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Sports Contributor Archive 2019

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Today in White Sox History: December 10

Ken Harrelson’s best move as GM?

Perhaps Ken Harrelson’s best move as GM came on this day, 38 years ago: Snagging Bobby Bonilla in the Rule 5 draft from Pittsburgh.
| Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images


One of the last players from the “Go-Go” Sox era, second baseman Nellie Fox, was traded to the Houston Colt 45’s for pitchers Danny Murphy and Jim Golden, plus cash. Fox was a future Hall-of-Famer who played for 14 years on the South Side and was named to 12 All-Star teams. He was the MVP in 1959 and won three Gold Gloves. In Houston, Fox mentored a young Joe Morgan, who would reach the Hall of Fame as well.

Fox’s No. 2 was the second number in White Sox history to be retired, in a ceremony on May 1, 1976.

Why was Fox dealt? Young infielder Don Buford had hit .336 at Triple-A Indianapolis, and was ready to take over second base in Chicago.


After initially being turned down, American League owners voted to allow Bill Veeck to buy the White Sox from John Allyn. The agreement kept the team in Chicago and ended speculation that the Sox were bound for Seattle — with Charlie Finley’s A’s headed for the South Side! (Major League Baseball wanted the Sox to move to the Pacific Northwest in order to end lawsuits filed by Washington state, King County and the city of Seattle after the Pilots were moved to Milwaukee before the start of the 1970 season.) Finley, acting in his own self-interest, was one of two AL owners who refused to approve the sale to Veeck.

It was the second time Veeck owned the White Sox, the first time being from 1959 through July 1961.

The owners placed such financial conditions on Veeck that they assumed he wouldn’t be able to meet them and he could be turned away, but somehow the veteran got it done. After a speech by Tigers owner John Fetzer, fellow owners voted to allow the sale to go through despite many having a personal dislike for Veeck.

After being handed the keys to the club, Veeck and GM Roland Hemond set up a desk in the hotel lobby at the Winter Meetings with a sign reading “Open for Business.” They weren’t joking, as the White Sox forged seven deals over two days — headlined on this day by Jim Kaat being shipped to the Phillies.

Oh, and because there wasn’t enough going on, it was on this day that Veeck released manager Chuck Tanner (so he could discuss the manager’s job with the Oakland A’s) and hired his old friend and former Chicago manager, Paul Richards.


Owner Bill Veeck came up with a unique way to try to bolster his franchise: A “rent-a-player” approach, which acquired as many players as possible who were about to become free agents. Veeck figured that because those players were playing for new, big-money deals, they’d play hard every night.

With that as the backdrop, Veeck traded relief pitchers Rich Gossage and Terry Forster, both former American League Fireman of the Year winners, to the Pirates for slugger Richie Zisk and pitcher Silvio Martinez.

Zisk, in his one season on the South Side, belted 30 home runs and knocked in 101 runs as the undisputed leader of the “South Side Hit Men,” who shocked baseball by winning 90 games in 1977. Among Zisk’s home runs that season was a blast into the original center field bleachers at Comiskey Park under the exploding scoreboard, and one over the roof and out of the park down the left-field line.


White Sox GM Ken Harrelson made an astute Rule 5 pick: Bobby Bonilla, from the Pirates. Bonilla had a modest 1986 rookie season in Chicago (0.5 WAR and .256/.352 .333 slash) before getting sent back to Pittsburgh on July 23, in exchange for José DeLeón. While DeLeón was very good for the White Sox in 1986-87 (3.7 WAR over 285 innings), Bonilla went on to stardom, and a 30.2 WAR career.


White Sox GM Larry Himes sent pitcher Floyd Bannister (coming off of a 16-win season) and infielder Dave Cochrane to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitchers Greg Hibbard, Melido Perez, John Davis and Chuck Mount. Both Hibbard and Perez would help stabilize Chicago’s starting rotation in the early 1990’s, combining for 85 wins in a White Sox uniform.


In what stood as the best trade of his tenure, White Sox GM Rick Hahn pulled off a gem in a three-way deal by getting outfielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks. Chicago sent pitcher Hector Santiago to the Angels. Completing the triangle was the Angels sending Mark Trumbo to Arizona for Tyler Skaggs.

Eaton put up 16.0 WAR for the White Sox before being sent to the Washington in another superb deal netting Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning.

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