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 baseballreference.com 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.”

XMAS IN SEPTEMBER: @SOXNERD STYLE


I have tweaked this post on various sites around Christmas but with today’s anniversary, July,” I’d thought I’d reprise it …

The only player in Major League history with the last name Christmas played 12 of his 24 big league games with the 1986 White Sox.

Catcher Steve Christmas hit .364 with a double, a clutch home run and four RBIs in his time with the White Sox.

The Sox “Christmas Story” began on Nov. 21, 1983 when the left-handed hitter was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for infield prospect Fran Mullins.

Christmas, who hit .059 in nine games with 1983 Reds, was a non-roster invitee to spring training in Sarasota, Fla., but began 1984 at the White Sox Triple-A affiliate at Denver where his teammates included Jerry Manuel, Ron Karkovice, Tim Hulett, Daryl Boston, Joel Skinner and Larry Rothschild.

Christmas’ first stint with the Sox came from June 12 to June 22. The native of Orlando, Fla., was brought to Chicago when Carlton Fisk went on the disabled list.

Christmas didn’t see any time behind the plate as the Sox went with the highly-touted Skinner in Fisk’s absence. Christmas’ first action with the Sox finally came on June 14 when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter for Jerry Dybzinski.

Two days later, Christmas delivered a pinch-RBI single in the ninth inning of a 6-4 loss at Oakland. Christmas was hitting for Scott Fletcher and got his hit off of Oakland closer Bill Caudill.

In his next appearance, Christmas came through again, this time notching a one-out pinch-double off future Sox “gas can” Mike Stanton in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss at Seattle June 19.

Christmas was returned to Denver after the White Sox 8-6 win over the Twins June 22 in Minnesota. Christmas finished the season at Denver where he helped the Bears earn a spot in the American Association playoffs. Denver upset the Cubs’ Iowa affiliate in five games in the semifinal round before bowing to Louisville in five games in the championship series.

Christmas, who shared time behind the plate with Skinner, Karkovice and Jamie Quirk, hit .278 with four homers and 29 RBIs during the regular season for Denver.

He returned to the White Sox for the rest of the season in early September.

Christmas made his Comiskey Park debut in a 5-4 loss to Oakland on Sept. 5, 1984 when he was retired for the second out pinch-hitting for Vance Law in the ninth.

After another unsuccessful pinch-hitting appearance Sept. 8, 1984 against the Angels at Comiskey Park, Christmas made his lone defensive appearance with the Sox. On Sept. 16, 1984 in Anaheim, Christmas entered the game in the eighth inning at catcher. He played one inning in the 4-2 setback, catching Richard Dotson and could not throw out Gary Pettis trying to steal.

The next time Christmas took the field he made things merry for the Sox.

31 years ago today, on Sept. 19, 1984, Christmas, pinch-hitting for Marc “The Booter” Hill, launched a three-run pinch-homer in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie in a 7-3 win at Minnesota.

The blast, which victimized the team that drafted and signed Christmas, came off Mike Smithson with Greg Walker and Dybzinski on base as the defending American League West champs barely stayed alive in the division race (nine games back with 11 to play).

The next day, Christmas posted what turned out to be his final hit with the Sox.

He led off the 13th with a single off Ron Davis batting for Hill and was then lifted for pinch-runner Rudy Law. The Sox couldn’t parlay Christmas’ last gift to the Sox into a run and wound up losing 5-4 to the Twins in the next inning.

That hit peaked Christmas’ average and on-base percentage at a whopping .571 and placed his slugging percentage at a more-than-robust 1.143.

From there, Christmas went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to close out his Sox career.

Christmas first time ended for the Sox on Dec. 10 when they released him. A little more than a month later, it was Christmastime again for the Sox as they signed him with a free agent.

Christmas received another non-roster invitee to spring training but he did not make the club nor did he appear with the Sox during the 1985 season. Christmas spent 1985 at the Sox Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo where he manned third base and appeared some at designated hitter.

Playing for John Boles, who would later manage the Flordia Marlins, Christmas finished fourth in the American Association with a .298 average while finishing second on the Bisons to Joe DeSa (17) with 16 home runs.

Following the season, Christmas was granted free agency and signed with the Cubs thus closing the book on the Sox “Christmas Story.”

AN UNDERRATED ’05 MEMORY: WIDGE TO THE RESCUE!

Aside from the obvious postseason moments, my favorite White Sox memory of 2005 occurred on a Sunday afternoon at U. S. Cellular Field by a little-known contributor acquired on this date in 2004.

On Aug. 21, 2005, the White Sox were in dire need of a victory. The team had lost seven in a row by a combined score of 42-20 and the seemingly insurmountable lead atop the American League Central was evaporating.

The fact that the White Sox were facing Randy Johnson and the Yankees on that 78-degree day compounded the feeling of doom.

The White Sox lineup card didn’t provide much solace either.

While the Yankees fielded a team that included Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, Ozzie Guillen’s lineup card had Pablo Ozuna at third, Chris Widger behind the plate, Brian Anderson in left and Geoff Blum at first.

No problem.

The Sox clubbed four home runs off the “Big Unit” in the fourth inning en route to a rousing 6-2 win.

When Widger, signed on this date 12 years ago, capped the outburst with a three-run bomb off a pitch at his eyes, I knew 2005 was not going to be a typical Sox season.

Two months and five days later, I was proven right.

And I still can’t believe it.

96 YEARS AGO TODAY: LOOK AT THESE NAMES!

In one of the more eventful days in the early history of the franchise, the White Sox used the contributions of Red Faber, Joe Jackson, who was born on this date in 1887, and Ed Cicotte in sweeping a doubleheader from the Senators in Washington DC 95 years ago today.

In the opener, Faber bested the great Walter Johnson in a 4-1 triumph. Faber and the Sox handed “The Big Train” his 10th loss of the season. The mound appearance turned out to be the last of the season for Johnson, who was suffering from a sore arm.

In allowing just five hits, Faber, like Johnson bound for the Hall of Fame, halted Sam Rice’s hitting streak at 28 games.

In the nightcap, Jackson celebrated his birthday by hitting an in-the-park grand slam in an 8-5 victory. Jackson’s “inside slam” was just the third in team annals.

Cicotte was the winning pitcher as the third-place Sox closed to within 3.5-games of the A.L. lead.

FLAG DAY

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This Tweet got a lot of love after Friday’s White Sox 1-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Yes, interleague play has lost its luster.

Yes, 2005 has sapped the be-all end-all importance of a White Sox game vs. Cubs.

But, still, there is something special about a Sox triumph of the Cubs.

SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS: SOXNERD STYLE

It’s amazing what one baseball game can produce.

One glorious, thrilling Major League Baseball game.

Tuesday, the White Sox defeated the Cardinals 2-1 in 11 innings in St. Louis.

The headline-grabber was that Chris Sale joined Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers to record eight straight 10-strikeout games.

But in my world, that was just the beginning.

Did you know that …

*Jose Abreu’s second career start in the No. 2 hole gave him as many there as Frank Thomas had in his career and two more than Paul Konerko had in his.

*Sale joined James Baldwin (7-17-99), Scott Eyre (9-3-97), Billy Pierce (9-27-53), Bob Keegan (9-25-53), Virgil Trucks (7-4-53), Tommy Byrne (5-26-53) and Saul Rogovin (9-20-52) as Sox pitchers to hit safely in St. Louis over the last 63-plus seasons.

*Sale became the first White Sox pitcher to strike out 10 AND get a hit in the same game since Tom Bradley, who was 1-for-4 with 10 strikeouts on 9-29-72 at Texas.

*Sale became the first White Sox pitcher to whiff 10+, get a hit and score in a game since 9-17-71 when Bart Johnson K’d 12 and scored twice vs. California.

*The White Sox posted their first extra-inning win in St. Louis since 9-27-53 when they beat the Browns in the final American League game in the city.

*TylerFlowers hit the White Sox first extra-inning home run in St. Louis since 8-1-34 when ZekeBonura went deep vs. the Browns.

Before the game I tweeted “Let’s have some fun tonight.”

Oh, I did … and then some!

YES! A BASES-LOADED TRIPLE!

Bases loaded triples … I LOVE YA!

Thursday’s White Sox winner was a redemptive one of sorts for the @SoxNerd.

Over the years, there are certain stats, events or oddities I obsessively love to log.

These lists are born out of an incredibly specific event that happens in a Sox game which prompts me to ask: Has this ever happened before? When was the last time this happened? How often does this happen?

My goal is to go as far back on the White Sox timeline as possible.

Sitting on my thumb drive I keep on my person at all times (except for those occasions it has been “cleansed” in the wash) are (among others) Sox manifestos on one-out saves, walkoffs, first Sox hit a homer, 1-0 wins and bases-loaded triples.

Thursday, Carlos Sanchez added to the list of bases loaded triples. Ed Farmer tried cut in half my exuberance of a go-ahead hit AND a bases-loaded triple by immediately referring to it as a double but that talk quickly and thankfully dissipated.

The Sox kinda owed me one here.

On June 19, the Sox were poised to give me a @SoxNerd bonanza: A homer-only 1-0 victory.

Not only was that laid out in front of me, there were all kinds of ways that game could go: Most strikeouts in a homer-only 1-0 win, Sox home run leaders in 1-0 wins (that would have been No. 2 for Tyler Flowers), saves in a 1-0 homer-only win and so on and so on.

I COULD TWEET FOR HOURS!

I even had the Tweet ready to go: “That was the 252nd 1-0 win in @whitesox history … 27th HR only 1-0 win in team history.”

I constructed that at the start of the ninth. What could go wrong, right?

Seven batters later, that Tweet was a piece of garbage. David Robertson gave up two runs in the ninth, blowing the save, blowing Chris Sale’s gem and blowing a homer-only 1-0 victory as Texas prevailed 2-1 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Thursday, Sanchez and his .160ish average delivered a bases-loaded triple … in extra innings … in Detroit … as a rookie … batting ninth … as a second baseman!

The laser beam through the Tiger infield and past a sprawling Miguel Cabrera sent me scrambling for my thumb drive and putting me on a Tweeting flurry that referenced Ferris Fain, Carlos Quentin, Lance Johnson, Conor Gillaspie, Marcus Semien, Jose Abreu, Dayan Viciedo, Brent Lillibridge, Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Lofton, Liu Rodriguez, Ray Durham, Joey Cora, Steve Sax and Nellie Fox.

I could breathe again!

White Sox nuggets