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Today in White Sox History: December 8

A great buy, a slick trade, and a bad swap

White Sox Pitchers Warming Up
Thornton Lee [right] was acquired in one of the best pitching heists in White Sox history.


The White Sox purchased future Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins from Connie Mack and the Philadelphia A’s. The price was incredible by on 1914 standards: $50,000 went to Mack, $15,000 went to Collins as a signing bonus, and then Collins was tendered a five-year guaranteed deal worth $75,000!

AL president Ban Johnson (before there was a commissioner, president was the top-ranking position in baseball) had a hand in helping along the sale, at a time when he and White Sox owner Charles Comiskey were not only close friends but shared office space. Johnson wanted Collins’ star power in Chicago to counteract not only Philadelphia A’s stars Eddie Plank and Charles Bender jumping to the new Federal League, but Walter Johnson jumping from the Washington Senators to the Federal League’s Chicago Whales.

Collins would end up playing for the White Sox for 12 seasons, hitting better than .300 10 times — including eight years in a row, from 1919 to 1926. With 67.0 WAR, Collins is the best second baseman in White Sox history, and overall the fourth-best player ever to suit up on the South Side.


The White Sox were in the middle of a rare, three-way swap of pitchers, sending Jack Salveson to Washington, the Senators trading Earl Whitehill to Cleveland, and Cleveland sending Thornton Lee to Chicago.

Salveson never ended up playing for Washington, as it took him eight seasons to get back to the majors — with Cleveland — and even then, for just a brief (0.0 WAR) pair of seasons. Whitehill, near the end of a strong (36.8 WAR) career, did just as little for Cleveland, compiling -0.9 WAR over two seasons.

Thornton, however, was a massive steal, pitching the next 11 seasons for the White Sox and putting up 30.2 WAR. The southpaw was especially dynamic in 1941, leading the AL in ERA (2.37) and WAR (8.6!), and the majors in complete games (30), ERA+ (174), and WHIP (1.165).

Lee remains 20th all-time on the White Sox in WAR (between José Abreu and Chris Sale, no less), and among only pitchers, Lee ranks ninth-best in White Sox history.


The White Sox continued their offseason purging of young players by shipping future All-Star slugging outfielder Johnny Callison to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese. Of all the shortsighted offseason moves after Chicago’s pennant-winning season, this was probably the worst.

Freese was a slow, scattergun-armed infielder with limited range. Callison, already the subject of a documentary film by the White Sox called “The Life of a Sox Rookie” in 1958 (narrated by Jack Brickhouse), had failed in a few tries to take over the left-field spot on the South Side. But in a new environment Callison blossomed, winning the 1964 All-Star Game for the National League with a three-run, ninth-inning home run. (Ironically, the AL team that year was led by Sox skipper Al Lopez!)

Freese in 1961 would be sent along to the Reds in exchange for two pitchers, including Juan Pizarro, who became a two-time All-Star. Freese would return to the Sox for parts of the 1965 and 1966 seasons.

The Sox, meanwhile, realized the mistake they had made and tried to reacquire Callison from Philadelphia before the start of the 1962 season — without success. He’d play 10 seasons with the Phillies, accumulating five years in double figures for triples, eight seasons with 10 or more home runs and four years with at least 78 RBIs.