DEC. 11: SANTO JOINS SOX (1973), MELTON DEPARTS SOX (1975)

Chicago’s top third basemen of the 1970s are celebrating their White Sox trade anniversaries today.

On this date in 1973, the Sox acquired Ron Santo from the Cubs. Two years later, they shipped Bill Melton to the California Angels.

Here are the details:

SANTO COMES ABOARD

In the biggest swap between the Chicago franchises, the Sox acquired Santo from the Cubs for pitchers Steve Stone, Jim Kremmel and Ken Frailing and catcher Steve Swisher.

The Cubs, looking to go young, turned to the Sox to deal Santo after Santo became the first player to refuse a trade (to the California Angels) based on the 10-5 clause (10 years in the big leagues, five years with the same club).

While the Cubs didn’t get much production out of their end of the deal, this swap has to be considered a bad one for the Sox.

Santo, the heart and soul of the Cubs from 1960 to 1973, never seemed comfortable on the Southside and “was vocal in his criticisms of Dick Allen’s special privileges,” according to Rich Lindberg’s “White Sox Encyclopedia.”

Santo lasted one forgettable year with the Sox, hitting .221 with five homers and 41 RBIs while playing DH, second base and third base.

BYE BYE, BILL

Two years later, the Sox traded Melton, their all-time home run leader, Bill Melton to the Angels in a four-player exchange.

Melton, a third baseman, went west with pitcher Steve Dunning for first baseman Jim Spencer and outfielder Morris Nettles.

Melton hit a Sox record 154 home runs between 1968 and 1975.

He set a Sox record with 33 home runs in 1970 and then tied it a year later when he became the first player in franchise history to lead the league in roundtrippers outright.

His later years with the franchise were hampered by a back injury and squabbles with broadcaster Harry Caray.

Melton’s injury in 1972 was particularly devastating.

“If Melton didn’t come up with a herniated disc in mid-season, he played just 60 games that year, I think that club would have gone onto the World Series,” White Sox GM Roland Hemond, who made both the Santo and Melton swaps, recalled years later.

Spencer was a solid contributor at the plate and a sensational contributor in the field for the Sox in 1976 and 1977.

The left-hander became the first Sox first baseman to win a Gold Glove in 1977.

On two occasions in 1977, he tied the club record with eight RBIs in a game (May 14, 1977 and July 2, 1977).

Melton played with the Angels in 1976, hitting six homers in 118 games. He played his final game on Aug. 30, 1977 for the Indians vs. the Sox in Cleveland. Melton was fanned by Ken Kravec in his last AB.

Melton, always a fan favorite, has worked as a studio analyst on Sox cable telecasts.

He was the subject of this entertaining White Sox Talk podcast https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/white-sox-talk-podcast/id1162163703?mt=2&i=1000392459385

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TODAY IN 1985: BONILLA JOINS THE WHITE SOX

On this date in 1985, the White Sox plucked outfielder Bobby Bonilla from the Pittsburgh organization in the Major League Draft.

Under the rules of the draft, Bonilla had to make the big league roster or be returned to the Pirates.

The Sox put the 23-year-old switch-hitter on their Opening Day roster despite the fact he had missed most of 1985 with a broken leg at the Pirates’ Class-A Prince William affiliate.

Despite his inexperience, Bonilla held his own, hitting .269 with two homers and 26 RBIs for the Sox before being dealt to the Pirates for pitcher Jose DeLeon on July 23, 1986.

Bonilla then went to become one of the game’s most potent sluggers for the next 15 seasons leaving Sox fans to wonder what things would have been like if Bonilla had stayed with the team.

A LOOK BACK AT THE SOX 2017 SEASON … @SOXNERD STYLE!

How crazy was the White Sox 2017 season?

For starters, Tim Anderson (@TimAnderson7) was the only @WhiteSox player who started in the same position on the final day of the season as he did on Opening Day.

In between those Anderson starts, the Sox continued to overhaul their roster and the farm system.

No matter the record or the state of the franchise, there are always nuggets.

Here’s a look back, in particular order, at 2017, @SoxNerd style!

*2017 marked just the fifth time the Sox posted a winning record against the eventual World Series champions. The Sox went 4-2 against the Astros in 2017. … Other winning records vs. future champs: 3-1 vs. 2014 Giants; 3-0 vs. 2006 Cardinals; 8-4 vs. 2000 Yankees and 8-5 vs. 1991

*Avisail Garcia’s 455-foot blast off Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi on June 8 at Tropicana Field was the Sox longest homer of the season

*The combined .279 average by catchers Geovany Soto, Kevan Smith, Omar Narvaez and Rob Brantly was tied for the fifth-best in Sox history

*Matt Davidson had the Sox top exit velocity on a home run of 2017 at 113.2mph on his 433-foot dinger on July 24 at Wrigley Field

*The last time the Sox had a higher ERA than the 4.78 they had in 2017, they won the World Series the next year (4.91 in 2004)

*2017 was the first season the White Sox did not have a complete game (previous low: 3 in 2014)

*Jose Abreu’s 43 doubles were the most by a Sox player since Magglio Ordonez’s 46 in 2003

*Todd Frazier led the Sox with 48 walks, lowest total to lead the team since Lamar Johnson’s 43 in 1978

*Miguel Gonzalez was the first righty to lead the Sox in wins (tied with Derek Holland at seven) since Gavin Floyd (13) in 2008

*Derek Holland’s 135 innings were the lowest total ever to lead the Sox (next Melido Perez 183.1 in rebuilding 1989)

*Jose Quintana’s 109 strikeouts were the lowest total to lead the Sox in a full season since Billy Pierce’s 95 in 1949

*David Robertson’s 14 saves were the lowest total to lead the Sox since Tom Gordon’s 12 in 2003

*Anderson’s 94 percent stolen base success rate was the highest by any Sox player with at least 16 stolen base attempts (15-of-16)

*Smith set a Sox rookie record for catchers with a .283 average in 2017

*Jose Abreu’s 43 doubles were the second-best total by a first baseman in club history behind Frank Thomas’ (aka @TheBigHurt_35) 46 in 1992

*Yoan Moncada joins Alexei Ramirez, Tadahito Iguchi, Jim Morrison, Jayson Nix and Rich McKinney as the only Sox rookie second basemen with at least eight homers in a season

*Anderson is the youngest shortstop (age 24) in Sox history with a double digit homer season (17 in 2017)

*Abreu posted the 19th .300/30HR/100RBI campaign in Sox history and 13 of those seasons have been posted by players who appeared some at first base

*Yolmer Sanchez’s eight triples were the most by a Sox switch-hitter since Ray Durham had 10 in 2001

*Since 1950, only Thomas had a higher Sox average than the .330 Avisail Garcia (aka @avisailgarcia) posted in 2017

*Abreu finished with the fourth-best total base output (343) in Sox history

*Garica’s .330 average is tied for the 29th-best output in franchise history

*Garcia’s .330 average is the highest by a Sox player since Thomas’ .337 in 1997

*The last Sox first baseman to amass more than the six triples Abreu had in 2017 was Carlos May with seven in 1971

*The only Sox player shorter than the 5-foot-8 Leury Garcia to record a multi-homer game was the 5-7 Mike Kreevich on June 10, 1938. Garcia hit two homers on May 12 vs. the Padres.

*The last Sox player shorter than the 5-8 Garcia to hit more than the nine homers Garcia hit in 2017 was the 5-7 Don Buford, who went deep 10 times in 1965

*Anderson became the fourth Sox draftee to lead the club in stolen bases along with May, John Cangelosi and Ray Durham

*Abreu became the first player to lead the Sox in RBI in four straight seasons since Thomas did it from 1991 to 1997

*The seven wins Holland and Gonzalez each posted to lead the Sox were the lowest total ever to lead the club

*Abreu paced American League first basemen with 102 RBI

*Narvaez tied for sixth among American League catchers with 38 walks

*A. Garcia led the American League with a .349 average in night games

*This is the third straight year a Sox player led American League outfielders in assits (A. Garcia in 2015 and 17 and Adam Eaton in 2016)

*A. Garcia led the big leagues with a .424 average against lefties

2005 CHAMPION SOX: I’M HAPPIEST FOR …

On his fledgling and excellent twice-weekly podcast “Unsupervised,” Chicago broadcast legend Dan McNeil recently posed the following question to his guest, White Sox fan extraordinaire Tim Vanzo:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dan-mcneil-unsupervised-on-radio-misfits/id1271958893?mt=2

“(Of all the members of the 2005 World Series champion White Sox) which player were you happiest for?”

What an incredibly great query to ponder in the 12-year afterglow of the Sox first World Series title in 88 seasons.

Vanzo acknowledged the stalwarts but then deferred to the lesser-known, bit, role or reserve players such as Ross Gload, Willie Harris and Timo Perez.

“Guys like that, I think, are the guys that appreciate it more because they were the guys had to struggle their whole careers every year: ‘Can I make the team coming out of camp?’ For a guy like that to get a ring — Gload and Willie Harris and Timo Perez and Chris Widger, the backup catcher …,” Vanzo told McNeil (@DanMcNeil2017) his long-time friend.

If I could pick two my answer would be Geoff Blum and Jon Garland.

If you MADE me pick one it would be Garland.

The “nobody believed in me/us” is one of the most overused and mis-used phrases in sports.

In Garland’s case, though, that was true.

As I remember it, the right-hander was a frequent whipping-boy of fans and media alike in the seasons leading up to and even during 2005.

Underachiever, they said.

Disappointment, they said.

Doesn’t care, they said.

Too much “California cool,” they said.

Bust, they said.

I admit it. I was one of the doubters.

After all, this was a former first-round pick who was touted as the Sox ace of the future.

He was a tall, lanky, right-handed pitcher from California who was taken in the first round … of course he was the next Jack McDowell.

The fact that Garland was swiped from the hated Cubs for middling reliever Matt Karchner intensified the yearning for his success.

At the time, there was a trade with the crosstown rivals that needed to be forgotten or redeemed.

While Garland was climbing (and struggling) through the Sox farm system, Sammy Sosa was hitting home runs for the Cubs like no one had ever done before … hmmmm.

To refresh your memory, the Cubs got Sosa AND Ken Patterson from the Sox for an aging George Bell prior to the 1992 campaign.

Things didn’t start well for Garland in the Sox organization.

The native of  Valencia, Calif., was 6-11 in Class-A in 1998 and 1999 before the minor league light went on.

Expectations for Garland started to soar when he went a combined 12-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 24 starts AS A 19- AND 20-YEAR OLD at Double-A and Triple-A in 1999 and 2000.

So when he made his big league debut for the Sox at the age of 20, the fanbase was excited.

On July 4, 2000 in Kansas City, “Gar” was torched in his premiere giving up  seven earned runs on eight hits in just three innings. He absorbed the loss in a 10-7 setback.

Things only got marginally better for Garland.

He was in the big leagues to stay in 2002 but compiled records of 12-12, 12-13 and 12-11 heading into 2005.

Those pedestrian outputs really had the critics clamoring and doubters yapping on the brink of that championship season.

Garland signaled 2005 would be different when he was named American League Pitcher of the Month in April.

A Player of the Week Award followed on May 1 and Garland was off and running to a breakout season which would see him win 18 games.

Garland, despite leading the team in wins, was the fourth starter so there was no call for him to pitch in the three-game sweep of defending champion Boston in the Division Series.

I admit it: Those old doubts crept back into my cranium as Garland’s first postseason start in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Anaheim approached.

Frankly, I wondered if Garland was indeed mentally tough enough to handle the Sox important game of the season on the heels of a 13-day layoff.

I’m certain some of my fellow Sox fans were just as concerned.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME GARLAND PITCHED IN A BIG GAME?

That worry dissipated in one half inning.

The Sox gave Garland a three-run cushion in the first thanks to an RBI single from Jermaine Dye and a two-run home run by Paul Konerko off John Lackey.

Displaying the “California cool” that was once an albatross, Garland was quite comfortable on that cushion, thank you.

Garland did walk the first man he faced but that runner was erased on a double play.

He cruised to the sixth and picked up two insurance runs along the way before encountering some turbulence.

Orlando Cabrera touched Garland for a two-run homer with two-out in the sixth.

Instead of letting that blast, which pumped some much-needed life into the crowd of 44,725, unnerve him, Garland had no problem just brushing it off.

In fact, Garland pitched as if that dinger never happened.

Garland retired the last 10 batters he faced in giving the Sox a 2-1 lead in the ALCS, their second of four consecutive complete games and actually obliterating any doubts anyone had about him.

Garland’s start in the Game 3 of the World Series took a different path than his go-round in Game 3 of the ALCS.

Baseball’s biggest stage provided Garland with another opportunity to flash the mental toughness that many thought he had been lacking prior to 2005.

Instead of plowing through the lineup with his good stuff as he did 11 days earlier, Garland had to competently grunt through this appearance.

In the first, Garland gave up a run but deftly squelched any hopes the Astros had of a big inning by letting his burrowing sinker net an inning-ending double play ball.

Following a scoreless second, Houston touched Garland for two unearned runs in the third thanks to a botched rundown (Juan Uribe error) that wound have caught Adam Everett stealing. Instead, he and Craig Biggio eventually scored on singles to put the Sox in a 3-0 hole.

The Astros jacked their lead to 4-0 and jacked up the 42,848 at Minute Maid Park when Jason Lane led off the fourth with a home run.

Instead of crumbling at that point (as maybe the old Garland would have done), he stood firm.

While his offense got him a lead thanks to a five-run fifth, Garland retired nine of the final 10 Astros he faced.

He finished with a flurry when he got Biggio, the future Hall of Famer, on strikes with Brad Ausmus on second to end the seventh.

Garland was robbed of a victory when Cliff Politte gave up a run in the eighth.

Garland, though, wasn’t robbed of the fact that he came up big when it mattered most for both himself and the White Sox.

And that has forever endeared him to White Sox fans who never questioned anything about him again.

LINKS:

UNSUPERVISED: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dan-mcneil-unsupervised-on-radio-misfits/id1271958893?mt=2

MORE FROM THE NERD ON THE 2005 SOX:

https://soxnerd.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/happy-geoff-blum-day-never-a-bad-moment/

https://soxnerd.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/an-underrated-05-memory-widge-to-the-rescue/

https://soxnerd.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/happy-birthday-roland-hemond-and-happy-anniversary-05-title/

https://soxnerd.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/2005-world-series-game-1-recollections/

https://soxnerd.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/12-years-ago-today-my-game-2-journey/

REMEMBERING RAY: BERRES WAS SOX QUIET INFLUENCE

Before there was Don Cooper, there was Ray Berres.

70 years ago Saturday, the White Sox signed Berres to serve as their pitching coach.

The signing began a distinguished 20-year career which turned out to be the longest stint by a White Sox coach.

Berres’ record may be in peril. No-signs-of-slowing-down Cooper, also a respected pitching coach, can eclipse Berres’ mark if he lasts through 2021.

So revered was Berres he was once called “the greatest pitching coach of all” by Bill Fischer, who played under Berres and was a big league pitching coach for 14 seasons.

Berres, who died at age 99 in 2007, played 11 seasons as a catcher in the Major Leagues in the 1930s and 1940s.

“You don’t see many players like him anymore,” said Dale McReynolds, a Platteville native who has scouted since 1953 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals and currently works for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I wish I could find an 18-year old with the ability of Ray. He scrambled, scratched, and clawed until he made his way to the big leagues. The fire he’s got inside of him… it’s almost impossible to find these days.”

The native of Kenosha, Wis., played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1937 to 1940 before being dealt to the Boston Braves with $40,000 for Lopez June 14,1940.

In his only year as a regular with the Braves, Berres topped big league catchers with a. 995 fielding percentage in 1941. Following the season, Berres was sold to the New York Giants.

He played sparingly there and retired after the 1945 season.

Berres’ success as a catcher helped him become a great pitching coach, former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond said.

“I was raised in New England and I remember as a youngster growing up he was a catcher for the Boston Braves and he was noted as such an outstanding receiver and handler of pitchers,” Hemond once said. “When he went on to become a great pitching coach with the White Sox, it certainly was no surprise because he had gained such a great reputation of how he handled pitchers and pitching staffs.”

Following his playing career, Berres served one season as the Boston Braves bullpen coach and one season as the minor league Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach before the Sox came calling.

It was with the Sox that Berres indiscreetly earned his reputation as one of the best in his profession through hard work and attention to detail.

“He was a quiet man behind the scenes but developed that great pitching staff of the 1950 s and through the 1960s,” White Sox historian Rich Lindberg said in a phone interview for the Berres’ obituary I wrote for the Kenosha News. “He was one of (Hall of Fame manager) Al Lopez’s most trusted assistants. Beyond that, though, was the fact that this man was very gracious, very nice.

“He made better managers out of Paul Richards and Marty Marion during those years. He really had few peers as far as pitching coaches in the Major Leagues….The ’50s would not have been the ‘Go Go ’50s’ without him and that’s the key thing. His influence covered the best years of White Sox history.”

Said Gary Peters, who won 19 games and the Rookie of the Year Award for the 1963 Sox: “I think he was the best pitching coach of his era, easily, and maybe any era.”

Berres was with the White Sox from 1949 to 1966 and 1968 and 1969. He also spent time with the franchise as a minor league instructor and consultant.

According to Lindberg, Berres was instrumental in developing the White Sox farm system.

During his time on the Southside, the White Sox became the peskiest team in baseball, reeling off 17 consecutive winning seasons. Those clubs were built on Berres’ stingy pitching staffs, speed and defense.

“I really think he was one of the unsung heroes and one of the architects of the fine White Sox farm system and those pitching prospects that came up,” Lindberg said.

The “Go Go Era” reached its zenith in 1959 when the White Sox won the American League pennant — their first since 1919 and their last until 2005.

Berres’ 1952 and 1953 staffs led the A. L. in strikeouts. His staffs in 1964 and 1966 led the league in ERA.

Among those Berres tutored were Hall of Famers Hoyt Wilhelm and Early Wynn, Billy Pierce, Tommy John, Joel Horlen and Peters, a left-hander who followed up his

Rookie of the Year campaign with a 20-win season.

“He was the reason I got to the big leagues,” Peters said. “I don’t think I would have gotten there without his help…. He had a knack for spotting mechanical problems in your delivery and he could cure you pretty easily.”

Berres also had a knack of salvaging careers.

“He had the ability to pull out of these guys some elements of talent they didn’t know they had,” Lindberg said.

The most prominent examples of Berres reclamation projects were Bob Shaw and Ray Herbert.

Shaw caught Berres ’ eye one day in Detroit in 1958. Berres saw a struggling Shaw fire a ball in disgust after learning of his demotion to the minor leagues.

“With just that one throw, I liked what I saw, ” Berres said in November of 1999. “I thought it would be a good idea to pick him up if he we had the chance. I figured, what the heck if he doesn’t work out for us maybe we could use him in a trade or something.”

On Berres ’ recommendation, the White Sox acquired Shaw from the Tigers. The 6-foot-2 right-hander finished up strong in 1958 and then went 18-6 with a 2.69 ERA for the 1959 A. L. champs.

Herbert came to the Sox in 1961 after several undistinguished seasons with the Tigers and A’s. Under Berres’ guidance, Herbert won 20 games in 1962, a season that included a victory in the All-Star Game at Wrigley Field and a scoreless streak of 31 innings.

“He made Herbert a very effective pitcher,” Lindberg said. “Ditto for Frank Baumann in 1960, who was a retread from the Boston Red Sox, who led the league in earned-run average that year…. He worked with them on their deliveries and helped them develop new pitches. Ray Berres is a key figure in White Sox history but he was very quiet and very reticent. I don’t think a lot of fans realize the significant role he played in team history.”

After taking off the uniform, Berres still served the Sox as a minor league instructor.

He was Rich Gossage’s first pitching coach.

“Throughout my whole career I would remember Ray Berres yelling at me to stay back,” Gossage said. “We had a lot of fun with it. He was just as good as they come.

“What a great guy. If we had more people like him in the world we wouldn’t have the problems we have. I’ll tell you that.”

So impactful was Berres on his career that Gossage mentioned him in his Hall of Fame induction speech.

“The first place they (the White Sox) sent me was to the Gulf Coast Rookie League in Florida.

“The coaching I received in rookie league was tremendous. Joe Jones was the manger of the team. Sam Hairston was an assistant coach and my first great pitching coach was an ex-catcher by the name of Ray Berres. I learned so much.”

On Nov. 11,1999, Berres was inducted into the State Athletic Hall of Fame. That same year a baseball field was named in his honor in Fox River Park near his Kenosha County homes of Twin Lakes and Silver Lakes, Wis. (where he commuted from during his days with the Sox).

“I was fortunate, ” Berres said in a November 1999 interview with the Kenosha News. “I had good rapport with all my pitchers and I was a good demonstrator. I spent most of my time in the bullpen that was of my own choice. There I could spend more time with the pitchers and work with them and make sure they didn’t revert to their high school or college habits. That’s where I was their godfather and their ‘ mother goose. ’ They trusted me. I never told anybody anything not even the manager sometimes.

“I had a very happy tenure there. ”

WAY BACK WEDNESDAY: OTD IN 2000 FRANK GETS ROBBED

It all seems so tainted now, doesn’t it?

On this date in 2000, White Sox designated hitter Frank Thomas finished second in the American League MVP voting to Oakland’s Jason Giambi in results released by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Giambi polled 317 points while Thomas had 285 in falling short of his third MVP Award.

Thomas was the driving force behind the Sox surprising run to the American League Central crown, hitting .328 with a career-high 43 homers and 143 RBIs.

Giambi hit .333 with 43 homers and 137 RBIs.

In hindsight, these results look like a joke because Giambi is an admitted steroid user.

Frank, on the other hand, publicly railed against steroid use.

One of the complaints levied against Frank throughout his career was that he didn’t smile enough or seen happy.

Can you blame him?

During his career, Thomas watched players of lesser talent who were suspected users grab headlines, records and accolades while he just did his thing year after year.

Frank did get a chance to vent in 2005 when he testified before Congress.

He concluded his statement by saying: “I have been a major league ballplayer for 15 years. Throughout my career, I have not used steroids. Ever.”

Compare that to what you recall Giambi saying about the subject.

Frank also had the last laugh in Cooperstown in 2014.

Also in the 2000 voting, White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez finished 12th after hitting .315 with 32 homers.

This marked the first time since 1994, when Thomas finished first, Julio Franco finsiehd eighth and Jason Bere finished 23rd that the Sox had more than one player receive votes for this award.

MONDAY MEMORY: THIGPEN POLLS WELL

White Sox reliever Bobby Thigpen finished fourth in voting for the American League Cy Young in results released by the Baseball Writers Association of America on this date in 1990.

Thigpen and his big league record of 57 saves were a big reason why the White Sox experienced a renaissance season and finished a surprising second in the American League West in their final season at Comiskey Park.

Thigpen polled two first place votes but it was 27-game winner Bob Welch who won the award.

Thigpen’s finish was the highest in the voting since LaMarr Hoyt won it in 1983.

He was also the first Sox reliever to poll votes since Rich Gossage in 1975 and his finish was the highest ever by a Sox reliever.

White Sox nuggets