White Sox

Inside Look: The real Harold Baines

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Inside Look: The real Harold Baines

Catch Part 1 of Inside Look: Harold Baines in the video above, as well as Parts 2 and 3 in the videos below.

 

In a Chicago sports landscape that has exalted many kings over the last 40 years for their flashy styles and loud bravados, this is one legendary athlete who chose a different route.  

A silent type from a small Maryland town, Harold Baines was never interested in the noise of our large, roaring metropolis. Staying true to himself, he wanted his actions — not his words — to speak to the masses.

Which is why the White Sox icon is beloved by those who saw him play — and a stranger to many who didn’t.

“It's all about your personality. That wasn't my personality,” sais Baines in an interview for “Inside Look: Harold Baines,” which debuts on CSN on Wednesday at 8 p.m. “Ron Kittle had a personality and it worked for him. But I knew what worked for me. Be focused on what I had to do on that particular day and when that day was over I concentrated on what I had to do the next day.”

[WATCH: Inside Look past episodes]

The prime of Baines' career (1982-1987) had some serious competition for attention in Chicago, contending not only with Michael Jordan, but the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears and their rock star cast of characters: Jim McMahon, William Perry, Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, etc.

But while those dynamic entertainers were grabbing the headlines and endorsements, Baines just kept being Baines, refusing to change.

“Because that's who I am. I don't believe in fakeness,” Baines said about the soft demeanor that’s been cemented deep in his underbelly since his birth 56 years ago. “I go back to how I was raised. We were raised to just get the job done and go onto the next task, and that's what I did. Good or bad I knew how to move onto the next day. If I went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I didn't change my approach or personality.”

The best hitter on the 1983 White Sox who won 99 games on their way to the American League West Division title, Baines drove in Julio Cruz in the bottom of the ninth inning to clinch the first postseason berth in Chicago on either side of town in 24 years. 

In an unforgettable scene of sheer bedlam, White Sox fans stormed the field after Cruz crossed home plate. White Sox play-by-play announcer Don Drysdale described it as “Pandemonium at Comiskey Park.” It’s one of the greatest moments in the history of Chicago sports. Think Disco Demolition, but this actually celebrated an athletic achievement, not the end of the Bee Gees.

However, unless you were old enough to see Baines game-winning, division-clinching RBI, most have never even heard about it.  

Maybe because the man responsible for making it happen isn’t shouting from the rooftops reminding everyone about the biggest play of his illustrious career.

“That was probably my most fun time I ever had on a baseball field,” said Baines in possibly the most grandiose statement he’s ever made.

Ask him what he remembers about the sac-fly RBI that ended the two-decade playoff drought that nearly caused a riot at 35th and Shields, and here’s what he says:

“It was a slider and I hit a fly ball to center. Just trying to get the ball in the air.”

Period.

Ask him to describe the emotion he was feeling when he saw Cruz cross home plate with the winning run, and you get this:

“There wasn't any emotion. I'm emotional about my kids, but baseball I'm not emotional about because I took it as a job. Although once we got in the locker room and had the champagne and all that, it was a little different.”

For Baines, that probably meant a wider smile and maybe a couple sentences with exclamation points. He couldn’t celebrate for too long. 

The White Sox had a game the next afternoon. Baines, of course, homered that following day in the second inning. The Sox won 6-0 in front of over 40,000 fans.  

My dad and I happened to be in the crowd for that game. He randomly bought the tickets months in advance. Talk about bad timing. We missed the clinching game by one measly day. 

[MORE SOX DRAWER: Nate Jones' extraordinary journey back to the mound]

The loudest sound Harold made during his playing career came from the thousands of White Sox fans who used to shout his name. The Comiskey Park scoreboard would flash “Har-old” in bright lights when he came to the plate. It became an anthem that followed him wherever he went.

“I still hear it actually. I still hear people say that,” Baines says about the ‘Har-old’ chant. “(Former Minnesota Twins infielder) Ron Washington said they used to say that coming in on the bus when they came to play the White Sox. That means I did something right.”

In fact, Baines did so many things right during his career it’s a travesty that he never got more than six percent of the vote to get into the Hall of Fame. Seventy-five percent is needed for induction.

There’s a compelling argument that he deserves to be in Cooperstown already.

When the six-time All-Star retired from baseball in 2001, he had the 10th most RBIs (1628) in American League history. More than Hall of Famers George Brett, Harmon Killebrew, Al Kaline, Jim Rice, plus National League HOFers like Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey and many others.

Baines has the most RBIs by any eligible player not inducted into the Hall. 

You know how many great players shrivel up in the playoffs? Not Baines. He batted .324 in 31 post-season games, topping the .350 mark in five separate series with five homers (all five coming in consecutive playoff series).

In a sport where there are so many injuries over the course of a grueling 162-game schedule, longevity should not be understated. When Baines retired, he had played the seventh most games in AL history (2,830) and holds the major league record for most years between 100 RBI seasons. He did it in 1985 and again in 1999 — when he was 40!

But the critics point to the fact that he was 134 hits shy of 3,000, he never dominated an offensive category and most of all — because of knee problems, he spent a large portion of his career as a designated hitter, 58 percent of his games played.

If there’s a topic for Baines that comes close to rattling his cage, it’s the Hall of Fame snub. 

“My numbers are as good as some in the Hall of Fame, but from what they tell me, the DH isn’t a position," he said. "They don’t respect the DH slot at all. You have to ask the writers because it is definitely a part of the game — the AL anyway. The position that I played is not respected throughout baseball. If Edgar (Martinez) gets in or Big Papi (David Ortiz) gets in, then it might change. You always have to have a first. Once you get a first, hopefully the doors will open.”

What would it mean?

“I have no idea until it happens. The main point is, hopefully I'm alive. That's the most important thing, to share it with the people who really care about me and who I care about,” Baines said. “People die and then get in, which I don't understand. He's good one year to make it but not the other year? That's the part of voting that I don't understand. But I didn't play the game to try to get into the Hall of Fame. I played to provide a future for my family and to get a World Series ring.”

He mentions his family. Baines has two of them. There’s the White Sox, who he’s given his blood and sweat. Then there’s his family. He saves his tears for them.

What makes Harold Baines cry?

“When I'm around them and I have to talk about them,” he said of his wife, Marla, and their four kids.

Over the course of the next year, the man who never wanted to go near a microphone will be holding one at three of their weddings.

“I’m getting my speeches ready.”

He’s thinking what to say about them without choking up, which might be a lost cause since it will expose the well of emotion hidden on Harold’s insides.

What would his four children say about their father?

“Quiet, but very dedicated about what he does, and they are too,” Baines said. “Hopefully I was a good role model. I have four kids who have graduated from college. Four kids with masters degrees. I'm more proud of that than anything I've ever done.”

They had a great dad who paved the way.

In a world of so much talk and buzz, Baines always went against the grain, keeping his words to a minimum. Despite playing in a park with an exploding scoreboard, he ran around the bases as if in a silent movie.  

He might not have been the shiniest star, but when you saw it, you never forgot it.

That is Harold Baines.

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

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USA TODAY

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

The White Sox future at third base is a pretty big unknown.

Jake Burger is only a year and a half removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the double Achilles tear earlier this year has not just derailed his 2018 but thrown his entire future, and with it the White Sox future at the hot corner, into question. How will the injuries affect Burger's timeline to the majors? How will it affect his ability to play third base?

Those questions and the seeming lack of any other high-end third-base prospect in the White Sox system have made it seem rather obvious that the rebuilding White Sox third baseman of the future currently isn't a part of the organization.

The free-agent lists White Sox fans are salivating over have some pretty intriguing names on them. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who wants to play shortstop but is a two-time Gold Glove winner at third, are free agents this winter. So are less-heralded guys like Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez, who counts third baseman as one of his many job titles for the Houston Astros. Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are free agents the following offseason. Those are big names, any one of which could be a cherry on top for the White Sox as they plan to shift from rebuilding to contending.

But what if the White Sox already have their third baseman of the future? What if he's already on the major league roster?

No, sorry, this isn't about Yolmer Sanchez. It's about Yoan Moncada, to which you might react thusly: "Wait a minute. Yoan Moncada is a second baseman! Learn to count your bases, Duber!"

My rarely utilized math skills aside, Moncada switching positions has been a bit of a talking point for a little while now, and it has far more to do with what's going on in the farm system than it has to do with Moncada's 2018 season in the major leagues.

The White Sox spent their first-round draft pick on a middle infielder in June despite having two supposed long-term pieces in Moncada and Tim Anderson already playing in the big leagues. Nick Madrigal's versatility on the infield was part of the praise the White Sox heaped on him after making him the No. 4 pick in the draft, but for a guy who's been discussed as a Gold Glove type of defender at either second base or shortstop, it kind of seems like that would be the best place to put him. Now, Madrigal's not exactly knocking on the doors of the major leagues, yet to play his first full season of pro ball, but the White Sox dubbed him the "best all-around player in college baseball" this summer, leading one to believe that his development could move along quickly enough to get him to the majors by the time that much-anticipated shift from rebuilding to contending happens.

If that's the case, either Moncada or Anderson would have to move, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the White Sox end up liking Madrigal at third or elsewhere, but he's playing middle infield in the minor leagues.

Anderson moving to the outfield was a favorite suggestion of White Sox Twitter after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors in 2017. He made 20 more in 2018 (fourth most in baseball), but his defensive improvement by the end of the season was one of the biggest positives to take from the 100-loss campaign.

"That’s the thing that really jumps out the most in terms of significant progress he’s made," Rick Hahn said of Anderson's defense during his end-of-season press conference last month. "He’s managed to capitalize on the athleticism we’ve always seen from him and convert that into being a potentially, frankly Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop based on what we’ve seen over the last few months.

"This is really a testament in the end to Tim Anderson’s work ethic. He knew it was an area that he wanted to improve, whether it was because he wanted to show people wrong or because he knew he wanted to make himself a stalwart at that position and eliminate the rumors about position change. He worked extraordinarily hard both with Joe McEwing and the things he did on his own, and the kid deserves a world of credit and I think it bodes very well for him continuing on the trajectory of becoming an impact shortstop."

It doesn't sound like Hahn is describing a guy who will be moving away from his position any time soon.

Moncada racked up a good deal of errors at second base in his first full season in the majors — 21 of them, to be exact, the third most in baseball — but Hahn and Rick Renteria both said they noticed improvement from Moncada in the field. But Moncada did tell the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen during the season that he would be willing to make a position switch if the team wanted him to do it.

Hahn got a similar question during his year-end press conference. Though the general manager wasn't directly asked if Moncada would make a position switch, Hahn said Moncada could defend well at other positions on the diamond and that if such a change were desired, the team would probably make it sooner rather than later.

"It’s conceivable if we made a decision as an organization to try him elsewhere that we would do it as soon as this offseason or next spring training, you’d see it in action," Hahn said. "I do think he has made a great deal of process at second base. I also think he has the athleticism also to be an above-average defender at other positions, too. It’s a subject for further conversation, but as he sits here today, I am pleased with the progress and the pitch-to-pitch focus and the athleticism, the arm strength and foot movement and his hands at second base."

White Sox fans aren't super high on Moncada being the savior of anything, not just third base, right now after his disappointing 2018 season: a .235/.315/.400 slash line and 217 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in major league history. But that's not souring the White Sox on his potential, and it's not changing what they think he can be.

By 2020 or 2021, perhaps Moncada's evolution as a big league ballplayer puts him on a similar level as some of the free-agent names mentioned above. Perhaps he's already playing third base by then with Madrigal on the major league infield, too.

The White Sox seem to have a hole at third base, with popular opinion being that it can only be filled by a marquee free agent. Maybe it does get filled this offseason — by a guy standing about 100 feet away.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.