Remembering the 1983 White Sox with Greg Walker

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With the Chicago White Sox recent hot start catapulting them into first place, we’ve started hearing local sports media outlet or two comparing this year’s scrappy bunch to the 1983 division title White Sox. (come back tomorrow for more on this). And while it may be a little premature to draw parallels between the two squads, there is one striking similarity.

The ’83 Sox finished 60-25 down the stretch, while starting a very pedestrian 39-38. This team has gone a transcendent 25-5 since beginning the year an ugly 24-33. In order to match the ’83 team, they’ll have to go 50-25 in the second half. But before we figure out we’re actually going, we need to recall where we’ve really been.

Current Sox hitting coach Greg Walker played his first full season on that ’83 team. Coincidentally, he was born in 1959, the last time the Sox had won anything prior to that fateful summer. I recently had an exclusive with “Walk,” and we discussed that unforgettable Sox season.

By Paul M. Banks

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Back then, Walker was a rookie who had broken his wrist the previous season, missed pretty much all of 1982, and he was not projected to even make the ’83 team. But he did, and that began a very fruitful eight year career at the first base position.

“We knew we had a good team coming off the year before, I was just happy to be in the Big Leagues. We knew we had great pitching but we didn’t get off to a great start,” Walker told me. “We made the comeback and the starting pitching was just phenomenal in the second half,” he continued.

In ’83, the White Sox enjoyed their best success in a generation. The Southside hosted the 50th anniversary MLB All-Star game, won by the American League 13-3, one of the most lopsided in ASG history. The game’s MVP was Fred Lynn, who hit the first grand slam in the game’s history that evening. The same venue- Comiskey Park, also hosted the inaugural game in 1933.83 mlb all-star

After the Sox slow start, the front office decided they needed speed at the top of the lineup. They traded second baseman Tony Bernazard to the Mariners for Julio Cruz. With the addition of Cruz’s speed, they literally ran away with the AL West title, winning by a then record 20 GAMES.

“We had Rudy Law, who was a classic lead-off hitter, and when we traded for Julio Cruz, he gave us another speed element. We weren’t a powerhouse offense, but we had that with (DH Greg) Luzinski, (Hall of Fame catcher Carlton) Fisk and (Ron) Kittle had the big year, he was Rookie of the Year,” Walk said.

“We had enough power, very balanced offensively, but pitching was where it was at,” he continued.

The eye-popping 99-63 final record equaled that of the ’05 World Series Champions. It earned Manager Tony La Russa his first Manager of the Year award, and staff ace Lamarr Hoyt finished 24-10, with a 3.66 ERA to earn the league’s Cy Young Award, supplementing Kittle’s ROY honor. Yes, the pitching numbers were indeed phenomenal as Richard Dotson went 22-7 with a 3.23 ERA, number three starter Floyd Bannister won 16, and fourth starter Britt Burns had an ERA of just 3.58.

And the season had a catchy mantra too. Doug Rader, then manager of the Texas Rangers, derisively accused the team of “winning ugly” for their style of play, reflecting a tendency to win games through scrappy play rather than strong hitting or pitching.

Rader also thought that if the White Sox played in the Eastern Division, they would finish 5th behind powerhouses such as Baltimore, New York, and Milwaukee. Chicago media and White Sox fans picked up on the phrase, and turned “Winning Ugly” into an inspirational slogan.

“They were in the race with us and he (Rader) said they’re winning, but they’re winning ugly. And we were, we were winning close games with maybe a home run here, and steal a base and then maybe get a base hit. And you can win those games when you got great pitching,” Walker stated.83 ron kittle

The Rangers ended up finishing third, 22 games out, and two behind second place Kansas City.

According to Walker, it was leadership and team cohesion that made this group so special. “Good chemistry in the clubhouse, a nice mix of veteran leaders and young guys,the chemistry became unreal. Probably, the greatest combination of managerial and coaching staff in the history of the game: LaRussa, Charlie Lau, Jim Leyland, Eddie Brinkman, Dave Duncan, Art Kusnyer- guys that had been in the game forever,” Walker proclaimed.

I did the research and the math, and combined that group of individuals Walker mentioned have won 18 pennants, 9 World Series titles and 6 Manager of the Year awards; so I would agree. That probably is THE most accomplished group of coaches to have ever resided on one team’s staff.

While they had a great regular season run, it all came crashing down in the postseason when they lost to the Baltimore Orioles 3  games to 1 in the AL Championship Series. Baltimore won the World Series over Philadelphia that year, and the Sox have certainly struggles at times against the O’s since that ill-fated series.

LaMarr Hoyt led the White Sox to a 2–1 victory in Game 1, but the Orioles clinched the series with a 3-0 ten-inning victory in Game 4. Mr. Burns pitched a “grinderball” of a game, throwing 9 “excellent” shutout innings before a Tito Landrum homer served as a dagger into the heart of the Southside that October. I was five-years-old at the time and cried my eyes out, because I couldn’t understand how a team that led the league in runs, had just been outscored 19-4 in four games.

Check back here tomorrow for part two, where we discuss comparisons between the 1983 and 2010 White Sox

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    A where are they now? with the 83 Sox would be a lot of fun. Starting with Lamarr Hoyt. We all heard about what he was up to, got him eventually bounced from the league, I wonder what happened to him after the ’80s.

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