White Sox

6 eye-popping White Sox cards in honor of Topps' release day

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Kamka

6 eye-popping White Sox cards in honor of Topps' release day

I have been collecting cards as long as I can remember.

Some of my fondest childhood memories include the day the first baseball card packs of the season were available. At the time, I survived on allowance, so getting a few packs at a time was a treat; I couldn’t just go out and buy an entire box of packs like I can now.

Anyway, those brightly colored packs of mid-1980s Topps were everything to me. In fact, I stumbled upon a card shop a few years back that still sold packs of the cards from my childhood, so I bought some. I already own all the complete sets, but I bought them anyway just to have the unopened packs. Just looking at them makes me happy.

To celebrate Topps releasing its 2018 Series 1 product on Wednesday, I present six of my favorite White Sox cards:

1993 Topps Finest Refractors #102 – Frank Thomas.

The peak years of my collecting career and the peak player of the time. And the introduction of a super-premium card. It was glossy. It looks as if Frank was popping off the card. And when you hold it under the light there was a prismatic effect. OK, truth be told, I never got my hands on it until years later. But still, it brings me back to a time where the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen was on my favorite team. 

1967 Topps Venezuelan #187 – Minnie Miñoso.

One of the oldest mementos of my childhood is a picture of me which was autographed by Minnie Miñoso on the back:

“4/30/1981  Best Wishes, Minnie Miñoso”

Every generation of White Sox fans has stories about Minnie Miñoso. It’s a travesty he’s not in the Hall of Fame. I even started a Twitter account (@Minoso9HOF) hoping to spread awareness to get him into the Hall one day. I started accumulating Miñoso collectibles. When I discovered this card I had to have it. Bold blue background. RETIRADO (retired in Spanish) in bold lettering. One of the beauties in collecting individual players is coming across rare cards you had no idea existed. 

1909-11 t206 Ed Walsh

Perhaps the most famous card set ever, because of the legendary Honus Wagner card which Wagner had pulled because he didn’t want his image associated with tobacco products (more accurately: he didn’t want his image associated with anything without getting paid for it). It isn’t Wagner, but it is the finest White Sox player of the day. MLB record 1.82 career ERA thanks in most part to a devastating spitball. The card is small - 1 7⁄16 by 2 5⁄8 inchesThe coolest part of owning this card is thinking to yourself that it’s over 100 years old.

1974 Topps Deckle Edge Bill Melton

Bill Melton is a gregarious, insightful and generous man who I am honored to work alongside. Oh yeah, he was the first player in White Sox history to lead the American League in home runs. Black & White photograph, rounded cuts along the edges. Blue facsimile signature. Unique card for a unique man.

1983 Topps Carlton Fisk #20

My favorite all-time player in my favorite all-time set. The first set from which I had a lot of cards. Plain and simple. Color scheme matching that of the team, small headshot in the corner. Iconic ’83 uniforms. Pudge in command decked out in his catcher’s gear. Classic cardboard back of card. Lines upon lines of statistics. It gets no better than this. 

Bonus: 1995 Upper Deck Michael Jordan #200

Michael in White Sox uniform being interviewed. By Harry Caray. Two separate things which I love about cards:

First, it’s a glimpse of a player in a uniform other than the one In which you remember him best. It’s like being delivered into an alternate universe. It’s Pete Rose with the Expos. It’s Ken Griffey Jr. with the White Sox. You ask yourself in disbelief, “That really happened??” 

Second, the cameo appearance. It’s Harry Caray! Two Chicago icons in one. Another Michael Jordan cameo example is the Sam Vincent basketball card in which they caught Jordan wearing #12 in the foreground – the only game he ever wore it (because his jersey was stolen that day)!

I collected cards before I reached Kindergarten. I sorted them by age. I sorted them by height. I sorted them by country of birth. I bought a price guide and sorted them by value. 

As I got older, I stopped playing stock market and discovered the true love for collecting. Today, I buy what I like. I take a three-ring binder and fill up the 9-pocket pages. The pages tell a story. People I loved watching. People I have met. People I worked with. I’m still excited to rip open that first pack of the season. Happy collecting!

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.