Chicago’s top third basemen of the 1970s are celebrating their White Sox trade anniversaries today.
On this date in 1973, the Sox acquired Ron Santo from the Cubs. Two years later, they shipped Bill Melton to the California Angels.
Here are the details:
SANTO COMES ABOARD
In the biggest swap between the Chicago franchises, the Sox acquired Santo from the Cubs for pitchers Steve Stone, Jim Kremmel and Ken Frailing and catcher Steve Swisher.
The Cubs, looking to go young, turned to the Sox to deal Santo after Santo became the first player to refuse a trade (to the California Angels) based on the 10-5 clause (10 years in the big leagues, five years with the same club).
While the Cubs didn’t get much production out of their end of the deal, this swap has to be considered a bad one for the Sox.
Santo, the heart and soul of the Cubs from 1960 to 1973, never seemed comfortable on the Southside and “was vocal in his criticisms of Dick Allen’s special privileges,” according to Rich Lindberg’s “White Sox Encyclopedia.”
Santo lasted one forgettable year with the Sox, hitting .221 with five homers and 41 RBIs while playing DH, second base and third base.
BYE BYE, BILL
Two years later, the Sox traded Melton, their all-time home run leader, Bill Melton to the Angels in a four-player exchange.
Melton, a third baseman, went west with pitcher Steve Dunning for first baseman Jim Spencer and outfielder Morris Nettles.
Melton hit a Sox record 154 home runs between 1968 and 1975.
He set a Sox record with 33 home runs in 1970 and then tied it a year later when he became the first player in franchise history to lead the league in roundtrippers outright.
His later years with the franchise were hampered by a back injury and squabbles with broadcaster Harry Caray.
Melton’s injury in 1972 was particularly devastating.
“If Melton didn’t come up with a herniated disc in mid-season, he played just 60 games that year, I think that club would have gone onto the World Series,” White Sox GM Roland Hemond, who made both the Santo and Melton swaps, recalled years later.
Spencer was a solid contributor at the plate and a sensational contributor in the field for the Sox in 1976 and 1977.
The left-hander became the first Sox first baseman to win a Gold Glove in 1977.
On two occasions in 1977, he tied the club record with eight RBIs in a game (May 14, 1977 and July 2, 1977).
Melton played with the Angels in 1976, hitting six homers in 118 games. He played his final game on Aug. 30, 1977 for the Indians vs. the Sox in Cleveland. Melton was fanned by Ken Kravec in his last AB.
Melton, always a fan favorite, has worked as a studio analyst on Sox cable telecasts.
He was the subject of this entertaining White Sox Talk podcast https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/white-sox-talk-podcast/id1162163703?mt=2&i=1000392459385