With such a strong focus on current White Sox prospects, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at statistics and scouting reports of other South Side stars on their journey to the MLB. Our Chris Kamka dug deep into the numbers.
Ron Kittle’s ascent to the Major Leagues was improbable. Maybe even impossible.
Consider that he said this in 1981 (source: Chicago Tribune 7/20/1981) about his 1977 season:
“I played all season with a paralyzed arm. I don’t know when it happened, but it had to be during baseball because I know I was OK when I went to spring training. At the end of the season, I had surgery, spinal fusion. They took out a piece of hipbone and put it in my neck. I went back to spring training the next year and tried to play, but I couldn’t do it. Everything was stiff. I couldn’t swing, and I couldn’t throw.”
He won the AL Rookie of the Year six years later.
Released by Dodgers in mid-1978, he went home to Gary, Indiana and played semipro ball and worked in the iron mills with his father and eventually received a tryout with the White Sox.
By 1981 he was the Eastern League (AA) MVP with Glens Falls, crushing 40 home runs.
For an encore in 1982 he was the Pacific Coast League (AAA) MVP with 50 home runs. Nobody in the MLB-affiliated Minors has hit 50 in a season since.
In 1983 he was the lone White Sox representative in the 50th anniversary All-Star Game held at Comiskey Park. Kittle garnered AL Rookie of the Year honors with 35 round trippers which served as a White Sox rookie record until José Abreu did one better in 2014.
Kittle remains a fan favorite in the Chicagoland area, and he can still handle the lumber… although now he uses bats to make beautiful benches. You can check them out over at ronkittle.com.