Baseball’s Shrine Awaits Thomas and LaRussa
Friday, July 25, 2014
Cooperstown, NY — I’m here in the spiritual home of baseball, awaiting one of the landmark days in White Sox history as Frank Thomas and Tony LaRussa will join the pantheon of the game’s greats on Sunday when they are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Thomas and LaRussa will be joined in the HOF Class of 2014 by pitching greats Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and elite managers Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. A huge throng of fans, perhaps in the neighborhood of 60,000 or more, will make their way to this upstate New York village to celebrate the newest enshrinees.
After being selected as the club’s No. 1 draft pick in 1989 (7th overall) out of Auburn University, The Big Hurt established himself as the greatest hitter in the history of the White Sox franchise and with 83.7 percent of the vote became the first Sox player to be elected to the Hall on the first ballot. LaRussa began his managerial career in a White Sox uniform and managed one of the club’s most memorable teams–the 1983 “Winning Ugly” Sox that won the American League West by 20 games.
For the next few days my goal is to share with you the sights and sounds of Induction Weekend, primarily as it relates to the Sox inductees. So, if you aren’t able to make the trip yourself, I’ll try to be your eyes and ears and provide you with an inside look at what promises to be a very special time.
In Good Company
There will be a couple dozen in the White Sox contingent this weekend. Among them will be Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Senior Executive Vice President Howard Pizer, fellow Senior Vice Presidents Tim Buzard and Brooks Boyer, Senior Director of Community Relations Christine O’Reilly and Director of Media Relations Bob Beghtol.
Also included in the Sox party will be former Sox manager Jeff Torborg, Frank’s first major-league skipper; Larry Himes and Al Goldis, the General Manager and Director of Scouting and Player Development when Frank was drafted; and the man who coined the nickname, “The Big Hurt,” Hawk Harrelson.
Others with Sox connections that will be here this weekend are former Sox GM Roland Hemond and ex-Sox stars Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and A.J. Pierzynski, who all played with Thomas on the 2005 World Champions.
Additionally, The Hall of Fame has announced that 55 of the 66 living Hall of Famers will be in Cooperstown this weekend.
How and Why Frank Reached Cooperstown
* Career .301 hitter with 495 doubles, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI, 1,667 walks, a .419 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage in 2,322 games over 19 seasons as a first baseman/designated hitter with the White Sox (1990-2005), Oakland (2006, ’08) and Toronto (2007-08).
* Won the 1997 American League batting title with a .347 average.
* One of four players in major-league history with a career .300 average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs scored and 1,500 walks. Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams are the others.
* One of 12 players in major-league history to win consecutive Most Valuable Player awards (1993-94). He was honored as an unanimous selection in ’93.
* Won four Silver Slugger Awards (1991, 1993-94 and 2000) and named American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2000 and 2006.
* One of four players to drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first eight full major-league seasons, joining Hall of Famers Al Simmons (1924-1934), Williams (1939-1949) and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols (2001-2010).
* Only player in major-league history to bat .300 or better with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and 100 runs scored in seven consecutive seasons (1991-97).
* One of seven AL right-handed hitters to top the league in average and on-base percentage in the same season (1997); Nap Lajoie (1901), Jimmie Foxx (1938), Luke Appling (1943), Frank Robinson (1966), Edgar Martinez (1995) and Miguel Cabrera (2011, 2013).
* Led the AL in average (1997), slugging percentage (1994), extra-base hits (1992, ’94), walks (1991, ’94-’95) and on-base percentage (1991-92, ’94, ’97). He also tied for the AL lead in doubles and walks (1992) and extra-base hits (1994).
* He was a five-time All-Star (1993-97) and won the Home Run Derby in 1995.
* Hit 11 grand slams and recorded 33 multi-homer games, including a career high three homers on September 15, 1996 at Boston.
* Hit 40-plus home runs five times, drove in 100-plus runs in 10 seasons and drew 100-plus walks 10 times.
* Holds numerous White Sox career records including home runs (448), RBI (1,465), walks (1,466), runs (1,327), doubles (447), extra-base hits (906), on-base percentage (.427), slugging percentage (.568) and OPS (.995).
* Announced his retirement from baseball on February 12, 2010 at U.S. Cellular Field.
* His No. 35 was retired by the White Sox on August 29, 2010. A bronze sculpture of his likeness was unveiled on July 31, 2011.
* Won a World Series ring with the 2005 World Champion White Sox.
How and Why Tony Reached Cooperstown
* As a major-league manager from 1979 to 2011, first with the White Sox (1979-86) and later with the A’s (1986-95) and Cardinals (1996-2011), LaRussa guided his teams to three World Series titles, six league championships and 12 division titles in 33 seasons.
* Tony’s teams won 100 or more games four times and he was named the BBWAA’s Manager of the Year in his league four times.
* LaRussa managed 5, 097 games in the big leagues, joining Connie Mack as the only other major-league manager at the 5,000 game level.
* His 2,728 wins as a manager ranks third all-time in major-league history, behind only iconic skippers Mack and John McGraw.
* He is one of only two managers (along with Sparky Anderson) to win World Series titles in both leagues and the only skipper to win All-Star Games in both leagues.
And the Others Before Them
Here is a list of other Hall of Famers who played for the White Sox…
Roberto Alomar (2003-04)
Luis Aparicio (1956-62, ’68-70)
Luke Appling (1930-50)
Chief Bender (1953)
Steve Carlton (1986)
Eddie Collins (1915-26)
Jocko Conlan (1934-35)
George Davis (1902, ’04-09)
Larry Doby (1956-57, ’59)
Johnny Evers (1922)
Red Faber (1914-33)
Carlton Fisk (1981-93)
Nellie Fox (1950-63)
Goose Gossage (1972-76)
Clark Griffith (1901-02)
Harry Hooper (1921-25)
George Kell (1954-56)
Ted Lyons (1923-42, ’46)
Ed Roush (1913)
Red Ruffing (1947)
Ron Santo (1974)
Ray Schalk (1912-28)
Tom Seaver (1984-86)
Al Simmons (1933-35)
Ed Walsh (1904-16)
Hoyt Wilhelm (1963-68)
Early Wynn (1958-62)
…and those who managed the Sox.
Frank Chance (1924, did not manage due to illness)
Hugh Duffy (1910-11)
Bob Lemon (1977-78)
Al Lopez (1957-65, ’68-69)
An Epic Journey
Enjoy watching Frank’s trip to Cooperstown with Chuck Garfien earlier this year.
Note of the Day
Thomas, who was born on May 27, 1968, is the youngest living Hall of Famer at 45 years of age.
Must-See TV, Etc.
MLB Network will broadcast the induction ceremony live on Sunday from 12:30-3:30 p.m., CT, and events throughout the weekend in Cooperstown. Sirius XM satellite radio will cover the ceremony nationwide and it will also be streamed live at www.baseballhall.org.
Quotes of the Day
Sox Skipper Robin Ventura on his long-time teammate Thomas:
“You are appreciative when you see his career and the numbers that go with it. But the fact that most of it was done in a White Sox uniform is special. There are not many of them that are in. For him to do it and have that productivity over that period of time, win MVPs and things like that, he was a dominant player in his era. That will stand the test of time as far as his place with the White Sox.”
Harrelson on the The Big Hurt:
“Watching Frank hit was something I’ve never seen before and never seen since. When he first came up he was a big, imposing figure at the plate. But it wasn’t Frank’s strength that made him great. He was basically a line drive type hitter whose line drives went over the wall. It was his mindset. He was smart and he worked his rear end off. And he was at a 2-0, 3-1 count almost every time. Do the math, who’s going to hit the most, a guy who hits 2-0, 3-1 in his career or 0-2 or 1-2? The last time I saw someone do that was Yaz (Carl Yastrzemski) the year he won the Triple Crown in 1967. For an eight-year period Frank was the best righthanded hitter I’ve ever seen and he put up numbers that nobody else approached.
Reinsdorf on LaRussa:
“Tony is one of top two or three human beings I’ve ever known in my life, he’s just a wonderful, wonderful person. I’ve only known two people who would do something to help a friend even if it was bad for him. I’ve seen Tony do that. You can’t have a more loyal friend, you can’t have a guy that supports his friends more than Tony does. He’s a brilliant manager, a brilliant baseball guy, but he’s an even better human being in my opinion.
“What made Tony a great manager? Preparation. He calls it slowing down the game. He was always thinking ahead to possible situations that could arise. So when they did arise, he didn’t have to figure out what to do, he already made his decision. His teams were always fundamentally sound, they worked extremely hard during spring training and during the season. He also always surrounded himself with the best possible coaches evidenced by his staff with the White Sox, which probably was the best coaching staff ever put together. And most important for any manager, he got the guys to play hard for him.”
The Gang’s Back Together
And here’s Aaron, Jermaine, Frank and A.J. celebrating at a party honoring Thomas in Cooperstown last night.
Photos of the Day
The Hall calls.