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KenWo's Corner- Larry Himes Built the Sox

The Cubs situation with Jim Hendry has me thinking back to former White Sox General Managers.  Obviously, Roland Hemond is still a beloved figure here in Chicago, as he was the guy to bring in Dick Allen, the guy to place a sign that said "open for business" on a hotel lounge table at the winter meetings and the guy to bring Chicago their first division championship (1983) since 1959.  Roland has great stories and you can hear them every Soxfest, as he is always at the event to tell his tales and share his memories.

Hawk Harrelson's G.M. tenure was wild and unsuccessful as WMAQ pointed out in this piece.  

Kenny Williams successes and failures are well known and talked about on a near daily basis here.  

Larry Himes though, took a franchise that was in disarray, and in my opinion, brought the White Sox from cellar dwellers to contenders.  His moves during his tenure (1987-1990) put the Sox to another level.  It is unfortunate that he wasn't there to watch his hard work unfold into a championship type ball club, and that he is rarely mentioned even though he is a major part of White Sox history.  

Himes took over the club after Hawk Harrelson resigned following the 1986 campaign.  He acquired Donnie Hill and sent Joe Cowley packing for Gary Redus, but it was clear this club needed to be built from the ground up.  When the draft came, Himes spent his first pick (#5 overall) on Jack McDowell.  McDowell pitched in 6 minor league games before getting the call to the big club even though he possessed a 6.51 ERA in those minor league appearances. He would turn it around once he hit Chicago though, going 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four September starts.  

After the '87 season, Himes really started leaving his mark on the team.  He dealt their top three starting pitchers from 1987, Floyd Bannister, Richard Dotson and Jose DeLeon.  In November, he shipped off 1983 hero Dotson to the Yankees in exchange for Dan Pasqua, Steve Rosenberg and Mark Salas.  In December, Bannister was shipped to Kansas City for Greg Hibbard, Melido Perez and John Davis.  In February he sent DeLeon to St. Louis for Ricky Horton and Lance Johnson.  Veteran hurler Jerry Reuss was brought in and had a nice season as he went 13-9.  When the draft came around, this time Himes selected Robin Ventura with the 10th pick.  Then in August, he traded Dave LaPoint for reliever Barry Jones.  

After the '88 season, Himes brought in his first and only manager, Jeff Torborg.  He also sent Kenny Williams (yes...that Kenny Williams) to Detroit for starter Eric King.  Ron Kittle was brought back to the club, but while one favorite returned, Himes pulled the plug on another.  On July 29th, White Sox legend Harold Baines was dealt to Texas for INF Scott Fletcher, OF Sammy Sosa and P Wilson Alvarez.  It was a real tough move to take for the White Sox faithful, who even though they struggled for years, had their man Harold to hang on to.  However, Himes had just drafted the man who would turn out to be the new favorite for Sox fans, as Frank Thomas was selected 7th overall.  

The Sox started to turn around their fortunes in the 2nd half of 1989 as the team went 37-36.  That was quite an accomplishment considering they were 69-92 on the season.  In 1990, the rough years would be behind us as the Sox blossomed right before everyones eyes.  I went into major detail about that spectacular season here. That summer, Himes and Al Goldis were at it again on draft day.  Alex Fernandez was brought in as the clubs first round pick (4th overall).  This time though, they also added James Baldwin in the 4th (105), Ray Durham in the 5th (132) and Jason Bere in the 36th (952).  

Himes didn't make any trades to improve the Sox chances at the deadline in 1990, as he only dealt Ron Kittle for Phil Bradley.  Thomas and Fernandez were brought up in August, but he apparently didn't want to part with any of the young talent that he put together and that didn't sit well with Jerry Reinsdorf.  So on September 15th, even though the Sox were 83-62 at the time, Himes and his scouting director Al Goldis were fired.  The Sox went on to go 94-68 that season, and didn't have another losing season until 1995.  

Himes put together the core of what would be one of the most successful White Sox era's of all time:  

SP- Melido Perez, Greg Hibbard, Jack McDowell, Eric King, Wilson Alvarez, Alex Fernandez, James Baldwin and Jason Bere.

IF-  Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Ray Durham.

OF- Dan Pasqua, Sammy Sosa and Lance Johnson.

It was said that Himes was not well liked, but you can't argue with his record on the South Side.  McDowell, Alvarez, Baldwin, Bere, Ventura, Thomas, Durham, Sosa and Johnson would all go on to become All Stars (somehow Fernandez never was one).  If Himes would have remained with the team, who knows how far the franchise could have gone.  

With the White Sox farm system now in shambles, a ton of bad contracts on the Major League level and a team that has been so hard to root for -and it is showing up in the low attendance figures-  it may be time to find a guy that can build the system from the ground up and make the tough call on fan favorites like Himes did with Baines, Dotson and Kittle.  Granted, the Sox had some pretty high picks in Himes' tenure, but he hit on every single one of them.  Not many G.M.s can say that.

Himes would get Reisndorf and company back though.  He became G.M. of the Cubs and in 1992 sent George Bell to the White Sox for an outfielder that struggled in 1991- Sammy Sosa.