Monday, December 5, 2016

Summertime reminiscences appropriate – even if Chicago memories fall short

“Harold. Harold.”
A youthful Harold who fell short of Hall

In my mind, it’s the mid-1980s in Chicago. The only question is whether it's a political rally involving the city’s mayor as in Washington. Or the White Sox’ right fielder as in Baines?

I COULDN’T HELP but remember the baseball career of Harold Baines, who on Sunday was formally rejected yet again for a spot within the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

As it was, the Hall of Fame got two new members – neither of whom have much of anything to do with Chicago.

Unless you want to recall how one-time Milwaukee Brewers owner/baseball commissioner Bud Selig originally tried to get into professional baseball by buying the Chicago White Sox so he could move them to his home Wisconsin city. A move that never occurred – although some people of a certain age can remember 1968-69 when the White Sox played a few ballgames each season at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Although my baseball reminisces prefer to remember on-field activity, rather than front office shenanigans. And baseball reminisces were definitely on my mind – my way of downplaying the first significant snowfall Sunday that hit Chicago.

IT’S EITHER REMEMBER Harold Baines, or think about how the snowfall was heavy enough that my father’s car wound up skidding into a ditch, and my 13-year-old niece wound up having to steer the car out while “grandpa” pushed. She’s still excited!
Belle set Sox team HR record in 1998

But as for me, I recall how Baines was the true talent of the White Sox of the 1980s – an era that had one division title in ’83 and a whole string of mediocre to crummy ball clubs in other years.

He was big enough to be brought back to the White Sox for two more stints; in the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st Century – while also bopping about other American League teams as a professional hitting machine. Texas, Cleveland, Oakland and his home city of Baltimore also saw him play – and the Orioles actually include him in the team’s personal Hall of Fame.
Sosa topped him that same season w/ Cubs

That, and the statue the White Sox have erected to Baines at the newly-renamed Guaranteed Rate Field are likely to be Harold’s honorifics. He did go through a career as a quiet kind of guy who didn’t try to bring a lot of glory to himself.

MOST DEFINITELY UNLIKE Sammy Sosa later of the Chicago Cubs (for whom he was traded to the Texas Rangers for in 1989), who along with Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson may have been the most over-bloated egos to ever play professional baseball.
'Eck' had a Vet Cmte vote Sunday

Not that Harold was the only former Chicago ballplayer or former ballplayer whose name brings to mind bad memories for our local ballclubs to be on the list of considerees by the hall’s Veterans Committee – which considers baseball executives and gives second-chances to former ballplayers already passed over by the Baseball Writer Association of American membership.

There was Albert Belle, the star 1990s slugger for the Cleveland Indians (who belongs to that team’s personal Hall of Fame) who had a two-year stretch with the White Sox – and in fact in 1998 set the team record for the most home runs in a season.
Had Vet Cmte vote, but not enough to get Harold over top

Belle hit 49. But that was the same year that Sosa had his 66 and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hit 70. They “saved” baseball (or so we thought). While Belle was just an afterthought.

McGWIRE WAS ONE of the ballplayers also passed over on Sunday, along with Will Clark of the San Francisco Giants – who in 1989 was the Most Valuable Player of the National League playoffs.

Of course, we in Chicago remember that year as the one in which a Cubs team containing future Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson perhaps should have won – only to get beat by Clark and his big bat.
Came closest to getting elected w/ Chi ties

With the Giants then going on to lose that World Series to the Oakland Athletics – who also were led by McGwire (in his pre-Cardinals days) and Jose Canseco (who finished up with the White Sox in 2001) and Hall of Fame relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley.

I mention Eckersley because it seems that the one-time Cubs pitcher (on that division-winning team of 1984) was among the former ballplayers, along with one-time White Sox star Frank Thomas, to cast ballots on Sunday.

FORMER ATLANTA BRAVES and Kansas City Royals general manager John Schuerholz was picked unanimously, while Selig took 15 of the 16 votes cast.

Lou Piniella, considered for a managerial career that included a stint with the Chicago Cubs, took seven votes, while none of the others under consideration got enough votes for the Hall of Fame to acknowledge their totals.

Not even one-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whose professional life also included a brief 1980s stint as a part-owner of pro basketball’s Chicago Bulls.
Would you really rather think about Sunday's snowfall? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda
Of course, Steinbrenner sold out his share of “da Bulls” in the mid-1980s right BEFORE Michael Jordan was drafted out of the University of North Carolina and began the process that led to that 1990s stretch of championships that is Chicago’s only taste ever of New York Yankees-like athletic success.


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