New White Sox GM Frank “Trader” Lane made his first deal, and it was a beauty.
Lane traded backup catcher Aaron Robinson to the Tigers for a young, left-handed pitcher named Billy Pierce and $10,000.
Pierce would become arguably the finest lefthander in White Sox history. He won 186 games in a Sox uniform with two 20-win seasons, seven All-Star selections (three starts) and four one-hitters. He led the AL in various seasons in wins, complete games, ERA and strikeouts. He was the first Chicago athlete on the cover of Sports Illustrated (May 1957), and was also on the cover of Sport magazine later that same year.
By WAR, Billy was considered the best pitcher in baseball in the 1950s.
The White Sox officially announced they had signed a deal to leave WGN-TV for WFLD-TV (UHF Channel 32) starting in 1968.
The deal’s base payout was $1 million annually to the Sox for five years, for a minimum of 123 games — including games from the West Coast, which had never been shown on WGN.
Much like the SportsVision decision made by the club in 1982, in theory this move was a sound business idea. But in reality, most of Chicago couldn’t even receive the UHF signal, which made the move a disaster — especially as the Cubs (still on WGN) expanded their number of broadcast games. Their visibility, along with a talented team from the late 60’s through the early 70’s, made the White Sox almost invisible in the market.
Frank Thomas won his first MVP, on the strength of a .317 batting average with 41 home runs and 128 RBIs. The Big Hurt was a large reason the White Sox would win the Western Division championship. Even rarer, his winning the award was by a unanimous vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America, grabbing 392 points. Paul Molitor of the Blue Jays was a distant second, at 209.
The awarded netted Thomas a $100,000 bonus, and he enjoyed a repeat win in 1994.
White Sox slugger José Abreu was named the unanimous winner by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the AL Rookie of the Year. He got all 30 votes on the basis of a spectacular first season in the major leagues: a .317 average with 36 home runs and 107 RBIs. He led the majors in slugging percentage as well.
Pitcher Matt Shoemaker of the Angels finished second.
Liam Hendriks was named the American League Reliever of the Year. The 31-year-old signed with the White Sox as a free agent after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, coming from the Oakland A’s, and more than lived up to his contract in 2021. He had a 2.54 ERA and an incredible 113 strikeouts against only seven walks in 71 innings. He led the league with 38 saves in 44 opportunities.
Hendriks was the first Sox pitcher to win this award, which was instituted in 2014. But former White Sox pitchers like Eddie Fisher, Terry Forster, Rich Gossage and Bobby Thigpen had won past relief pitching awards.