White Sox

Ballantini: Baseball love is in the air at Sox camp

Ballantini: Baseball love is in the air at Sox camp

Friday, February 25, 2011
11:57 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. When youre able to play baseball in February, hope cant help but spill out of clubhouses and into the streets of this pop-up town.

Its springtime in Arizona, and theres no better place to be than All-In.

This is the time of year thats so easy to fall under the spell of, and I say that not only as snow is still dusting everybody back home. Down here, all of us here are united by the love of this silly game, baseballand if youre not falling in love in February in Arizona, maybe its time to look for another line of work.

But dont take my word for it; walk around this Chicago clubhouse with me, and see just how dear the game is to these White Sox.

Theres Juan Pierre, in-season or out, driven by his passion for the game. Famous for his beastly drive to become better, I have a soft spot in my heart for him. At a time when fewer and fewer players might suit up and play the game for free, Pierrethe first to arrive and last to leavewould, undoubtedly.

Sitting next to Pierre is Lastings Milledge, who at just 25 can spin a weary tale of elusive potential and escaped stardom. Rather than drop out of the game bitterly and allowing himself to register simply as another Where Are They Now tale of woe, Milledge is fighting for a fourth outfielder spot on the White Sox without yet having the benefit of a spot on the 40-man roster. He readily admits his immaturity, and realizes hes tried to claw his way to major league stardom without a single mentor to help guide him. Perhaps Pierre has arrived in his life just in time.

Omar Vizquel will be 44 as the dew burns off of the 2011 season, and he bites his thumb at anyone chiding his senior status by continuing to worm his way into the lineup. At a time when this all-time fielding great could be jogging into a role as coach-player, he remains a player-coach, taking on Arizona Fall League phenom Eduardo Escobaralmost 22 years his junioras his latest pet project. And Vizquel still finds time not just to mentor the likes of Escobar or Jordan Danks, but get his work in for the season. Yeah, it wasnt just the indefatigable Pierre wearing down grass bunting on side fields on ThursdayOmar the Ageless was there, too.

Jake Peavy has been feeling the pressures of a curious injury streak of late, one thats scarred his time so far with the Chisox. But its not justification of a weighty salary that has pushed him miraculously through his rehabilitation. He continued last springworking himself back to ace-level by going 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA and .917 WHIP in five June starts, mind youknowing something wasnt right with his body. The only thing that could stop this former Cy Young winner from pitching was having his lat rip off the bone. Peavy wants back in the White Soxs vaunted rotationnot recklessly, but out of his love of the game. And no surprise, hes ahead of schedule on the comeback trail.

The team rapscallionoutside of manager Ozzie Guillen, of courseis A.J. Pierzynski. Guillens scouting report on A.J. has been oft-repeatedif you have to play against him, you hate his guts, but if youre his teammate, you hate his guts a little less. It would be easy to dismiss Pierzynski as a scallywag trading his fortunate baseball genes in for an easy paycheck, but that would fly in the face of the fact that the White Sox are going to have to rip the catchers mask from A.J.s cold, dead hands. Whether mentally struggling, physically ailing, or merely slumping, Pierzynski insists on playing. Missing a game? A personal affront.

Sitting together as locker mates are Mark Teahen and Brent Morel. With every reason to treat one another with dispassion, these two teammates root for one another, figuring the best man will win the third base job, and that there will be space for both on the roster and in games.

Oh, and there are more tales of baseball passion in the White Sox clubhouse. Look at Jesse Crain, the newest power arm in the pen, whose velocity is actually increasing as he approaches 30 years old. Sergio Santos, last seasons feel-good fireballer, has replaced the unease of knowing whether hell be on the big league roster with the challenge of working a new pitch into his repertoire, or at least mastering his off-speed ones. Chris Sale could ascend from college boy to Chisox closer in less than half a season, all while yet to turn to his best pitch of all, his changeup.

And dont stop at just the players, every one of whom can spin his own personal love story for baseball. Look at the team jefe, Guillen, who wants us all to believe that pulling on his stirrups is more tedious than tweeting. But dont believe the cagey skipperhe loves the stage afforded by managing the team he dreamed one day he would. Theres not a person in camp Guillen wont give some hell toand he loves every last one of them.

His boss, Ken Williams, was pulled by his love for baseball away from a sport he might perhaps have better excelled at, football (convinced by the passion of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who flew to the Bay Area to make sure Williams signed with the White Sox). As an African-American GMand yes, that list is still woefully shortWilliams has suffered more than his share of lumps and not-so-veiled insults. And yet the game addicts himhe cannot walk away, even with 10 years under fire as the man in charge of the White Sox.

Ozzie and Ken spent a half-hour together on Thursday, sidling up together in opposing golf carts, and while there surely was talk of personnel and plans, what you heard most from the longtime friends was laughterloud, what-the-hell-are-they-cackling-about laughter. No kid aching for an autograph or rookie struggling to find his place in the organization could burst with such love for this game.

And that brings it all back to me, charged with observing this game and covering this team. I offer no apology for being a lifelong White Sox fan, elating in the good times and aching through the bad. And while that might cloud my press box judgment for a snap, as I jump and yell at Delmon Young when he tries to displace A.J.s jaw at home plate, it doesnt make me any better or worse a beat writer. My fellow White Sox fans know all too well that rooting like hell for your team doesnt make you a homerit merely means youre all the more likely to question why no ones aiming for Joe Mauers jaw than apologizing away another loss to the Twinks.

My connection to the team is a personal one thats pushing back dangerously close to four decades now, one that many of my peers and the players who wear the uniform do not share. But my love of the game? That makes me no different than those players on the field, or the coaches maneuvering them. Im not a millionaire, and my ability on the field stopped me well short of ever getting a chance to play for anything substantial between the lines. But the one thing I do share with the White Sox I speak to every day is my love of the game, and of the team.

Write me off as gung-ho, if you wish, and have a laugh at my expense. Thats just fine, I dont mind. If youre following me On the Road, well, you probably are right there with me.

We are all driven by one thing: baseball. Really, is there anything better than that?
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Happy Birthday, Big Hurt! 50 Frank Thomas dates and fun facts for his 50th birthday

frank_thomas.jpg
AP

Happy Birthday, Big Hurt! 50 Frank Thomas dates and fun facts for his 50th birthday

May 27, 1968 – Frank Thomas born in Columbus, Georgia

June 5, 1989 – Frank Thomas drafted 7th overall (out of Auburn) in first round of 1989 MLB Draft

August 2, 1990 – MLB Debut – 0 for 4 with RBI at Milwaukee (Game 1 of doubleheader).  First PA was flyout vs Teddy Higuera. Knocked in GW run with a fielder’s choice off Randy Veres in top of 9th.

August 3, 1990 – First Major League hit – a 2-run triple off Mark Knudson in 7th inning at Milwaukee

August 28, 1990 – First career HR.  Solo HR at Metrodome off Gary Wayne in 9th inning

September 27, 1990 – First career Major League home run in Chicago (at Comiskey Park)

September 28, 1990 – Thomas hits the last White Sox home run at old Comiskey Park (off Randy Johnson)

June 24, 1991 – First career Grand Slam – off Michael Jackson of Mariners at New Comiskey Park

July 15, 1991 – First career multi-HR game – both off Mike Gardiner of the Red Sox at New Comiskey Park

September 28, 1991 – 128th walk of season, breaking Lu Blue’s club record set 60 years prior.  Thomas finished with 138.

September 16, 1992 – Lone career 5-hit game (in this game, Don Mattingly took a handful of some kid’s popcorn on a pop foul by Tim Raines)

August 31, 1993 – 100th career HR – off Sterling Hitchcock at Yankee Stadium

September 1, 1993 – 38th HR of season (at Yankee Stadium off Scott Kamieniecki), setting a new White Sox record (breaking record previously held by Dick Allen & Carlton Fisk)

September 5, 1993 – 40th HR of season – first player in White Sox history to reach 40.  Thomas finished with 41.

October 5, 1993 – First career postseason game.  He reached base 5 times. (1 for 1 with 4 walks) in Game 1 of 1993 ALCS vs Blue Jays at New Comiskey Park

October 9, 1993 – First career postseason home run.  Game 4 of 1993 ALCS vs Blue Jays at Skydome off Todd Stottlemyre

November 10, 1993 – Thomas named American League MVP by the BBWAA

April 19, 1994 – Home Run for the 5th straight game.  It’s the first of two 5-game HR streaks in 1994

May 29, 1994 – Home Run for the 5th straight game.  It’s his second 5-game HR streak of the season.

October 26, 1994 – Thomas named American League MVP by the BBWAA for the second straight season

July 10, 1995 – Won 1995 Home Run Derby at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas

July 11, 1995 – First All-Star Home Run in White Sox history (at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas)

March 31, 1996 – Frank Thomas hits the first regular season home run in March in MLB history (off Randy Johnson)

May 15, 1996 – Career-high 6 RBI (first of two times he did it) in 20-8 win vs Brewers in Milwaukee

June 9, 1996 – 200th career HR – off Jimmy Haynes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

September 15, 1996 – first career 3-HR game (all three off Tim Wakefield); the first of which is career HR #215, passing Carlton Fisk for most HR in White Sox history  

May 20, 1997 – Thomas reaches base for the 15th straight plate appearance (HR, 1B, BB, 2B, 2B, BB, 1B, BB, 1B, 1B, 1B, 1B, 2B, BB, BB)

July 14, 1998 – First career walkoff HR (off Rick Aguilera of the Twins)

June 15, 1999 – Extended his hitting streak to 21 games – a career-best.  He reached base 44 times during the 21-game stretch (33 hits, 10 walks, 1 HBP)

August 7, 1999 – 300th career HR – off Kevin Appier at the Oakland Coliseum

July 15, 2000 – Career-high 6 RBI (second of two times he did it) in 15-7 win vs Cardinals at New Comiskey Park

July 23, 2002 – 495’ home run off Johan Santana in Chicago.  His longest home run at New Comiskey Park/Guaranteed Rate Field

July 2, 2003 – Second career Walkoff HR – off Eddie Guardado of the Twins

July 25, 2003 – 400th career HR – off Jorge Sosa of the Rays at US Cellular Field

August 4, 2003  - 2,000th career hit – a home run off Nate Field of the Royals at US Cellular Field

August 18, 2003 – Third career Walkoff HR – off Jarrod Washburn of the Angels

July 18, 2005 – 448th and final home run in a White Sox uniform (448 remains a franchise record)

July 20, 2005 – Last game in a White Sox uniform.  He went 1 for 4 (single off Nate Robertson) in 8-6 loss vs Tigers at US Cellular Field

May 22, 2006 – First game AGAINST the White sox.  He homers twice at US Cellular Field (2 solo HR off Jon Garland) but the White Sox win 5-4

July 6, 2006 – Fourth and final career walkoff HR (only one not in a White Sox uniform).  With Oakland A’s off Scot Shields of the Angels

September 11, 2006 – Home Run for the sixth straight game (with the Oakland A’s); his career-long streak

October 3, 2006 – His lone career postseason multi-HR game.  In his first postseason game not in a White Sox uniform (with A’s – vs Twins at Metrodome)

June 28, 2007 – 500th career HR (with Blue Jays – off Carlos Silva at the Metrodome)

September 17, 2007 – Second of 2 career 3-HR games.  This game was with Toronto Blue Jays.  Tim Wakefield allowed the first 2 (Wakefield allowed all 3 of his HR 9/15/1996)

August 9, 2008 – 521st and final career HR (with Oakland A’s) – off Armando Galarraga at Comerica Park

August 29, 2008 – Final MLB game – he went 2 for 4 vs Twins at the Oakland Coliseum.  His final hit was off Kevin Slowey; final plate appearance was strikeout vs Craig Breslow

February 12, 2010 – Held press conference at US Cellular Field to formally announce his retirement

August 29, 2010 – White Sox retire #35 on Frank Thomas Day at US Cellular Field

January 8, 2014 – Thomas elected to the Hall of Fame

July 27, 2014 – Inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa & Joe Torre

 

 

 

50 Frank Thomas fun facts

 

  1. 521 career Home Runs.

Tied for 20th in MLB history with Willie McCovey & Ted Williams

One of 27 players in MLB history with 500+ Home Runs

 

  1. Thomas had 11 career grand slams

 

  1. 7 extra-inning home runs is a White Sox franchise record.

 

  1. Thomas holds the White Sox season record for both

Home runs at home (30 in 2000)

Home Runs on the road (25 in 1995)

 

  1. Thomas homered against every MLB team except the Pirates

 

  1. Thomas homered more against the Twins (52 HR) than any other team

 

  1. Thomas had 2 career pinch hit home runs.  Both times he pinch hit for pitchers.  Jim Parque & Luis Vizcaino

 

  1. Thomas hit 3 triples before he hit his first Major League home run.

He’s one of two 500-HR club members with 3 or more triples before hitting his first HR.  The other one is Reggie Jackson (4 triples before first HR)

 

  1. Thomas had 3 triples in his first 17 MLB games.

Thomas had 9 triples in his remaining 2,305 MLB games.

 

  1. Thomas was born the same day as Jeff Bagwell.   They both won 1994 MVP awards.

 

  1. Thomas (1993-94) was the first to win American League MVP in consecutive seasons since Roger Maris in 1960-61.  Only Miguel Cabrera (2012-13) has done it since.

 

  1. Thomas’s .419 career On-Base percentage is the best by any right-handed hitter alive (with at least 100 career Major League plate apperances).

 

  1. His last 162 games in a White Sox uniform:  .254/.387/.566, 104 Runs, 47 Home Runs, 121 RBI

 

  1. Thomas (the White Sox 1989 first round pick) and Alex Fernandez (the White Sox 1990 first round pick)

made their Major League debuts in the same game (August 2, 1990 – game 1 of doubleheader at Milwaukee)

 

  1. Frank Thomas had 9 seasons with 100 Runs, 100 RBI and 100 Walks.  Only three players had more.

Babe Ruth (11), Lou Gehrig (11) and Barry Bonds (10)

 

  1. 521 career HR x 4 bases per HR x 90 feet per base = 187,560 feet.  Or roughly 35.52 Miles.  Thomas’s #35 is retired by the White Sox.

 

  1. Thomas collected his 500th career home run the same day Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th career hit.  June 28, 2007

 

  1. Thomas collected his 300th career home run the same day Wade Boggs collected his 3,000th career hit.  August 7, 1999

 

  1. Thomas hit the last White Sox home run at Old Comiskey Park (9/28/1990) and the first White Sox home run at New Comiskey Park (4/22/1991)

 

  1. Thomas also had the first White Sox home run at five other parks.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards (5/8/1992), Progressive Field (7/21/1994), Rangers Ballpark (5/13/1994), Tropicana Field (4/4/1998) & Minute Maid Park (6/2/2000)

 

  1. In 14 career games on his birthday, Thomas hit .468/.583/.766 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, 22 Hits & 13 Walks

 

  1. From 1951-present, 1,109 players have appeared in at least one game with the White Sox**  One has won a batting title for the White Sox.  Frank Thomas (.347 in 1997)

(prior to Thomas, Luke Appling won two batting titles – 1936 & 1943.  His last game with the Sox was 1950)

                **through May 24, 2018

 

  1. In 1997, Frank Thomas hit .417/.524/.748 in 185 PA with RISP.

He had 39 walks.  Only 14 strikeouts.

 

  1. Frank Thomas had 3 receptions for 45 yards as a Tight End for Auburn’s football team in 1986

 

  1. Thomas’s #35 is retired by the White Sox, but his first career Major League hit came while wearing #15.

 

  1. Had a hit off Charlie Hough (born 1/5/1948) & Felix Hernández (born 4/8/1986)

 

  1. In Thomas’s first 8 MLB seasons (1,076 games), he hit .330/.452/.600 with 879 walks and only 582 strikeouts.  And a 177 wRC+  Mike Trout is in his 8th MLB season.  His career wRC+ is 170

 

  1. Thomas is one of six players in MLB history with 500+ Home Runs and .300 BA, .400 OBP & .500 SLG. The others: Babe Ruth, Manny Ramírez, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams & Mel Ott

 

  1. Prior to joining the White Sox, Frank Thomas had 112 walks in 109 games with Birmingham in 1990

 

  1. Joe DiMaggio had 361 career home runs.  Frank Thomas had 361 career home runs… against right-handed pitchers alone.

 

  1. Frank Thomas had more career stolen bases (32) than Joe DiMaggio (30)

 

  1. Thomas homered in 28 different MLB ballparks, off 336 different pitchers.

 

  1. The most home runs Thomas hit off a pitcher was 9 off Mike Mussina.

30 hits is the most by Thomas off any pitcher during his career

 

  1. 9 of Thomas’s home runs were off pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame.

5 off Randy Johnson, 2 off Jack Morris, 1 off Pedro Martínez, 1 off Goose Gossage.

 

  1. Thomas homered off 17 different pitchers who won a Cy Young award

(Clemens, Colón, Cone, Hentgen, Hershiser, R. Johnson, P. Martínez, McDowell, Sabathia, Saberhagen, Santana, Sutcliffe, Valenzuela, Viola, Webb, Welch & Zito)

 

  1. Thomas homered off 6 pitchers who threw a perfect game

(Mark Buehrle, David Cone, Dennis Martínez, Kenny Rogers, David Wells & Randy Johnson)

 

  1. Thomas had 1,704 career RBI. 

He drove himself in 521 times.

He drove in exactly 100 different teammates

Most often driven in?  Ray Durham (184 times)

 

  1. 1,047 players had at least 100 career plate appearances at old Comiskey Park.  Frank Thomas had the best on-base percentage of all of them

(.510 OBP in 102 PA)

 

  1. Thomas had a 52-game on-base streak to begin 1996… the streak was 57 games if you included the last 5 games of 1995.

 

  1. In his first 162 career MLB games, Frank Thomas reached base 313 times.

He hit .317/.449/.532 with 110 Runs, 27 HR, 106 RBI, 134 BB, 132 K, 3 HBP

 

  1. Frank Thomas has 5 of the 12 seasons of at least 40 home runs in White Sox history.  Nobody else has more than two. 

 

  1. A Double in his 149th career plate appearance (in his 39th career MLB game) put his career batting average at .303.  That career batting average never fell under .300 again.

 

  1. Frank Thomas has the most career HR by a player named Frank Thomas (521); which is 235 more than the other Frank Thomas, who was the Frank Thomas who played his final MLB game in a Chicago Uniform (5/30/1966 – with the Cubs).

 

  1. Frank Thomas’s first career grand slam (6/24/1991) scored two future Hall of Famers (Thomas & Tim Raines) and two future White Sox managers (Ozzie Guillen & Robin Ventura)

 

  1. Four position players were picked ahead of Frank Thomas in the 1989 MLB Draft.  Two never reached the Majors (Jeff Jackson & Paul Coleman) and the other two combined for 65 career home runs (Tyler Houston & Donald Harris).

 

  1. 508 players had at least 1,000 plate appearances during the 1990s.  Of those 508 the top two in on-base percentage were Frank Thomas (.440) and Barry Bonds (.434)

 

  1. Thomas hit .322/.448/.635 career vs lefties

 

  1. Thomas is the only player in White Sox history with multiple 5-game home run streaks.  Both were in 1994.

 

  1. In 38 career plate appearances against Bartolo Colón, Thomas hit .483/.605/.828 with 2 HR, 14 hits & 9 walks

 

  1. Besides his 448 HR, Thomas also is the White Sox franchise career leader in Runs (1,327), Doubles (447), RBI (1,465), Walks (1,466), OBP (.427 – min 1,500 PA) & SLG (.568 – min 1,500 PA)

The White Sox turned Comerica Park into a Home Run Derby in Saturday's win

The White Sox turned Comerica Park into a Home Run Derby in Saturday's win

Chicks dug the White Sox on Saturday.

The South Siders hit four home runs in their 8-3 dismantling of the Tigers at Comerica Park. Tim Anderson stayed red-hot with a pair of long balls, Jose Abreu went deep in addition to his pair of doubles, and Daniel Palka made some interesting history with his long ball (see below).

We'll let our stat guru Chris Kamka take it from here.

Since their 10-29 start the White Sox are a respectable 6-4. Days at the plate like Saturday sure help.