Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Who knew back then that early '80s White Sox had pair of Hall of Famers?

I recall the Chicago White Sox of the early 1980s as being some fairly dismal ball clubs – Bill Veeck might have been gone, but the new ownership of the team didn’t do much better on the field.

New White Sox Hall of Famer
One division title in 1983 (the first time a Chicago baseball team ever finished a season in first place in the era of playoffs), along with a lot of losing records.

BUT AFTER MONDAY, those teams area going to be remembered for the pair of people they had who are now members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Catcher Carlton Fisk, who came to the White Sox in 1981, has been in the Hall of Fame for many years now. But the veterans committee that considers non-players, along with giving ballplayers a second chance, on Monday put in team manager Tony LaRussa.

He’s actually one of three managers picked for the Hall of Fame based off their activities of the 1990s.

But all had been managing since the late 1970s – including LaRussa, who got his first major league managing job with the White Sox in the year that the disco-hating meatheads claimed they were making a political statement, of sorts, by tearing up the turf at Comiskey Park.

CHICAGO WOUND UP being the learning experience for LaRussa, who after leaving the White Sox in 1986 went on to managing jobs in Oakland and St. Louis – both of which resulted in him winning league championships and World Series titles.

Which is why I’m sure many people are going to think of the White Sox as the afterthought of his career. Although back in the early 1980s, it would have been regarded as a better bet that George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin of the New York Yankees would be picked for the Hall of Fame someday -- both were passed over on Monday.

Will he be joined by 'the Big Hurt?'
It could be argued that if not for Veeck and later Jerry Reinsdorf, there never would have been a LaRussa manager. He would have been just a journeyman ballplayer (whose career included one end-of-season stint with a mediocre Chicago Cubs team of the early 1970s) who wound up having to use that law degree he earned while younger in order to earn a living.

Did the White Sox spare us from yet another blowhard attorney? If so, that might well be a significant accomplishment by itself.

Chose Boston recognition for Hall
ALTHOUGH THE IDEA that those White Sox teams had two members who will now be regarded among fans as “baseball immortals” seems like such a stretch. It certainly wasn’t reflected on the playing field.

Especially not in 1984 when Hall of Fame members LaRussa and Fisk were joined by another future Hall of Famer – pitcher Tom Seaver. Big names for a lot of disappointment.

Then again, any fan of the Chicago Bulls of the mid-1980s (when Michael Jordan was surrounded by athletic dreck) ought to realize that a lone ballplayer isn’t enough to make up a team.

Consider that when the White Sox finally went on to win a league championship and World Series title in 2005, they did so with a team that many people think will wind up with NO Hall of Fame members other than Frank Thomas – whom we might learn next month will be elected to the Hall of Fame from the ranks of recently-retired ballplayers.

EVEN THEN, THOMAS was injured most of the season and didn’t play a single inning of playoff or World Series ball – Carl Everett was the “big bat” designated hitter that season.

Will 'Hawk' join the Hall someday?
So come July, White Sox fans will have something to celebrate in that a former manager is being immortalized. Even if it means that broadcaster Ken Harrelson will have to re-tell the stories of his one-year stint as a baseball general manager when he became the only person to ever fire LaRussa from a job.

Then again, it’s also possible some year that Harrelson will get the Ford Frick Award that the Hall of Fame gives out annually to broadcasters of excellence. Yet another White Sox Hall of Famer whose career somehow manages to exceed the overall level of performance on the playing field.


EDITOR'S NOTE: For the record, Tony LaRussa got elected to the Hall of Fame on the same date that Gov. Pat Quinn proclaimed to be "Mike Ditka Day" in Illinois -- in honor of the fact that the Chicago Bears retired one-time coach Ditka's old uniform number 89 from his days as a player.

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