[Ed. Note: Today we’re introducing another new feature that will run from here till you just don’t wanna read it anymore. Photo of the Week will take a look back into White Sox history through the perspective of the camera lens.]
Perhaps no player epitomized the 1950s Go-Go White Sox more than shortstop Luis Aparicio. He brought more excitement to the field and the basepaths than he did the batter’s box, much like co-Go-Gos Nellie Fox and Jim Landis.
Aparicio was signed out of Venezuela at age 20, and two years later, he was starting at shortstop for the White Sox. The man he replaced, Chico Carrasquel, was Chicago’s first, great Venezuelan shortstop, and the White Sox’s connection to the country would be re-forged 29 years after Aparicio’s debut, when the team would start another young Venezuelan defensive whiz at short, Ozzie Guillen.
Ironically, it was Carrasquel who recommended Aparicio to White Sox GM Frank Lane. In 1956, the season he supplanted Carrasquel as White Sox shortstop, Aparicio became the first Latin American player to win the Rookie of the Year award.
The 1956 season fell smack-dab in the middle of nine years when the White Sox finished third or better in the American League. Aside from the pennant winners of 1959, however, Chicago never really finished close to first; the teams were great, but not great enough to break hearts with a photo finish pennant race.
Those heartbreaking White Sox teams were still to come, in the 1960s, after Aparicio was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.
Wait—how does a franchise icon get dealt away before age 30?
Well, Aparicio had arrived in camp overweight in 1962—at the very time this photo was taken—and had his worst season as a pro. When the White Sox suggested a pay cut the following spring due to his declining performance, a furious Aparacio demanded a trade.
Interestingly, dealing Little Looie before the 1963 season helped spur the White Sox to 287 wins over the next three years—the best three-season run in White Sox history.
Aparicio was traded back from Baltimore five seasons later, and the defensive ace ended up presiding over the worst three-season stretch in White Sox history (no fault of Aparicio, who put up a stellar 12.9 WAR as an aging middle infielder).
So, oddly enough, despite being the heart of the Go-Go pennant winners of 1959, Aparicio had a star-crossed 1960s with the team, leaving when the going got good again, and returning to town in time to suffer through 295 losses.
In 1984, Aparicio was hit with double honors, being inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and having the White Sox retire his No. 11. He has retained a connection to the White Sox, most notably in throwing out the first pitch before Game 1 of the 2005 World Series. The next year, the White Sox unveiled statues of Aparicio and Nellie Fox in the center field concourse. And in 2010, Aparicio agreed to let fellow countryman Omar Vizquel wear his No. 11 jersey after Vizquel signed with Chicago.