An Unfiltered History of the Chicago White Sox

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By Paul M. Banks

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Before the 2005 Chicago White Sox won the title to give Chicago its first baseball championship in 88 years, the North and South-siders were suffering together despite their division. It’s about two groups who have suffered for a long time and reading the details is not exactly the most uplifting task one could undertake.   Reading it (other than 2005 of course) reminds me of the final scene in Apocalypse Now; when that eerie and ominous voice whispers “the horror, the horror.”

1901 White Sox finish with best record in the American League’s inaugural season. Unfortunately, there is no World Series for them to play in; the World Series is not invented until 1903.

1906 This was the year pigs flew, hell froze over, and both Chicago teams appeared in the World Series. Somebody had to win it right? That somebody was the White Sox better known as the “Hitless Wonders.” (team batting average .230 with 7 whole home runs)  Somehow, they find a way to pound out 26 hits and score 16 runs in the games 5 and 6 and take the series.  
1917   Just like the Los Angeles Angels failing to tag A.J. Pierzynski twice at crucial times during the ALCS, The Sox took advantage of their opponents gaffes and misadventures on the base paths. In the decisive game 6, two New York Giants(that’s the New York baseball Giants of course) errors put runners on the corners in the 4th inning. Happy Felsch then hit a grounder to Rube Benton. (don’t you just love how everyone was referred to by their odd nicknames, never first names, back then?)   Third baseman Heine Zimmerman failed to tag Eddie Collins who was a caught up in a rundown. Collins scored, then Chick Gandil came up and his base hit scored the other Sox base runners who advanced on Collins’ elusive maneuvers. Sox takes the series; then the 88 year drought begins.

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1919 This is it, the year of the franchise’s most infamous moment. This was the time of “Say it ain’t so Joe,” Shoeless Joe Jackson, Arnold Rothstein, The Great Gatsby and the inspiration for Field of Dreams. For more on The “Black Sox” scandal, eight players tossed out of baseball for throwing the World Series (despite being acquitted in a court of law) read Eliot Asinof’s Eight Men Out. What more likely to happen (since you’re a lazy bastard, is you’ll rent the movie with John Cusack and Charlie Sheen. Losing all of these players here rendered the Sox helpless in the league races for a decade and a half. 

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1920-1958   No postseason appearances. White Sox put together a bunch of great winning seasons during the 40s and 50s, but are unfortunate enough to play in the American League during the pinnacle of the Yankee dynasty. Also divisional play, the ALCS and the wild card have not been invented yet. These two factors leave them idle in October for 40 years.  

1959 During the apex of the cold war and nuclear paranoia, a widespread panic occurs in Chicago when the doomsday alerts are sounded. The warning sirens were set off to celebrate the Sox winning the AL pennant, not because of incoming Russian nuclear missiles. The first Mayor Daley apparently overlooked the contemporary culture of fear and political climate. Oh and the Sox lose the World Series to the Dodgers in six. Four years later, legendary shortstop Luis Aparicio gets angry when the Sox trade him to Baltimore. He tells them that it will take 40 years for them to win another pennant. He was wrong, it took 46 years.

1964 Sox go 98-64 (Third biggest win total in franchise history) but Yanks finish 13-1 down the stretch at the Sox are left out as the ALCS isn’t invented until 1969. 

1970  The bottom drops out as the Sox lose a franchise record 106 games.

1977  The “Southside Hit Men” become a well celebrated and well respected team. This historical fan favorite finished third after choking down the stretch. This is the Southside’s answer to the ’69 Cubs; a very beloved also-ran that is remembered and honored despite never winning anything.

1979 The year of the infamous ‘Disco Demolition’ promotion. White Sox hold pre-game festivities that featured an opportunity for the fans to blow up a disco record of their own choosing.  The promotion ends in fans storming the field, rioting and forcing the home team to lose by forefit. This event sets the standard stereotype that unruly malcontented field storming Sox fans would live up to and exceed 23 years later.

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1983 White Sox (99-63) run away with AL West, winning division by a then record 20 games. Despite leading the majors in runs scored, they only manage to reach the plate 3 WHOLE times in 4 games (stranding 35 base runners along the way) and lose to Baltimore in the ALCS. Cy Young award winner and infamous cocaine addict Lamarr Hoyt pitches them to a 2-1 victory in game 1.

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1986 Bobby Bonilla who would make 6 All Star appearances, is traded for Jose Deleon a pitcher who promptly goes 2-19.

1990 Sox put together a very strong team that finishes 94-68 during last season in old comiskey park. Too bad they play in Oakland’s division, and its still 8 more years till the wild card is introduced and livens up the baseball postseason.

1991 Sox open New Comiskey Park with a 16-0 loss to the lowly Tigers, finish another year in second place (a.k.a. the first-place loser) After the season they trade a skinny strikeout prone kid named Sammy Sosa for George Bell.  Bell had 112 RBIs in 1992, but was out of baseball by 1994. Sosa would hit the juice and spend 12 years on the north side of town would go on to smash over 550 home runs in his career. (and also move up to number two on the career strikeout list)

1993 Sox win AL West, clinching in dramatic fashion at home on a big home run by two sport star Bo Jackson. They also take home most of the league’s season awards (Cy Young- Jack McDowell, MVP- Frank Thomas, manager of the year- Gene Lamont) However, the postseason is a completely different story. In the ALCS, the Toronto Blue Jays eliminate them in 6 as Ace McDowell chokes big time. He surrenders 13 hits in his game one loss and lasts only two innings in his second playoff defeat.

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1994 The strike causes many fans to abandon Major League baseball for a few years. Many blame Sox ownership for being an instrumental part in the hard line stance of owners whose policies induced the culture of greed that precipitated the work stoppage. When strike occurs, Sox are in first place and 22 games over .500. The postseason is never played.

1997 The year of the infamous “white flag trade” In early August, White Sox find themselves just 3.5 games back of Cleveland in the race for the AL Central. Still Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf remarks “anyone who thinks this team can catch Cleveland is crazy.” The Sox then trade two of their top starters (Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin) and closer Roberto Hernandez to the giants for 6 minor leaguers (on the plus side, two of those players turn out to be solid relief pitchers Bobby Howry and Keith Foulke who were instrumental in the 2000 run to the postseason) With the goal of building for the future, the Sox essentially surrendered in the midst of a very winnable pennant race. This move angered and scarred the Sox fan base for quite some time. 

2000 The Sox roll through the regular season and finish with the best record in American league breaking franchise records for runs, RBIs, hits, doubles and homers along the way. In taking the Central division title they often celebrate to the team’s unofficial fight song: BahaMen’s “Who let the dogs out?” The Seattle Mariners, who also adopted the BahaMen song for celebrating the high points of their season, promptly sweep the Sox out of the first round as the Chicago bats go dead in October. (ALDS team batting average .185)

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2002 The infamous “Tom Gamboa/William Ligue Jr. & son incident” creates a new paradigm for inaccurately stereotyping White Sox fans as shirtless, mulletted, tattooed white-trash criminals. Research studies have shown that the Sox fan base is actually just as affluent, articulate, educated and accomplished as the Cub fan base. The misnomer was born one magical Monday night in September. On “half price” night, a repulsive scumbag and his son jump on the field and bludgeon Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa. The iconic image of a bloody Gamboa is seen all across the national sports media landscape.

2003 In the offseason, Comiskey Park became “U.S. Cellular Field!” and yet another corporate whore eradicates tradition furthering the commercialization of sports. Soon, “The Cell” becomes a new way for people (people not getting royalties from a cell phone provider) to refer to the park. The nickname becomes applicable when assault and battery is committed during a game AGAIN! Another on-the-field incident in another half-price night game versus the Royals. This time another scumbag assailant (Eric J. Dybas) attacks an umpire. Although this incident has a shorter lifespan in the news cycle, Dybas is quoted: We ain’t no white trash.” This quote has as much truth as Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”  As for the team itself, the Sox are in first in mid  September, but get a beat down from head to head matchups with the Twins who move on to the postseason in place of them

2004 The Sox are in first place at the all star break, but unfortunately the Sox’s two biggest sockers (Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez) get hurt in the second half. The Sox then tank down the stretch and finish a modest four games above .500

2005 We all know this year has a happy ending, but when the Sox saw their fat 15 game lead on August first slim down to a skinny game and a half in September (with still 6 games head to head with the hard-charging Indians) all the fatalists and doomsayers came out of the woodwork to lead the panic. It’s that routine pessimism of the city and their fan base that gave Sports Illustrated a legitimate reason to rank them as the worst franchise to be a fan of earlier that year. Of course, October was a wonderful and happy time. However, this is not a place for happy endings. If you’re looking for one, go rent a Disney movie.

2006 This collapse was a slow gradual death; not a choke. It was a downward spiral over a couple of months in which they never pulled away while having the wild card in hand on Labor day, but they didn’t officially die until the last week either. They kept winning and losing just enough to keep the fans unsure of where it was going. Each series down the stretch sent Sox nation mixed signals about what could happen in October, and whether they would reach the postseason or not. A late September trip to California sealed their fate. Good ‘ol Buddy Frank Thomas and the Oakland Athletics swept the Sox, closing their coffin. What should have been a huge home series against Detroit was nothing more than their last rights. The potential of a 57-31 first half went to waste because of a 33-41 second half. Why the disparity? A couple reasons include Mark Buehrle failed to show after the second half, going 3-9 during his final 16 starts and Jim Thome’s slowing down during the pennant race. Thome’s first half (30 homers, 77 RBIs) was a different half-season than his second. (12 HRs, 32 RBIs)

2007 Remember Memorial Day weekend? When the White Sox started a losing streak that felt like…I don’t know forever? And they were pretty much eliminated by Flag Day? Despite having the fourth highest payroll in the Major Leagues, the Sox gave us one of the most awful seasons of all-time slugging it out with the Royals to avoid last place and the Devil Rays to keep from being the worst team in baseball. Good times!

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  1. paulmbanks says

    If this seems like an intense amount of work…it’s from a book project I started a few years ago, but later scrapped. then I just added on to it.

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