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.


 

Today in White Sox History: March 23

Miracle man: King came out of nowhere to be an ace of two White Sox teams — one really bad, the other pretty terrific. (Bowman)


1989
The White Sox traded Ken Williams (who would eventually become the club’s GM and vice president) to Detroit for pitcher Eric King. Williams never achieved any measure of consistency in the big leagues. King, on the other hand, had two terrific seasons with the White Sox, going 21-14 with a 3.34 ERA and 5.1 bWAR.

Williams and teammate Ozzie Guillén had a close bond; in fact, Gullén was the one who broke the news (with tears in his eyes) to Williams that he had been traded.

 

 

A Conversation With: Herb Lawrence

 


Way back in 2015, I was a marketing and promotions intern for 670 The Score. That turned into a part-time social media role, where I was tasked to run the infancy of their Instagram account. Now I work in outside sales for a safety clothing manufacturer, so that internship didn’t parlay into a grand career in social media marketing. That being said, having been a pretty avid Score listener through my youth, the internship allowed me to have a few interactions with the hosts and producers I grew up listening to. Just about all the host and producer interactions I had were pleasant, but the majority of people didn’t go out of their way to interact with the interns other than a hallway head nod.

 (One time, Dan Bernstein walked into the room the interns worked out of, and silently admired the moon for about five minutes before walking out, I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that.)

Herb Lawrence was one of those rare few who interacted with us. I’ve always appreciated anyone who goes out of their way to be friendly and helpful to people who can’t help them with anything. While I didn’t see him all that often, Herb was always engaging and kind with everyone at the station.

He’s also simply one of the best sports personalities we have in this city. While I don’t agree with his every take, the one thing you know you’re getting with Herb is no bullshit. He doesn’t pander, and he speaks the truth even if it goes against the grain. Actually, especially if it goes against the grain.

You know him and love his as the executive producer of the Laurence Holmes Show, and now co-host of the fantastic Locked on White Sox Podcast alongside fellow Score producer Chris Tannehill. Ladies and gentlemen, my conversation with the incomparable Herb Lawrence.


(Note: This interview was conducted prior to COVID-19 sports-related cancellations and postponements.)

SS: How confident are you on a scale of 1-10 about the 2020 season, with Opening Day right around the corner?

HERB LAWRENCE: I’m pretty sure the White Sox will compete all season long and it will be much more thrilling than infuriating. Not picking them for the division, but I don’t think that the Indians or the Twins are that much better.

Something I’ve always respected about your White Sox opinions, and to a larger extent, all of your sports opinions, is that you call it like you see it more than almost anyone I know. You give credit when and where credit is due, but you’ll call out bullshit like no other. With that in mind, how can we fairly judge the job done by a front office that has both made fools of themselves and done a few good things recently? I guess that’s a long way of asking: Can we trust this front office? 

First, Thanks for the compliment. Second, they did a fantastic job this offseason, as I didn’t think they would field a competent team much less a team that’s ready to compete. They’ve learned their lesson from past failures and have grown. I trust them now.

This has seemingly been the fan narrative since the start of, and even before the rebuild, but why do you think it is that “good” moves seem to be attributed to Rick Hahn, while the “bad” ones seem to be pinned on Kenny Williams, and can you ever see this changing?

The media and fans have set it up as such, and it’s not right. Kenny isn’t as smooth as Rick when it comes to dealing with the media and fans, so he takes the lion’s share of blame because they just don’t like him. Rick is more personable, so he gets a pass despite not producing a winning season at all in his GM tenure. They don’t seem to have a problem with it publicly [so] it won’t change. 

Earliest White Sox memory? 

Robin Ventura hitting the walk-off grand slam [against Texas on July 31, 1991] and Frank Thomas picking him up over his shoulder. Get chills just thinking about it now.

I don’t know why, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more angry about a White Sox game than when Jim Thome hit a walk-off home run against Matt Thornton in 2010. This was a regular season game, that if I recall, had no real implications other than an August loss, but it has always stuck out for me. What is your “Jim Thome walks off the Sox in August irrational anger moment,” if you have one?

Not specifically, but every single time I saw Ricky Renteria bat A.J. Reed fourth in the lineup in 2019. Just looked it up, he did it four times and the last one was on August 1 and he was sent to the minors later that day. Cleanup hitter to off the team makes zero sense. 

Will White Sox fans ever stop caring about the Cubs? Years ago, I tweeted out something like “Sox win, Cubs lose, great day” and you and Tim Baffoe justifiably called me out for it. I’m older and wiser now, but it seems like lots of Sox fans can’t stop thinking about the Cubs. 

It’s part of some fans’ experience and I never really got into it. Doesn’t make me a better fan, but I just think rooting against them and cheering for the Indians in the World Series was some of the weirdest stuff that I saw. I get that we don’t get the love that the Cubs do, but that’s not the team’s fault and certainly not the Cubs fans’, either. Hating on them when we play makes sense, or if they ever wise up and put them in the same division, but until them cheering for the Cubs to lose is a tough look.

Best thing about White Sox fans? 

Die-hard. This franchise has giving us fans plenty of reasons to abandon them, and yet we are still here. The Yankees and Sox have played the exact amount of years and the Yankees have nine times the championships. We have only seen five playoff appearances (1983, 1993, 2000, 2005, 2008) in our lifetimes (if you’ve seen six, god bless) and we are still here believing that times will get better for the team we love. There’s no more loyal fan base in the history of the league.

Worst thing about White Sox fans? 

Our inferiority complex. We need to not feel like we are beneath any fan base just because our favorite team hasn’t performed as well as it should. Being a fan of a bad franchise is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter.

Do you believe in the idea that this season can still be considered a success through player development and a higher win total even if the Sox miss out on the playoffs? 

Indeed. I don’t expect them to win the Central but know that they’ll be right there at the end. It’s because the development of these young players that I feel confident about the team’s record. 

What album or song have you been listening to the most lately? 

“Waves” by JSMN, it’s just a stone cold jam that Salif Crookboys was dancing to last year I’m on IG and I haven’t stopped listening since.

What’s an album you don’t think I’ve ever heard, but I should check out ASAP? 

The Foreign Exchange, Love in Flying Colors. Great album by them, as they put it all together and is my favorite from them.

Most overrated movie of all time? 

Scarface. I don’t even think that movie is particularly good. Watched it once and didn’t get why everyone was so over the moon about it.

Most underrated T.V. show of all time? 

Sons of Anarchy. It doesn’t get the love that its contemporary shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire or Mad Men get, but it is right up there with them.

You’re going on a weekend trip to anywhere in the world, where are you going, and who are you taking? Pick 5, living or dead/current or former, from these categories:

Place San Diego (of course)

670 the Score employee Chris Tannehill

White Sox player José Valentín

Actor or Actress Nia Long

Musician Jamiroquai

Illini athlete Kevin Turner

What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

Pequods. The food is always on point, and it’s always worth the wait.

What’s something that most people get wrong about Chicago? 

That it is dangerous. Love this city, and yeah, there might be pockets of violence, but we’re not here just shooting at each other. Media’s fear of young black males plays into this, as if you look up the homicide/shootings for big cities it isn’t close to the top. 

How far is Illinois getting in the tournament this year? 

The early-season losses to Miami and Mizzery give me pause to pick them for a long run but also this tourney is wide open so I’m gonna say win the first game and lose a close game to a higher-ranked team in the second round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today in White Sox History: February 7

Man of action: Ordoñez’s stellar White Sox career came to a crashing end after mystery medical procedures and a war of words. (McFarlane)


2005
After one of the more acrimonious disputes in team history, four-time All-Star Magglio Ordoñez signed a free agent deal with Detroit. Ordoñez engaged Sox management in a war of words over how he was treated, the contract offered to him and his health status. Magglio’s agent, Scott Boras, refused to turn over medical information, which infuriated GM Ken Williams and basically sealed Ordoñez’s fate. Considering the severity of his knee injury, which required a secret trip to Austria for experimental surgery, it was hard to blame the White Sox for their stance. Ordoñez played with the team for six full seasons and parts of two others, with 187 home runs and 702 RBIs.

 

Today in White Sox History: January 27

Defensive all-timer: Few defensive plays have ever been better than Iguchi’s acrobatic assist in 2006. (@WhiteSox)


2005
So who needs scouts? (just joking …) White Sox GM Ken Williams signed Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi after … watching videotape on him. Iguchi turned into a very solid second baseman and second hitter in the lineup, delivering defense, home runs and RBIs to a team that would go on to take the World Series.

Iguchi’s three-run home run in Game 2 of the 2005 ALDS turned the game around against Boston. The following year, Iguchi’s single in the 19th inning on July 9 beat the Red Sox 6-5 — that game was tied for the fifth-longest in franchise history.

On April 15, 2006 Iguchi turned in one of the most incredible defensive plays in MLB history by throwing out Toronto’s Bengie Molina in the ninth inning of a 4-2 White Sox win. Iguchi threw the ball to first base sailing horizontally off the ground and from a most usual throwing angle.

“Coming off the bat, I know it was going to be a tough play but I knew I still had the time to get him out at first base,” Iguchi told reporters after the game. “I knew it wasn’t an impossible position to still make a throw. But I knew if I was going down I might not be coming back up again. Right now, I feel it in my lower back.”

 

Today in White Sox History: January 24

Miracle Man: Loaiza was supposed to merely fill out the rotation, not compete for the Cy Young.


2003
Sometimes luck plays a part in things … sometimes a very big part. On this date, White Sox GM Ken Williams signed free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza to a contract. Loaiza was expected to round out the back end of the rotation, but he did much more than that. By season’s end he had won 21 games, started the All-Star Game and led the AL in strikeouts. He could have won the Cy Young Award, but a pair of 1-0 losses to Detroit appeared to kill his chances and he ended up second in the voting. The next year he was traded to the Yankees at midseason for pitcher Jose Contreras — another deal that was a steal for the White Sox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today in White Sox History: January 15

The Bartolo Colon Experience: Not for the faint of heart. (Wikipedia)


2003
It was another bold stab by GM Ken Williams, as he acquired starter Bartolo Colon as part of a three-way deal with the Montreal Expose and New York Yankees. Colon had a good season for the Sox (15 wins, 242 innings and 173 strikeouts) before inking a large deal with the Angels, with whom he’d win the Cy Young. Williams brought Colon back in 2009, hoping for the same success, but got little for his troubles. In fact Colon got hurt, was overweight, and when assigned to a minor league rehab stint never reported!

 

Today in White Sox History: January 14

Steal of a deal: Ed Short snagged four cornerstones of the mid-1960s White Sox, including Pete Ward, in a single trade in 1963.


1963
In a move that re-energized the franchise and led directly to back-to-back-to-back 90-or-more-win seasons in 1963, 1964 and 1965. White Sox GM Ed Short traded shortstop Luis Aparicio and outfielder Al Smith to the Baltimore Orioles for third baseman Pete Ward, outfielder Dave Nicholson, shortstop Ron Hansen and relief pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

Ward would be named co-Rookie of the Year (with teammate Gary Peters) and would supply power for the next few seasons. Nicholson, who struck out far too much, would have 22 home runs and 70 RBIs in 1963. Hansen would be one of the best defensive shortstops in the league and hit as many as 20 home runs in a season, at a time when shortstops simply didn’t do that. Wilhelm became the top relief pitcher of the 1960’s; in his six years with the Sox he’d win 41 games and save 98 others while producing some astonishingly low ERAs considering he threw the knuckleball.


2001
The White Sox acquired pitcher David Wells from Toronto, basically for pitcher Mike Sirotka. Over the coming weeks and months, Sirotka and the Blue Jays claimed the Sox knew that Sirotka had a bad arm and couldn’t pitch. Sox GM Ken Williams defended himself by saying that he told the Jays he thought Sirotka might be hurt and offered pitcher Jim Parque instead. Commissioner Bud Selig ruled in late March that the trade would stand. The whole episode became known as “Shouldergate.”

 

 

Today in White Sox History: January 6

The one and only: A.J., playoff hero, rapscallion, Campbell Soup Kid. (YouTube)


2005
Needing catching help, White Sox GM Ken Williams took a gamble and inked catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a free agent contract. A.J., who had a reputation as a “clubhouse cancer,” turned out to be a model teammate and his contributions to the 2005 World Series champs would be incalculable. Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson pitched A.J. to the front office since he had known the catcher for a number of years.

Two of the most memorable A.J. moments took place in 2005. The first came on June 18, when he hit an opposite-field home run to cap a four-run ninth inning, as the Sox beat the Dodgers, 5-3. The Sox were wearing 1959 replica uniforms for the game.

The second and far more important moment came on October 12, the second game of the ALCS. With the Sox down a game to the Angels and tied in the ninth, Pierzynski struck out then started running to first base as former White Sox player Josh Paul, the Angels catcher, rolled the ball back towards the mound thinking the inning was over. A.J. thought the ball hit the dirt and was trapped, which qualified as a dropped third strike and required a putout at first base. Umpire Doug Eddings agreed, and Pierzynski got the base. The play led to the eventual winning run, evening a best-of-seven series that the Sox went on to win in five games to get to their first World Series since 1959.

Another classic A.J. moment came on May 20, 2006 during a crosstown game at U.S. Cellular Field. Scoring the first run by plowing over catcher Michael Barrett on a sacrifice fly in an eventual 7-0 Sox win, A.J. got tangled up with Barrett while moving back to touch home plate. As he was doing so, he bumped Barrett, which resulted in the Cubs hothead losing it and sucker-punching him. Four players wound up being ejected in the ensuing fight.

 

Today in White Sox History: December 13

Not so bad: Ritchie was a monumental failure for the White Sox, but he was hurt — and the guys swapped out didn’t really sting too badly. (Upper Deck)


1969
The White Sox dealt their star left hander Gary Peters to the Red Sox for Syd O’Brien and Billy Farmer. Farmer retired instead of reporting, so as compensation the Sox received Jerry “Wheat Germ Kid” Janeski. Peters would win 33 games in the next three seasons. Janeski won 10 in 1970 then was shipped to Washington for outfielder Rick Reichardt.

Peters had spent seven full and four partial seasons with the team, with a 20-win season, two All- Star teams and a Rookie of the Year award.


1982
The White Sox outbid 16 other teams to sign free agent pitcher Floyd Bannister to a five year, $4.5 million deal. Bannister had led the American League in strikeouts in 1981. In his five seasons on the South Side, Bannister won in double figures every year, with a high of 16 wins in both 1983 and 1987.

His signing angered Yankee owner George Steinbrenner ,who wasn’t used to losing out on talent that he wanted. Steinbrenner was quoted as saying that he regretted voting against Edward DeBartolo in his bid to buy the Sox franchise from Bill Veeck back in 1980 and leveled verbal blasts at owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn.


2001
In his quest to find reliable starting pitching, White Sox GM Ken Williams traded youngsters Kip Wells and Josh Fogg and veteran Sean Lowe to the Pirates for Todd Ritchie. Ritchie would suffer a shoulder injury and have a disastrous 2002 season, going 5-15 with an ERA of 6.06 (4.84 FIP)! Ritchie’s -1.7 bWAR is tied for the 15th-worst pitching season in White Sox history. What made the trade worse is that Wells put up bWARs of 2.8, 4.9 and 1.7 for Pittsburgh the first three seasons after the trade.

But in fairness to Williams, over 20 combined seasons in the majors Fogg, Lowe and Wells compiled just 6.9 bWAR, so none of the pitchers dealt led to chest-clutching regret.

A free agent, the Sox let him Ritchie go after his one terrible South Side season, and he was out of baseball two years later.


2004
On the third anniversary of his ill-fated Ritchie deal, Williams continued his remake of the club. He sent power-hitting but defensively-challenged outfielder Carlos Lee to Milwaukee as part of a four-player deal.

The outfielder coming from the Brewers to replace him (Scott Podsednik) energized the lineup, stole more than 40 bases twice, made an All-Star team and hit a dramatic walk-off home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series.