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Today in White Sox History: January 14

A great trade, and a really messy one

Chicago White Sox
Mike Sirotka, the central focus of Shouldergate.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Chuck Comiskey makes it public that White Sox owner Bill Veeck (in poor health and needing to sell the club) has turned down his offer to purchase the team. Comiskey’s backers include Chicago businessman William Bartholomay and entertainer Danny Thomas. Veeck will eventually sell to Arthur Allyn.

It was the move that re-energized the franchise and led directly to back-to-back-to-back seasons of more than 90 wins in 1963, 1964 and 1965. White Sox GM Ed Short traded shortstop Luis Aparicio and outfielder Al Smith to the Orioles for third baseman Pete Ward, outfielder Dave Nicholson, shortstop Ron Hansen and relief pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

Trading Aparicio was a shock, but contractual differences between him and the team and the bad feelings it produced made a deal necessary. He was so disappointed to be traded, he put a curse on the White Sox as he left town.

Ward supplied power for the next few seasons: In 1963 and 1964 he averaged 22 home runs, 89 RBIs and hit .290 before a accident (in which he was a passenger in a car leaving Chicago Stadium after a hockey game) severely impacted his career. He suffered whiplash and never felt comfortable at the plate ever again.

Nicholson, who struck out far too much, still managed 22 home runs and 70 RBIs in 1963. Hansen would become one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, and hit as many as 20 home runs in a season at a time when shortstops simply didn’t do that.

Wilhelm became the top relief pitcher of the 1960s. In his six years with the Sox, he won 41 games and saved 99 others while producing some astonishingly low ERAs considering he threw a knuckleball. His highest ERA between 1963 and 1968 was 2.64, and in every other season it was less than two. He became a Hall-of-Famer in 1985.


The White Sox acquired pitcher David Wells from Toronto, basically for pitcher Mike Sirotka. Over the coming weeks and months, Sirotka and the Blue Jays claimed the Sox knew that he had a bad arm and couldn’t pitch. Sox GM Ken Williams defended himself by saying that he told the Jays he thought Sirotka might be hurt and offered pitcher Jim Parque instead. Commissioner Bud Selig ruled in late March that the trade would stand. The whole episode became known as “Shouldergate.”

Wells, meanwhile, had few good moments with the Sox. He won on Opening Day in Cleveland after he said that fans in the stands got him angry by talking about his mother and how he was raised. But after that, because of a bad back, Wells barely pitched, winning only five games in 16 starts for the year.

He then caused a major controversy when he went on the radio and said that he didn’t think first baseman Frank Thomas was as badly hurt as he claimed. Thomas would play only 20 games that year after he tore a tricep muscle diving for a ground ball along the first-base line.