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Today in White Sox History: March 2

The first franchise catcher arrives on the South Side

Postcard Of Billy Sullivan
Billy Sullivan shows off his legendary throwing arm.
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images


Billy Sullivan of the National League’s Boston Beaneaters jumped to the upstart AL and the White Sox, where he would end up catching for 13 seasons.

With a 63 career OPS+, Sullivan was considered a glove-first leader on the field. He was always among the AL leaders in fielding and had the best throwing arm in the game. Sullivan complied 12.4 defensive WAR with the White Sox, which remains 10th all-time and second behind Ray Schalk among catchers.

But in reality, just 8.8 WAR for his career indicates a pretty subpar player, even as a part-timer (87 games per year). His .213 lifetime average is the second-lowest in history for a player with more than 3,000 at-bats.

However, Sullivan did have two starter-plus seasons, in 1904 (2.1 WAR) and the title year of 1906 (2.2). Ironically, Sullivan went hitless in the 1906 World Series upset (0-for-21, nine Ks).

Sullivan also caught the first-ever major league AL game, with two hits in Chicago’s 8-2 win over the Cleveland Blues on April 24, 1901. He took over for Fielder Jones as White Sox player manager in 1909, finishing 78-74 before stepping back down into a player-only role. Sullivan also partnered with Jones in retirement, running a farm in Portland, where both ex-players settled.

Sullivan’s son, Billy Sullivan Jr., had a 12-year playing career and when he appeared in the 1940 World Series with the Detroit Tigers, the two Billys became the first father-son duo to have appeared in the Fall Classic.