Sox legend Frank Thomas, the “Big Hurt,” was listed on 84 percent of ballots to easily earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
On this date in 1935, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Miss.
While “The King” never appeared at Comiskey Park, his legacy has. The White Sox stage an “Elvis Night” annually and it is always one the season’s most popular promotions.
In fact, it has been rumored that tickets have been left for Elvis at New Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field on his night.
As part of “Elvis Night,” I put together some facts for display during the game to supplement the impersonators and tunes that highlight the evening.
Here are some of those nuggets which have been shown on the Sox center field scoreboard accompanied by a picture of Elvis or guitars or curtains:
THE SOX AND ELIVS
July 5, 1954: As Elvis recorded “That’s All Right” in the Sun Studios in Memphis, everything was all right for the third-place White Sox as they swept a doubleheader from Baltimore at Comiskey Park. Billy Pierce and Harry Dorish got the wins before 18,872 at 35th and Shields.
July 2, 1956: On the day Elvis recorded “Don’t Be Cruel,” the second-place White Sox were cruel to the Detroit Tigers with a 9-3 victory to improve to 40-26. Nellie Fox was particularly cruel to the Tigers. The future Hall of Famer was 3-for-5 with an RBI as the Sox halted a two-game skid.
Sept. 9, 1956: Elvis appeared on Ed Sullivan’s TV show for the first time while the Sox appeared in Cleveland. Hours before Elvis went live from Hollywood for Ed, the Sox split a doubleheader at Cleveland with Gerry Staley getting the win and Larry Doby and Minnie Minoso homering in the Sox 6-2 nightcap triumph.
April 30, 1957: The Sox took no prisoners in a 6-1 win over Baltimore at Comiskey Park on the day Elvis records “Jailhouse Rock.” Doby locked down the win when his RBI single capped a four-run seventh.
Sept. 24, 1957: The Sox edged the Kansas City Athletics 7-6 in Missouri to improve to 89-60 on the day Elvis released the single “Jailhouse Rock.” Bonus baby Ron Jackson had the performance of his life, going 4-for-5 with a double and two RBI.
Aug. 27, 1965: As the Beatles visited and jammed with Elvis at the King’s California home a week after playing a day-night doubleheader at Comiskey Park, the Sox divided a twinbill with Boston at Comiskey Park. The Sox took the opener 3-2 on Ken Berry’s RBI double in the eighth. Future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm got the win with two perfect innings of relief.
Sept. 6, 1971: On the day the Sox last had a pitcher hit a homer in the pre-DH era, Elvis closed a month-run at the Las Vegas Hilton in which he broke his own attendance records. Reliever Steve Kealey went deep in the Sox 6-3 Game 1 win in over the Twins at Comiskey Park. The next time a Sox pitcher would homer would be in the post-Elvis Era of 2006 in Cincinnati (Jon Garland).
June 11, 1972: The Sox Luis Alvarado fashioned an afternoon to remember on the day Elvis played the last of his four sold out shows at Madison Square Garden. Alvarado keyed a Sox sweep of the Brewers by going 4-for-8 with a homer in the twinbill. Carlos May capped the sweep when his single the ninth ended it.
June 16, 1972: Elvis played Chicago, the Sox played Boston. With Elvis entertaining fans at the Chicago Stadium, the Sox split a doubleheader in Boston. The Sox took Game 1 5-4 with the help of a Bill Melton home run in the first inning.
Aug. 1, 1972: Elvis released his single “Burning Love” as the White Sox and Wilbur Wood burned through a 1-0 win in 1 hour and 58 minutes over the Rangers in Texas. Future Sox pitching coach Dick Bosman took the loss in burning hot Arlington.
Aug. 4, 1972: On the day Elvis kicked off a one month run at the Las Vegas Hilton, the Sox trimmed Texas 3-2 at Comiskey Park on Dick Allen’s RBI double in the ninth.
May 2, 1977: Elvis played Chicago for the last time. The Sox played in Kansas City and didn’t muster as many hits as Elvis. The Sox lost 2-1 with Jorge Orta (2) and Oscar Gamble (2) collecting all of Chicago’s hits.
June 26, 1977: Elvis played his final concert at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. That day, the “Southside Hitmen” Sox fell at Minnesota despite a 4-for-4 performance from Brian Downing and homers from Lamar Johnson, Eric Soderholm, Jim Essian and Chet Lemon.
Aug. 16, 1977: On the day Elvis passed, the Sox fell 11-10 to the Yankees in New York with Jim Spencer hitting two homers and Lamar Johnson going 4-for-5.
Note: Image found on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/326440672962390909/
The ’86 Sox had one of the most interesting rosters in team history.
Among those donning the Sox yarns in a roster assembled by general manager Hawk Harrelson that season were Tom Seaver, Harold Baines, Steve Carlton, Ron Kittle, George Foster, Ozzie Guillen, Bobby Bonilla, Kenny Williams, Tony La Russa, left fielder Carlton Fisk, Steve Lyons, Floyd Bannister, Neil Allen, Joliet’s Jack Perconte, Richard Dotson, Bob James, Joe Cowley, Ivan Calderon, Russ Morman, Daryl Boston, Ron Karkovice, Jose DeLeon, John Cangelosi, Ron Hassey.
It really was a cross-section of old and new! That roster definitely had an identity crisis!
Burks, who had struggled with back injuries during the later stages of his career in Boston, turned in a stellar 1993 as the Sox primary right fielder.
Under the watchful eye of trainer Herm Schneider, Burks played in 146 games and hit .275 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs in helping the Sox win the American League West.
Burks emerged as a team leader as the season wore on and was often seen sporting a “Go Hard or Go Home” t-shirt late in the year.
In the playoffs, Burks hit .304 with a homer and three RBIs as the Sox lost the American League Championship Series in six games.
He provided the Sox with one of the lasting moments in their history when he gloved the final out in the A.L. West Division-clinching victory over Seattle Sept. 27, 1993 at Comiskey Park.
Burks signed with Colorado after the season and played there until 1998. His big league career lasted until 2004.
In commemoration of Burks’ stellar 1993, here is my White Sox All-One Season team (only one season with the franchise):
Catcher, Charles Johnson (2000): One of the top backstops of his era, Johnson hit 10 home runs in just 44 games for the 2000 White Sox after being acquired from Baltimore (with Harold Baines) in a six-player exchange on July 31. Johnson, in the last year of his contract, hit .326 in the regular season in helping the Sox cement the Central Division title. The five-time Gold Glove winner signed with Florida after the season.
First base, Rudy York (1947): Acquired from the Boston Red Sox in June for World War II hero Jake Jones, York hit 15 home runs in 102 games for the White Sox. The 1943 A.L. home run and RBI champ and five-time All-Star was acquired because the Sox were desperate for power playing in cavernous Comiskey Park. He led the team in homers and was the only member of team to reach double digits in dingers that season. At age 34, he was released the following Februrary…. Honorable mention: Nick Swisher, 2008 (.219, 24 home runs).
Second base, Aaron Ward (1927): Between 1920 and 1925, Ward was the second baseman on three pennant winners and one World Series champion for the Yankees. In 1926, he was supplanted by the great Tony Lazzeri. A year later, he was traded to the Sox and watched his former team put together a season that every other season would be compared to until the end of time. Meanwhile, Ward assembled a solid campaign hitting .270 with a .360 on-base percentage while manning second base for manager Ray Schalk’s 70-83 Sox. The Sox put him on waivers and the Indians claimed him the following March.
Shortstop, Orlando Cabrera (2008): This guy was a winner and played every day. For the 2008 Central Division champion Sox, Cabrera batted .281 with 186 hits while playing in all but two of the team’s 163 games. Cabrera appeared in the postseason six times – including four years in a row – between 2004 and 2010. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with Oakland.
Third base, Kevin Youkilis (2012): Acquired from Boston on June 24, “Youk” couldn’t stop the collapse that cost the Sox the A.L. Central but he did provide a spark upon his arrival and some thrills. The homer off Jon Lester in Boston and the walkoff hit vs. Texas on July 4th were particularly memorable. Youkilis hit .236 with 15 homers in 80 games for the Sox. He signed with the Yankees for the 2013 season, which was his last. ATTENTION: In a matter of days, Todd Frazier could be manning this spot.
Left field, Steve Kemp (1982): In his free agent year, the left-handed hitting Kemp batted .286 with 19 home runs and 98 RBI after being acquired from the Detroit Tigers for Chet Lemon. Kemp did not re-sign with the White Sox but was never the same again.
Center field, Ellis Burks (1993): Not his natural position, I put Burks in center because he HAS to be on this team. The heart and soul of the A.L. West champs, Burks played in 21 games (20 starts) in center field. Burks joined the Sox after spending the first six seasons of his career as a center fielder for Boston. Burks parlayed his one season with the Sox into a multi-year pact with Colorado where he became an offensive force. … NOTE: If you are looking for a true center fielder for this team Dummy Hoy, the game’s first deaf player, manned the position for the 1901 champion Sox in his only year with the team. Hoy hit .294 with a .407 on-base percentage while leading the A.L. with 86 walks and 14 hit-by-pitches.
Right field, Richie Zisk (1977): “The Polish Prince” rivals Julio Franco and Ellis Burks as the greatest “one-season only” player in franchise history with his performance for the “Southside Hitmen.” Immensely popular to this day with fans, Zisk electrified the city with 30 home runs (which included one center field bleacher blast and a roof shot) in leading the free-swinging Sox to 90 wins. SO WHAT IF IT COST THE SOX FORSTER AND GOSSAGE AND ZISK WALKED AFTER 1977? IT WAS A FUN SEASON!
Designated hitter, Julio Franco (1994): The ageless Dominican hit .319 with 20 home runs and 98 RBIs in just 112 games in the strike-shortened 1994 season for the Sox. With no end in sight to the work stoppage that cost the Major Leagues the World Series and possibly the Sox their first crown since 1917, Franco signed to play in Japan with Chiba Lotte for the 1995 season. While Franco did return to North America in 1996, he never again played for the Sox, where he remains a fan favorite.
Starting pitcher, Kevin Tapani (1996): The durable right-hander was 13-10 with a 4.59 ERA in 34 starts for the one of the best teams in franchise history to NOT make the playoffs. Working on a one-year contract, Tapani bolted for the other side of town following the season. … OTHER CANDIDATES: Orlando Hernandez (2005), Joe Cowley (1986), Doug Drabek (1997), Ed Durham (1933), Ned Garvin (1902), Marv Grissom (1952), Gerry Janeski (1970), Cal McLish (1961), Claude Osteen (1975).
Closer, Tom Gordon (2003): Billy Koch flamed out as the stopper in 2003 so Gordon “flashed” to the rescue with a team-leading 12 saves after signing a one-year pact as a free agent. The curveballing righty was also 7-6 with a 3.16 ERA while fanning an eye-popping 91 batters in 74 innings. After the season, Gordon signed a two-year deal with the Yankees.
Who did I miss?