In chronological order:
Born: June 6, 1931
Died: Jan. 12, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1959
Rodolfo “Rudy” Arias, one of the many Cubans to grace the South Side in the 1950s, pitched in professional baseball for 13 seasons, but only one in Major League Baseball. The White Sox signed Arias as a 22-year-old amateur in 1953 after his Oriente Province San German club played in a tournament against American amateur clubs in Michigan. From there, he worked his way up the chain. In 1958 pitching for the Triple-A Havana Sugar Kings, he threw a no-hitter.
Arias finally reached the majors in 1959 for his one and only season, working exclusively out of the bullpen for the Go-Go Sox. He appeared mostly in low-leverage situation, but he was able to pick up two wins and two saves. The Sox didn’t use him after Aug. 26. No reason is given, and Arias’ SABR bio says he was on the roster through the entire season and World Series, picking up a full playoff share.
Born: Dec. 20, 1949
Died: Jan. 31, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1977, 1985
There are few players in White Sox history who left such an impression over such a short stint like Oscar Gamble. From his unprecedented power to his lackluster defense to his unique aesthetic to his one-year contract, Gamble might’ve been the quintessential South Side Hit Man.
The White Sox acquired Gamble and his glorious afro in a swap of impending free agents with George Steinbrenner’s Yankees. The Sox sent Bucky Dent to the Bronx, and the Sox received Gamble, along with LaMarr Hoyt and minor-leaguer Robert Polinsky.
Hoyt would end up providing the long-term value, but Gamble provided the immediate entertainment. Over the only 137 games he played for the White Sox, he hit .297/.386/.588 with a team-leading and career-best 31 homers. He didn’t offer much in terms of defense, but it was a season well within his brand of fun-first baseball.
The White Sox tried to capture the magic again at the end of Gamble’s career, signing him to a deal in 1985 after he hit .184 with the Yankees the year before. The hope was that Gamble could provide some bench thump after getting bone chips removed from his knee, but he hit .203/.353/.318 with just four homers over the last 70 games of his career.
Basically, 1985 was as forgettable as 1977 was memorable, so you may as well throw it out and remember the fun. That seemed to be his m.o. Everybody who played with Gamble seemed to consider him a delight. Steve Stone called him a guy who truly loved life. Reggie Jackson said it was “a pleasure to play baseball with him. More than a pleasure to know him.”
Born: Nov. 4, 1933
Died: Feb. 13, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1954
Known nowadays as being the father of Terry Francona, John Patsy “Tito” Francona had a big league legacy of his own, compiling 1,395 hits over 15 seasons, including a half-season stint with the White Sox.
The Sox acquired Francona in one of the classic megatrades of the 1950s. In December of 1957, he came over from Baltimore with Billy Goodman and Ray Moore for four White Sox, most notably Larry Doby and Jack Harshman.
Halfway into the 1958 season, Francona was on the move again, heading to Detroit with Bill Fischer for Bob Shaw and Ray Boone. Francona only hit one homer while batting .254/.350/.330 for the Sox as a 24-year-old, and he didn’t impress with Detroit, either.
Only later, after a trade the following year to Cleveland — in exchange for Doby again, coincidentally — did Francona hit his stride. He hit .314/.380/.487 over three seasons with the Indians, including a .363 batting average in 1959 that pushed him to a fifth-place finish in the MVP race. Then again, Shaw won 18 games and the Sox won the pennant over Cleveland, so the Sox were able to absorb the indirect blow.
Born: Dec. 25, 1938
Died: Feb. 22, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1969
Hamilton’s Baseball-Reference.com page looks like that of a typical journeyman pitcher, playing for eight teams over six MLB seasons.
His New York Times obituary tells a different story: Hamilton was the guy who beaned Tony Conigliaro.
That was in 1967, two years and two teams before the White Sox acquired the 30-year-old righty from Cleveland in exchange for former White Sox pitching coach Sammy Ellis.
The change of scenery did neither pitcher much good. Hamilton was hit hard, allowing a 11.68 ERA over eight games with more walks than strikeouts. Ellis never pitched for Cleveland, or any other big league team, for that matter.
Born: Aug. 9, 1946
Died: March 26, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1975
There are three players in White Sox history who tripled for their only hit on the South Side. The first is Charlie Lindstrom, who played just one game in 1958. The most recent is James Baldwin, who went 1-for-13 over his interleague career.
In between is Jerry Moses, who played two games for the White Sox in 1975 to end his career. He was better known for his work with the Red Sox, with whom he made his debut as an 18-year-old bonus baby, then later made an All-Star Game in 1970. He remained in the Boston area after his playing days were over, and was heavily involved in Red Sox and MLB alumni activities.
And his playing days were over after a brief run with the White Sox, who were his seventh team over a six-year period. The Sox purchased him from the Padres, but only had two games for him before cutting him in September. He decided to hang it up at the age of 28 to pursue a more lucrative career, and ended up succeeding in the food industry.
Born: May 7, 1948
Died: April 16, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1971
The White Sox were the fourth team to draft Hottman, but they were the first team to sign him. Major League Baseball had two drafts a year at the time, and coming out of the Sacramento area, Hottman figured prominently in all four of them.
- January 1967: First round, Athletics
- June 1967: Second round, Giants
- January 1968: First round, Cardinals
- June 1968: Second round, White Sox
The White Sox were able to land the hot commodity, and after a sluggish pro debut, he put together a strong run up the ladder, peaking with 37 homers and a .621 slugging percentage with Asheville.
That performance earned Hottman a September call-up, where he went 2-for-16 with a walk and two strikeouts over six games.
Those were the only six games of his career. He returned to Triple-A, where he still belted homers but couldn’t get his average out of the .250s. His strikeout rate also surged. He hung it up after 1975, and his obituary doesn’t make much of a reference to his playing career. It makes a more prominent reference to his 30 years at UPS.
Born: June 20, 1944
Died: April 23, 2018
Coached for White Sox: 1981-84
During his playing days, Nelson was a fleet-footed infielder who stole 20 bases or more in four of his 10 big-league seasons, six of which were with the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers.
After his playing days, Nelson bounced between broadcasting and the dugout with ease. While an assistant coach with the White Sox in the early 1980s, he did a bit of both, working with SportsVision and WJRC-AM in Joliet until the team parted ways with him in 1985.
He returned to Chicago’s airwaves as a Cubs radio analyst in the late 1980s, and also spent time with both Cleveland’s on-field and on-air staffs in the following decade. It wasn’t until 2001 that he finally found a permanent home in Milwaukee. He served in a variety of coaching roles with the Brewers before settling in as a TV analyst.
Born: Dec. 15, 1931
Died: July 9, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1952, 1955-62
Even though it seems like Frank Lane, Chuck Comiskey and Hank Greenberg traded everybody twice during the 1950s, the light-hitting Sammy Esposito stayed put. It’s possible the only thing keeping him from a solid decade on the South Side was the Korean War. After making his debut as a 20-year-old late in the 1952 season, he was drafted into the Army while in the minors in 1953, and missed all of 1954 because of it.
Esposito, born in Chicago and a product of Fenger High School, was signed by his hometown team after a successful stint at Indiana University. He signed with the Sox for a hefty bonus around $50,000 in August of 1952, and he got a chance to prove it by playing with the White Sox a month later. He went 1-for-4 in his only game that season.
He returned for another cup of coffee in 1955 before becoming a fixture in the White Sox dugout starting in 1956. He had to be retrained as a third baseman after Luis Aparicio effectively blocked off shortstop for the foreseeable future, but he didn’t hit enough to handle the corner, so he spent the bulk of his career as a backup.
It’s hard to hit less than Esposito did. From 1959 through 1961, Esposito hit .173/.270/.257 with three homers and zero stolen bases over 278 plate appearances. But whether it was Marty Marion or Al Lopez, his managers loved him, and his post-career career suggests he was on the same wavelength.
After retiring as a player, Esposito went on to coach the North Carolina State baseball team from 1967 through 1987. In the offseason, he served as an assistant coach on their basketball teams, and played a role on their two NCAA Tournament teams.
A quote in this Raleigh Observer-Dispatch obituary underscores Esposito’s ability to connect with those calling the shots:
You’ve heard of a players’ coach? Esposito was a coaches’ coach. He was part sounding board, part psychologist, part strategist and part recruiting whisperer.
“He was the guy who all the coaches went to talk to, and they would talk about all their anxieties with him,” Horning said. “He was like a security blanket for them.”
Born: Sept. 1, 1930
Died: Aug. 21, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1962
Dean Stone peaked early, especially when it came to trivia. He made the All-Star Game in his first full season with the Washington Senators, and he picked up the win in the Midsummer Classic without throwing a pitch. He ended up firing a throw to the plate to nab Red Schoendienst, who tried to unnerve the rookie pitcher by stealing home.
From that point on, Stone had a journeyman’s career. The East Moline, Ill., native spent most of his eight years as a swingman for five different teams. He was a pure reliever by the time he got to the White Sox, who acquired him from the Houston Colt .45’s for Russ Kemmerer. Stone pitched fairly well in relief, posting a 3.26 ERA in 27 games.
His B-Ref page shows the Orioles purchased him from the White Sox after the season, but it was apparently part of a complicated deal featuring a ton of big names. The Orioles received Aparicio and Al Smith, while the White Sox took on the contracts of Hoyt Wilhelm, Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson and Pete Ward.
Born: Oct. 27, 1936
Died: Sept. 21, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1970
Lee Stange, a Chicago native and product of Proviso Township High School, was able to wrap up a 10-year MLB career close to home.
Stange’s baseball career wasn’t a first choice. He injured his knee playing football at Drake University, causing him to miss the baseball season. He only later returned to baseball because the military wouldn’t accept him due to the knee.
He made his way up to the big leagues in 1961 for a late-season stint with Minnesota, then stuck for good the following season. His undersized 5-foot-9-inch frame might’ve contributed to getting stuck with a swingman role, as he never earned a full-time workload even during a successful prime. From 1965 through 1969, Stange posted a 3.34 ERA while averaging 145 innings a season, but nearly two-thirds of his appearances came in relief.
He hit a wall in 1970 with Boston, and the White Sox gave the 33-year-old a shot. He posted an unremarkable 5.24 ERA over the last 16 appearances of his career, although he did pick up on relief win to tip his career record over .500 (62-61).
Stange spent his post-career coaching, including serving a term as the Boston Red Sox’ pitching coach. He was replaced by Bill Fischer, and you’ll read about him later.
Born: Oct. 25, 1946
Died: Oct. 10, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1970-71
Don Eddy, a star in both baseball and basketball as a high schooler in Iowa, committed to the former when the White Sox signed him in 1966. The start of his career was interrupted by military duty, but he returned to baseball action for three games in 1968, then reestablished himself with an outstanding season at Appleton, where he went 18-3 with a 1.81 ERA over 24 games.
Eddy eventually made it to Chicago as a left-handed reliever for parts of the 1970 and 1971 seasons, and it represents his entire MLB career. He was called up in September of the White Sox’ last 100-loss season before 2018, then broke camp with the club in 1971. He posted a 2.36 ERA over his 29 games, although it was mostly in mop-up work, as evidenced by the team’s 3-26 record in games he appeared.
He spent the second half of the 1971 season in Triple-A, and aside from three games during another September call-up, he spent the rest of his career in the minors. His obituary says his second career was in car sales, and he was a good golfer and family man.
Born: July 23, 1931
Died: Oct. 15, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1959
Like Arias, Joe Stanka is another pitcher whose entire MLB career took place with the Go-Go Sox. A literal standout at 6’6″, his SABR biography paints an accidental baseball career similar to Stange’s.
Stanka started playing seriously at age 15, as his school’s undermanned team needed somebody tall to play first base. He went to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) on a basketball scholarship, but left after one year and returned to his hometown. He worked for the railroad, and he only got into professional baseball to pay a $300 bill owed to the hospital because his son was born during a strike.
He walked 91 batters in 90 innings as an 18-year-old at the lowest levels of pro ball, but eventually refined his approach into something more workable over most of the 1950s. Just as he wrapped up his eighth season in the minors, the White Sox purchased him from Sacramento for the September push.
Stanka appeared in two games, but he could’ve quit after one. He picked up the win against Detroit by pitching 3⅓ innings of one-run ball in an 11-4 victory, and he also singled and scored a run. He only made one more appearance, and the lack of action afterward might’ve stemmed from miscommunication — or no communication — with manager Al Lopez about a pulled groin.
Not liking his odds for making the Sox in 1960, Stanka jumped to Japan and experienced a lot of success. He went 100-72 with a 3.03 ERA over seven seasons, six of them with the Nankai Hawks. He peaked in 1964, throwing three shutouts during the Japan Series and earning the MVP for his work.
Born: Oct. 11, 1930
Died: Oct. 30, 2018
Played for White Sox: 1956-58
Fischer’s nine-year career started and ended with the White Sox. He broke into the big leagues with a September call-up in 1956 at the age of 25, seven years after signing with the White Sox after a tryout in 1948 for “not a lot of bleeping money.” He lost two seasons in between to the Korean War, during which he served as a drill sergeant. Apparently the job fit his personality.
Fischer made his debut in 1956, but it was one to forget. He gave up four runs and allowed two inherited runners to score without retiring a batter, and found his way back to the minors after two more appearances. He returned to the majors in May of 1957, where he succeeded as a swingman and lasted the rest of the season.
He struggled the following year, but the White Sox found a way to get value from him. The Sox dealt Fischer in the aforementioned deal with Francona to Detroit for Shaw and Boone.
He bounced around the bullpens of the American League, from Chicago to Detroit, to Washington to Detroit to Kansas City to Minnesota. He got shelled during his final year with the Twins in 1964, and he couldn’t bounce back. The White Sox signed him before the 1965 season. Fischer was looking for a job as a coach or a scout, but the White Sox first used him as an organizational pitcher for a few more seasons before Fischer entered the non-player ranks for good.
He spent more than 40 years in baseball after his pitching days were over, resurfacing in the majors as a pitching coach for the Reds, Red Sox and Devil Rays.
Thanks for this. Interesting the Esposito section.
Rest In Peace.
I didn’t know about Gamble. Damn it all. Gamble, Spencer, Zisk of course. Such a fun team.
I enjoyed this article. One of my colleagues has a wife who is part of Don Eddy’s extended family. He mentioned when Don Eddy died that he had met Don Eddy many times at family events before it ever came up that he had played in the major leagues for the Sox.
(I do think Don Eddy might have been born in 1946 not 1956. If he had pitched for the Sox when he was 14 years old, his career would have been memorable indeed.)
@Joliet Orange Sox Correct and corrected, thanks.