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Today in White Sox History: January 21

The most modest of free-agent adds arrives

Dave Wehrmeister came to Chicago a negative-WAR pitcher. Despite his best efforts, he left Chicago a negative-WAR pitcher, as well.


Sometimes, there just isn’t much going on.

But that said, we’re dedicated to serving up a day of history every day, with at least one new or significantly-edited item added to our rolling almanac, 365 times a year.

So, in that spirit: 38 years ago, the White Sox signed free agent pitcher Dave Wehrmeister.

Wehrmeister was a No. 3 overall pick in the 1973 January draft, by the San Diego Padres. Still, players bypassed in the summer and grabbed later (back in the days of two drafts) weren’t all just oversights — there indeed were significant players signed in the middle of winter.

And Wehrmeister seemed on track to be just that, starting in Double-A at age 21 and making a quick ascent up the San Diego system, making his MLB debut at age 23, in 1976.

Now, the bad news: Wehrmeister yo-yoed from the minors to majors for nine years and in three organizations, his 310 games logged in Triple-A (84% of his total MiLB games) making him the epitome of a AAAA player. Over five of those nine years Wehrmeister saw MLB time, and in none of those campaigns did Wehrmeister put up a positive WAR.

When the local product (Lyons Township High, in Ber-wyn) signed with the White Sox, let’s not say for sure that it was his swan song in baseball — but, at 32 and with a career -3.0 WAR, the clock was ticking short for him.

And boy, did Wehrmeister end his 76-game major league career on a good note. Coming to Chicago never having had better than a 5.14 ERA or -0.1 WAR in a single season, he was a solid contributor to the solid, 85-77-1 White Sox in 1985. He had 0.9 WAR and a 3.43 ERA (3.37 WHIP) over 23 games, which included four games finished and his first two career saves.

In fact, in a cool moment, Wehrmeister made what would be his final MLB appearance on the second-to-last day of the season. In a game at Comiskey Park where both starters took their lumps, Wehrmeister entered in the sixth inning of a Tom Seaver start and threw zeroes the rest of the way, earning his second career save and preserving a shaky 16th win of the season for Seaver. Wehrmeister’s .298 WPA in the game also made him the contest’s de facto MVP.

(Ironically, Wehrmeister’s other career save, in August 1985, was also a bout of scoreless, four-inning support, this time preserving a win for Britt Burns.)

For a career that was a bit star-crossed, how sweet is it for Wehrmeister to say that his last moments on a major league mound were preserving a win for one of the greatest pitchers of all time?