February 2011

Former Sox Manager Chuck Tanner Dies at 82, Holds a Special Place in South Side History

U1766581.jpgI remember it clearly. It was the Summer of 1970 and I was driving through Southern Indiana. I heard the news on the radio: Chuck Tanner has been named the manager of the White Sox for the remainder of that season and beyond.
More news came this morning when I heard that Tanner passed away yesterday at 82.
I knew Tanner from his baseball cards and the fact he was one of a long line of not-so-memorable Cub outfielders of that era, along with the likes Jim Bolger, Bob Speake and Walt “Moose” Moryn. But would he be as non-descript as a manager as he was as a player? The truth is that he couldn’t be worse than his ’70 predecessors Don Gutteridge and Bill Adair. By the end of that season, the Sox finished 42 games out of first place and drew less than 500,000 fans.
History now shows that Tanner is best known as the manager of the 1979 World Champion “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates, who came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit to defeat the Orioles in the Series. But Sox fans remember Tanner as the enthusiastic optimist who led the Pale Hose out of the doldrums.
Partly because the Sox had hit rock bottom in 1968 (95 losses), 1969 (94) and 1970 (106), the 1971 and 1972 South Side ballclubs were two of my favorites. Donning those red pinstripe uniforms, the team’s identity reflected their manager’s fire and they played an exciting brand of ball. In ’71 the Sox improved to a 79-win season with the likes of Carlos May, Bill Melton, Jay Johnstone, Ed Herrmann, Tommy John and Wilbur Wood, et. al.
Then in 1972, the Sox acquired Dick Allen, whose difficulties with other players and managements were well-chronicled. But he seemed to fit nicely under Tanner’s influence (see picture above). Both had grown up in western Pennsylvania and were familiar with each other. The result was that the Sox were contenders with 87 victories and Allen stole the show with an MVP season. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Allen and these White Sox could have saved the franchise from moving (rumors had them going to St. Petersburg or Seattle).
Tanner never came close to the same success in his final three years as a Sox manager and was fired after the 1975 season when Bill Veeck took over the team. He quickly was hired by the Oakland A’s and then it was on to the Pirates, when he became of the few managers in history to be traded for a player (Manny Sanguillen). 
It’s hard to argue against the fact that Tanner’s greatest managerial success was with the Pirates. But to White Sox fans, that 1971 and 1972 turnaround has to be very close.

Mark Buehrle Loves “Happy” and Vice Versa

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Full disclosure: Mark Buehrle is one of my favorite White Sox and Happy (pictured here with his Art of the Pale Hose cap) is my best friend.
Earlier this week, Mr. Perfect said the following: “(Michael Vick) had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we (with wife Jamie) watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt. Everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”
Mark and Jamie (pictured below with a few friends) are strong animal rights advocates who have started a “Sox for Strays” program with local rescue groups. And Mark, of course, was referring to Vick’s dogfighting crimes which put him in prison.
I don’t want to put words in Buehrle’s mouth, but I don’t think he literally meant he was wishing for Vick to suffer a serious injury. He was simply expressing his feelings about how atrocious it is to harm man’s best friends.
“Dogs are like your kids,” Buehrle said. “You cuddle with them when they are going to bed, and I think they are kind of like humans…It’s something about dogs. They connect to you and they bond with you. It’s your buddy.”
Happy and I agree.

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Sox Fans: Take a Look at Ed Sherman’s Interview with KW From Crain’s Chicago Business

whitesoxx-large.jpgI don’t know about you, but with 10 days to go before “pitchers and catchers” I’m in the market for any good White Sox scoop.
Today, I’ve got a treat for the readers of Art of the Pale Hose. My good friend and sportswriter extraordinaire Ed Sherman has just completed an intriguing interview with Pale Hose GM Kenny Williams for Crain’s Chicago Business
Enjoy!

The Curious Case of Jermaine Dye


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He played 14 years in the major leagues, hit 325 home runs, drove
in more than 1,000 runs, was a two-time All-Star, won both a Gold Glove and
Silver Slugger award and was a World Series MVP. But after a sub-par second
half in 2009, he found himself out of baseball last year and, with no offers
for 2011, it looks like his career is over.

This is the curious case of Jermaine Dye, who was such an
important part of the White Sox for five seasons, including the World Champions
in 2005 when he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Fall Classic. And his
performance the following year was certainly one of the finest single seasons
in the club’s history when he pounded out 44 homers along with 120 RBIs, a .315
batting average and a 1.006 OPS. 

The truth of the matter is that Dye could have played last year,
but he decided the offers weren’t worth it. It has been reported that there was
some interest in him this offseason, but nothing materialized. Now, the
slugger’s career may have come to an end.

“I would still like to play, but I think my choices have
passed and teams have gone with other people,” Dye recently told
FoxSports.com. “I will continue to stay in shape and hopefully someone
will call. If nothing gets done by the end of the spring, I may call it a
career.”

This is obviously not the way any major leaguer would like to
end his baseball life, especially a player with the resume of Dye. In part, he
is responsible for his own fate. He decided not to take the offers prior to the
2010 season and it is apparent that the year off was a huge negative as teams
considered him for ’11. But give him credit for sticking to his guns.

Apart from the fact that everybody associated with the ’05 Sox
will have a special place in my Hall of Honor, Dye was special. He was a quiet
leader, who spoke with his performance on the field. You hardly heard him talk,
but his actions were a positive example for his teammates. Frankly, the world
of sports needs more like him.

So, if this is indeed the end of the big league career of
Jermaine Dye, it’s baseball’s loss. He won’t go down as one of the all-time
greats, won’t enjoy a ceremony in Cooperstown, but he had a significant impact
just being himself–as an outstanding ballplayer, quiet leader and quality
human being.

And, personally, I will never forget his eighth inning single up
the middle in Game 4 of the ’05 Series against the Astros that scored
Willie
Harris

to give the Sox a 1-0 lead and, ultimately, their first world title in 88
years.

 

Will the White Sox and Milledge Form a Lastings Relationship?

When the Mets selected outfielder Lastings Milledge as their No.1 pick in the 2003 draft, they expected him to be the club’s star of the future. Like so many major league draft picks, he was eventually deemed expendable and was traded to the Nationals after the 2007 season. Washington, in turn, dealt him to the Pirates in June of 2009.
milledge.jpgAfter a season and a half in Pittsburgh, Milledge’s contract was declined by the Bucs after last season–presumably for a variety of reasons which include a history of average (at best) production, injuries and attitude problems. As a result, the one-time “can’t miss” prospect became a free agent at the tender age of 25.
A free agent, that is, until today when the White Sox signed him to a minor league deal. With Alejandro De Aza the only reserve outfielder listed on the roster, the Sox apparently think Milledge can be a contender for the fourth outfielder role (potential super-sub Mark Teahen, Brent Lillibridge and Dayan Viciedo are in the picture as well).  A righthanded hitter, the newest signee batted .277 last year, but .320 with a .926 OPS against lefties. 
Milledge certainly hasn’t come close to the expectations placed on him when he was drafted. But, in my opinion, the Sox have done the right thing in making this move. Hopefully somewhere within Milledge there’s a star waiting to break out.

Alexei to Extend Stay on South Side, Freddy to Don Pinstripes


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With the days dwindling down before pitchers and catchers report on February 17, the White Sox made some news and heard some news yesterday.
First, sources say that the Sox have reached an agreement with shortstop Alexei Ramirez on a four-year, $32.5 million extension with an option for a fifth year. This is certainly a positive move as Alexei came into his own last season as he led A.L. shortstops in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs and total bases. Ramirez also won the Silver Slugger Award, the first Sox shortstop to do so.
The other news item making the rounds was the fact Freddy Garcia has signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. There was some thought that he may return to the Sox after his respectable 12-6 season a year ago. But it seems the uncertainty of a starting role and the reality that the Sox budget has pretty much dried up, convinced Garcia to sign elsewhere.
The back end of the Yankee rotation is in flux, but it’s no certainty that Freddy will make the club. He will be competing with former White Sox hurler Bartolo Colon, Sergio Mitre, Ivan Nova and others for one, maybe two spots, depending on whether Andy Pettitte decides to return.
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