The Sox “Fat Signal:” Jenks, Ozzie and … Max Surkont?

Eleven years ago today, manager Ozzie Guillen summoned closer Bobby Jenks from the White Sox bullpen using the “fat signal.”

In the eighth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, Guillen put Jenks on the bump after demonstratively holding his arms out by his side on his trip to the mound.

Guillen made this motion because there had been some confusion earlier over which pitcher he wanted from the pen.

When Guillen flashed that indicator, there was no doubt it was Jenks he wanted. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, “Big Bad Bobby” was the only Sox reliever who could be summoned to the rubber by that call.

Jenks, a 24-year-old rookie in his 35th big league appearance, ambled into duty with two on, two out and the Sox clinging to a one-run lead with the Astros’ imposing Jeff Bagwell ready to hit.

With Guillen’s antics not even an afterthought, Jenks blew away Bagwell and then breezed through the ninth to save the Sox 5-3 win and send the franchise on its way to its first title in 88 years.

In the wake of the win and Jenks’ electrifying performance, Guillen’s signaling antics were met with much affection.

Ozzie was not the first Sox manager to flash the “fat signal” to call a hurler into action.

Portly (by standards of the day) pitcher Max Surkont, who – like Jenks — was once summoned from the bullpen by a Sox manager using the “fat signal.”

Surkont, listed by at 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, led the 1949 White Sox with 49 appearances while going 3-5 with four saves and a 4.78 ERA.

The yuks that accompained Guillen’s schtick were not presence when Surkont was singled out because of his weight.

When the Sox trimmed Surkont Feb. 5, 1950, the Chicago Tribune headline blared: “Sox release Surkont and his appetite.” The Tribune reported Surkont’s “tendency toward heft not only handicapped the righthander, but sometimes was a source of family embarrassment, according to accounts.”

One such source was manager Jack Onslow’s using the “fat signal” to bring in Surkont from the pen. Surkont asked for a halt to the practice because it offended his wife.

Said the Tribune, “The situation, however, did not cause Max to stay away from the chuckwagon and that’s the main reason he’s departed.”

The 27-year old Surkont was 3-5 with a 4.78 ERA for the 1949 Sox wearing No. 16, the number Ted Lyons made famous.

When he was shipped to Sacramento after that season, he was never seen by the Sox again.

Happily, the same can’t be said for the “fat signal.”


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