MAX SURKONT: THE SOX FIRST FAT SIGNAL

On the 95th anniversary of his birth, here’s a look back at one White Sox player who was singled out because of his heft.

Before there was Bobby Jenks, there was Max Surkont.

The portly (by standards of the day) Surkont -– like Jenks — was once summoned from the bullpen by a manager using the “wide” sign.

Surkont, listed by baseballreference.com at 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, led the 1949 Sox with 49 appearances.

While Ozzie Guillen affectionately used the signal to ID Jenks in the 2005 World Series, there was no jolliness attached to Surkont’s beef.

“Sox release Surkont and his appetite” blared the Tribune headline of Feb. 5, 1950 in recapping the Surkont’s demotion to the minors the previous day.

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’s Jack Onslow 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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