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After a long tenure on the South Side, tenor Lamar Johnson left via free agency for Texas on this day, 42 years ago.

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Today in White Sox History: January 15

Goodbye to a slugger and a tenor

1927

Perhaps believing he had no gas left in tank after two straight poor seasons, the White Sox swapped starting pitcher Hollis “Sloppy” Thurston along with reliever Leo Magnum to the Washington Senators for Roger Peckinpaugh.

Peckinpaugh was just two years removed from his AL MVP season, but, at nearly 36 years old, was at the end of the road. The shortstop would have a poor 1927 (1.2 WAR, in limited action) and retire.

Thurston did have a comeback season — in 1930 (2.2 WAR, with the Brooklyn Robins) — but overall this was a deal of diminishing players.

By the way, Peckinpaugh getting the MVP in 1925 looks like a very odd decision in retrospect. At least 20 AL players equaled or bettered Roger’s 2.7 WAR, including Ted Lyons (4.9), Johnny Mostil 4.5), Willie Kamm (3.9), Earl Sheely (3.8) and Ray Schalk (3.0) of the White Sox.


1982

After an entire career spent on the South Side, 31-year-old Lamar Johnson signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent.

Johnson was a third round pick out of Wenonah High in Birmingham, Ala. in 1968, and made his big-league debut six years later. While his numbers were never outstanding despite three full seasons (1978-80) as a regular, Johnson did contribute 18 homers and 65 RBIs along with a career-best .847 OPS for the South Side Hit Men in 1977.

Also that year, he had a day for the ages: On June 19, 1977 Johnson sang the National Anthem before a doubleheader sweep over the A’s at Comiskey Park, then went out and slugged two solo homers and a double to provide the only three White Sox hits in a 2-1 win in the opener!

Lamar had a subpar year in Texas and was released before the 1983 season. While he never played in the majors again, in 1989 Johnson starred for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association, hitting .372 in 25 games. In the Pelicans’ title-game win, Johnson homered with three RBIs to be named the game’s “Star of Stars.”

From 1995-2014, Johnson coached for the Brewers, Royals, Mariners and Mets.


2003

Another bold stab by GM Ken Williams came as he acquired starter Bartolo Colón as part of a three-way deal with the Montreal Expos and New York Yankees.

The Yankees first sent Orlando Hernández to the White Sox for Eddie Candelario and Antonio Osuna. The White Sox flipped El Duque to Montreal along with Rocky Biddle, Jeff Liefer and cash for Colón and Jorge Nuñez.

Colón had a good 2003 season for the White Sox, with 15 wins, 242 innings pitched and 173 strikeouts. It was his walk year, so he parlayed his South Side audition into a four-year, $50 million deal with the Angels — with whom he’d win the Cy Young in 2005.

Williams brought Colón back in 2009 hoping for the same, but got little for his troubles. In fact, Colón got hurt, was overweight and when assigned to a minor league rehab stint never reported! It was rumored that Colón was distraught over the death of Michael Jackson, and when manager Ozzie Guillén heard such he emptied out Colón’s locker and dumped the possessions in the hallway outside of the White Sox clubhouse.

(Williams would also bring back Hernández, almost exactly two years after this trade flip, and El Duque would be a pivotal part of the 2005 title season.)


2021

The White Sox continued to make strong moves to get back into serious contention for a championship, announcing the signing of closer Liam Hendriks, one of the top relief pitchers in baseball, to a multiyear deal. Since taking over as the A’s closer on June 21, 2019, Hendriks had recorded a 1.99 ERA over 68 innings pitched, with 39 saves, 111 strikeouts and a 0.79 WHIP in 65 appearances.

The “creative” contract netted the Australian righthander $54 million over as few as four years — with an unusual twist, perhaps the first of its kind in baseball. The fourth year of the deal had an option year, worth $15 million. If the White Sox were to decline the option, a $15 million buyout would be paid in 10 equal installments between 2024 and 2033. (Deferred money, something NFL teams often do, could help with the luxury tax threshold should the Sox be in a position where it becomes an issue.)

Hendriks didn’t disappoint in the first year of his deal. He posted 38 saves, a 2.54 ERA and 113 strikeouts against only seven walks in his first year on the South Side, winning AL Relief Pitcher of the Year honors. He followed it up in 2022 with 37 saves, a 2.81 ERA and 85 strikeouts vs. 18 walks.


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