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In Memoriam: The White Sox We Lost in 2023

A southpaw star, long-distance slugger, popular broadcaster and beloved scout were among our dearly departed

Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

It’s the time of year where, as we grimace ahead into 2024 and what awaits us with the Chicago White Sox, we look back at those South Siders we lost in 2023. Included among them are a southpaw star, long-distance slugger, departed but popular broadcaster, and beloved scout.

Please, feel free to use the comments to honor any White Sox close to you who we lost in 2023.


Vince Harris
Center Fielder
White Sox career 1986-88 (minors)
Died January 2
Age 55

Drafted in the fourth round and 97th overall out of Triton College during the old “winter” MLB draft in 1986, Vince Harris brought elite speed (323 steals, nearly one every two games) to the diamond. While he never made it past A-ball with the White Sox or Double-A in his career, he passed his love of the game on to countless youth players, including as head coach of Streamwood High School. Harris is a member of Elgin’s Sports Hall of Fame.


Portrait of Gary Peters

Gary Peters
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
White Sox career 1959-68
Died January 26
Age 85

Gary Peters stood out as a star even among the many talented arms the White Sox carried throughout the 1960s, ending his career as the 17th-best pitcher and tied for the 38th-best overall White Sox player by WAR. But he didn’t find instant success with the club, and before getting a big assist from pitching coach Ray Berres considered taking his math degree and retiring to teach school.

Mark Liptak memorialized his friend on our pages back in January.


Chicago Tribune

Andrew McKenna
Chairman
White Sox career 1975-81
Died February 7
Age 93

Andrew McKenna was a Chicago investor (McDonald’s) who played prominent roles in White Sox, Bears and Cubs ownership. He was a key investor in the Bill Veeck group that purchased the White Sox in 1975, saving them from a move to Seattle. He served as White Sox chairman until the sale of the club to Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn, later filling the same role with the Cubs (while retaining his Sox fandom, saying, “I was never as much of a Cubs fan as I was a White Sox fan”) and buying an ownership stake in the Bears.

While the Bears and Cubs released immediate statements on McKenna’s passing, the White Sox did not.


Chicago Sun-Times

Joe Goddard
Beat Writer
White Sox career 1974-2000 (alternating years)
Died February 25
Age 85

Joe Goddard was a well-loved mainstay of press boxes on both sides of town, where he alternated covering the White Sox and Cubs for 27 years. The chances that someone reading this story enjoyed his Sun-Times work somewhere in that long run of sportswriting are pretty good. The fact that the practice of alternating team coverage ended with Goddard’s retirement from the beat spoke at least as much to his genial nature as it did the changing nature of coverage.

‘‘Young Joe’’ twice nearly took home the greatest baseball writing honor imaginable, the BBWAA Career Excellence Award; both times, he was the runner-up.

Growing up in the northwest suburb of Inverness, the Cubs were his favorite team. But once he hit adulthood — coincidentally, smack in the middle of Go-Go White Sox domination — Goddard put away childish things and became a White Sox diehard.

Jerry Reinsdorf himself hosted Goddard and his family at the writer’s final White Sox game, during the summer of 2022. The writer was still relatively new to the beat when Reinsdorf bought the White Sox, but made an immediate impression.

‘‘Joe Goddard was the classic old-time baseball beat reporter,’’ Reinsdorf told the Sun-Times. ‘‘They truly don’t make them like Joe anymore. His coverage of Chicago baseball went back decades. Joe loved the game, the travel, the life, was a reporter who developed relationships across clubhouses and front offices and broke story after story. . . . He will be missed and his byline always remembered.’’


That 573-foot homer was so legendary the White Sox traced its path in the next year’s media guide.
Chicago White Sox

Dave Nicholson
Left Fielder
White Sox career 1963-65
Died February 25
Age 83

Dave Nicholson made an unenviable mark in 1963, his first year with the White Sox. In what would end up as his only season as an MLB regular, Nicholson struck out a majors-leading 175 times, setting the all-time record for whiffs in the process. Especially by 1960s standards, Nicholson was a hulking presence, and packed prodigious power into this swing. While he struck out once every 3.4 plate appearances, his contact could be legendary — including a memorable blast against the Kansas City Athletics that traveled an unofficial 573 feet out of Comiskey Park on May 6, 1964.

Mark Liptak wrote our tribute to Nicholson back in February.


Detroit Tigers v. Tampa Bay Rays Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Dave Wills
Broadcaster
White Sox career 1997-2004
Died March 5
Age 58

Dave Wills grew up a diehard White Sox fan, and by age 33 fulfilled a dream of working for the team, as pre- and postgame radio host. With his career stalling a bit after several years in that role and only serving as a backup play-by-play broadcaster, Wills left for a full-time job broadcasting games for the Tampa Bay Rays. At the time of his death, he was still working in that position — a White Sox fan who’d moved to the far, far South Side.

Mark Liptak wrote our tribute to Wills in March, which was accompanied by a reprint of a 2004 interview he did with Dave.


Topps

Fred Klages
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
White Sox career 1966-67
Died March 30
Age 79

Fred Klages only had a brief White Sox (and major league) career, but even throwing just 13 games for the pitching-rich South Siders of the time was a major accomplishment — especially when considering his 3.28 ERA over those games. More impressively, Klages went 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA during the crucial month of August 1967, as the White Sox were fighting for their lives in a vicious, four-team battle for the pennant.

By September, however, Klages developed a sore shoulder that would not heal; what would have been an assured spot in the rotation for 1968 could not be realized, and he never pitched in the majors again.

In retirement, Klages started a plastic pipe company in Texas, and his daughter Kim Klages Johns is an executive with the Missoula PaddleHeads who won the Pioneer League’s Executive of the Year Award in 2021.


Sports Contributor Archive 2020 Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Dave Frost
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
White Sox career 1977
Died April 14
Age 70

Dave Frost pitched just four times in the majors in 1977. But given his outstanding September for the gassed South Side Hit Men, it might have been smart to use the 6´6´´force of nature earlier that summer. Frost was simply outstanding, with a 3.04 ERA and not a single poor performance. Still, he was wedged into the Brian Downing-Bobby Bonds trade that winter and contributed 7.3 WAR in 1978-79 for the Angels.


Denver Post Archives Denver Post via Getty Images

Dennis Ribant
Right-Handed Pitcher
White Sox career 1968
Died April 24
Age 81

Dennis Ribant was active for the final two months of a sorry season that saw a 17-season winning streak for the White Sox ended, acquired by the South Siders from Detroit in exchange for Don McMahon in July 1968. Just two years removed from a 3.3-WAR effort starting for the New York Mets, Ribant fell right in line with his new White Sox teammates by struggling to a -1.1 WAR in just 17 games.

Detroit bought Ribant (who had been excellent for the Tigers earlier in the season, but the trade to Chicago denied him a chance at winning a World Series ring in 1968) back from the White Sox in October, but he bounced around baseball in 1969 and despite excellent work in Triple-A into the 1970s never saw the majors again.


Chicago White Sox

Deacon Jones
First Baseman
White Sox career 1962-63, 1966
Died May 7
Age 89

Signed by the White Sox in 1955, Deacon Jones made a gradual rise to the majors that was slowed further by two years of military service. Although his debut came with a pinch-hit, RBI single in Early Wynn’s 299th career (and last White Sox) win on Sept. 8, 1962, Jones would end up with just 40 total games and 60 plate appearances over three seasons on the South Side.

Jones lasted much longer in the game after his playing career ended, starting with the his home team: Jones scouted for the White Sox from 1968-75, interrupted only by a stint managing the Appleton Foxes in 1973. Later, he coached for Houston (1976-82) and San Diego (1984-87), scouted briefly with the Yankees and for almost two decades with Baltimore, returning to scout for the White Sox in 2008.


Team Best Rookie

Matt Borné
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
White Sox career 1998-2000
Died May 14
Age 46

Matt Borné was drafted in the sixth round in 1998 out of the University of Kentucky and never got his footing in the organization. The righty never pushed past High-A Winston-Salem, and didn’t see an ERA better than 4.50 at any stop.


Cotton Nash
First Baseman
White Sox career 1967
Died May 23
Age 80

Cotton Nash had a brief major league career, kicked off by three September games with the White Sox in their star-crossed 1967 season. He had been acquired from California in May of that year for the legendary Moose Skowron. Nash played another 10 games for the Minnesota Twins, in 1969-70.

However, baseball wasn’t necessarily the University of Kentucky prospect’s best sport. Before ever arriving on the South Side, the 6´6´´ Nash logged 45 games at small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warriors. In fact, after the 1967 season in Chicago, Nash returned to the pro hardwood, joining the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA for another 37 games, until spring training 1968 rolled around and he hung up his Chuck Taylors for good.


Lee Richard
Shortstop
White Sox career 1971-75
Died August 6
Age 74

Lee Richard was a first round choice (No. 6 overall) of the White Sox in 1970. In the absence of franchise shortstop Luis Aparicio, Richard was rushed to the majors the next year. With just 91 games under his belt (78 at Triple-A) while failing to distinguish himself in any aspect of the game (Richard’s defense and contact were poor, and even his amazing speed did not translate to stolen bases), the shortstop made his debut during an Opening Day doubleheader sweep in Oakland on April 7, 1971, leading off and going 3-for-8. “Bee Bee” (nicknamed not for his running but as a fastball pitcher in high school) got his first major league hit in his second at-bat of the opener, a single off of future Hall-of-Famer Catfish Hunter.

But it was downhill from there for Richard, who managed a 0.3 WAR in his rookie season but finished five years with the White Sox career at -1.3 WAR overall. He was traded to the Cardinals after the 1975 season and lasted just one more year in the majors.

On a trivial note, Richard was batting in 1974 when Nolan Ryan was clocked at 100.8 mph on his fastball — the first radar-recorded instance of a 100 mph-plus pitch.


Topps

Bob Priddy
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
White Sox career 1968-69
Died September 28
Age 83

When Bob Priddy arrived on the South Side before the 1968 season, the White Sox were his fourth team in six years. On the awful, 95-loss White Sox, the righty was called up to start 18 games after just 11 starts in his MLB career at that point. The results were much as you’d expect: 3-11 against a 3.63 ERA that factored as an 88 ERA+ in The Year of the Pitcher. Just four games into the 1969 season, Priddy was swapped out to California.

Priddy was perhaps the definition of a replacement-level pitcher, never recording a negative WAR in the first nine stops (of 11) of his career — but failing to contribute more than 0.6 WAR in any one summer.


Dennis Higgins
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
White Sox career 1966-67
Died November 3
Age 84

In an eerie coincidence, Dennis Higgins and Bob Priddy (preceding Higgins in death by 36 days) were traded for one another (as part of a six-player deal) in 1968.

Higgins had been signed out of high school by the White Sox in 1958. He took a very long road to the majors, pitching in 334 games over eight seasons before breaking camp in 1966 with the big club. And he picked a great time to have his best professional season: a 2.52 ERA, 1.065 WHIP and five saves over 42 games out of the bullpen.

Perhaps that great rookie year was destined to be, as Higgins made his MLB debut on April 12 and was rushed to the airport and out of town by teammate Moose Skowron so that he could get married back home in Missouri the next day. (Crazier still, the maneuvering had the blessing of hardscrabble White Sox manager Eddie Stanky!)

Higgins was a cousin of former White Sox third baseman Joe Crede. Crede also this year lost his brother, Josh, who was drafted by the White Sox in 2001 (48th round) but never played professionally.


Chicago White Sox

Lou Skizas
Left Fielder
White Sox career 1959
Died November 17
Age 91

Chicago native and Crane Tech H.S. product Lou Skizas wound up his four-year MLB career with eight games for the 1959 White Sox. “The Nervous Greek” had just one hit in 16 plate appearances for the eventual pennant winners, and it came in what would be his final game in the majors, a 4-3 win over the Yankees on April 30. Skizas was traded to Cincinnati a couple of days later, and he would toil in the minors for three more seasons before hanging up his spikes.

After that, Skizas earned a kinesiology degree and taught at Illinois State University. He lamented the poor conditioning in the game and developed a regimen for baseball players that consisted of more than three dozen exercises.


@ButchBaccala/Twitter

Bill Young
Scout
White Sox career 2002-23
Died November 26
Age 69

Beloved White Sox scout Bill “Yogi” Young died over Thanksgiving, eliciting an outpouring of memories from everyone in the baseball world, including Bob Nightengale’s colorful and heartfelt tribute. Yogi scouted for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees for a decade before working with the White Sox.


Chicago White Sox

Joe Hicks
Center Fielder
White Sox career 1959-60
Died December 2
Age 90

Though not a teammate, Joe Hicks roamed the same Comiskey Park outfield in 1959 as Lou Skizas did — Hicks was just starting his career, as Skizas’ was ending. Joe got a September cup of coffee in the pennant-winning year and went 3-for-8 in his limited time. The next year, Hicks saw action in 36 games, and despite struggling to hit showed enough promise for the Angels to snag him with the 42nd pick in the 1961 expansion draft (Los Angeles immediately flipped him to Washington, in a very fortuitous trade for Dean Chance).

In retirement, Hicks returned to his native Virginia and became director of athletics for Charlottesville Parks and Recreation. He also umpired baseball, softball and volleyball games until age 86.


Fleer

Dave Wehrmeister
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
White Sox career 1985
Died December 6
Age 71

A native of Berwyn and graduate of Lyons Township High, Dave Wehrmeister didn’t get around to playing professionally in the Chicago area until his final MLB season, in 1985. Upon acquisition, White Sox owner Eddie Einhorn quipped, “I told Roland Hemond to go out and get me a big-name pitcher. He said, ‘Dave Wehrmeister’s got 11 letters. Is that big enough for you?’”

After a poor first half of the season at Triple-A, the righty got the improbable call-up and proceeded to throw 23 games out of the bullpen and put up an impressive 0.9 WAR with a 3.43 ERA, 3.37 FIP and 1.144 WHIP. In fact, in the second-to-last game of 1985 Wehrmeister earned his second season and career save, preserving Tom Seaver’s 304th win, throwing four innings in what turned out to be his very final MLB game.

Wehrmeister threw a full season for the White Sox’s Triple-A Buffalo Bisons in 1986, but never heard the call to the bigs again. After a brief time coaching in the Yankees system in the late 1980s, the veteran said goodbye to baseball for good.


Johnson Family Photo

Barry Johnson
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
White Sox career 1992-97 (minors)
Died December 17
Age 54

Born in Wichita but a product of Joliet Catholic High School, Barry Johnson was drafted by the Mets in the 43rd round in 1987. He chose Florida State University (later transferring to the University of Arizona) instead and was an undrafted free agent of the Montreal Expos in 1991. By 1992 he was in the White Sox system and was very, very good out of the pen every year of his career there (worst full-season minors ERA: 3.79). However, Johnson was dealt to Pittsburgh in 1997 and bounced around in five different organizations over the final four years of his career, never once duplicating his White Sox success.

Johnson in fact led the White Sox organization in ERA three times (a 1.42 ERA at Sarasota and Birmingham in 1993, 1.85 at Birmingham in 1995, and 2.53 at Birmingham and Nashville in 1996) and was a member of the Southern League champion Barons in 1993.

While in Birmingham, Johnson was a 1994 teammate of Michael Jordan and played under manager Terry Francona, whom Johnson later reunited with in 2001 on the silver medal-winning Team USA during the World Baseball Classic in Taiwan.

After he retired, Johnson worked in Pittsburgh’s front office and scouted for the Cubs. Most recently, he was a strength trainer and personal pitching coach in Houston.


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