November 28, 2014

White Sox May Need a Lesson in Their Own History

June 15, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

I was visiting Chicago recently on a trip from baseball’s “land of milk and honey,” also known as Philadelphia, and had the opportunity to take in a ballgame and cross another stadium visit off my list.. Chicago, baseball, Cubs, Wrigley is how the order of it all plays out in my mind when I think of the Windy City. Unfortunately the Cubbies were in Philly, which destroyed any thoughts of an afternoon at “the friendly confines” soaking in the sun and the nostalgia. The White Sox were in town, but I have to admit that knowing you are going to Chicago to see a baseball game but finding out you will be getting a ticket to US Cellular Field is pretty much the equivalent of being told you are going to the college basketball Final Four only to find out it is for the women’s and not the men’s bracket.

I have to give US Cellular Field credit though for living down (up?) to its reviews and not being a real impressive cathedral to the game or the team it houses. The field should be used as a template in what to avoid when building a stadium and ignoring some quality history from a franchise that has it to offer. The Cubs may be the lovable losers in the city and the country for that matter, but the Pale Hose have what I believe to be some outstanding players and interesting championship teams from an era long ago and evidently forgotten. When going to a park for the first time I always like to see how they celebrate great teams and players of the past and felt that US Cellular had some real potential to educate fans on some of the true ChiSox greats that have donned the iconic S-O-X emblem. Being a Black Sox junkie I already had some knowledge of the players from that time period aside from “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. I accepted before even researching that Jackson and the infamous 1919 squad would be not recognized in any way, which I was fine with.

Before my trip I checked the internet to see what the stadium had to offer as far as plaques, monuments or statues that I could visit while there. They had the usual suspects that I had anticipated in Carlton Fisk, Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio along with a huge memorial in front of the stadium honoring the 2005 World Series team, a team that was as memorable and distinct as a Brendan Fraser movie. What stood out to me most was the lack of acknowledgement from a franchise that has been playing for well over 100 years of prior championship teams and some Hall of Fame players that would be worth sharing with their current and future fan base. I believe an organization’s job is to keep the level of interest up for the current team but at the same time promote and educate those fans who look around and want to find the legendary teams and mythic icons of the past, even if it was close to a century ago.

I question how many people know that the White Sox have more to offer than just a 1919 team, who is to infamy what the 1927 Yanks are to glory, and also offer icons beyond the romantic lore of a banned “Shoeless” Joe. I have nothing against the Sox players who have statues and retired numbers there, like Harold Baines and Billy Pierce, but there are others who should have come before….wayyyyy before, them. What players or teams do I think got the short end of the fungo bat, you ask, when it comes to proper recognition?

The first one is a no-brainer and I cannot figure out the logic in not including him, and that is Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins. I would argue that Collins should be in any conversation that starts by asking, ‘Who is the best second baseman of all time?’   Collins played 12 years for the Sox, had a lifetime average with them of .331, an OPS of .849 and collected over 2,000 hits on his way to 3,000 during an era when a team’s best player was not necessarily its second baseman. On top of that he played for the 1917 World Series winning team where he batted over .400 and was one of the few star players not implicated in the 1919 scandal. Let’s review; not just a Hall of Famer but an all-time great, over 3,000 hits, a .333 lifetime average, played on one World Series winning team for a franchise that has only won three and rose above the controversy of the 1919 team. And they put up a statue of Harold “1,700 plus hits, a .288 average and no title with the Sox” Baines? I am sure Baines is a super guy but the only way he is getting to Cooperstown is if he drives there. Sorry.

Even the fact that the 1917 team that Collins played on gets no love is a head-scratcher. That team was loaded with, alongside Collins, Hall of Famers Ray Schalk and pitcher Red Faber, plus the greatest Sox player of all-time, Joe Jackson. In a 154-game season these guys won 100 games, which is not too shabby, and beat the 98-win New York Giants, who were led by Hall of Fame skipper John McGraw and were somewhat of a dynasty in the making. At the time the Giants were making their fourth World Series appearance in the past seven seasons. In other words the Sox did not beat some 80-win wild card team. I read the other day on a Red Sox blog that was looking at the BoSox’s chance of winning 100 games this year, that 96 times a team has won at least 100 games in a season and only 34 times did that team go onto capture the title. Not an easy task in winning that many games, and by no means does it guarantee the ultimate hardware, as the stats show. Is this 1917 team not one that I want the next generation of fans to know about? White Sox fans please help me understand, is everyone in the front office drinking that toxic river water?

It is a question asked before each season and is usually answered with a “no” by the all-star break and that is, will a pitcher ever win 30 games in a season again? How about this trivia question, who was the last pitcher to win 40 games in a season? That would be Sox Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh, who in 1908 went 40-15. Now unless the Phillies switch to a three-man rotation to get Roy Halladay more starts, I feel safe in saying that mark will never come close to being touched again. In addition to having a season for the ages in ‘08, Walsh also led the 1906 ChiSox to their first championship ever over the 116-win crosstown rival Cubs by winning two World Series games. This was considered one of the bigger World Series upsets in history, and not just because of the Cubs’ staggering win total. Walsh helped lead a team dubbed “The Hitless Wonders,” aptly given to them for having the lowest team batting average in the AL for the 1906 season. They lived up to the name, and then some, in the World Series by batting a collective .198. Despite the anemic offense the Sox and Walsh prevailed. Walsh is a Hall of Famer, a 40-win season on his resume, and won two games in the postseason for a team known for their lack of offense AND beat their shared city rivals in the process. How could this be overlooked?

So we have a Baines and Pierce tribute but no Collins or Walsh. A 2005 memorial, but nothing for a stacked 1917 team that won 100 games and a 1906 one that upset their sworn enemies at a time when baseball meant everything to a city. If you are lucky enough to have legends, amazing teams and mythical stories that you want passed on to show the roots of your franchise than you have to get it out there to the public. It is a disservice to the game to not promote this in your own ballpark. I fear that if you are not a history buff then eras like this will soon be forgotten.

Pickoffs:

  • 2011 Topps Pro Debut came out June 1st which marks the first minor league baseball cards of the year. Even more excited to see that the Topps Heritage product line is coming out with a 1962 throwback minor league edition in September. I already see myself getting a box of each under the cover of that it is for my boys.
  • After completely going off on the Sox about questionable players being immortalized, I have to admit that I do think the D-backs should do something to honor Casey Daigle and what he has done. Daigle pitched for Arizona in 2004 & 2006 throwing 61 of his 71 current career innings there. He may not have Hall of Fame numbers but he married Jennie Finch which makes him an all-time great in my book.
  • I am liking the 15-team realignment talk, but just not the two 15-team divisions where the top six teams in each make the post season. How do you get pumped for a late September game where your team is trying to secure sixth place? Three divisions with five teams each works for me, there is something magical about divisional races and I don’t want to see that lost.
  • Next time you are flipping and come across MLB Tonight on the MLB Network check to see if former big leaguer Eric Byrnes is one of the analysts. Byrnes is hilarious and answers the question of whatever happened to Jeff Spicoli when he left Ridgemont High.

Matt Aber is a baseball enthusiast who was disappointed to learn that Commissioner Selig did not tab him to run the Dodgers operations when MLB took control of the team in April. Matt wonders if his competence and ability to make sound decisions worked against him in getting an interview with the Commish. Matt is an advocate of the national organization called The Miracle League which allows special needs children to play baseball. He encourages you to support this worthy cause and learn more at www.miracleleague.com.

Comments

2 Responses to “White Sox May Need a Lesson in Their Own History”
  1. Jacob says:

    Matt, you didn’t see the murals throughout the upper concourse featuring just about every important player and moment in Sox history?

    Here’s a Jackson/Weaver portion: http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/36690_1465081420880_1048850640_1404823_7231882_n.jpg

    It was pretty detailed. I was impressed; haven’t seen any team document its history quite as well as the Sox have done there. Most teams have a trophy case with a few artifacts and maybe some banners/photos around the stadium, but that’s about it.

  2. Matt Aber says:

    Jacob –

    I did not see this at all and wish I did. On the Sox website I was looking under the “Ballpark Attractions” section and it really only mentions the Legends Sculpture Plaza as a point of interest. I walked around the entire 100 level concourse and the suite level looking for historical things like this. The suite level only seemed to have large black and white pics of Sox through the years and I did see a Buck Weaver one but that was not even labeled.

    I even talked to a Sox fan about my surprise of not seeing anything and he told me he did not know why they did not have anything and never saw anything either. I even looked into it more on the internet when I got back because I thought I had to be missing something and still could not find anything. Between what I saw at the park, talking to the fan and not being able to find anything else in poking around, all signs pointed to them dropping the ball. Obviously I stand corrected!! Thanks for sharing the pic and your thoughts.

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