The franchise that is now known as the White Sox got their professional start in 1901, when the American League was first established as a rival professional league to the National League. Prior to this time, they had been a minor league team with roots going back to the Western League’s Sioux City Cornhuskers. The team was moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area briefly (by new owner Charles Comiskey), and then given permission to move to Chicago in 1900, when the Western League changed its name to the American League. They claimed the name White Stockings (a name previously used by the National League club in Chicago), and won the final minor league championship of the American League. The next season, the American League refused to renew its contract with the National League, and declared itself a competing professional league. The franchise’s name was adjusted to White Sox initially by headline editors at the Chicago Tribune because “Chicago White Stockings” was too long to fit on the page. The team officially adopted the shortened version of their name in 1904.
In their early years, the White Sox would win World Series championships in 1906 and 1917, but would be forever remembered for their loss in the 1919 Series. Before the series started, it became known that the heavily favored White Sox were being heavily bet against. The indications were that the series was fixed, but little was done to investigate, and the Reds beat the White Sox in 8 games. The next season, an investigation led to the confession of some of the players, and the lifetime ban of 7 of the White Sox’s best players. The team went into a downward spiral, and never finished above 3rd place again until 1957. They appeared in the ’59 World Series, but lost to Koufax’s Dodgers. They never really put it together again until the 1983 season, when they reached the playoffs for the first time since ’59. Since that time they’ve gone through several peaks and valleys – making the playoffs in ’83, ’93, 2000, ’05, and ’08, with a World Championship in ’05. But, in that time, they’ve also finished the season with losing records 13 times, and finished in 4th place or worse in their division 7 times. This is a team that has certainly gone through some very lean years, but has had its share of excellent players as well. Here’s their top 5:
5. Luke Appling (’30-’50) – this HOF shortstop appeared in 7 All-Star games, and was runner-up in the MVP vote in 1936, when he led the league with a .388 batting average, and again in 1943, when he led the league with a .328 average at the age of 36. He also had two other top-10 MVP finishes. On the White Sox’s all-time lists, he ranks 4th in OBP (.399), 2nd in runs scored (1319), 1st in hits (2749), 2nd in doubles (440), 3rd in triples (102), 3rd in RBI (1116), 8th in stolen bases (179), and 2nd in runs created (1412). The reason I have him ranked this low on the White Sox list is because, while he is near the top in several categories, he also has a decided advantage in the number of years he played for Chicago, allowing him to accumulate a lot of stats. Also, in his 21 seasons, other than the two years he led the league in batting, and the year he led the league in OBP (.419 in ’43), he never led the league in any significant offensive statistic.
4. Luis Aparicio (’56-’62, ’68-’70) – Aparicio burst onto the scene in 1956, leading the league in stolen bases, and winning Rookie of the Year honors. He went on to lead the league in stolen bases each of his first 9 seasons in the majors. In the 10 seasons he spent in Chicago, he appeared in 6 All-Star games, and won 7 Gold Gloves. In fact, during his career, he set the standard, winning 9 Gold Gloves at shortstop – a feat unmatched until almost 30 years later when Ozzie Smith won 13. He was also a key piece of the 1959 World Series team, batting leadoff, and hitting .308 in the Fall Classic, albeit in a losing effort. On the White Sox’s All-Time list he ranks 7th in runs scored (791), 8th in hits (1576), and 2nd in stolen bases (318).
3. Nellie Fox (’50-’63) – Fox came over to the White Sox from Philadelphia after the ’49 season, and almost immediately became a star. From 1951-1961, this HOF second baseman appeared in 11 consecutive All-Star games – a starter in 6. He also won 3 of the first 4 Gold Gloves given out from ’57-’60, after Rawlings initiated the award in 1957. He led the league in hits four times, and triples once. And, most significantly, he won the 1959 MVP, when he helped lead the White Sox to their first playoff appearance since the “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919. He ranks 3rd on the White Sox’s All-Time runs scored list (1187), 2nd in hits (2470), 4th in doubles (335), 1st in triples (104), 9th in RBI (740), and 4th in runs created (1099). What also should impress you about Fox is that in 14 seasons in Chicago, he accumulated a total of 192 strikeouts (less than some guys will strike out in one season). That’s an average of just 14 per season, and he never struck out more than 18 times in any season.
2. Ed Walsh (1904-1916) – I have to admit – this was a name I was fairly unfamiliar with until writing this post. When I was looking through the best pitchers the White Sox have ever had come through, I didn’t recognize this name. But, he kept showing up at or near the top of every list. Big Ed Walsh actually holds the major league record for career ERA – 1.82!! He’s also one of only two pitchers since the turn of the 20th century to win 40 games in a season (1908). He led the league in ERA twice, shutouts three times, strikeouts twice, K/BB ratio three times, and WHIP twice. Had there been a Cy Young award, he definitely would have won back-to-back awards in 1911 & 1912, since he finished 2nd in MVP voting both years. In addition to leading all White Sox pitchers in career ERA, he is 3rd on their all-time wins list (195), 4th in win pct. among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched in Chicago(.609), 1st in WHIP (0.995), 2nd in K’s (1732), 1st in shutouts (57), and 1st in K/BB ratio (2.85). He was inducted into the HOF in 1947.
1. Frank Thomas (’90-’05) – The Big Hurt was possibly one of the most underrated players of his era. Players with more flare (Bonds), or a more recognized name (Griffey), or on better teams (McGwire) would routinely receive more recognition than the consistent play of Frank Thomas. But from ’91-’97, his average year was a .330/.452/.604/1.056 slash line with 36 HR and 118 RBI. And that was on fairly mediocre teams (one playoff appearance the whole time). He led the league in OPS 4 times, won the batting title in ’97, and led the league in doubles in ’92. Thomas didn’t go completely unnoticed, as he did win back-to-back MVP’s in ’93 & ’94. But, overall, his career seemed to fly under the radar, unless you were a White Sox fan. There’s no question, however, who the greatest player in White Sox history has to be. Thomas ranks 10th on the White Sox All-Time batting list (.307), 1st in OBP (.427), 1st in SLG (.568), 1st in OPS (.995), 1st in runs scored (1327), 4th in hits (2136), 1st in doubles (447), 1st in HR (448), 1st in RBI (1465), 1st in adjusted OPS+ (161), and 1st in runs created (1770).
So, who did I miss? Is there someone that shouldn’t be in the top 5? Are they out of order? Let me know what you think.