If baseball returns in 2020, it looks like it will be no more than an 80-game season.
It got me to thinking: What are the best White Sox offensive seasons of 80 or fewer games? I went back and looked through seasons from 1950 to 2019 to find a dozen of the best.
Most of them are either because the player was a midseason acquisition or suffered an injury, and while it’s not the same circumstances, it’s still fun to find who packed the most punch into a reduced number of games. One player made the list twice — and it should come as no surprise who it is. Here they are in chronological order:
Ferris Fain, 1954
282 plate appearances, .302/.399/.417, five home runs, 51 RBIs, 40 walks, 14 strikeouts in 65 games
Fain suffered strained ligaments and a bruise on his right knee in a play at the plate in Game 2 of a doubleheader on June 27, 1954. He ended up missing the rest of the season. But before that, Fain was productive. The two-time AL batting champ with the Philadelphia Athletics (1951 and 1952) dropped off a bit in 1953, hitting only .256 in his first season with the White Sox, but even then he could still get on base with the best of ‘em (.405 on-base percentage). In 1954, he added nearly 50 points to his batting average, but unfortunately the injury curtailed his campaign. In December, he was traded to Detroit.
Charlie Maxwell, 1962
242 plate appearances, .296/.394/.495, nine home runs, 43 RBIs, 34 walks, 32 strikeouts in 69 games
Known as the “Sunday Slugger,” Maxwell had an uncanny knack for homering on that day of the week. In fact, 40 of his 148 career long balls (27 percent) came on Sunday. When he was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Bob Farley in a June 25, 1962, trade, he seemed to hit every day of the week for the White Sox, though he still saved his best work for Sunday. Five of the nine home runs he hit after joining the White Sox that season were slugged on Sunday.
Dick Allen, 1973
288 plate appearances, .316/.394/.612, 16 home runs, 41 RBIs in 72 games
After winning the AL MVP in 1972, he played only 72 games the following season. That’s unfortunate, since he was on pace for an encore performance. Allen suffered a hairline fracture of the small bone below the left knee in a June 28 game in Oakland. He returned to the lineup on July 31 and made two more pinch-hit appearances, but he was still in pain and missed the rest of the season. Allen ended up holding at least a share of the White Sox home-run lead with 16 until Bill Melton hit his 17th on Aug. 28.
Ron Hassey, 1986
174 plate appearances, .353/.437/.500, three home runs, 20 RBIs, 22 walks, 11 strikeouts in 49 games
Hassey is the only catcher in MLB history to catch two perfect games: Len Barker's in 1981 and the one Dennis Martinez threw in 1991. The 1986 campaign was the midpoint between those two seasons, and the White Sox acquired him from the Yankees on July 30 with Carlos Martínez and a player to be named later (Bill Lindsay) for Ron Kittle, Joel Skinner and Wayne Tolleson. Hassey had the hottest stretch with the bat of his major league career with the White Sox to close out 1986. He even appeared in yet another no-hitter — this one thrown by Joe Cowley on Sept. 19. But he didn’t catch. He was DH that day.
Carlton Fisk, 1988
298 plate appearances, .277/.377/.542, 19 home runs, 50 RBIs in 76 games
Pudge’s 19 home runs in 76 games in 1988 are a White Sox record for a season of 80 or fewer games. Not bad for a 40-year-old catcher. Fisk suffered a fractured right hand after getting hit by a Jack Clark foul tip on May 10 and ended up missing two and a half months. The setback didn’t rob Fisk of his power; he hit 11 of his 19 home runs in 52 games after returning.
Ron Kittle, 1989
196 plate appearances, .302/.378/.556, 11 home runs, 37 RBIs in 51 games
Iván Calderon led the 1989 White Sox with 14 home runs — in 157 games. But it could have and should have been Kittle to lead the team. Returning to the White Sox for 1989 for the first time since being traded to the Yankees in 1986, Kittle was having a career-year. His 11 home runs through June 10 were tops on the White Sox, and his .302 batting average and .932 OPS were career-highs. Unfortunately his back acted up, and he ended up having season-ending surgery to remove a herniated disc.
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Frank Thomas, 1990
240 plate appearances, .330/.454./529, seven home runs, 31 RBIs in 60 games
Thomas was selected seventh overall in the 1989 MLB Draft, and just a year later he tore through Southern League pitching to the tune of a .323/.487/.581 slash line, with 18 home runs and 112 walks in only 109 games. The White Sox could hold him back no longer, and he was called up to the majors to make his big league debut on Aug. 2. Thomas showed an approach rarely seen by a player of such a young age and posted one of the greatest starts to a career in major league history. An improbable nugget for Frank’s first taste of major league action: He hit three triples before hitting his first home run.
Charles Johnson, 2000
158 plate appearances, .326/.411/.607, 10 home runs, 36 RBIs in 44 games
An All Star in 1997 and a four-time Gold Glove winner by 2000, Johnson was acquired by the White Sox with Harold Baines in a July 29 with the Orioles for Brook Fordyce and three minor leaguers. He hit so well down the stretch for the division-champion White Sox that you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Johnson stayed in Chicago for more than just a 44-game stint in 2000.
Jose Canseco, 2001
306 plate appearances, .258/.366/.477, 16 home runs, 49 RBIs in 76 games
The big 36-year-old slugger was released by the Angels in spring training after he went homerless in 49 at-bats. He wasn’t done yet, though. He had 446 career home runs entering the season and had his eyes on 500. Canseco went the independent route, signing with Newark of the Atlantic League, and was fairly decent. Luckily for him, the White Sox had a need at DH after Thomas suffered a torn triceps in May and the 42-year-old Baines was hitting just .133. They signed Canseco in June. He still had something left in the tank, connecting for 16 long balls. After that season, he never played in the majors again.
Carl Everett, 2003
289 plate appearances, .301/.377/.473, 10 home runs, 41 RBIs in 73 games
A player so nice, you trade for him twice (in a row). The White Sox acquired Everett on July 1, 2003, getting him from the Rangers for players to be named later (Frank Francisco, Josh Rupe and Anthony Webster). Everett signed with the Expos for the 2004 season, and the White Sox traded for him again in July of that season. Of course, he hung around for 2005 and helped the White Sox win a World Series.
Frank Thomas, 2004
311 plate appearances, .271/.434/.563, 18 home runs, 49 RBIs, 64 walks, 57 strikeouts in 74 games
By 2004, Thomas' batting average wasn’t what it had been, but he was still an elite performer. He could still post a .400 on-base percentage and slugging percentage north of .500, and he was coming off a 42-homer campaign in 2003. But the end of Thomas' White Sox career was plagued with injury. He played his final game of the 2004 season July 6 and missed the rest of the year with a stress fracture in his left foot. In 2005, he only got into 34 games and none in the playoffs. Never forget Thomas' reign of terror in the 1990s. You’ll likely never see another stretch that good in your lifetime.
Alejandro De Aza, 2011
171 plate appearances, .329/.400/.520, four home runs, 23 RBIs in 54 games
Álex Ríos was hitting .208/.255/.300 with six home runs in 97 games when he was benched in favor of the journeyman outfielder De Aza, who was called up from Triple-A Charlotte for the July 27 game against the Tigers. In his season debut, De Aza went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer off Max Scherzer as the White Sox went on to win, 2-1. He finished 2011 with a nice 54-game stretch, which led to a pair of seasons as an everyday outfielder for the White Sox. He was about league average, but that has value.
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