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Today in White Sox History: February 10

A bright spot of the mid-1970s, gone too soon

Jim Spencer brought terrific defense and all-in-two-games offense to the South Side in the 1970s.
National Baseball Library


The day after playing in a charity baseball game that benefited the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., former White Sox first baseman Jim Spencer dies of a heart attack at age 51.

Spencer came to the White Sox in the deal that sent Bill Melton west to the California Angels before the 1976 season. His .682 OPS as a full-time regular in 1976 looks bad, but was nearly average, at 99 OPS+. However, he was intentionally walked 19 times that season, leading the majors. (Brian Downing, Jorge Orta, Bucky Dent and Kevin Bell most often batted behind Spencer — all pretty much the same hitter besides the much weaker Dent ... so let’s presume, without going game-by-game through the misery of 1976, that most of these IBBs for Spencer occurred in front of Dent.)

In 1977, Spencer’s fortunes took a more distinctive turn. While he was just about as productive overall as 1976 (i.e, a replacement-player WAR, middling OPS), he won the second Gold Glove of his career, becoming the first-ever White Sox first baseman winner and first White Sox position player to win the fielding award in seven seasons.

And not once but twice in 1977, Spencer drove in a White Sox-record eight runs in a game.

That’s right, something that had only happened twice in the first 76 years of the franchise was equalled by Spencer in the span of six weeks!