White Sox

'Winning Ugly' White Sox enjoy SoxFest reunion

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'Winning Ugly' White Sox enjoy SoxFest reunion

It's been 30 years since the Winning Ugly White Sox lit up summer nights on the South side of Chicago. The stadium they played in has since been demolished, their rookie manager has completed a Hall of Fame career and retired in 2011, and a World Series banner has been hung above the division title the 1983 team earned.

But for this weekend at SoxFest, they were the focus again once more. Tony La Russa, Greg Luzinski, Ron Kittle, Roland Hemond, Tom Paciorek and Harold Baines all reunited for two days of panels, stories, and many, many jokes at one another's expense.

"We could outdrink any team in baseball," said former Sox outfielder and broadcaster Tom Paciorek, who then pointed to his old teammate Greg Luzinski and said "And this guy right here was our leader."

Over the crowd's laughter, Luzinski said: "Don't laugh. I'm from Chicago, so you're all in the same boat with me."

Such descriptions of partying might elicit cringes these days, but for the 1983 squad, it was all part of a famous level of team chemistry that included mandatory team parties instituted by their 34 year-old first-time manager Tony La Russa.

"It was really a good thing because it kept the guys together on the road,' La Russa said on Friday night. "They just kept reinforcing 'let's win tomorrow' and then you mixed in a lot of baseball talk when you were all together. It was just really a great atmosphere."

The longtime manager could only spend a night in Chicago before heading out for the funeral of Cardinals legend Stan Musial, but said that All Jerry Reinsdorf had to do was ask to get him to show up to honor what was such a fun year.

The fun was heightened by a raucous home atmosphere, as Comiskey Park saw a nearly 600,000 jump in attendance that year, and topped two million total fans for the first time in franchise history.

"You get 30,000-35,000 people there a night in Comiskey Park," said Luzinski, "Especially with Nancy Faust over there on that organ, she could get that place hopping, and it was a lot of fun. There were teams after a while that didn't want to come in to Comiskey."

Of course, it's a lot easier to have fun and pack the ballpark when the team wins 99 games and claims the division title by 20 games. With their playing careers in the rearview mirror now, the time was ripe for the panel to place the accomplishments of the 1983 club in historical perspective.

"No question it was one of the best teams I've played on the best pitching staff, obviously, starting-wise," said Luzinski. "Tremendous ballclub."

That starting rotation was headed up by two 20-game winners in Richard Dotson and Lamarr Hoyt, that latter of whom won the American League Cy Young that season. Not only did 1983 represent the best year of Dotson and Hoyt's careers, but it also was the last year the team had with hitting coach Charley Lau and scout Loren Babe, as both died of cancer before the 1984 season started.

"We kind of dedicated that season to them," said Paciorek at the Saturday panel discussion, "Why we won 17 games in a row at home, why we came back from that 18-24 start, I think had a lot to do with those guys, because we knew they were fighting a tougher battle than we were by just playing a baseball game."

With that inspiration and a once-in-a-lifetime pitching staff in tow, the White Sox still fell to the Baltimore Orioles three games to one in the American League Championship Series. The franchise wouldn't make it back to the playoffs for ten seasons and by then, Carlton Fisk was the only player left from the 1983 squad.

But any moments of bitterness still present from that defeat and the opportunity at a World Series championship that went by the boards were quickly diffused. A fan asked the panel how come the 1984 team that added Hall of Famer Tom Seaver to the staff could not repeat the magic.

"Well, he wasn't any good," said Paciorek quickly, eliciting chuckles from the crowd. When it came to discussing on one of the most fun seasons of their lives, the players in attendance just did not have much room for regret.

"We were walking away dejected," said Ron Kittle, describing the feeling after the White Sox were eliminated from the playoffs. "But we played hard for the city of Chicago, they rocked the place with two million people that year, we heard 'Na Na Hey Hey', I got to play my rookie year in between Wimpy Paciorek, Bull Luzinski, and Carlton Fisk that was my dream, I watched them when I was a kid and I was just fortunate to be part of that team."

That feeling was clear. 15 minutes after the panel ended, a crew looking to set up the Red Lacquer Room at the Palmerhouse for Sunday's events had amassed near the media entrance, but they were being held up.

"Ron Kittle is still out there signing autographs," one of them noted, before they decided to wheel their gear out toward the back entrance. They must not have seen Luzinski, since he was still out there too.

CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes contributed to this story.

Winter Meetings wrap: The White Sox pursuit of Bryce Harper is for real and all part of the rebuilding plan

Winter Meetings wrap: The White Sox pursuit of Bryce Harper is for real and all part of the rebuilding plan

LAS VEGAS — The White Sox were the talk of the Winter Meetings.

Imagine that a year ago. Heck, imagine that a couple months ago.

They’re coming off a 100-loss season, not expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2019 and remain in the thick of their rebuilding effort. But that hasn’t stopped the White Sox from being uber aggressive this winter. It hasn’t stopped them from trying to sign not just a free agent but the free agent, Bryce Harper, to a monstrous contract that could be the biggest baseball has ever seen.

But here’s the biggest thing worth learning about the White Sox right now: This is all part of the plan.

"We're excited to be discussing impactful moves for the long term,” general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday, the final day of these Winter Meetings. “We've made no secret, it's been a tough couple years on everyone associated with the White Sox, an understandably tough couple of years given what we're trying to accomplish for the long term. And it's good to have a seat at the table on some large, impactful moves.

“Now it doesn't necessarily mean that anything's going to come together. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and even if we are able to convert on something big, there's still going to be work behind it over the coming years to get us where we need to be."

A quick glance at the situation, at the win-loss record might make it seem like the White Sox have lost interest in rebuilding, that they’ve decided to completely flip the script in one winter by backing a dump truck full of money up to Harper’s driveway here in Vegas and saying, “Come make us a winner right now because we are sick of losing.”

But that’s not what’s happening.

Is there frustration over a combined 195 losses in the last two seasons? You betcha. But the courtship of Harper — and that of his fellow mega free agent, Manny Machado — isn’t an act of desperation. It’s a step in this process that Rick Hahn and his front office began at these Winter Meetings two years ago, when they traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for the first of many highly touted prospects.

While those prospects have always been the foundation and the majority of the roster of the future, there were always going to be “finishing pieces,” as Hahn calls them, players that would have to be brought in from outside the organization to vault the White Sox from rebuilders to contenders. And those pieces were always going to have to fit with the long-term plan, with the bright future, with all those prospects.

Harper and Machado are exactly that, even though the timeline might be a bit wonky. Either 26-year-old superstar would provide a centerpiece for the young talent to grow up around, and all combined, the plan is they would develop into the perennial championship contender this process was designed to create.

Why now, though? Well, it comes down to opportunity. Harper and Machado won’t be free agents next winter. This is when the White Sox have the opportunity to get one of them, and they’re trying to take advantage. Does it mean they’ll be a playoff team next year? No, probably not. But the pitch is that over the course of what could be a decade-long contract, there will be multiple playoff appearances and a chance to win multiple championships alongside Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and plenty of others.

If the rebuilding process is a years-long to-do list, one of the items is bringing in a player like this — or trying to, at the very least.

It still might seem surprising, but jumping into the Harper and Machado derbies with both feet does nothing to take the White Sox off the track they set for themselves two years ago.

“It’s good that there’s excitement,” Hahn said. “At the same time, we are taking an approach where we will remain consistent with what our vision has been for this team for the long term. If something or somethings come together in the coming weeks that reinforce that long-term vision, you know we will act on it.”

But it’s equally important to remember that the White Sox rebuild does not hinge on the decision of Harper or Machado. Harper could wind up in Philadelphia, Machado could wind up in New York, and the White Sox bright future won’t be dimmed. Jimenez could wind up being just as impactful when he arrives early on in the 2019 campaign. And then there’s another loaded free-agent class next winter. And there’s the possibility of trading from a position of prospect strength for an elite talent.

The pitch seems to be working.

Obviously, money is going to play a huge factor and the financial flexibility the rebuild has created might end up making a bigger difference than the attraction of playing alongside this collection of young players for the next 10 years.

But the White Sox are in this position because of what they’ve done over the last two years. In cultivating a bright future and positioning themselves financially, they’ve become a team that is, at the very least, worth considering as a destination for baseball’s best players. That’s great news for White Sox fans who keep up to date with all the latest rumors. It’s even better news for the White Sox, no matter how this Harper sweepstakes turns out.

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Bryce Harper comments on Nicky Delmonico's Instagram, White Sox faithful goes wild

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USA TODAY

Bryce Harper comments on Nicky Delmonico's Instagram, White Sox faithful goes wild

On Thursday afternoon, White Sox outfielder Nicky Delmonico posted a video on his social media accounts (Twitter and Instagram, to be specific) where he is playing wiffle ball on the beach with some White Sox fans.

Free agent extraordinaire Bryce Harper commented, "@nickydelmonico This is what it's all about! Love this brotha!" and White Sox faithful—rightfully so—go very excited at just seeing Harper commenting on the social media account of a current White Sox player.

Some of the best responses from White Sox fans are below:

ericksyndrome: @bharper3407 you can take over the city of Chicago 👀

mattthew_smith: @bharper3407 don’t play with my emotions Bryce. I need this 😂 #GoSox

pgrizzy20: @bharper3407 Bryce for the love of God please come win a WS on the south side with us!

r_baker_11: @bharper3407 THIS HAS TO MEAN SOMETHING

boomzdaddy: @bharper3407 change the recent mold as a star and go to a team where YOU will be the main reason they become great again in the greatest city in the country, Chicago. #whitesox