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Next Sox
Hall of Famers?
 

by Hal Vickery

Even though Carlton Fisk is joining the Hall of Fame not wearing a White Sox cap, we all know that he is really one of ours. He spent the majority of his career with the Pale Hose and that's that, no matter what cap he wears. His induction, though, started me thinking about other former White Sox players deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown, and two names immediately came to mind, both from the Go-Go Sox era.

Billy Pierce was one of the two best lefthanded pitchers in the American League in the '50s. He was traded to the White Sox by his hometown team, the Detroit Tigers for catcher Aaron Robinson and $10,000 and stayed with the Sox for twelve years. In that time he compiled a record of 186-152 (.550). In 1953 he led the AL in strike outs with 186. Two years later he lead the league with an ERA of 1.97. He led the league in wins in 1957 with 20 and from 1956-58 he led the league in complete games.

Pierce was named to the American League All-Star team seven times and started four times. While with the White Sox he pitched 35 shutouts. He threw four one-hitters. At one point in 1953 he pitched 39.2 consecutive scoreless innings. Had he played with a potent offensive team like the Yankees, there is no question that he would have won a pretty good number of the seemingly endless 1-0 and 2-0 decisions he always seemed to be on the losing end of. If he'd been wearing those pinstripes, Pierce would have been in the Hall decades ago.

Pierce was traded to the Giants for the 1962 season, just in time to help lead them to a pennant with a sparkling 16-6 record. Although he was denied a chance to start a game in the 1959 World Series, he started two games for the Giants in '62, going 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA. His 5-2 win over Whitey Ford in Game 6 kept the Giants hopes alive.

Speaking of Whitey Ford, in regular season play, Pierce had an 8-6 record over the Hall-of-Famer. Against the other great Hall-of-Fame pitcher of his era, Bob Lemon of the Indians, Pierce's record was even better at 7-2.

On May 1, 1951 for the first time in Comiskey Park, a man with black skin set foot on the field wearing a White Sox uniform. His name was Saturnino Orestes Armas Arrieta Minoso, but pretty soon Sox fans would know him simply as Minnie. He was a 28-year-old rookie solely because of his skin color, and he immediately won over Sox fans by hitting a home run into Comiskey Park's center field bullpen off Vic Raschi of the New York Yankees. Minoso had come from Cuba several years earlier to play in the Negro Leagues. Bill Veeck signed him to a contract with the Cleveland Indians, but he only had a "cup of coffee" with them in 1949. He spent all of 1950 tearing up the minor leagues and was hitting .429 in eight games with the Indians in 1951 before being traded to the Sox for slugger Gus Zernial and Dave Philley.

It was Minoso who helped put the "go" in the Go-Go Sox. He led the team his rookie year with 31 stolen bases. He'd lead the American League the next three years. He also led the league three times in triples, once in doubles, and once in hits. He finished his career in 1964 (or so everybody thought) with 1962 hits. In 1976 Bill Veeck brought him back for three games at the age of 53 and he added one more hit to that total. Four years later, Veeck brought him back again to pinch hit in two more games.

Statistician Bill James projected what Minoso's career would have been had he not had to face baseball's color barrier. According to James's calculations Minoso would have had a good shot at 3000 hits and close to 2000 runs, over 500 doubles, over 150 triples, and over 300 home runs. He probably would have driven in somewhere around 1400 runs and finished with a batting average over .300.

As it was, he scored 1136 runs, had 1963 hits, including 336 doubles, 83 triples, and 186 homers. He drove in 1023 runs in a career that was shortened by the madness of segregation and through no fault of his own. Baseball owes this great player one final honor.

The fate of both Pierce and Minoso lie with the Veterans Committee. A drive is already underway to have Pierce enshrined, but no White Sox fan should be satisfied until both of these players achieve their rightful place of honor.


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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