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In memoriam: The White Sox we lost in 2018

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A look back at South Siders who died in 2018, including a Hit Man, a legend in Japan, and an NCAA title-winning assistant basketball coach

Teammates forever: Three White Sox in the 1959 team photo were lost to us in 2018, including Sam Esposito (second row, second from right); Rudy Árias (fourth row, third from left); and big Joe Stanka (over Árias’ right shoulder, fifth row, third from left).
Bettmann Archive

It’s the time of year where, as we look ahead with hopeful eyes to our 2019 Chicago White Sox, we look back at those South Siders we lost in 2018. Included among them are a Hit Man, a Japanese League legend, and a NCAA title-winning basketball coach.

Please, feel free to use the comments to honor any White Sox close to you who we lost in 2018.


The Trading Card Database/Topps

Rudy Árias
Relief Pitcher
Chicago White Sox (1959)
bWAR: -0.1
fWAR: -0.4
WARP: 0.4
aWAR: -0.1
Core Stats: 2-0 ⚾️ 2 SV ⚾️ 4.09 ERA ⚾️ 4.77 FIP ⚾️ 1.57 WHIP ⚾️ 93 ERA+
Died: Jan. 12, 2018
Age: 86

Árias had a short impact on the White Sox, but he made it count, contributing well to the 1959 AL pennant winners.

This brief summary is derived primarily from this fantastic profile, so please click and read it, if only for the great tales of Árias tossing a knuckleball at Mickey Mantle on a dare from Jim Rivera, losing an 18-inning game to Luis Tiant, or throwing at Ryne Duren’s head.

Árias escaped Cuba in 1952 and signed with the White Sox, but a freak accident (slipping on stadium concrete in Cuba) resulted in a broken arm that delayed his ascendance to the majors. (Amazingly, rather than feel he could afford to wait for his injury to fully heal, Árias says he relied exclusively on his fastball after returning to the field in 1954, as it was a few seasons before he regained his out pitch, a curve.)

After a 1958 no-hitter with the Triple-A Havana Sugar Kings (!!!), the White Sox took notice — and paid Árias a $1,000 bonus.

Árias broke with the big club in 1959, and saw action in 34 games with the White Sox, finishing 13. He did not see action in the World Series. And though still a young player, Árias was part of the post-Series purge by Bill Veeck, as he was sent off to the Cincinnati Reds after the season, and never made it back to the majors.

Árias played in the minors and the Mexican League before retiring in 1967. He worked in construction and security in Miami after his playing days. His son, Rudy Jr., was a longtime bullpen coach with the Baltimore Orioles.


Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Oscar Gamble
Outfielder/Designated Hitter
Chicago Cubs (1969)
Philadelphia Phillies (1970-72)
Cleveland Indians (1973-75)
New York Yankees (1976, 1979-84)
Chicago White Sox (1977, 1985)
San Diego Padres (1978)
Texas Rangers (1979)
bWAR: 22.9
fWAR: 20.7
WARP: 23.5
aWAR: 22.4
White Sox aWAR: 3.4
Core Stats: .265/.356/.454 ⚾️ 200 HR ⚾️ 666 RBI ⚾️ 127 OPS+
Died: Jan. 31, 2018
Age: 68

Gamble was a core member of the South Side Hit Men in 1977, finishing fifth on the team (and third among hitters, behind Chet Lemon and Eric Soderholm) in WAR, with 3.6. He also finished 29th in AL MVP voting that year, behind only Richie Zisk among White Sox.

His famous line, among a few colorful ones: “When I’m at bat, I’m in scoring position.”

It just so happens that my first contribution to SSS in this new role was Gamble’s obituary, where you will find much more detail on a beloved member of the Hit Men.


The Trading Card Database/Topps

Tito Francona
Outfielder/First Baseman
Baltimore Orioles (1956-57)
Chicago White Sox (1958)
Detroit Tigers (1958)
Cleveland Indians (1959-64)
St. Louis Cardinals (1965-67)
Philadelphia Phillies (1967)
Atlanta Braves (1967-69)
Oakland A’s (1969-70)
Milwaukee Brewers (1970)
bWAR: 14.0
fWAR: 14.3
WARP: 12.9
aWAR: 13.7
White Sox aWAR: -0.3
Core Stats: .272/.343/.403 ⚾️ 125 HR ⚾️ 656 RBI ⚾️ 107 OPS+
Died: Feb. 13, 2018
Age: 84

John Patsy “Tito” Francona died on the first day of spring training 2018, which cast a pall over the Cleveland team that his son, Terry, now manages. Terry followed his father into the major leagues, a role he seemed destined for after tagging along with his dad in dugouts throughout the majors. Back then, Terry was dubbed, “Little Tito,” which over the years evolved into “Tito” in honor of his father.

In a nod to the esteem Francona held as a young player (he was the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up in Luis Aparicio’s near-unanimous win in 1956), he was the bonus baby centerpiece of a seven-player swap in 1957 that sent star White Sox outfielder Larry Doby to the Baltimore Orioles. But the pressure of integrating into the White Sox lineup as a key cog saw Francona swapped to Detroit just two months into the 1958 season.

Before the 1959 season, Francona would be traded for Doby once more, in a one-for-one-deal between Detroit and Cleveland. Francona hit .363 for the Tigers that year, which would have won a batting title if not for his falling 34 at-bats short of the minimum; Francona finished fifth in AL MVP voting.


Jack Hamilton
Pitcher
Philadelphia Phillies (1962-63)
Detroit Tigers (1964-65)
New York Mets (1967)
California Angels (1967-69)
Chicago White Sox (1969)
bWAR: -4.4
fWAR: 0.6
WARP: 3.7
aWAR: -0.1
White Sox aWAR: -0.6
Core Stats: 32-40 ⚾️ 20 SV ⚾️ 4.53 ERA ⚾️ 4.18 FIP ⚾️ 1.55 WHIP ⚾️ 78 ERA+
Died: Feb. 22, 2018
Age: 79

As mentioned in the recent Christmas babies article, Hamilton had his career forever pockmarked as the pitcher who beaned Tony Conigliaro on Aug. 18, 1967, effectively ending the slugger’s promising career.

That the pitch was unintentional, or that Conigliaro chronically crowded the plate, or that the batter didn’t even flinch on the pitch are details that have long been overwhelmed by the fact that the ball brutally fractured Conigliaro’s left cheekbone, dislocated his jaw and delivered retina damage and blurred vision. Given the stunning event, it’s a shock that Hamilton was able to recover his composure enough to pitch for two more major league seasons after the beaning.

Shame, because after five journeyman seasons, Hamilton had hit his stride, traded to the Angels from the Mets in June 1967, going 6-2 over the two months after the trade, in only Hamilton’s second true chance to stick in a major league rotation.

The pitch to Conigliaro was just Hamilton’s second hit batsman all season. Despite that jarring moment in August, Hamilton’s 1967 was by far his best in the majors.

Two years later, he was swapped to the White Sox, in the sunset of his career. He appeared ineffectively in eight midsummer games, and never pitched again.

Hamilton was born in Burlington, Iowa, and signed with the Cardinals in 1957. Ironically, when Hamilton (in 1966) pitched the second one-hitter in Mets history, St. Louis pitcher Ray Sadecki had the only hit — a bunt single.

After retirement, Hamilton owned restaurants in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Hamilton told The New York Times in 1990 of the Conigliaro beaning, “I tried to go see him in the hospital, but they were just letting his family in. When Tony came back in 1969, I really didn’t try to talk to him about it. I’m just sorry it ever happened. I’ve had to live with it, too.”


When Topps Had Balls

Jerry Moses
Catcher
Boston Red Sox (1965-70)
California Angels (1971)
Cleveland Indians (1972)
New York Yankees (1973)
Detroit Tigers (1974)
San Diego Padres (1975)
Chicago White Sox (1975)
bWAR: 1.6
fWAR: 2.0
WARP: 2.9
aWAR: 2.2
White Sox aWAR: 0.1
Core Stats: .272/.343/.403 ⚾️ 125 HR ⚾️ 656 RBI ⚾️ 107 OPS+
Died: March 26, 2018
Age: 71

Journeyman catcher Moses played in just two games with the White Sox, getting two plate appearances, before retiring.

Moses found his true baseball home with his first team, the Red Sox, who he spent six years with, later coaching in the organization. The Yazoo, Miss. native relocated to Boston’s North Shore after reaching the big leagues, and never left.

His final year in Boston, 1970, was his best, as Moses hit .263, earned 1.0 WAR, and made the AL All-Star team.

Moses both began and ended his career with a bang. He became the second-youngest player ever to hit a pinch-homer for Boston, when in 1965 at 19 years and two months old, the backstop had a pinch-homer off of Mudcat Grant in just his second career at-bat.

Ten years later, on his 29th birthday, in what would be his final career at-bat, Moses tripled off of Jim Palmer in the bottom of the ninth at Comiskey Park, scoring on Deron Johnson’s sac fly in a 12-6 loss to the Orioles.

In retirement, Moses worked in the food industry, and partnered with former teammate Mike Andrews for 25 years on a baseball camp in Massachusetts.

”I don’t think I ever met a better man in my life,” Andrews told MLB.com. “Everyone loved Jerry. He’s just a lovable guy, and he loved everybody back. He supported not only the Jimmy Fund but many other charities, and he was a very smart, successful businessman. When I look at people that made the most of their life after baseball, Jerry is at the top.”


Joe McConnell
Broadcaster
Denver Broncos (1969)
Phoenix Suns (1970-72)
Minnesota Vikings (1971-76, 1985-87)
Indiana Pacers (1972-77)
Chicago Bears (1977-84)
Minnesota Twins (1978-79)
Chicago White Sox (1980-84)
Indianapolis Colts (1992-94)
Tennessee Oilers (1997-98)
Died: April 8, 2018
Age: 79

For all of my favorite broadcasters as a young fan, I’d be hard-pressed to find a voice more associated with my favorite teams than McConnell, who worked both White Sox and Bears games in the wheelhouse of my early fandom. He spanned essentially the entire scope of Walter Payton’s greatness, and it is his voice you hear in the oft-replayed clip of Payton surpassing Jim Brown’s career rushing yardage record at Soldier Field in 1984 against the New Orleans Saints.

On the White Sox end, McConnell shuffled into coverage among Harry Caray, Jimmy Piersall, Rich King, Early Wynn and Lorn Brown (the latter a voice who you could be forgiven for misremembering as McConnell’s).

McConnell was the key radio presence for the 1983 Winning Ugly White Sox West Division champions, a 99-win club upset by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS.

His consistency and Jason Benetti-esque flexibility resulted in many honors for McConnell, including five AP/UPI Play-by-Play Sportscaster of the Year Awards, Illinois Sportscaster of the Year (1981) and Indiana Sportscaster of the Year (2000).


When Topps Had Balls

Ken Hottman
Left Fielder
Chicago White Sox (1971)
bWAR: -0.2
fWAR: -0.2
WARP: 0.0
aWAR: -0.1
Core Stats: .125/.176/.125 ⚾️ -14 OPS+
Died: April 16, 2018
Age: 69

Hottman got his only call to the majors in a September 1971 cup of coffee with the South Siders. He played in just six games, earning two hits in 17 plate appearances for the 79-83 White Sox.

A Sacramento City College product, Hottman was drafted by twice as many teams as he had career hits: the Kansas City A’s and San Francisco Giants in 1967, and the St. Louis Cardinals and White Sox in 1968. The nuances of these multiple drafts confuse me, but Hottman was selected No. 2 overall by the White Sox in the second round of the secondary phase of the 1968 draft (I believe this was the same route by which Steve Stone eventually made his way into baseball).

Although Hottman had just two career hits, the White Sox were 4-1 in the games he started. His first major league safety came in his first start, an infield single on September 22 vs. Vida Blue. His last hit came in the final at-bat of his final game (and the final game of the season), a single to left on September 30 vs. Milwaukee’s Ken Sanders. Hottman’s single was the last White Sox hit of 1971.

Hottman played four more minor league seasons after 1971, two in Triple-A with the White Sox, two in Triple-A with Cleveland, before playing a final season (1975) in the Mexican League and retiring.

Hottman’s obituary makes almost no mention of his MLB experience, saying only “Ken loved and played many sports, but baseball was his specialty. Starting at a young age he excelled throughout high school, college, minor and major leagues.” Upon retirement, Hottman worked 30 years with the United Parcel Service.


Milwaukee Brewers Media Day Photo by Jason Wise/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Dave Nelson
Second Baseman/Third Baseman
Cleveland Indians (1968-69)
Washington Senators-Texas Rangers (1970-75)
Kansas City Royals (1976-77)
bWAR: 5.2
fWAR: 2.6
WARP: 2.3
aWAR: 3.4
Core Stats: .244/.305/.312 ⚾️ 187 SB ⚾️ 81 OPS+
Died: April 22, 2018
Age: 73

Nelson never played for the White Sox, but nonetheless played a significant role with the franchise as its first base coach from 1981-84. It was the first of several coaching stints in MLB for Nelson, who later served as a first base coach for Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Nelson had a career-best of 51 steals for the Texas Rangers in 1971, and helped the Winning Ugly White Sox team in 1983 to 165 steals, 77 alone from Rudy Law — then, and still, the all-time season record for the White Sox. Law stole 142 bags over his three years working with Nelson.

Future White Sox sparkplug Scott Podsednik also benefitted from Nelson’s mentoring, while Nelson was a minor league instructor and first base coach with Milwaukee.

“Dave helped me out tremendously,” Podsednik told the Chicago Tribune in 2016. “He taught me a lot about the art of stealing bases, not just mechanically about getting jumps, but about paying attention to pitchers, what to look for, what counts to run in, when to run, when not to run.”

Nelson, born in Oklahoma and schooled in California, remained active in baseball as a broadcaster until 2010.


Yogi Berra slides safely into third as Esposito receives the ball on July 18, 1959 at Yankee Stadium.
Getty Images

Sammy Esposito
Third Baseman/Shortstop
Chicago White Sox (1952-63)
Kansas City A’s (1963)
bWAR: 1.9
fWAR: 1.7
WARP: 3.9
aWAR: 2.5
White Sox aWAR: 3.3
Core Stats: .207/.330/.277 ⚾️ 8 HR ⚾️ 73 RBI ⚾️ 66 OPS+
Died: July 9, 2018
Age: 86

A Chicago-born product of Fenger High, Esposito was a core member of the White Sox as they made their ascendance from also-ran to perennial contender. Now, as the stats above reflect, he was the ultimate bit player, never getting into more than 98 games or 234 plate appearances in any MLB season. But Esposito was a potent defensive presence, finishing eighth in defensive WAR in 1957 (1.4) despite playing the equivalent of just 57 full games.

Esposito had a pretty interesting career after his baseball retirement, moving down to North Carolina to coach N.C. State’s baseball team to 513 wins (including a third-place finish in the 1968 College World Series). He also assisted Norm Sloan on the Wolfpack men’s basketball team, which won the NCAA title behind David Thompson (Michael Jordan’s basketball hero) in 1974.


The Trading Card Database/Topps

Dean Stone
Pitcher
Washington Senators (1953-57)
Boston Red Sox (1957)
St. Louis Cardinals (1959)
Houston Colt .45s (1962)
Chicago White Sox (1962)
Baltimore Orioles (1963)
bWAR: 0.3
fWAR: 6.6
WARP: -0.1
aWAR: 2.2
White Sox aWAR: 0.4
Core Stats: 29-39 ⚾️ 12 SV ⚾️ 4.47 ERA ⚾️ 3.90 FIP ⚾️ 1.57 WHIP ⚾️ 87 ERA+
Died: Aug. 21, 2018
Age: 87

Stone was born in Moline, died in Moline, and in between, lived nearly 88 years as an All-Star Game winner. The story of Stone’s ASG win is a crazy one, as he earned the W in 1953 (his only All-Star appearance) despite not retiring a batter.

Stone’s All-Star season was by far his best, earning 2.3 WAR as a core Senators starter. However, his late-career turn with the White Sox eight years later was pretty sweet as well, yielding a 0.7 WAR in 27 relief appearances (five saves, 3.27 ERA).

The lefthander entered the 1954 All-Star Game in the eighth inning, with two outs, runners on the corners, and the American League trailing, 9-8. Duke Snider was at the plate, with Stan Musial on deck. Red Schoendienst took off from third with Stone’s back turned on the mound, and the southpaw followed through with his pitch to Yogi Berra, nailing Schoendienst at the plate. The NL claimed that Stone had balked, to no avail. In the bottom of the eighth, Nellie Fox singled in Mickey Mantle to give the AL a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, making Stone the winning pitcher. Stone remains the only pitcher in history to win an All-Star Game without officially facing a batter.


The Trading Card Database/Topps

Lee Stange
Pitcher
Minnesota Twins (1961-64)
Cleveland Indians (1964-66)
Boston Red Sox (1966-70)
Chicago White Sox (1970)
bWAR: 9.1
fWAR: 12.1
WARP: 3.7
aWAR: 8.3
White Sox aWAR: -0.1
Core Stats: 62-61 ⚾️ 32 CG ⚾️ 21 SV ⚾️ 3.56 ERA ⚾️ 3.76 FIP ⚾️ 1.25 WHIP ⚾️ 103 ERA+
Died: Sept. 21, 2018
Age: 81

Stange was another player who saw his last action as a member of the White Sox, pitching the final 16 games of his career during the second half of the 1970 season, going 1-0 with a 5.24 ERA.

Before that, Stange had a solid AL career as both a starting and relief pitcher. He was a member of the 1967 Red Sox pennant winners, with whom he went 8-10 with a 2.77 ERA (tops on the club) over 181⅔ innings. “Stinger” pitched two innings of relief in Game 3 of the 1967 World Series, allowing an unearned run.

The Chicago-born, Maywood Proviso High educated Stange became a coach for the Red Sox upon retirement, working as Boston’s pitching coach from 1972-74 and 1981-84. Later, he worked for the team as a minor league pitching instructor from 1985-94. Stange coached for the Twins and Oakland A’s between his pitching coach stints for the Red Sox.

Stange had one further Red Sox connection: stepfather to former Boston infielder Jody Reed.


Topps

Don Eddy
Relief Pitcher
Chicago White Sox (1970-71)
bWAR: 1.1
fWAR: -0.2
WARP: -0.5
aWAR: 0.1
Core Stats: 0-2 ⚾️ 2.36 ERA ⚾️ 4.50 FIP ⚾️ 1.57 WHIP ⚾️ 159 ERA+
Died: Oct. 10, 2018
Age: 71

Like Árias and Hottman, Eddy’s only major league action came with the White Sox.

Eddy almost never got to realize his big league dream, serving two years in the U.S. Army after high school graduation, drafted by the White Sox on his return Stateside in 1966. In 1969, superstardom loomed, as Eddy went 18-3 with 10 complete games and a 1.81 ERA for Single-A Appleton. Eddy skipped Double-A, going 10-4 a year later as a closer for Triple-A Tucson, notching a 1.37 ERA and nine saves. Such delicious Triple-A work earned Eddy his first taste of the big leagues, on the South Side that fall.

The Iowa native was a two-sport star, and the 5´11´´lefty remains Rockwell-Swaledale High’s all-time scoring leader in basketball.

Eddy doubled in his only major league at-bat, a crack to center field off of Brewers starter Don Parsons on Sept. 30, 1971. Eddy would end up stranded on third base. Later in that game, Eddy struck out John Briggs, the last major league batter he ever faced. It was not only Eddy’s last major league game, but was fellow in memoriam member Ken Hottman’s final game as well.

Eddy returned to Rockwell after his playing career ended (he was traded to the San Diego Padres in 1972, but never made it back to the bigs), working mostly in auto sales. He was also active in Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association summer baseball camps in Des Moines.

There’s a sweet ending to Eddy’s obituary, which I’ll share here: “If Don could leave you with one message today, it would be to make sure you tell those you love, that you love them – everyday. He was very generous with ‘I love you.’ You be too.”


Old Homestead Franks

Joe Stanka
Relief Pitcher
Chicago White Sox (1959)
bWAR: 0.1
fWAR: -0.1
WARP: 0.0
aWAR: 0.0
Core Stats: 1-0 ⚾️ 3.38 ERA ⚾️ 6.11 FIP ⚾️ 1.13 WHIP ⚾️ 121 ERA+
Died: Oct. 15, 2018
Age: 87

Stanka, at 6´5´´, 210, must have been a giant when he made his brief appearance in the major leagues in September 1959 for the eventual pennant-winning White Sox.

Imagine what Japanese fans must have thought, when Stanka left the majors and joined the Nankai Hawks in 1960, where he pitched for his next six seasons.

Stanka failed to taste glory with the White Sox in 1959, as he failed to see action in the World Series. But he positively gobbled glory in Japan. Stanka was the MVP of the Pacific League in 1964 (going 26-7 with 15 complete games and a 2.40 ERA in 277⅔ innings) and threw three shutouts (and started Games 1, 3, 6 and 7) in that year’s Japan Series.

The Oklahoma native was a two-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star and holds a career 100-72 record in Japan, tying him for third-winningest foreign pitcher in NPB history.

Stanka was married to his wife, Jean, for 69 years, and was buried in Katy, Texas.


Diamond Images/Getty Images

Bill Fischer
Pitcher
Chicago White Sox (1956-58)
Detroit Tigers (1958)
Washington Senators (1958-60)
Detroit Tigers (1960-61)
Kansas City A’s (1961-63)
Minnesota Twins (1964)
bWAR: 3.6
fWAR: 8.2
WARP: 10.0
aWAR: 7.3
White Sox aWAR: 1.2
Core Stats: 45-58 ⚾️ 4.34 ERA ⚾️ 3.90 FIP ⚾️ 16 CG ⚾️ 13 SV ⚾️ 1.38 WHIP ⚾️ 92 ERA+
Died: Oct. 30, 2018
Age: 88

Fischer was only 17 when he signed with the White Sox in 1948, and went on to chew up Class D competition (14-3, 2.63 ERA) that summer while hurling for the Wisconsin Rapids White Sox. His rapid ascent to the majors was thrown off by a three-year stint in the Marines, but after his return in 1954 Fischer made it to the bigs in two years. He had a 4.39 ERA over 53 games for the White Sox, before being traded to the Tigers with fellow in memoriam member Tito Francona in 1958.

Three years later, Fischer made an impressive debut with another new team, the A’s: He set a major league record by throwing 84 13 consecutive innings without a walk, which destroyed the previous record of 68, by Christy Mathewson.

Fischer’s playing career was formidable enough, but it peaked in the very latest stages of his life, over this past decade when he was Kansas City’s pitching coordinator and senior pitching advisor. In the latter role, he earned a 2015 World Series ring.

Prior to his run with K.C. toward a World Series title, Fischer was a scouting supervisor (1969-74) and minor league pitching instructor (1975-78) with the Royals, as well as the pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds (1979-83), Boston Red Sox (1985-91) and Tampa Bay Rays (2000-01). He was a longtime coach in the Atlanta Braves system (1991-2006) before finishing his career back with the Royals.

Among the scores of pitchers that Fischer impacted over his years of coaching are Roger Clemens, Mark Gubicza and Tom Seaver.