Kevin Bell. Greg Pryor. Jim Morrison. Aurelio Rodriguez. Vance Law. Lorenzo Gray. Tim Hulett. Luis Salazar. Wayne Tolleson. Dave Cochrane. Steve Lyons. Kenny Williams. Carlos Martinez. Eddie Williams.
Third base was an annual rite of pain for White Sox fans during the 1980's. Every season there was supposed to be a new answer for the position. Every year was another near disaster. It turned even more painful when the Sox traded Rule V draft pick Bobby Bonilla back to the Pirates in 1986, only to see him become an All-Star third baseman in 1988.
There was something to look forward to in 1988, though. The White Sox had drafted third baseman Robin Ventura in the first round of the draft. In 1987, Ventura had a 58 game hitting streak for Oklahoma State and lead his team to the College World Series, losing to Jack McDowell's Stanford team. In 1988, he won the Golden Spikes award and a gold medal with the 1988 US Olympic baseball team.
After spending 1989 in Birmingham and a September audition in Chicago, Ventura was given the starting third base job out of Spring Training. Through the first seven games, Ventura fared well. He had just hit his first career home run off Roger Clemens and had a nice .333/.462/.619 line. The black hole at third base was gone.
Or was it getting ready to claim yet another victim?
The Sox went on their first real road trip of the season to play Cleveland and Texas. Ventura went 0-for-15 with five walks. After another five games at home, Ventura went 0 for 12 with a walk and an RBI. Then, a six game road trip to Kansas City and Toronto, and Ventura went 0 for 12 with four walks and two runs. After a promising start, Ventura was down to .117/.293/.217.
Angst was near an all time high in Chicago. After spending the 1988 season in Chicago, 1987 first round pick Jack McDowell spent 1989 on the DL or putting up a 6.13 ERA at Triple-A Vancouver. McDowell was starting for the Sox, but had an ERA of 5.66 after his first start in May. Having one potential star struggling was bad, but now it seemed like both McDowell and Ventura could be on their way to Vancouver soon.
It was May 11, 1990, and the White Sox were back home for another series against the Royals. Ventura struck out looking to Bret Saberhagen to lead off the third to take his hitless streak to 41 at bats.
In the bottom of the fifth, it ended. After a Steve Lyons double and a walk to Ron Karkovice, Ventura laid down a bunt for a single. Ozzie Guilen hit a sacrifice fly to score Lyons and the Sox scored their first run to get the game to 2-1.
After a groundout in the sixth, Ventura came to bat again in the eighth with two outs, trailing 4-1. On a 1-1 pitch, Ventura hit his second home run of the season off of Steve Farr.
"It felt hard enough to hit the wall," he said. "But the way my luck was going, I didn't want to watch it."
After a two-run homer by Ron Kittle and RBI doubles by Ivan Calderon and Carlos Martinez, the Sox had a 6-4 lead. Bobby Thigpen came in and picked up his eighth save of the season.
Ventura went 1-for-3 the next night, but followed that up with a 0-for-12 streak over the next five games. He pulled himself out of the nosedive as May turned to June, but he didn't put himself on truly solid ground until he hit .330/.383/.408 in September. Patience paid off -- a huge supply of it.
Flash forward to 2014. Instead of being a rookie, Robin Ventura is now in his third season as the White Sox manager. Instead of being the guy to fill a decade long hole at third base, he gets to try to turn around a 99-loss team. Three of the likely White Sox starters in 2014, Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, and Avisail Garcia, haven't played a full major league season yet, but they'll have real major-league jobs. Add in Josh Phegley, Adrian Nieto, Matt Davidson, Marcus Semien, and Leury Garcia and the White Sox could be bursting at the seams with rookies and near rookies throughout the season.
The environment is conducive for a season of extremes. All these young guys could run hot and cold through the whole season. Ventura's experiences in his rookie season might just be the thing that helps him out the most with all these young players this season.
This season. I'm so ready.