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Today in White Sox History: February 16

In a pinch? Call up Jerry

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees
Jerry Hairston of the Chicago White Sox receives the 1984 “Skoal Pinch Hitter of the Year” award from Tom Molito of Skoal at a ceremony at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
B Bennett/Getty Images


Pinch-hitting specialist and the middle player in three generations of major leaguers, Jerry Hairston, is born in Birmingham, Ala.

Hairston had a unique White Sox career, in that he spent 14 years with the club but saw action in only 808 games — just about 58 games per year. That’s because Hairston played in the American League in the DH era, so there was less need for him a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

One way he added big value to the White Sox, however, was with his pinch-hitting. Hairston went .258 with 90 hits (27th-best in history) and eight homers as a pinch-hitter.

In 14 years on the White Sox, Hairston had several memorable moments. Two of his best came in the 1980s — and just one as a pinch-hitter.

On the last day of the season and in what would turn out to be Harry Caray’s last game broadcasting for the White Sox (Oct. 4, 1981), Hairston singlehandedly rallied the Pale Hose to a walk-off win. In the eighth inning, Hairston faced Twins reliever and future White Sox pitching guru Don Cooper and hit a grand slam to trim Minnesota’s lead to 12-9. In the 12th, facing former White Sox teammate John Verhoeven with two outs, Hairston singled home a run to complete the comeback, 13-12.

As stirring as that game was, Hairston’s other big moment altered history. Called up to pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth during Milt Wilcox’s perfect game bid on April 15, 1983, Hairston singled to center to spoil it. It was just the fifth time in baseball history that a perfect game was lost on the last batter.

In retirement, Hairston managed in the White Sox system (1999-2005) and was a White Sox hitting coach under both Robin Ventura and Ricky Renteria.

Hairston’s father, Sammy, was a Negro League star and became the first Black player signed by the White Sox. Hairston’s brother Johnny played in the majors, as have his sons Jerry Jr. and Scott.

Harold Baines and Ozzie Guillén played with both Jerry and one of his sons.