The All-Time All-Star Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox franchise is an American League original, predating the American League itself, getting its start in the Western League, the minor league that eventually became the American League. The Sox won the first A.L. pennant in 1901, and took the franchise name of the Chicago National League franchise of years past after that team abandoned it. The team was one of the strongest franchises in baseball for the first 20 years of the 20th century, but scandal and bad decisions led the team in a funk that lasted for over 30 years. Today, the Sox are and up-and-down team that is as likely to contend as not. These are my selections for their greatest players at each position in team history.
(One disclamier: You will not see any members of the 1919 Black Sox on this team. Throwing a World Series is an unforgivable act, and I will not reward Eddie Cicotte or Shoeless Joe Jackson, who confessed to throwing the Series, with spots on this team. If you don't like it, make your own team.)
Catcher: Carlton Fisk. He's the All-Time Boston Red Sox catcher, but he played more games and spent more time as a member of the Pale Hose, and had some of his best seasons with this team. When he signed as a free agent in 1981, he brought instant credibility and a winning attitude to a moribund franchise. Two years later, the team had won its first division title and its first title of any kind in 24 years. Fisk's 1983 season was a big part of that, as he finished third in the American League MVP voting.
Although his Red Sox career was marred by injuries, his White Sox stint was known for durability. Fisk caught 2499 games in the major leagues, a record at the time (since passed by Pudge Rodriguez), and caught a majority of those with Chicago. He's fourth on the Sox career home run list with 214, and hit a career-high 37 in 1985. There are a few other contenders for best Chisox catcher ever, but Fisk is the easy #1 choice.
Other notables: Sherman Lollar, A.J. Pierzynski, and the guy who shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, Ray Schalk.
First Base: Frank Thomas. If ever there was a hitting machine in Chisox history, it was the man known as "The Big Hurt". Thomas was a two-time American League MVP, winning them back-to-back in 1993 and 1994. He was also one of the most patient hitters of all-time, leading the American League in both walks and on-base percentage four times each. He won the A.L. batting title in 1997 with a .347 average, and hit 40 or more home runs five times for the Sox.
Want more? He's the team's career leader in home runs with 448, runs with 1327, RBI with 1465, and walks with 1466. He's a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 2013.
Other notables: Paul Konerko.
Second Base: Eddie Collins. The Hall of Famer was sold in the prime of his career by Connie Mack in 1915, and it was one of the best pick-ups in team history. Collins, who was incredibly consistent, had a team-best .331 career average in the Pale Hose, and led an underachieving team to two American League pennants in 1917 and 1919.
Unfortunately, Collins, who attended college at Columbia, did not get along with most of his rough-hewn teammates, who resented his smarts and his salary, thus leading to the Black Sox scandal. Collins shared an infield with three co-conspirators of the plot to throw the 1919 World Series, and never touched the ball in infield drills with them. Despite that, he was an honorable man who wound up managing the team years later.
Collins is the club's career stolen base leader with 368, is third in walks, fourth in runs, and and fourth in hits. He is considered by many to be the greatest second baseman in American League history.
Other notables: Hall of Famer Nellie Fox.
Shortstop: Luke Appling. The Hall of Fame shortstop was known for two things during his long career, spent entirely with the White Sox: fouling balls off at will, and hypocondria .
He could hit foul balls all day long, which would wear pitchers out in those pre-bullpen days. Pitchers would sometimes give up and just give him a walk to save their arms.
He was also known as "Old Aches and Pains", a nickname he earned late in his career for telling his teammates how bad he felt with various made-up maladies, and then go out and have a great game. He was a very popular man in both the clubhouse and the press.
He could hit, too. He won the A.L. batting crown in 1936 with a .388 average, and later won a batting crown in 1943, hitting .328. His career average of .310 is third in team history, and he is the team leader in hits and games played, and second in doubles and runs scored.
Other notables: Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio.
Third Base: Robin Ventura. Third base has been a black hole as far as the White Sox are concerned. There was even a team history written about it with that problem as the title of it. But once Ventura took over in 1990 as the full-time hot corner man, the problem ended.
Ventura was outstanding with the glove, copping five Gold Glove awards during his White Sox stay. He could also hit, as evidenced by his 171 home runs in a Sox uniform. He walked a lot, 668 times in Chitown, and was a great clutch hitter as well. He would later help the New York Mets into the postseason.
Other notables: Willie Kamm, Joe Crede, Bill Melton (who if he had a healthy back would be the easy #1 choice).
Left Field: Minnie Minoso. Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was very upset that Minnie didn't get elected to the Hall of Fame this year, and I agree. Minoso deserves it.
Because he played forever, many people don't realize that he got a late start due to segregation. He was supposedly 25 when he started his White Sox career in 1951. However, since he was from Cuba and played in the Negro Leagues, who knew how old he was really was. There are a lot of fake baseball ages in that era, and Minnie's may have been one of them. Anyway, had he been allowed in the big leagues four years earlier, when Jackie Robinson had debuted, he would have a stronger Hall of Fame case.
One of the most popular players in team history, Minnie was known for being a great hustler in the finest sense of the word, running out every ground ball, and going after everything hit his way with gusto. He was also known for being hit by pitches. Comedian Robert Klein used to do a routine about Minnie getting hit every time he came to the plate. He does have a point. Minnie led the American League TEN TIMES in getting plunked, on his way to a career total of 192. But he had a career .389 on base percentage, so it paid off.
Minnie is sixth all-time in team history in runs scored, and fifth in RBI. He was a 6-time All-Star with the Sox, and was one of the most exciting players of all-time.
Other notables: Carlos Lee, Bibb Falk.
Center Field: Johnny Mostil. He was another hypocondriac, but he suffered from neuritis, a severe pain in the jaw, and tried unsuccessfully to end his own life in 1927. But before that, he was a great leadoff hitter, and would have been the Gold Glove center fielder (or would've battled it out with Tris Speaker) for many years.
His best season was probably 1925, when he led the A.L. in runs (135), steals (43), and walks (90). He had a career .389 on base percentage for his career, spent entirely with the White Sox. And his selection tells you more than anything how bad this position has been for the history of the team. Mostil was a good player, but not a great one. Nobody else in Sox history has been, either.
Other notables: Chet Lemon, Fielder Jones, Lance Johnson. Anyone of these guys would do just as well.
Right Field: Magglio Ordonez. (Calm down, Harold Baines fans, there's a reason for this. )
Ordonez played eight seasons with the Sox, and was a 4-time All-Star, hitting 30 or more home runs four times, and knocking in 100 or more runs four times also. He suffered an injury in 2004 and thus was let go as a free agent after the season, thus missing out on the 2005 World Championship team.
An outstanding all-around player in his tenure in Chicago, he is fifth on the team's career home run list with 187, and his .307 Sox average is fifth on the all-time list.
Other notables: Harold Baines, Jermaine Dye (I had him first until I took a good look at Magglio's numbers).
Designated Hitter: Harold Baines. If only he had a good set of knees, he'd be in the Hall of Fame. But he didn't, so he went from being a fine right fielder to one of the best designated hitters in the history of the game. He should've been given the nickname "Have Bat, Will Travel", for he bounced around from team to team, looking for that missing piece of the puzzle to get them over the top, and he was usually the piece, playing for playoff teams in Oakland and Baltimore as well as Chicago.
One of the most popular players in White Sox history, when he was traded to Texas in mid-1989, the outcry was so bad in Chicago that the team ended up retiring his number that season. How's that for popularity?
He is sixth on the team's career list in hits, fifth in doubles, fourth in RBI, and third in home runs. And he was always a tough out in the clutch. Had he had better knees, he might have gotten 3,000 hits.
Other notables: Frank Thomas.
#1 Starting Pitcher: Ed Walsh. One of the workhorses of the dead ball era, he is the last major leaguer to win 40 games in a season, which he accomplished in 1908, trying to pitch an anemic offensive team into the World Series. He hurled 464 innings that year, and had 11 shutouts. If there had been an American League Most Valuable Player award that year, he would've gotten it in mid-season. He pitched 42 complete game out of 49 starts, and pitched 17 more times in relief for the Sox. No one has come close to those numbers since.
The spitballer led the American League in innings pitched four times, five times in games pitched, and twice in both shutouts and strikeouts. And even though it was the dead ball era, his career ERA of 1.82 is far and away the best in the game's history. He pitched all but four games of his career with the Sox, and was the best pitcher in the team's history by far.
#2 Starter: Ted Lyons. The Baylor University prospect wound up being one of the best pitchers in team history. On most teams, he'd been the #1 starter. But here he's #2.
Lyons came around when the Sox were bad, and his won-loss record reflects that, with 260 wins and 230 losses. all with the Sox. But he won 20 or more game three times with these bad teams, and led the A.L. twice in both complete games and innings pitched.
As his career was winding down, he became the team's Sunday pitcher. That is, he only pitched on Sundays for the last six full seasons of his career, actually completing all 20 of his starts in 1942.
He is the team's leader in innings pitched, starts, complete games, and wins, and had he been on a better team, he would've been a 300-game winner.
#3 Starter: Red Faber. Look, he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, but the Veterans' Committee voted every clean Sox player from 1919 except for Nemo Leibold, and the only reason he isn't in there is because even the Committee has standards.
But Faber was a very good pitcher for a long time. He and Ted Lyons share most of the longevity records in Sox history. Red won 254 games for the team, best in team history, and was one of the last legal spitballers when he retired after the 1933 season. In between, he won three games in the 1917 World Series, won by the White Sox. But he came up with a sore arm in 1919, and didn't appear in that Fall Un-Classic.
He was a four-time 20 game winner, but seemed to just hang around for the last 10 years of his career. He benefited from being on a great team in a pitchers' park, old Comiskey, but once the team declined, his workload did, too. I would take Lyons over Faber because Lyons had a worse team behind him than Faber did for most of their careers. Still, Faber is one of the best pitchers in team history.
#4 Starter: Billy Pierce. Pierce was stolen from the Detroit Tigers along with $10,000 for catcher Aaron Robinson. It was one of the greatest heists in baseball history. Pierce, who was a Detroit boy, reached stardom with the White Sox under the tutelage of first Paul Richards, and then Al Lopez. He was the anchor for a suddenly competitive White Sox team in the 1950's.
The left-hander led the American League in complete games three times, and was a seven-time A.L. All-Star. He is fourth in team history in wins, with 186, and is the team leader in strikeouts with 1796.
Other notables: Wilbur Wood, Thornton Lee, Jack McDowell, Doc White.
Relief Ace: Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. Okay, I know that he's only fourth in team history in saves with 98, but relievers in the 1960's were used differently than they are today. Wilhelm came into a lot of tie games and pitched over 100 innings in three different seasons with the Sox.
Let's consider his 1964 season: 12-9 record, 27 saves, 131.1 innings pitched, and an ERA of 1.99. I'd take that over any 40-save guy of the modern era. And that was a typical year for the ancient knuckleballer. He wound up with 41 wins and 98 saves in six seasons with the Sox, and averaged over 100 innings a season. Not bad for a guy who joined the team when he was 40 years old.
He is fourth in team history in games finished, and had a 1.92 ERA with the team. He's my pick.
Other notables: Bobby Thigpen, Bobby Jenks, Roberto Hernandez. Keith Foulke, Terry Forster.
Manager: Al Lopez. Ordinarily, I'd picked a manger who won a World Series, but I'll go with Lopez, who took a poor-hitting team into contention year after year, winning the American League in 1959. And he almost won the A.L. pennant in 1964, finishing one game off the pace in an exciting three-team race. He's in the Hall of Fame for his managerial career with bot the Sox and the Cleveland Indians.
Other notables: Fielder Jones, Ozzie Guillen.
Those are my choices. What are yours?