianapolis where the White Sox had their top farm team for many years. Berry himself played there in 1963 and 1964.] I showed Charlie how to make the catch and then spin into the wall so that he really wasn’t hitting it that hard. So we did the shot, and Charlie unfortunately forgot about spinning and just slammed right into it. He also tore up his leg pretty good when he caught it on a piece that was sticking out from the door. One other thing about Charlie stands out: I was throwing the ball, and he had to dive and make the catch. On one play, he did it fully extended, directly over his head. Just remarkable. It was something like Willie Mays did in the World Series.

You also got the chance for a small, on-camera speaking part in the film. What’s the story behind that? (Towards the end of the movie, as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson is playing under an assumed name in a minor league game, a fan heckles him over his lack of intelligence. After Jackson belts a triple, while standing on third base he gives it right back to the fan. That fan was Berry!)

I was actually supposed to play the part of the thug that threatens to kill Lefty Williams’ wife if he doesn’t throw the last game. So I practiced the role and had it down right, when the girl in charge of casting said that she wanted to make a change. She said that hearing my voice every day during filming made her think the part of the heckler was the right one.”

So I started working on that, and felt I had it OK. One day Sayles comes up to me and says, “Are you ready?” He also said that because it was late in the day and the sun was going down it had to be done in one take. You talk about pressure! So we got into position, I had called up a friend of mine Dick Kenworthy, who lived in the area and asked him, “You want to be in a movie?” He was sitting right next to me in the scene. [Kenworthy played for the Sox in 1962 and from 1964 through the 1968 seasons. His best year was 1967 as he had four doubles, a triple and four home runs in 97 at bats.] So we did it, and I was so proud that I was actually able to do it in one take.

Your son Layne was in the Sox minor league system at one time. He spent time with you while you were working on the movie, right?

He was around seven when that movie was being made. I’d hit balls to him on the field during the day and he make diving catches. Some balls almost knocked him down, but that’s where he caught the bug for the game. He’d make a nice catch, and the people watching the movie being made would start applauding. He liked hearing that sound.

Over a decade, counting your minor league days in the White Sox system, can you wrap up that entire experience for me?

I had some great years and great memories in Chicago. I was so fortunate to play under the Sox managers I did, because they all gave me something that I could use later when I became a manager myself. Al Lopez was part of the old guard and I learned working the percentages from him, Eddie Stanky taught me a lot about the game and the aggressive style that I think wins in baseball, and Chuck Tanner, who was only my manager for about a month, taught me how to be a player’s manager. He and Roland Hemond were exactly the type of people the Sox needed, at the right time.

It wasn’t easy, and I went through some tough times with the Sox, but that’s part of life. Baseball can drive you crazy at times! The fans were good to me, and I appreciate the fact that they still remember “The Bandit.”


Today in White Sox History: December 15

Double threat: Julio Franco possessed both one of the best smiles and most unique batting stances in White Sox history.

White Sox owner Bill Veeck made up for some of his deals after the 1959 season by getting pitchers Juan Pizarro and Cal McLish from the Reds for infielder Gene Freese. Manager Al Lopez and pitching coach Ray Berres had their eyes on Pizarro for a few years, but Milwaukee refused to deal him to the Sox. Veeck therefore got his friend Bill DeWitt of Cincinnati to swing a deal and then to ship Pizarro to the South Side.

Pizarro was an enigmatic, moody pitcher, but when he got on the mound he was all business. Possessor of a blazing fastball, the lefthander had four seasons of double-figure wins, including 16 in 1963 and 19 in 1964. He was a two time All-Star selection.

In one of the worst deals ever made by GM Ed Short, t
he White Sox sent infielder and base stealer Al Weis along with outfielder, base stealer and home run hitter Tommie Agee to the Mets in exchange for former NL batting champ Tommy Davis, pitcher Jack Fisher and catcher Buddy Booker. Two years later, the Mets would win the World Series thanks in large part to the play of Agee and Weis. None the players the Sox got in return did much for them. Deals along those lines sent the franchise into a tailspin, and by September 1970 Short was fired.

White Sox GM Ron Schueler’s luck with taking chances on hurt or limited free agents continued when he signed Julio Franco to a contract. Franco would have a tremendous 1994 season hitting behind Frank Thomas. Julio would have 20 home runs, 98 RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .319 batting average in his one year in Chicago. He went to Japan the next year because the Sox refused to meet his asking price on a new deal.



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)

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!

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: December 8

Cashing in: The only time in the 20th Century that the reigning MVP was traded or sold came in 1914, when the White Sox snagged future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Collins. (Baseball Hall of Fame)

The White Sox purchased reigning MVP and future Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins from Connie Mack and the Philadelphia A’s. The price was incredible based on 1914 standards: $50,000 went to Mack. $15,000 went to Collins as a signing bonus, and then Collins was tendered a five-year guaranteed deal worth $75,000! Collins would play for the White Sox for 12 seasons.

The offseason purging of young players continued with the White Sox shipping future All-Star, power-hitting outfielder Johnny Callison to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese. Of all the offseason moves, this was probably the worst.

Freese was a slow, scattergun-armed infielder with limited range. Callison, the subject of “The Life of a Sox Rookie” documentary film in 1958, failed in a few tries to take over the left field spot but in a new environment blossomed, winning the 1964 All-Star Game for the National League with a three-run, ninth-inning home run. The AL team that year was led by (ironically) Sox skipper Al Lopez!

Freese would be sent along in 1961 to the Reds in exchange for two pitchers, one of whom was Juan Pizarro, who became a two-time All-Star. Freese would return to the Sox for parts of the 1965 and 1966 seasons.

The Sox, meanwhile, realized the mistake they had made and tried to reacquire Callison from Philadelphia before the start of the 1962 season without success. He’d play 10 seasons with the Phillies, accumulating five years in double figures for triples, eight seasons with 10 or more home runs and four years with at least 78 RBIs.

Pitcher Alex Fernandez signed a free-agent deal with Florida, the culmination of misunderstandings and pettiness. Sox ownership felt Fernandez was going to remain contractually bound to them for another season, but that was torpedoed when the players union and owners agreed to give players service time during the time missed in 1994 because of the labor impasse. Fernandez became a free agent, and the Sox hastily made a late offer that was rebuffed. He won 79 games in four full and three partial seasons with the White Sox. Without him to anchor the rotation, the Sox were forced to try to fill the void. The choice to do so, Jamie Navarro, was a complete disaster.

Trying to fortify his bullpen, White Sox GM Ken Williams inked free agent pitcher Dustin Hermanson to a contract. Hermanson would be spectacular in the first half of the 2005 championship season before back issues limited him in the second half. He’d still finish with 34 saves and an ERA of 2.04.


Today in White Sox History: December 6

Bold stroke: GM Roland Hemond stuck his neck out to make baby shortstop Ozzie Guillén the centerpiece of a winter trade — and won it, bigtime. (@RonVesely)

In an effort to try to repeat as American League champs, Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg decided to make a series of moves to bring in hitters at the expense of some of the top young players in the Sox system. Veeck originally tried to get young stars like future White Sox coach Orlando Cepeda from the Giants and Bill White from the Cardinals, but was turned down. So he went in the only direction he felt he could.

The first deal brought the Sox back outfielder Minnie Miñoso at the cost of future All-Star power hitting first baseman Norm Cash and future All-Star power hitting catcher Johnny Romano. Cleveland also got Bubba Phillips. Sox manager Al Lopez was quoted after the controversial deal as saying, “Some of us, like me, are not worried about next year because we might not be around then.”

It was one of the most brilliant and gutsiest deals even completed by GM Roland Hemond, a deal that paid dividends immediately and 20 years down the line. Hemond sent former Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt to the Padres in a package deal that netted the Sox a 20-year-old shortstop named Ozzie Guillén. The Sox also got valuable utility player Luis Salazar.

Guillén immediately went on to fill a gaping hole in the infield and was named Rookie of the Year. He’d win a Gold Glove and become a three-time All-Star before coming back as manager in 2004. He’d then win the World Series in 2005 and make the playoffs again in 2008. Hoyt would be out of baseball by 1987, after battling weight and drug addiction issues.

Frank Thomas, probably the best hitter in team history, became a free agent after the Sox declined to pick up his $10 million option. White Sox GM Ken Williams had no choice in the matter, as Thomas was coming off back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. At his age and weight, and with the addition of slugger Jim Thome, there was no longer a place for Thomas in the lineup. The Big Hurt would eventually sign an incentive-laden deal with the A’s in late January and continue his Hall of Fame career.

One of the biggest winter meeting trades in memory saw the White Sox send Chris Sale, one of the top pitchers in the game, to the Red Sox for a number of prospects. The deal included the top minor league player in the game, Yoán Moncada.

Sale was brilliant in his six-plus years with the White Sox, winning 74 games with a 3.00 ERA. He made the All-Star team five times, pitching five innings and winning the 2013 contest. He set White Sox records for most strikeouts in a season (274) and had four consecutive years of more than 200 whiffs. After four straight losing seasons, the franchise decided it was time to rebuild and Sale was in demand, so the painful decision was made to trade him and hope for a better future.


Today in White Sox History: November 11

What could have been: If Schueler hadn’t pulled the trigger on his biggest deal, bringing PK to the South Side for more than a decade. (Topps)

1965 — “The Señor,” manager Al Lopez, resigned his position with the White Sox. Perhaps the greatest manager in franchise history, Lopez had nine winning seasons in his nine full time years as field manager. He won the 1959 American League pennant and was coming off of back-to-back-to-back 90-plus win seasons in 1963, 1964 and 1965. His 840 wins are the second-most in team history. He returned to manage for parts of the 1968 and 1969 seasons.

1998 — Perhaps the finest deal ever made by White Sox GM Ron Schueler came on this date, when he traded promising center fielder Mike Cameron to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder Paul Konerko. Konerko would eventually blossom into a consistent power-hitting first baseman, hitting 432 home runs with 1,383 RBIs in his career. Konerko was a six-time All-Star, a World Series champion, the 2005 ALCS MVP and the 2002 Comeback Player of the Year. 

2005 — They never made it on the cover of Sports Illustrated for winning the World Series, but the Sox did grace the cover of The Sporting News for the accomplishment. The caption was short and to the point: “Sweep!”

Today in White Sox History: October 29

El Señor: Lopez, hired on this day 63 years ago, would win 840 games with the White Sox. (Wikipedia)

1956Al Lopez replaced Marty Marion as White Sox manager. Marion, who did a fine job in replacing Paul Richards, had missed an important board meeting to be with his family at an event. It was all the excuse the Sox needed to let him go, despite third-place finishes and winning records in 1955 and 1956.

“El Señor” would prove to be a most able replacement, however. Lopez had nine straight winning seasons with the White Sox and copped the 1959 American League pennant. Many say he was the finest manager in team history; he holds the franchise record for the highest winning percentage for any manager who lasted at least five full seasons, at .562. Lopez eventually won 840 games over nine full seasons and two partial ones. 

1986Larry Himes was hired as the new White Sox GM, replacing Ken Harrelson. Himes drafted and signed Sox future stars like Frank Thomas, Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura and Alex Fernandez. He would be fired in September 1990 after philosophical differences between him and ownership made working together impossible.

Today in White Sox History: September 26

No joy in Mudville: Ozzie, mighty Ozzie, struck out.

Sept. 26, 1905 — In a doubleheader at Boston, Sox pitcher Ed Walsh relieved starter Doc White in the first inning of the opener and got the win, 10-5. Walsh then started and won the nightcap game over the Americans, 3-1. Because White didn’t retire a batter in the opening game, Walsh got credit for a pair of complete-game wins.

Sept. 26, 1943 — The White Sox set the franchise record for the most runs ever scored in the fourth inning when they put 13 on the board against the Senators at Washington. The South Siders would win the game, 15-3. Future Sox star pitcher Early Wynn was the victim of the Sox uprising. Also of note in the 13-run inning was a triple-steal on one play, as Thurman Tucker, Guy Curtright and Luke Appling all swiped bases, with Tucker stealing home.

Sept. 26, 1984 — Despite a disastrous season on the field, the White Sox drew the last of their 2,136,988 fans to Comiskey Park to become the first Chicago franchise to draw at least two million fans in consecutive seasons.

Sept. 26, 1998 — White Sox outfielder Brian Simmons became the third player in franchise history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game. Simmons connected off Kansas City’s Brian Barber and Allen McDill, driving home five runs in Chicago’s 13-5 win.

Sept. 26, 2011 — He was considered the face of the franchise for eight seasons, but on this night after a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, manager Ozzie Guillén announced he was leaving after owner Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to let him out of the final year of his contract. 

Guillén, who was the 1985 AL Rookie of the Year with the White Sox, won the World Series in 2005 and also got the club into the playoffs in 2008. He had five winning seasons in eight years as manager, and was named Manager of the Year for his work in 2005.

In that magical season of 2005, “Ozzieball” resulted in the Sox getting off to the best start in their history. With a perfect blend of pitching, speed, power and the ability to execute the fundamentals, the White Sox were in first place from wire to wire. Then they blitzed through the postseason, putting together an 11-1 record that was the third-best post season record in baseball history.

Guillén’s passion and enthusiasm for the franchise was unparalleled, but at times he was his own worst enemy.

Over his final years in Chicago, he became increasingly thin-skinned and defensive when criticism was directed his way, and he lashed out at Sox fans on more than one occasion. In one of his infamous rants against fans he said they could ‘‘turn off their TVs and stop watching the game if they don’t like the [bleep]ing lineup,’’ and another in May 2011 claimed Sox fans would not remember him (“as soon as you leave the ballpark they don’t care about you. They don’t. The monuments, the statues … they pee on them when they get drunk.”) On the afternoon of the day he left the team Guillén told reporters (including South Side Hit Pen’s Brett Ballantini, who broke the news that Guillén had published a blog announcing his move to the Marlins during that night’s game) that he would not want to return to fulfill his 2012 contract unless he got an extension and more money.

Ozzie’s relationship with GM Ken Williams also deteriorated over the final few years, as the two men had different viewpoints over how the roster should be constructed and the style to which the Sox should play. Guillén’s family didn’t help the situation, with social media comments derogatory White Sox players and Williams.

Many felt when Ozzie was hired in November 2003 that he was the right man for the right team at the right time, and for a few years he was. Unfortunately, the White Sox manager with the longest tenure since Al Lopez let some personal foibles override a good situation, and it was best for all that a parting of the ways took place.