In the last few seasons, the Sox have acquired baseball legends like Ken Griffey Jr. and Manny Ramirez. Even though things didn't work out as well as we had hoped with either of them, it was still pretty cool to see them play in a White Sox uniform. This hasn't been a new thing though, as throughout their history the White Sox have brought in guys for one year to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle. My dad talks about 1967 when Rocky Colavito was acquired and I remember seeing George Foster and Steve Carlton in 1986, Dave Steib in 1993 and John Kruk in 1995. Every so often though, the Sox do find that diamond in the rough who has a good season and then leaves for whatever reason.
Jose Canseco- When Frank Thomas went down for the season early in 2001 with a torn triceps, the defending AL Central Champions were left with a hole at DH. Enter former Bash Brother, Jose Canseco. Canseco had been cut by the Angels at the end of Spring Training and was playing in the Independent League when Kenny Williams came calling. Canseco joined the White Sox on June 21st and went on to hit .258/.366/.477 with 16 home runs and 49 RBI's in only 76 games. Whether you believe him when he says he was blackballed or not, Canseco never returned to the Major Leagues after having a real good half-season with the White Sox.
Ellis Burks- Burks was a very solid player for the Red Sox, but had issues with his back. In 1992, he only played in 66 games for Boston and was granted free agency after the season. The White Sox decided to take a chance on Ellis for 1993 and the risk paid off as Burks stayed healthy and hit .275 with 17 home runs for the eventual Western Division Champion White Sox. Burks then left the Sox to sign a 3 year deal with the Rockies, in a move that would pay off for him over time. Without Herm Schneider, Burks would suffer injuries before putting up a monster couple of seasons in Colorado that would earn him two more big contracts. My favorite memory of Burks will always be catching the fly ball that clinched the division for the Sox.
Julio Franco- Bo Jackson left for Anaheim and George Bell left the Major Leagues after being the DH's for the 1993 White Sox. With a hole to fill, GM Ron Schueler signed 35 year old Julio Franco to a one year deal. It was a move that paid big dividends for the Sox as Franco would go on to have his best season with the bat. Julio batted .319/.406/.510 with 20 homers and 98 RBI's in the strike shortened season. He was absolutely money batting behind Frank Thomas and was 8th in the MVP voting (that Thomas won). After the strike, Franco would take his talents to the Pacific Rim for a season in the Japanese League. Franco then came back to the Majors and ended up playing until 2007, before hanging it up at age 48.
Danny Tartabull- I enjoyed the 1996 season. After the way '94 ended and then '95 being a dreadful season, the Sox signed Harold Baines, Tony Phillips and traded for Danny Tartabull which gave me some hope. Tartabull was traded during the '95 season from the Yankees to Oakland, but only played in 83 games due to injury. In January of '96, the Sox took a gamble by trading 2 minor leaguers for the Seinfeld star. Tartabull responded by hitting .254/.340/.487 with 27 home runs and 101 RBI's. In 1997, the Sox signed Albert Belle, which left Tartabull without a job. He signed with the Phillies, but only played in 3 games before fouling a ball off his toe and ending not only his season, but his career.
Richie Zisk- Bill Veeck couldn't afford to dabble much in free agency, so he decided to trade for guys in the last year of their contracts. Richie Zisk was one of the "rent-a-players" that helped make the South Side Hitmen of 1977 one of the most popular White Sox teams til this day. Zisk was traded to the White Sox from the Pirates in exchange for fire balling relievers Goose Gossage and Terry Forster, who were also free agents after the '77 season. Zisk would hit 30 homers that year and fellow rent-a-player Oscar Gamble would hit 31 as Nancy Faust was playing Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Good Bye all summer long. Unfortunately, the Sox were unable to keep Zisk and Gamble (who returned briefly in 1985) and the excitement that '77 brought was over after one season.
*I am traveling up to Rosemont today to meet Jose Canseco and I snagged a Manny Ramirez White Sox card which made me think of this topic.
* When I was looking up the Burks catch I came across Bo Jackson's home run in the '93 clincher. Comiskey was rockin' that night. I was sitting in the Upper Deck right above first base.
* Herm Schneider gets his fair share of props from us, but the guy really is amazing. In this article alone I referenced Bo Jackson, Ellis Burks and Danny Tartabull. All three had injuries of varying degrees, but Herm was able to get them healthy and keep them healthy for full seasons.