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Bill Knickerbocker Catching Baseball

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Today in White Sox History: December 31

A minor trade win — and major managerial move

Bill Knickerbocker made the jump to the South Side on this day, 83 years ago.
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


Just one season removed from a (still) franchise-best 100 wins and World Series title, Charles Comiskey replaced manager Pants Rowland with Kid Gleason.

Rowland was known as a gentlemanly manager, supportive of players — in stark contrast to the fiery Gleason, who was nearly Rowland’s co-manager given all the advice he’d shared in the 1917 season. Pants was genuinely crushed by the dismissal, especially given that the 1918 season ended early (due to World War I) and he was left to twist for nearly four months before word of his firing.

Gleason, however, had already been hired and fired at least once by Comiskey. The rabblerousing coach first signed on with the White Sox in 1912, but was fired in 1915 — then brought back for the 1917 title run. However, Gleason and Comiskey were at odds, and Gleason sat out the 1918 season, as the star-depleted (war service) White Sox fell to fifth place in defending their title.

Gleason got off to a strong start as manager, winning the 1919 pennant before the Black Sox threw the 1919 World Series. Over his five seasons as skipper, Gleason scored a .519 winning percentage (12th-best in club history) and 392 wins (ninth).


It was just a minor trade, but one that fell slightly in favor of the White Sox: The South Siders sent catcher Ken Silvestri to the Yankees for second baseman Bill Knickerbocker. Silvestri played in 50 games in 1939-40 and thus didn’t have much of a chance to disguish himself — although he did cut down 50% (6-of-12) steal attempts. World War II service would rob him of prime years, and he would end his eight-year MLB career having appeared in just 108 games. Knickerbocker played one season with the White Sox, and it was utility-solid: 0.7 WAR and seven homers over 89 games, as well as an 89 OPS+, the second-best of his career.

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