“He’s got good speed, and he’s a natural hitter. I saw him play in Little League, and he impressed me even then. I’ve been watching him for six years.”
This is what White Sox owner Bill Veeck said in June 1977 after drafting Harold Baines first overall in the MLB draft. Consider the fact that Baines was 18 years old at the time. He had been watching him for six years? Do the math.
The White Sox haven’t picked first overall since. And they definitely got it right with Harold Baines.
After a solid 1979 campaign at Iowa (AAA) hitting .298/.342/.528 with 22 HR in 125 games, Baines made the opening day roster in 1980. It took him a little while to get going, but Harold didn’t shy away from top competition. Three of his first eight career home runs were off Hall of Fame pitchers (Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry & Fergie Jenkins).
He broke the 20 HR & 100 RBI threshold for the first time in 1982. He led the American League in Slugging in 1984. At the age of 30, the White Sox retired his number (shortly following a 1989 trade to the Rangers).
The quiet lefty finished his career with 488 doubles, 384 home runs & 2,866 hits. If it hadn’t been for a pair of work stoppages in 1981 and 1994, he could have easily finished with 500 doubles, 400 home runs & 3,000 hits, which could very well have punched a ticket to Cooperstown.
He returned to Chicago after his playing career, earning a World Series ring as Bench Coach in 2005.
His jersey No. 3 is displayed at Guaranteed Rate Field, and his statue stands on the concourse in the outfield. Is he an all-time White Sox great?