Category Archives: Uncategorized

COUNTDOWN TO WHITE SOX OPENING DAY: 96 DAYS

96 days until White Sox Opening Day!

Alex Fernandez threw the Sox first pitch ever in the month of March in the franchise’ 96th Opening Day in 1996.

Who will throw the first pitch in the Sox latest March Opener on the 29th in Kansas City? Shields? Rodon? Fulmer? Giolito? Not known yet?

Fernandez’s start (a no decision) in that 12-inning loss was the last of his two Opening Day assignments for the Sox.

Advertisements

REMEMBERING SOX ICON “JUNGLE JIM” RIVERA

Here is a look back at the White Sox life of franchise icon Jim Rivera, who passed away recently at age 96:

*born on July 22, 1921 in New York City

*hit .256 with 83 home runs and 422 RBIs as an extremely popular outfielder for the White Sox from 1952 to 1961

*earned the nickname “Jungle Jim” from a Chicago newspaperman for the way he flapped his arms to wave his fellow fielders off of fly balls

*acquired by the Sox from St. Louis with Darrell Johnson for JW Porter and Ray Coleman on July 28, 1952

*singled and doubled in his first two White Sox at bats on July 29, 1952 vs. the Yankees at Comiskey Park

*first White Sox home run was a two-run shot in his second game with the club in a 7-0 win over the Yankees on July 30, 1952 at Comiskey Park

*ended his Sox career second in team history to Jim Landis (73 percent) with a 71 percent stolen base success rate (currently ranks 14th)

*ranks in the White Sox all-time top 50 in games (26th with 1,010), at bats (39th with 3,075), plate appearances (40th with 3,472), runs (37th with 438), hits (43rd with 791), total bases (39th with 1,256), doubles (45th with 134), triples (18th with 50), homers (34th with 77), RBI (41st with 382), walks (33rd with 312), steals (18th with 146), singles (50th with 530), extra-base hits (35th with 261), times on base (40th with 1,124), intentional walks (27th with 22), sac flies (28th with 24)

*set White Sox record (still ranks 10th) with a 90 percent stolen-bases success rate in 1957

*league-leading 16 triples in 1953 were the most by a White Sox player in 16 seasons

*league-leading 16 triples in 1953 are tied for the 11th best output in White Sox history

*topped the American League with 25 stolen bases for the 1955 White Sox

*paced the A.L. in stolen-base success rate for the Sox in 1957 (90 percent) and 1958 (87.5 percent)

*led A.L. outfielders in assists in 1953 (10) and 1954 (11) for the White Sox

*topped A.L. outfielders with seven double plays for the 1955 Sox

*ranked in the American League’s top seven in triples three times in his White Sox career (1952, 1953, 1954, 1957)

*ranked in the American League’s top two in steals in each season between 1952 and 1958 for the White Sox

*made his big league debut at first base in the White Sox 3-2 win over Cleveland on Opening Day 1957

*homered in White Sox 4-2 win in Cleveland to clinch the American League pennant on Sept. 22, 1959

*started Games 1, 3 and 4 in right field for the White Sox in the 1959 World Series

*over-the-shoulder catch in right with two on and two out in the seventh preserved the White Sox lead in a 1-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1959 World Series before 92,706 at the LA Coliseum

*scored the Sox final tally in their seven-run third inning in their 11-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1959 World Series at Comiskey Park

*served as one of Bill Veeck’s models as the Sox unveiled their shorts in March of 1976

*on the field when the Sox honored the 1959 pennant winners before Game 1 of the 2005 World Series

*By my count, Landis is the 28th member of the Sox 1959 pennant winners to pass away. Still living are Rudy Arias, Sam Esposito, Joe Hicks, Barry Latman, J.C. Martin, Ken McBride, Gary Peters, Claude Raymond, Jim Rivera, John Romano, Lou Skizas and Joe Stanka.

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. ”

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.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROLAND HEMOND (AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ’05 TITLE)!

Roland Hemond had quite the birthday in 2005. Photo: https://goo.gl/images/VCvxsb

Twelve years ago Thursday, Roland Hemond had the best birthday ever.

Hemond, who served as White Sox general manager from 1971 to 1985, began the day watching the Sox win Game 3 of the 2005 World Series in Houston in his capacity as executive advisor to general manager Ken Williams.

The Sox epic 7-5 win in 14 innings ended in the wee small hours of Oct. 26, which was Hemond’s 76th birthday.

Later that day, Hemond, still in birthday mode, watched the Sox finish off the Astros for the title with a 1-0 win in Game 4.

“It was hard to describe,” said Hemond, a baseball lifer who has spent more than a half century in the game.

“It was very emotional for me. That’s the ultimate of my career.”

12 YEARS AGO: MY GAME 2 JOURNEY


When I walked out of cold and wet U.S. Cellular Field 12 years ago Monday  –- for what would be the last time during that magical 2005 season – I knew I had not only witnessed the greatest game in the history of the White Sox but in the history of the great City of Chicago as well. 

I was so stunned and emotionally drained after Scott Podsednik’s walkoff homer had given the Sox a 7-6 Sunday night win over Houston and a 2-0 lead in the World Series that was about the most coherent thought I could muster.

The fact that I witnessed and worked this classic with people I love and respect made it the most amazing sporting event of my life.

I was there in my capacity displaying graphics on the scoreboard while my baby brother and youngest daughter were in the stands taking it all in.

My daughter Ellie, right, and my co-worker Jen McMahon after Game 2 of the 2005 World Series.

Usually my wife would have been at the game but she was with our oldest daughter 95 miles and 90 minutes to the north at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center at a Paul McCartney concert.

Sir Paul is a must-see for us so when that tour was announced we bought the Milwaukee tickets and joked that the only possible thing that could keep me from the show was if the Sox were in the World Series. 

It was no joke.


My wife and daughter kept tabs on the game via text while seeing another classic performance by Paul.

By the way, that night Paul did NOT play any songs that The Beatles performed at their day-night doubleheader at Comiskey Park on Aug. 20, 1965.

For many, the other Paul in our life —  Konerko — had the game’s most memorable moment with his grand slam in the seventh inning.

And why not?


The slam –- the first by a Sox player in postseason and the 18th in World Series history — gave the Sox a 6-4 lead and sent the 41,432 into a frenzy.

Konerko’s blast was the first slam in World Series history that came in the seventh inning or later and erased a deficit. 

This game was not without controversy, which obviously contributed to its greatness.

With one out in the seventh, Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

The Astros protested that the ball hit the bat and not Dye and replays backed that up. However, Dye took first and Konerko followed with the slam.

Those feisty Astros tied the game with two in the ninth off Bobby Jenks with the tying run scoring on a close but clearly safe play at the plate.

In the ninth, Juan Uribe led off with a fly out to center before Podsednik sent Brad Lidge’s 2-1 pitch into the right field stands to put the Sox two wins from their first World Series title since 1917. 

When the ball landed in the right-center field seats, I put both hands on my head, looked at the first person I could find and made the declaration of the greatness of the game that I would repeat to this very day.


That game holds up and the memories endure as the years fly by.

What has emboldened that for me is something I discovered years later while watching the MLB Network.

In recapping Podsednik’s blast, I caught a glimpse of the scoreboard — my scoreboard — as the camera tracked the flight of the ball. I could see based on just the lower-part of the graphic that I had Podsednik’s career stats vs. Lidge on the board for that pitch of that at bat.

The gravity of the moment made it a blur for me at the time so that snippet is a nice snapshot of that night for me.

As with Podsednik as he described on the White Sox Talk Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/white-sox-talk-podcast/id1162163703?mt=2&i=1000392820481), the moment did not get too big for me or anybody else working that unforgettable night.

Happy 12th birthday Game 2 of the 2005 World Series: The greatest workday of my life! 

DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’!