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Today in White Sox History: February 14

Loaiza fought the law, but the law won

Mexican Baseball League: Home Run Derby at Main Square
Mexican hurler Esteban Loaiza [far right] greets fans during the Home Run Derby as part of the Mexican Baseball League’s 90th anniversary celebration at Main Square on June 14, 2015 in Mexico City. Three years later, the former White Sox star would be behind bars.
Manuel Velasquez/LatinContent via Getty Images


Brief White Sox pitching great Esteban Loaiza appears in court in San Diego to face charges of possessing and transporting 44 pounds of cocaine, having been arrested two days earlier. Loaiza pleaded not guilty, but given the fact that his car (stopped for a minor traffic infraction) had a sophisticated hiding spot for contraband (warranting a home search), reversed course. His guilty plea resulted in a three-year sentence; Loaiza was released on Aug. 5, 2021 and deported to Mexico.

Loaiza flashed greatness in Pittsburgh as a young pitcher, but flagged enough to arrive in Chicago nine seasons into his career on a flier of a $500,000 contract. With that, he achieved his crowning season in 2003, his first with the White Sox: Loaiza started the All-Star Game at Sox Park en route to a 7.2 WAR season and runner-up finish for the Cy Young. GM Ken Williams completed a masterstroke of moves around Loaiza by then flipping him to the Yankees during the 2004 season for José Contreras, who would become an elemental part of the 2005 White Sox World Series champions.

Even on a pitching-rich franchise like the White Sox, Loaiza’s 2003 season stands as the 22nd-best in team history.