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Sox All-Century
First Team
 

by Hal Vickery

As this column is printed, the one hundredth season of White Sox baseball is about to begin.  It has been rumored that Sox fans will have the opportunity to pick the Sox All-Century Team this season, and this web site already has a White Sox Hall of Fame, but one advantage of having the opportunity to write a column is to be able to write about whatever one wishes. And it just so happens that my wish right now is to take a look the best Sox players of the club's first century.  Friends from Brian Crawford's White Sox Mailing List are free to flame me for making different selections in some areas than I did a year or so ago. This list could change tomorrow as I ponder it more.  After all, I'm just a fan, not a baseball expert.  I have minimal knowledge of sabermetrics and exotic statistics.  And tomorrow Mule Haas may look more appealing in right field than today's choice.  This is first and foremost a fan's list, as an All-Century Team should be.

Another nice thing about writing your own column is that you get to make up your own ground rules when you make selections like this, and here are mine. The first team, published this week, will consist of eight position players plus a designated hitter.  All players will be selected by their primary position, including outfielders.  (None of this unrealistic equalization of all three outfield positions for me!)  The second team, published next week, will be chosen the same way. The pitching staff will consist of five starters and one relief pitcher.  The second string pitching staff will be selected in the same way.

Now that the rules have been stated, here is my first team. 

Catcher: Carlton Fisk. Sure he's going into the Hall of Fame wearing a Red Sox cap, but he spent more years and played more games with the White Sox. In his thirteen season with the Sox, Pudge hit 214 home runs (third on the all-time team list). He is sixth in RBI, tenth in runs scored, and seventh in total bases. After Tony LaRussa moved him to the second spot in the lineup in 1983, he and the team made the turnaround that won the division by 20 games. 

First Base: Frank Thomas. He's been in a slump for a couple of years, and no one knows yet whether or not he'll come out of it, but from 1990-97 he was the best hitter in the game since Ted Williams, and certainly the best hitter ever to wear a White Sox uniform. If he does nothing for the rest of his career, he's still the best whose ever played first base on the South Side. 

Second Base: Eddie Collins. This was a tough choice, but Collins wins because of his overall production. He is second on the Sox all-time list for batting average at .331. third in runs scored, third in hits, fourth in doubles, tied for second in triples, fifth in RBI, fourth in total bases, third in walks, second in on-base percentage, first in stolen bases. 

Shortstop: Luke Appling. Appling played in more games than any White Sox player. He leads the club in runs, hits, doubles, RBI, total bases, and walks. He is tied for tenth in batting average and for second in triples. He has the fourth best on-base percentage in club history. Besides that, although no records are kept, Appling probably leads the Sox in most pitches fouled off.

Third base: Robin Ventura. In his stay with the Sox Robin managed to make the top ten list in runs (tenth), home runs (fourth), RBI (seventh), total bases (tenth), and walks (fourth). That and the Gold Glove awards make him the best Sox third baseman ever.

Left Field: Joe Jackson. This is where the going gets tough because of a self-imposed rule. Outfielders have to be listed by their primary position. Left field is tough because there are two nearly equally qualified candidates. I give the nod, though, to Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson has the highest batting average of any White Sox player in history (.339). He is tied for sixth place in triples, and is fourth in slugging percentage. His .407 on-base percentage is the third best in club history. It is my opinion that Jackson was treated unfairly by Judge Landis and should never have been declared ineligible for life. Had he been allowed to play, Jackson would have been elected to the Hall of Fame.  Jackson was the best player (fans of Eddie Collins might argue with this) on the best Sox team ever.

Center Field: Jim Landis. This was another tough choice. The Sox have had three or four center fielders who would qualify. None have been particularly outstanding offensive players, but at least three of them were among the best defensive players of their eras. I'll just go with Billy Pierce who has said that Jim Landis was among the best center fielders he's ever seen.

Right Field: Harry Hooper. This is tough simply because the Sox haven't had a lot of really outstanding right fielders. Hooper was an excellent right fielder on some very bad teams in the '20s. He gets the nod mainly for his offensive production during those years, when he was among the best hiters in baseball.

Designated Hitter: Harold Baines. Harold was an excellent right fielder, but bad knees cut short his career there. I was tempted to list him ahead of Harry Hooper, anyway, but I think of Baines primarily as a DH. And as a DH Baines was consistent. Always hitting in the neighborhood of .300 with 20-plus home runs. He was one of the best clutch hitters I've ever seen. His sacrifice fly drove in the winning run in the game that gave the Sox the 1983 AL West championship.

Starting Pitcher: Ted Lyons. One of the greatest pitchers in baseball. Had he played with some decent teams he would have easily won 300 games. As it was, his record of 260-230 was far better than the won-lost percentages of the teams he played for.

Starting Pitcher: Billy Pierce. Billy's record with the Sox was 186-152. I've contended for years that if Billy and Whitey Ford had exchanged pinstripes, Billy woud have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. Pierce had winning records against both Ford and Bob Lemon. That qualifies him as a great.

Starting Pitcher: Ed Walsh. Ed was the dominant pitcher on a dominant pitching staff. He is one of only two pitchers in the twentieth century to be credited with 40 wins. His career earned run average of 1.81 seems unbelievable by today's standards. It was pretty fantastic in the dead ball era, too. Walsh was a spitballer, and this along with overuse probably put so much strain on his arm, that his career was shortened.

Starting Pitcher: Jack McDowell. Only Lefty Williams and Juan Pizarro had higher winning percentages with the Sox. McDowell was often accused of pitching just well enough to win. but win he did, to the tune of .611.

Starting Pitcher: Red Faber. Two of the top five Sox starting pitchers were spitballers. Faber is the second. Faber had a long career with the Sox. Ironically his best seasons were not in 1917 and 1919 when the Sox won pennants. His best years were 1915 (24-14), 1920 (23-13), 1921 (25-15), and 1922 (21-17). The last two years were with second division teams. Overall Faber won 254 games, second best in team history, while losing 213.

Relief Pitcher: Bobby Thigpen. In 424 relief appearances, Thigpen accumulated 291 saves. That's forty more saves than any other Sox reliever. Thigpen's 1990 season was the most dominant by any relief pitcher in history, but it may have cost him his career. In picking up his record 57 saves, he may have worn out his arm. He was certainly never the same after that.
 


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!
 

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