White Sox

Perfect moments in White Sox history


Perfect moments in White Sox history

On Saturday, Philip Humber became the third White Sox pitcher to achieve perfection by twirling a gem in the Emerald City. So let's take the time to take a look at perfect moments in White Sox history.

In 1908, while the Cubs, Giants and Pirates were in the thick of a heated pennant race which culminated with the "Merkle Boner" and ended with the most recent World Series win for the Northsiders, the White Sox were also fighting it out for the flag.

On September 29th, Ed Walsh, carrying the team on his back all season long, recorded his 38th AND 39th victories of the season, both complete games, over the Red Sox by scores of 5-1 and 2-0, while allowing only 7 hits and striking out 15 in his day's work.

Three days later, Walsh was at it again, this time in Cleveland, striking out 15 Indians. The Sox and Tribe combined for four hits on the afternoon...but all four were by the home team. It was Addie Joss, nicknamed "The Human Hairpin" for his slender physique, who emerged with a 74-pitch, 1-0 perfect game victory. It was the fourth perfecto in Major League history, and when the next one was thrown, it would be one of Comiskey's charges doing the honors.

The year was 1922, the date was April 30th. Taking the hill at Navin Field in Detroit was Charles Culbertson Robertson, a 26-year old right-hander from Texas. It was his fourth career start, and his career mark was 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA entering the game. These Tigers, led by player-manager Ty Cobb, hit .306 as a team in 1922 (with Cobb himself hitting .401) but on this day, they would get nothing.

Cobb didn't make it easy; in the fifth inning, the belligerent Bengal had the game stopped twice; first to complain that Robertson was doctoring the baseball, second to have the glove of first baseman Earl Sheely inspected. Umpires found nothing. Throughout the game, Tyrus the Terrible continued to confiscate balls put out of play to plead his case that something was amiss. When the smoke cleared, it was 27 Tigers up, 27 Tigers down; a doubly impressive feat against a Tiger lineup featuring two Hall of Famers (Cobb and rightfielder Harry Heilmann) and eyepopping offensive numbers. Robertson, the unlikely hero, finished the day with six strikeouts while offering a total of 90 pitches.

Home Plate umpire: Dick Nallin
Catcher: Ray SchalkOpposing starter: Herman Pillette

Robertson lost his next start at home against the Indians, going six innings with 4 earned runs. Unfortunately, Robertson was never able to duplicate his success. He finished 1922 14-15 with a decent enough 3.64 ERA (111 ERA), and hung on with the Sox until being claimed off waivers New Year's Eve 1925 by the St. Louis Browns, compiling a 39-56 record with the White Sox and going 10-24 in three seasons with the Browns and Braves.

His .380 career winning percentage is just below Dallas Braden (.419) for worst by a perfect game pitcher.

Fast forward to July 23, 2009 for the Sox next perfecto.

Mark Buehrle entered the game with a no-hitter already under his belt and a reputation as the long-time ace of the Southside staff. Buehrle's assignment was a Tampa Bay Rays team jam-packed with young, budding talent (and five 2009 All-Stars; Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Jason Bartlett).

Despite being a bit of a letdown after a 2008 World Series appearance, this Rays team was no pushover. Buehrle dispatched of the Rays in his customary quickness (2 hours, 3 minutes; eight minutes slower than Robertson...but Buehrle had TV commercials to deal with), equaling Robertson's six punch-outs while throwing 26 more pitches along the way.

Of the 21 balls in play, the Sox Southpaw coaxed 11 ground ball outs from the bats of Joe Maddon's Rays, with the remaining 10 in the air. The defining moment of the game came when Dewayne Wise made an unforgettable grab in left-center of a Gabe Kapler shot after entering the game to begin the inning as a defensive replacement (for Carlos Quentin with Scott Podsednik moving from center to left) in the ninth. That cleared the way for a Michel Hernandez strikeout and a Bartlett groundout to short (Alexeiiiiiiiii! YES!!!) to give the immensely popular Buehrle his place in history.

Home Plate umpire: Eric Cooper
Catcher: Ramon Castro
Opposing starter: Scott Kazmir

Buehrle went on to set a Major League record with 45 straight batters retired as he sent down the first 17 batters in his next start at Minnesota, but the Twins got the best of him, and he ended up taking the loss, giving up 5 earned runs in 6.1 innings of work.

Buehrle finished his White Sox career with 161 wins, good for 6th in franchise history, and is among the finest pitchers to don the pinstripes.

From a 38th round surprise to the third overall selection in the 2004 draft, the third White Sox masterpiece, of course was painted by Philip Humber yesterday afternoon at Safeco Field against a Mariners team suffering from historical offensive ineptitude, even if one of this generation's finest hitters; Ichiro Suzuki occupies the 3-spot.

Ironically, this was the same Humber whose first start was skipped due to a rainout in Cleveland. Humber's second start of the season featured fantastic pitch economy (according to today's standards) throwing no more than 16 pitches in any inning (16 was in the ninth), with a sequence of 8-6-6 in innings 4-5-6. Unlike Buehrle, he relied on the vast expanses of Safeco Field to produce 13 fly balls opposed to just five on the ground, while striking out nine.

That busy ninth inning included the most suspenseful at-bats, with Humber battling back from a 3-0 count to whiff Michael Saunders and the controversial 3-2 check-swing by Brendan Ryan on pitch 96 which led to a C-1B putout to end the game.

Home Plate umpire: Brian Runge
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski
Opposing starter: Blake Beavan

What's next for Humber? We'll have to wait until likely Thursday, when he'll face a much more daunting task which is the Red Sox lineup. But that's not really important, because the perfect game puts Humber in a class of just 21, which nobody can take from him no matter where his right arm takes him.
Fun note

Three-hitters in each perfecto: Ty Cobb, Evan Longoria, Ichiro

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers


The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

Most minor league managers have graying sideburns, wrinkled skin and a birth date well before 1980.

They’ve been through the battles of baseball and life, placed in rural dugouts across the country to teach the younger generation how to play the game.

But in a town outside Charlotte, North Carolina, the White Sox are bucking this trend with a fresh-faced millennial who one day could be sitting in a major league manager’s office with his name on it.

Justin Jirschele is the manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox Class-A affiliate.  At 27 years old, he is the youngest manager in all of professional baseball.  

Jirschele (pronounced JIRSH-ah-lee) goes by “Jirsh” to those who know him and who play for him, which last season included top prospects like Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease.

When Jirschele played the game, he was a guy every team would have wanted.

Not for his speed: He never stole more than four bases in a season during his minor league career. Not for his power: He didn't hit a single home run in 622 career at-bats.

But because he treated every game like it could be his last.

“I never took a play off. I never took an at-bat off,” he said.

This was his mindset even in his very last minor league at-bat for the Birmingham Barons in 2015.

“I remember walking up and I said out loud to myself, ‘This is it. Do something.’ I’m getting the chills right now thinking about it.”

Jirschele knew his playing days were over. So did the White Sox. They signed him out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Nobody else wanted him. Over the next four seasons, he played for five White Sox minor league teams. The results on the field were overwhelmingly average.

Then one day, Nick Capra, then the White Sox Director of Player Development, came to Jirschele with an idea and an offer that would change his life.

“He asked, ‘Are you ready to start coaching yet?’ Jirschele recalled. ‘And I looked at him and went, ‘What do you mean?’”

The White Sox offered Jirschele a job to be the hitting coach for the Grand Falls Voyagers, the team’s rookie league affiliate.

“I was in shock. It was the end of May, the season was still young. I was at three different levels. I started at Winston-Salem, went to Charlotte and came back to Birmingham. It was a whirlwind. When he first said it, my first feeling was excitement. That kind of told me right there that it was the right time to do it.”

So Jirschele took the job.

He was 25 years old.

Then he went out and took that final minor league at-bat for Birmingham, which turned out to be a fitting conclusion to his playing career.  

“I think it was the second pitch, right down the middle and I was tardy, hit it off my fist, a dribbler to the shortstop and I bet you I ran as hard as I had in my entire life. It wasn’t that I was fast, but I was running as hard as I possibly could to first and I don’t think there even was a throw I hit it so soft, perfectly past the pitcher.  I just said to myself, that’s it right there.”

An infield dribbler for a base hit to close his playing career.

Coaching made sense for Jirschele. His father, Mike, is the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Series in 2015. His older brother, Jeremy, is the head baseball coach back at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Pretty soon, the younger Jirschele would be leading a team of his own.  

In 2017, the White Sox gave him the managerial job with Kannapolis. Sure, some of his players would be around the same age, but the White Sox looked past the birth date on his driver’s license and recognized a person who was wise beyond his years.

“It was identified early on that he has the leadership qualities we look for in a manager regardless of his age,” said Chris Getz, White Sox Director of Player Development. “He has good baseball knowledge, good communication skills, a willingness to learn and adapt, and carries out a consistent message. We feel lucky to have him and think he has a bright future ahead.”

Although the ages of the Intimidators players ranged from 19 to 25 years old, it didn’t matter that their manager was slighty older than them.

“Never once had an issue with the age thing,” Jirschele said about his players. “I think from Day 1 when I showed them the respect like I’m not going to be the guy that’s two years older than you hammering things down your throat, I’m going to have that respect and you’re going to show it back.”  

While the White Sox prospects spent the season developing their playing skills, Jirschele was honing his managing skills, which go beyond what happens on the field. A big part of the job is handling issues that arise off of it.  

“It’s a long grind season and there are so many things that are going to come up non-baseball related to where you might be in that clubhouse and you might feel alone,” Jirschele explained. “You might feel like you’re on an island all by yourself even if you’ve got three best friends that are going to stand up in your wedding one day, you might not feel comfortable talking to those guys about that.  Come on in, we’ll talk about it at 12:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night or midnight. I tell the guys you’ve got my phone number.  Call or text no matter what time if you need to talk.”

Following his thirst for managing knowledge, Jirschele often reaches out to his dad for late-night phone calls, rehashing the game that night. He’ll even text an opposing manager, like Patrick Anderson, a friend who has managed the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals Class-A affiliate for the last four seasons.

“He’s a guy I could pick his brain about things," he said. "Once the series was over I’d send him a text and ask, ‘Why did you do this?’ At the end of the day we’re all in it together and first and foremost it’s all for these players and making them better each and every day and doing whatever we can to get them to the top. But at the same time we’re developing ourselves as well along the way.

“I’m sure I annoy a lot of people of asking questions but that’s how you learn. I was brought up that way.”

Jirschele’s impressions of some White Sox top prospects he managed last season:

Alec Hansen: “When he takes the ball, you feel like you have one of the best chances in the country to get a win that night in minor league baseball.  His stuff is just off the charts.”

Dane Dunning: “It would be the 8th inning, he wanted that complete game and he wouldn’t be too pleased with me coming out there to take him out, but you want that.  You want that out of a competitor on the mound every 5 days. He’s definitely a guy you want in the foxhole with you, no doubt.”

Micker Adolfo: “He has a special, special arm.  I don’t know if there’s a better one right now.”

Jake Burger: “Looking forward, the ceiling is unbelievably high for him. 100 percent no doubt in my mind, someday he will be a captain in the big leagues.”

Like many of his players, Jirschele left an impression with the White Sox in his first season as manager. He helped lead the Intimidators to their first playoff berth since 2009 and their first trip to the South Atlantic League championship since 2005.

Earlier this month, the White Sox named him their Minor League Coach of the Year.

“First and foremost, it means we had good players this year. It’s those guys between the lines,” he said. “As coaches, we can’t go out there and pitch. We were fortunate to have a great group of guys. We came up a little short (winning the championship), but we got there and it was fun.”

Once upon a time, Jirschele’s dream was to make it to the majors. That dream still exists.  Just now instead of having his own baseball card, he wants to get to the big leagues holding a lineup card.

“I think I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a goal, but at the same time I don’t worry about it. I know I’m 27 years old," he said. "I’m just fortunate to have the job I do right now with the White Sox. I go out and do my job every single day and the rest will just take care of itself.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?