Willie Kamm at Comiskey Park in 1925. (Library of Congress)
"The worst feeling I had, as far as being razzed, was in Chicago. We're playing the Yankees, and you'd have sworn I had a Yankee uniform on, the way I played. I think we went extra innings, and I was up five times. Herb Pennock was pitching, and if there was one out and we had a man on, I'd hit into a double play. If there was two outs and a man on third, I'd hit a long fly. Couldn't have hit it with one out, you know...
"The last time I got up -- no, the time before last -- they walked Bibb Falk, who was a left-handed hitter, to get to me, and I hit into a double play. Well, on my walk back, first I had to go back to the dugout. I'd guess there was about 25,000 people there, and I think that 24,999 of them all stood up and was telling me what a bum I was, and 'Go back to California!'
"You try to be nonchalant about it, and you want to hurry up, and you don't want to show 'em that you want to hurry it up ... you gotta take your time but hurry. Oh, it's a helluva feeling."
That's from an interview that Lawrence Ritter conducted with Kamm in 1963 during his research for The Glory of Their Times. I'd purchased an audio copy of of it from the Hall of Fame Library a few years ago, when working on White Sox Outsider 2009, and listened to it earlier this week when I had trouble sleeping.
Two things struck me:
- Take out the references to Pennock, Falk and California, and you can imagine Alex Rios or Adam Dunn saying it today.
- I need to go back to the library.
And thus an idea for an offseason feature was born.
The Hall of Fame Library has files for just about every player to ever play in the majors. They're basically manila folders filled with clippings from newspapers and magazines, press releases, biographical information and other documents. Protective gloves are required to sort through them. It's awesome, especially since you can't help but learn about other players, managers or owners by association.
On top of the player files, sometimes you'll find additional material that's even better. Searching for Kamm, for instance, brought up the interview with Ritter. I did a search for Eddie Cicotte, and the library has two scrapbooks donated by Cicotte's wife, Virginia.
It's a lot of fun. And I can't figure out why I haven't done it since.
This offseason, I'm going to do it again, dadgummit. And this time, I'm taking requests. Basically, all players are fair game as far as they fit a couple criteria:
No. 1: They played before 1980. Mostly because online newspaper archives take care of the last 30 years.
No. 2: They had a career of mild White Sox significance. They don't have to be great players -- it's almost better if they aren't the most famous White Sox -- but if they were starters (or relievers) for at least a couple of full seasons, that should give me a good enough chance to find something interesting. Yes, this means that Johnny Dickshot qualifies.
Once I get a good group of names, I'll call the library and make an appointment. I'm initially planning looking up four or five players the first time, and if people want more, well, then I guess it's more Brewery Ommegang for me.
I'll start with one that's definitely in my plans -- Luke Appling. And I'm tempted to look at those Cicotte scrapbooks, too, if they're available.
Who else ya got?