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Today in White Sox History: January 20

Frank Isbell finally gets to hang ’em up

Frank Isbell Mans First Base
Frank Isbell, injury forcing him to first base and Charles Comiskey forcing him to remain an active player, in action during his final season, in 1909.
Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images


The first 10-year White Sox player, Frank Isbell, retired to manage the Wichita Jobbers of the Western Association, a position he long coveted. In fact, Isbell had been petitioning Charles Comiskey since late in the 1907 season to retire, after teammate Patsy Dougherty accidentally spiked Isbell in the hand and severely injured him. Comiskey, with no ready infielder to replace Isbell, convinced his long-time player to stick around for two more years. The injury was serious enough to push Isbell from second base to first, however.

Over nine seasons and 1,074 games with the White Sox, Isbell put up 15.7 WAR and was the first player in franchise history to play more than 1,000 games on the South Side. Isbell was also the first great Crosstown trade steal (of sorts), as the Chicago Cubs (née Orphans) swapped Isbell to the St. Paul Saints; one season later, the Saints moved to Chicago to become the White Sox, and Isbell flourished there beginning in 1901.


No, you’re right, you wouldn’t think you’d have to make it clear that major leaguers shouldn’t box in the offseason. But because of the brawling (inside and out of the ring) of White Sox first baseman Art Shires, commissioner Kenesaw Landis banned any player from boxing. Shires had issued a challenge to Cubs star Hack Wilson, and had previously fought a number of matches. His one known fight was a five-round loss to Chicago Bears center George “the Brute” Trafton, but Shires has such a reputation that at the time of Landis’ ban Shires had been suspended by the boxing commissions of 32 states. (In an “unofficial bout” in 1929, Shires knocked out White Sox manager Lena Blackburne.)

Shires put up 1.5 WAR for the White Sox in 1929, but was dealt to the Washington Senators in June 1930.


Another big deal was pulled off by White Sox GM Ed Short to continue the franchise’s streak of winning seasons. Chicago was part of a three-team trade with Cleveland and the Athletics. When all was said and done, the White Sox sent catcher Cam Carreon to Cleveland and outfielders Jim Landis and Mike Hershberger, and a player to be named later (pitcher Fred Talbot) to K.C.

In return, Cleveland sent the White Sox power-hitting catcher Johnny “Honey” Romano, pitcher Tommy John and outfielder Tommie Agee. The White Sox flipped Rocky Colavito from the Athletics to Cleveland, where the fan base had been up in arms since the popular outfielder had been dealt away five years earlier.

Agee was named Rookie of the Year in 1966, when he became the first Sox player ever with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season.

John would join Chicago’s brilliant starting rotation, making the All-Star team for the first time in 1968. He won 82 games in seven years on the South Side, three times posting an ERA of less than 3.00. And his trade to the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings in 1971 netted Dick Allen.

Romano wasn’t a slouch, either; in his second stint with the club, he banged out 33 home runs in two seasons before being traded. Romano originally came up in the White Sox system, and played in 53 games for the 1959 pennant-winners.

Colavito would eventually see some time on the South Side, acquired by the White Sox in 1967.


Once again White Sox GM Roland Hemond used the free agent compensation rule to his advantage, plucking future Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver from the Mets. (The White Sox had earned a compensation pick after losing Dennis Lamp to the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency.) The Mets were short-sighted and left their franchise player exposed, thinking no team would want a 39-year-old Seaver coming off of a 9-14, 3.55 ERA season.

In his two full years in Chicago Seaver won 31 games, including his 300th overall on Aug. 4, 1985 against the Yankees. Earlier in 1985 Seaver started his 14th Opening Day on the mound, a big-league record. In both 1985 and 1986 he’d also throw more than 236 innings, averaging 132 strikeouts and having an ERA of less than four. In 1985, in fact, Seaver’s ERA was 3.17.

Tom had to be persuaded to join the White Sox. It took co-owners Eddie Einhorn and Jerry Reinsdorf going to his hotel room at the Winter Meetings after they selected him to talk with him face-to-face before he agreed. But before Seaver let the pair in, he asked to see their ID’s — he had never met either owner before!


The White Sox signed mercurial superutilityman Tony Phillips to a two-year, $4.3 million deal. The 37-year-old, signed to play left field after the White Sox had traded Tim Raines to the Yankees in December, had a tempestuous time on the South Side. He put up 3.3 WAR in 1996 before faltering and being traded to the Angels during the 1997 season.