Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the White Sox Bill Robinson trade.
Yes, that Bill Robinson.
On Dec. 13, 1971, the Sox sent Robinson, a minor-league outfielder who would have a productive Major League career, to the Philadelphia Phillies in for Jerry Rodriguez.
Robinson hit .275 with 14 home runs and 81 RBIs at the Sox Triple-A Tucson (Ariz.) affiliate in 1971 but the 28-year-old never got the call to Comiskey Park.
McKeesport, Pa., native eventually became an offensive force with the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates or the 1970s and 1980s. Rodriguez never saw a big-league field.
Robinson, a fiery competitor, had his best season for the 1977 Pirates (.304, 26 HR, 104 RBI), begging the question, “With Robinson at his peak, could the ‘Southside Hitmen’ have outhit their lack of pitching and porous defense to win the West?”
Here are some other Sox farmhands who got away and went on to bigger and better things:
Denny McLain: The right-handed pitcher was originally signed by the Sox in 1962 out of the legendary Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. … A rule of the day forced the Sox to expose McLain and the Tigers claimed him on first-year waivers in 1963. … His Detroit career included a 31-win season, two 20-win campaigns and two Cy Young Awards.
Bob Wickman: The Green Bay native was the Sox second round pick in the 1990 draft (which may have been the franchise’s best). … Following 40 appearances in the Sox system, the right-handed reliever was dealt to the New York Yankees with pitchers Domingo Jean and Melido Perez for Steve Sax. … Wickman went on to save 267 games in a 15-year career that included two All-Star berths.
Gio Gonzalez: For 756 days, it was hard to tell whether this left-handed pitcher was coming or going. … In that period, Gonzalez was traded by the Sox to the Phillies, the Phillies to the Sox and from the Sox to the Athletics. … The Sox first round pick in 2004 has reached double figures in wins in each of the last seven season, won 21 with the Washington Nationals and was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012.
Doug Drabek: Yes, the right-handed pitcher pitched adequately for the White Sox in 1997 but that was past his prime, which came with the Pittsburgh Pirates. … Drabek was the Sox 11th round pick in 1983 and was a star at the Sox Double-A Glens Falls affiliate the next season. The Sox made him part of the Roy Smalley trade to the Yankees in August of 1984. Before rejoining the Sox organization in 1997, Drabek was one of the best pitchers in the National League for the Pirates between 1987 and 1992. His career peaked in 1990 with the Cy Young Award. 1990? How would that have second place team looked with Drabek in the rotation with Jack McDowell, Greg Hibbard, Alex Fernandez and Eric King?
Others: Pitcher John Hudek was the Sox 10th round pick in 1988 who was lost in the 1992 Rule V Draft. He eventually made it to Houston where he became an All-Star and was second in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 1994. … Lefty Buddy Groom pitched in 786 big league games as a left-handed relief specialist between for the Tigers, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Yankees and Diamondbacks from 1992 to 2005. He was the Sox 12th round pick in the 1987 draft. He was 40-28 in the Sox system between 1987 and 1990. … Infielder Randy Velarde was the Sox 19th round pick in the June 1985 draft. He advanced to Triple-A in 1987 before he was dealt with pitcher Pete Filson to the Yankees for minor league infielder Mike Soper and pitcher Scott Nielsen. Velarde played 16 big league seasons with the highlight coming in 1999 when he banged out 200 hits.