Chicago Sports Franchises: Chicago White Sox
March 2, 2011 Leave a comment
World Series Championships: (3) 1906, 1917, 2005
Retired Numbers: #2 Nellie Fox, #3 Harold Baines, #4 Luke Appling, #9 Minnie Minoso, #11 Luis Aparicio, #16 Ted Lyons, #19 Billy Pierce, #35 Frank Thomas, #72 Carlton Fisk, #42 Jack Robinson (retired league-wide)
Rivals: Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians
One of the American League’s charter franchises, the Chicago team established in 1900 was originally called the Chicago White Stockings, and the name was soon shortened to the White Sox. Despite a long-standing cross-town rivalry with the Cubs, the White Stockings were a strong team during their first two decades, winning the 1906 World Series with a team named “the Hitless Wonders,” due to their primary focus on defense. This 1906 championship was even more significant because it was a win over the impressive Cubs in six games.
The rest of the decade was characterized by mediocre seasons, with none ending in deep playoff glory. However, in 1917, behind an impressive lineup that featured Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins, and Eddie Cicotte, the White Sox roared through the American League, and ousted the New York Giants in six games, winning their second franchise World Series ring.
The White Sox in the 1920’s are synonymous with the “Black Sox Scandal,” as in 1919, the White Sox made it to the World Series and were set to face the Reds, but lost in eight games a series that was said to have been fixed. Amidst another successful start in 1920, the news broke that a number of White Sox, including stars in Cicotte and Jackson, had been conspiring with gamblers and purposefully losing games to make a profit. Seven Sox were suspended, ending the White Sox playoff hopes, with criminal trials ending in acquittals for all players involved. However, sensing that the public’s trust in baseball was at stake, newly-installed Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned all of the accused from baseball for life.
With the spirit of the White Sox heavily dampened by the loss of seven players in their prime, the Sox dropped into seventh place in 1921, not to contend again until 1936, when manager Jimmy Dykes took control in the dugout until 1946.
In the 1950’s the team had begun to restore its respectability within the MLB. Led by outfielder Minnie Minoso, who was the White Sox’ first black player, as well as shortstop Luis Aparicio and manager Al Lopez, Chicago won its first pennant in 40 years in 1959. The run ended there, however, as the White Sox fell in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The White Sox had winning records every season from 1951 through 1967, but often found themselves in a disappointing second place behind the resurgent Yankees. However, this began a new era in Chicago, as new owner Bill Veeck looked to turn Comiskey Park into an enticing, promotional-filled experience for fans. One aspect in which Veeck’s ownership transformed the game is in the addition of the players’ last names on the back of their jerseys, as this was Veeck’s idea, with the White Sox becoming the first team in the league to do so.
After a brief transfer of ownership to eventual Milwaukee owner and current Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, Veeck regained ownership of the team, determined to utilize unique promotions and gimmicks to make the White Sox “exciting” again. This ended up being an epic failure, as his introduction of retro uniforms and “rent-a-player” strategy, where he acquired star players in the last year of their contract, left the White Sox in dismal shape. For example, the 1976 team won only 64 games (.398) and attracted abysmal attendance numbers. This “rent-a-player,” as so dubbed by local sports writers, was not a sustainable approach to running a franchise, and left fans continually disappointed. As the White Sox did not have the accessible revenue like the more wealthy clubs, they looked for any edge they could find. The club held open tryouts during spring training in 1978, a tradition that continues to this day.
The 1983 season gave way to the most success in a generation of White Sox baseball, as Tony LaRussa’s squad clinched the AL West title, parading around the concept of “Winning Ugly,” a style of play they adopted that consisted of using scrappy play in substitution for strong offense or pitching. However, the Sox couldn’t manage to win their way ugly past the Baltimore Orioles, falling to them in four games in the AL Championship Series. After that season, the Sox slide back into mediocrity for around the next 20 years, save the 1993 run into the ALCS, in which they lost to the Blue Jays in six games.
The 2000’s gave way to the continuation of the historically gimmick-oriented White Sox organization, with slogans being the fuel that kept the team going, and the glue that kept fans hanging around. In 2005, the slogan “win or die trying,” a marketing campaign launched in Chicago, proved to be the generator for the Sox landing the league’s best record, enroute to their third World Series Championship, in which they bested Houston Astros. The most impressive thing about this playoff run was the record the White Sox had, 11-1 virtually decimating every opponent, with their only loss coming to the Anaheim Angels in the ALCS.
After their electric playoff run in 2005, the post-World Series era in Chicago proved to be quite disappointing. They failed to make the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, and in 2008, they clinched a tiebreaker win over the Twins for the AL Central title before falling to the Rays in the ALDS in four games. The past two seasons have also ended in mediocrity, just out of playoff reach. As spring training has begun and the 2011 season is in view, join us tomorrow as we discuss what is happening this season for the White Sox.