Donn Pall was in the Comiskey Park stands for Disco Demolition. Less than ten years later, the life-long White Sox fan was on the mound, pitching at Comiskey.
Against all odds, “The Pope” lived his dream. Remember that guy?
Donn Steven Pall was born Jan. 11, 1962 in Chicago. He pitched at Evergreen Park High School, roughly 20 minutes south of Comiskey. He didn’t make the all-conference team in high school, and he was cut as a freshman walk-on at the University of Illinois (he enrolled as a math and computer science major), but didn’t give up. He made the team as a sophomore and went 5-12 over his next two seasons at U of I.
As a senior, Pall figured things out and started to draw some attention, going 13-1 (he started 13-0). He was drafted in the 23rd round of the 1985 MLB draft, by his hometown White Sox, no less. It was a dream come true.
Pall started his professional career in 1985 as a starter in rookie ball. After going 8-11 with a 4.27 ERA for Birmingham in 1987, he thrived in winter ball in Venezuela and settled into a new role as a reliever. In 1988, he used his signature pitches — a forkball and splitter — to go along with his mid-80s fastball and his slider, and blossomed into a fine reliever at Triple-A Vancouver, posting a 2.23 ERA before getting his shot in the White Sox bullpen in August.
Pall made his MLB debut on Aug. 1, 1988 at Comiskey in the ninth inning of an eventual 10-2 defeat vs. the A's. He pitched one inning, allowing one run on two hits, with a double play and one strikeout (Tony Phillips). Coming home to pitch for the team he grew up rooting for, he quickly became a fan favorite, signing an abundance of autographs for fans and earning a nickname from broadcasters Hawk Harrelson and Tom Paciorek. He was “The Pope, Donn Pall” after Pope John Paul II. In his first taste of MLB action, Pall posted a 3.45 ERA in 17 games.
Pall became a fixture in the White Sox bullpen, pitching 50+ times in each of the next three seasons, posting ERAs of 3.31, 3.32 and 2.41. In 1989, he earned a save in each of his first two games of the season, including Opening Day — the first two saves of his MLB career. Pall’s first big league win came on April 27, 1989, when he pitched the final four frames (scoreless) of a marathon 16-inning battle in Boston. He showed he could handle either long relief or setup duties and found success even without high octane gas or big strikeout totals.
“The Pope” rebounded from a shaky 1992 (4.93 ERA) to post a 3.22 ERA in 39 appearances for the Sox in 1993, but he was designated for assignment at the end of August to make room for Iván Calderón. On Sept. 1, the Sox traded him to the Phillies for a player to be named later, who turned out to be catcher Doug Lindsey (who had a grand total of one at-bat over two games in his Sox career). While Donn was saddened to leave his hometown team, he would end up on the NL East-leading Phillies. He pitched well (2.55 ERA in eight outings) but was left off the postseason roster.
Pall signed with the Yankees for 1994 and wasn’t bad, posting a 3.60 ERA in 26 appearances, but he was released at the end of July. The next month, he did the unthinkable; he signed with the Cubs, who needed a replacement on the roster for Jose Bautista, who had an ailing elbow. Pall pitched twice for the Cubs before the strike put an end to the 1994 season.
Pall tried to reunite with the White Sox in 1995, but didn’t make the team. He spent the entire season in Triple-A Nashville and then signed with the Marlins for 1996, starting out in the minors. On June 23, he made his first big league appearance since August 1994, tossing three scoreless innings. He struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 1996 and made only two major league appearances in 1997 for the world-champion Marlins (though he was given a ring anyway).
In 1998, Pall made the final 23 appearances of his MLB career for the Marlins. He was one of the few pitchers to throw to Mike Piazza during the future Hall of Famer’s five-game stint with Florida. Pall’s final MLB appearance was Sept. 27, 1998, when he allowed one run in three innings against the Phillies. The last batter he faced was Doug Glanville, who doubled in a run but was thrown out at third to end the inning.
After retiring, Pall was a financial consultant and retirement planner. He still makes it out the ballpark for White Sox games.
Like the late Ed Farmer, Pall was a Chicago guy who had the chance to come home and pitch for his hometown White Sox. We can’t help but to root a little harder for guys like that. Pall was cut as a freshman in college, but he’s currently 15th on the White Sox all-time relief appearances list with 255. Overall, he posted a 3.63 ERA in 328 career MLB games over 10 seasons.
“The Pope” Donn Pall. You remember that guy!